The 2019 General elections have come and gone, congratulations to those who won and it is hoped those who lost learnt some lessons. The beauty of democracy is the role of the electorate in the emergence of government and in demanding accountability from the emerged government. The latter though as important, if not more Important than the former is often being neglected by the electorate.
Though, the election atmosphere differ from state to state, it is generally believed that the outcome of the polls in Kwara state reflected the will of the people of Kwara. Kwarans, having played their role in the emergence of a new administration in the state have a right to demand transparency and accountability from the new government. Failure to do so will be akin to repeating the mistakes of the past.
It is true the newly voted Kwara government has not been sworn in and not much accountability could be demanded from them. Certain issues and allegations raised during the election period are left unresolved and it is believed this response would serve as an early marker of what to expect in the next four years.
There are allegations that the newly elected governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazak submitted a fake WAEC certificate to INEC, issues were raised on abbreviations used in the name on the certificate submitted which is not a normal practice for WAEC certificates. One would have ordinarily expected Abdulrahman Abdulrazak to clear the air on this ambiguity, but he has played the silent game. This is setting a dangerous precedence at the eve of a new administration and the manner in which this issue is handled will be a microcosm of what is to be expected in the next four years.
The constitution of the country is clear and unambiguous in stating the minimum qualification of a gubernatorial candidate and consequently a state governor and also the consequences of presenting a forged document to INEC.
Section 177 of the constitution provides for the qualification for election as Governor. The said section provides thus –
“A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State If – ………………………….. (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.” (Underlining for emphasis).
On the other hand, Section 182 (1) of the constitution provides for disqualifications of candidates for election as Governor. The relevant section is Section 182(1)(j) which provides as follows –
“No person shall be qualified for election to the office of the Governor of a State if – ……………………… (j)He has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.” (Underlining for emphasis).
The main issue with the Governor-elect of Kwara State is that he allegedly presented a forged WAEC result to INEC for consideration as his qualification to contest for the office of the Governor of Kwara State. When the news of the Governor-elect’s forged WAEC certificate broke pre-election, there were speculation from most quarters that the allegations were false and nothing more but the handiwork of the opposition parties.
However, it is necessary for this issue to be addressed, especially when the elections have come and gone, and Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq who is the main player in this scandal emerged victorious. But he has decided to be silent on this issue, perhaps hoping it will die a silent death.
For a man that enjoyed the overwhelming support of the people during the past elections, a man who was seen everywhere consistently talking to the people and soliciting their votes during campaigns, Abdulrahman Abdulrazak’s loud silence on this allegation of submitting a fake WAEC certificate to INEC is very troubling.
The people whose votes he sought, and whose votes he got, reserve the right to demand accountability. And considering the fact that he would not have been Governor-elect today without the people’s mandate, the least he could do was to proffer an explanation to the people on this issue without being moved or ordered to do so by the court.
This issue has given rise to so many questions than answers. Did Abdulrahman Abdulrazak submit a forged WAEC certificate to INEC? If not, then why can’t he come out and disprove this allegation? There are several ways to do that. One of such ways is to simply apply for the CTC of his original certificate from WAEC, and let WAEC do the needful by issuing the CTC for comparison with the actual certificate submitted to INEC to spot the difference if any. It’s that simple. It is also very interesting to note that the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 gives the people the right to freely access public records. Section 1(1 – 3) of the FOI Act 2011 provides as follows –
- “Nothwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, law or regulation, the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in a written form, which is the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution howsoever described, is established.”
- “An applicant under this Act needs not demonstrate any specific interest in the information being applied for.”
- “Any person entitled to the right to information under this Act, shall have the right to institute proceedings in the Court to compel any public institution to comply with the provisions of this Act.”
Section 31 of the FOI Act defines a public institution to include legislative, executive, judicial, administrative or advisory body of the Government, including boards, bureau, committees or commissions, subsidiary bodies of state etc. Hence, WAEC is unarguably a public institution within the interpretation of the Act.
In the light of the foregoing provisions of the FOI Act, it is clear that any person can apply to WAEC to view its 1976 records of certificates issued for the purpose of comparison with the certificate submitted by the Governor-elect to INEC.
WAEC on the other hand is bound to comply with the provisions of the FOI Act and make such records available to the Applicant otherwise the Applicant is entitled to sue WAEC for compliance with the Act. However the Governor-elect, who has enjoyed the support of the Kwarans, can save people and also WAEC the stress of dealing with several FOI Applications by simply addressing this issue and adducing facts to disprove this allegation.
As the saying goes, “a stitch in time saves nine”, Kwara electorates having played their role in the emergence of the new government should also, from now begin to demand transparency and accountability. We have already seen cases of Kwarans going to court to demand accountability on this issue. One of such cases is Suit No: KWS/73/2019 – between Adekunle Oluwafemi Abraham v. Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq where the claimant had prayed the court to disqualify the Governor elect based on the issue of this forged WAEC certificate.
With all indications and with the way Kwarans are so interested in this matter, several other suits may be filed against Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, as he has a critical role to play in order to put this matter to rest. Despite all of the looming court cases in respect of this matter, The Governor elect Abdulrahman Abdulrazak, as a mark of responsibility, owes the good people of Kwara an explanation of the true state of the matter because of the overwhelming support he has and also to serve as a marker of transparency and accountability of his government when sworn in.
This allegation if handled well is capable of converting even the most stout opposition and most neutral observer into a supporter and if handled poorly can be disappointing, but it should not be allowed to die silently.