Snippets of what transpired after the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28, 2015 presidential election are now coming to the open, with his wife accused of calling Mohammed Bello Adoke, then-attorney-general of the federation, a “useless man” for not helping to disqualify candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
In his upcoming book, ‘On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria’, Bolaji Abdullahi — who served as minister under Jonathan from 2011-2014 — alleged that Olusegun Mimiko, then-governor of Ondo state, wanted Buhari, the APC candidate, prosecuted for “certificate forgery” and disqualified from contesting in the election.
But Adoke, who was considered one of the most powerful ministers under Jonathan, argued against it, maintaining that there was no legal basis to prosecute Buhari.
The APC candidate went on to win the historic election which saw the defeat of an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria, but Patience Jonathan gave a piece of her mind to Adoke two days after the poll.
In an advance copy of the book, Abdullahi described Jonathan as a man who had “a distinct aversion for taking any action that could be regarded as unlawful or illegal”.
This, he said, made the attorney-general central to most of the decisions the former president had to make.
Abdullahi wrote: “Two days after the election, Adoke had gone to see the president in respect of the appointment of a new chief judge for the FCT. While waiting in the outer room, the First Lady walked in. He rose to greet her. But she took one long look at him and hissed: ‘Useless man. You betrayed my husband. Now that he has lost the election, you are happy. It was the same Attorney General that Bayo Ojo used to disqualify Atiku for Obasanjo (in 2007). It was the same office that (Mike) Aondoakaa used to make dead man (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) to rule Nigeria. But when it comes to my husband, you will be shouting, constitution, constitution.'”
Abdullahi said Mimiko was at the forefront of the agitation to have Adoke issue a fiat that would have given the power to a private citizen to prosecute Buhari for certificate forgery which could have led to his disqualification from the election, “or at the very least, disrupt the electoral process”.
Buhari had said his secondary school certificate was with the military authorities, but after they denied having it, he got a replacement from his alma mater, Government College, Katsina.
Adoke stood his ground as pressure grew for him to kick-start the process of disqualifying Buhari — a situation that made Jonathan’s supporters, including his wife, blame the attorney-general for the loss.
“There were a number of other issues that led many in the president’s immediate political circle to conclude that Adoke was the reason that President Jonathan failed to act with the required toughness on some issues,” Abdullahi wrote.
“When in May 2013 the president declared a state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, some of the president’s men, led by Ijaw leader Edwin Clark, had asked him to sack the governors of those states as part of the emergency measures. Adoke, on the other hand, counselled the president against sacking the governors, insisting that such action had no constitutional backing. Clark fired back, asking the president to sack Adoke himself.
“Prominent lawyers and civil society groups promptly weighed in on the side of the minister, and commended him for being a ‘constitutional purist’. They noted that he could easily have allowed the president to act differently, if he were so minded, relying on the precedent set by President Obasanjo in the case of Plateau State and Governor Joshua Dariye in 2004 – a matter concerning which the Supreme Court had declined to make a definite ruling.”
Abdullahi said a similar situation arose after five governors left the PDP to join APC in November 2013.
“Some PDP governors had gone to the president and asked that their decamped (defected) colleagues be removed and be replaced by their deputies. Their argument was that those governors did not contest the elections by themselves but on behalf of the party. They pointed out that this had been determined in the case of Amaechi vs. INEC (in 2007), in which the Supreme Court ruled that it is the party that contests election and not an individual,” he wrote.
“The mandates held by those governors were therefore held in trust for the PDP and could not be transferred to another party. If a governor left the party, as the five governors had done, they ought to leave their mandate behind. Where their deputies did not follow them to APC, those deputies should be sworn in as governors without delay. Whereas, where the deputy governors had also decamped, a sole administrator should be appointed. Failure to take these steps would amount to robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“The president summoned the Attorney General and asked for his opinion. In line with his established character, Adoke told the president that the position being canvassed by the governors could not withstand the test of the law. The constitution did not grant the president such powers and had spelt out clearly how a governor could be removed from office. If Jonathan were to act as the governors were canvassing for, it would amount to an impeachable offence. And that was the end of the matter.”
The book will go on sale nationwide from November 30, 2017 after the launch.
Abdullahi was fired as minister of sport in March 2014 by Jonathan allegedly on account of his “godfather”, Bukola Saraki, who had joined other party rebels in defecting to the APC.
He is currently the national publicity secretary of the APC.