The Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, has formally responded to allegations that he was once arrested and jailed for committing criminal offences in the United States of America.
Abiodun said the allegations, which were contained in a petition addressed to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, seeking his disqualification, were unfounded and merely aimed at preventing the party from presenting him as its flag bearer for the 2023 gubernatorial election.
The governor insisted that the APC is not a court of law and cannot disqualify him, adding that he is eligible under sections 177 and 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to contest the forthcoming gubernatorial election.
Our correspondent reliably gathered that one Ayodele Oludiran, in a petition dated April 12, 2022, had called on APC leaders to compel Governor Abiodun not to run for second term, saying weighty evidences would compel the courts to sack him as governor after the governorship election in 2023.
The petition was titled: “Petition against the consideration, acceptance, approval, endorsement, and authorization of the candidature of H. E. Prince Adedapo Oluseun Abiodun, the incumbent governor of Ogun State, in the forthcoming 2022 governorship primaries elections in Ogun State.”
According to an acknowledged copy of the petition sighted by our correspondent, Oludiran accused the governor of “concealing criminal offences he allegedly committed in the United States of America in the 1980s” and described him as a person whose “actions and integrity are questionable.”
The petitioner also claimed that there were discrepancies in Forms CF001 the governor filled in 2015 and 2019 with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The petitioner, who identified himself as an APC member, further claimed that one of the governorship aspirants in the Peoples Democratic Party was plotting to use the evidences against Abiodun.
But Abiodun, through his lawyer, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria from the Afe Babalola & Co chambers, debunked all the allegations, saying the petition should be disregarded “as it is fraught with falsehood, speculation and inaccuracies.”
The governor, in his response dated April 19, 2022, urged the APC leadership not to be distracted or misled by unfounded allegations, adding that the party should not give credence to any rumour which may scuttle the party’s chances.
He maintained that under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, only a court of law can disqualify him, noting that the party cannot impose additional grounds of disqualification on him.
Abiodun said at no time did he conceal his former names in sworn electoral forms nor bear the name “Shawn Michael Davis” who was indicted and imprisoned in 1986 in the United States as alleged by the petitioner.
“Assuming without conceding that the allegation that our client was arrested and detained in 1986 in the US is accurate, we state that the facts of our client’s arrest and detention as far back as 1985 do not constitute a ground for his ineligibility to run for the 2023 governorship election,” the governor’s counsel submitted.
Based on the provision of Section 29 (6) of the Electoral Act 2022, he pointed out that an aspirant or candidate will only be disqualified by the court if the false information he gives relates to a constitutional requirement of eligibility.
“APC is not a court of law. Accordingly, it cannot disqualify our client. In any event, it is our firm opinion that our client is eminently qualified to contest the 2023 governorship election as his qualification is not impaired in any way by the constitution,” he added.
He further averred, “our client has not been judicially found guilty of any crime. Therefore, he cannot be said to have been convicted in law.
“In any event, assuming but not conceding that our client was even convicted in 1986, he would still not be affected or caught by the provision of Section 182 (1) (e) of the CFRN because the CFRN requires that the condition which would disqualify a person from contesting the position of Governor must have occurred ten years before the date of election to the office. In other words, assuming but not conceding that our client was convicted, the said conviction is now spent.”
On the discrepancies in INEC forms CF001 of 2015 and 2019, he declared that the High Court of the FCT, Governorship Election Tribunal, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have all held that the said allegations are unfounded and statute-barred.
The governor’s response partly read: “Our client has been adjudged by the Tribunal and the courts (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) to be eminently qualified to contest the 2019 Ogun State gubernatorial election, which he won landslide.
“Since, as of today, the courts have held that our client is qualified under the CFRN, the party cannot impose additional grounds of disqualification on him. Also, the APC Constitution and Guidelines for the conduct of Primary Elections cannot override the CFRN. Therefore, the party has no vires to prevent our client from contesting any election under its banner.
“As rightly admitted by the petitioner, only a court of law can disqualify our client. The party cannot disqualify him or prevent him from contesting in the party’s primary election.
“Your Excellency, our client is ready and willing to, at the screening stage for the party’s primary election, present his credentials and relevant documents (including his primary school certificate, which has been alleged to be non-existent) to establish his eligibility to contest in the upcoming 2023 governorship election in Ogun State.
“Therefore, we urge the party not to be distracted or misled by unfounded allegations aimed at preventing the party from presenting our client, who is the best candidate for the 2023 gubernatorial election, as the party’s flagbearer. We also urge the party not to give credence to any rumour which may scuttle the party’s chances in the said election.”