By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
Ahead of the Ondo governorship election slated for October 10, as mandated by the law, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has displayed the names of the gubernatorial candidates, their running mates and their various particulars. In all, other things being equal, seventeen governorship candidates will be participating in the election.
Curiously, the embattled Deputy Governor, who is the candidate of the Zenith Labor Party (ZLP), only submitted his Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) as his only academic qualification despite his claim of being a lawyer. The implication of this is that if elected as Governor, he will only be an SSCE holder occupying the Government House in Alagbaka! That’ll be some sort of bizarre record in the annals of the political history of the state.
Although no law compels him to enlist all his academic qualifications in order to participate in the election, it’s however puzzling that someone who touts himself a lawyer will not be proud enough to list his LLB and LB as glaringly done by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, candidate of the All Progressives Congress(APC) and Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) respectively. Even the candidate of a party not viewed as a contender, NNPP, Ojajuni Eniola, also listed his legal qualifications.
For the record, He claims he graduated from the Faculty of Law, Igbinedon University, Okada, Edo State. He also claims he attended the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, for the compulsory one-year law education which everyone who intends to practise as barrister and advocate of the Supreme Court must attend.
Evidently, the controversy about his Law degree is one that won’t peter out easily so long he continues to seek elections into public offices. It’s believed in some quarters that he actually attended Law School but only did so while he was serving as a Member of the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011 which runs contrary to the extant laws guiding the operations of the Nigerian Law School program. Perhaps this explains why he lacks the confidence to overtly claim the certificate.
Sometime earlier in the year, following a petition to the Body of Benchers by a group, Ondo State Committee on Ethics and Good Governance, that Ajayi was not a qualified lawyer, the body dismissed the petition, saying he actually attended the Law School and was called to bar. No one has ever seen in the public, though, pictures of the embattled Deputy Governor where he performed the Call to Bar ceremony. Also, no classmate of his at the Law School has also come out to identify with him that they were together at the school. Does it mean that Hon. Ajayi was the only student during his own one year Law School program? This certainly cannot be the case!
Interestingly, as running mate in the 2016 governorship election, all through the electioneering campaigns in 2016, openly flaunted his claim to the legal firmament but fast forward to 2020, the degree is no longer presentable. It is on record that he curiously presented his WAEC certificate and listed as a farmer when he vied for the deputy governorship ticket with Akeredolu. The reason for this decision remains a mystery to the general public. There is something dubious and perfidious about this unusual double face.
There is a saying that if you have it, you flaunt it especially when it comes to education degrees to individuals from Ondo State. What then will make a man who claims to be a lawyer submit his SSCE as the only qualification he has to contest in a major election? Is someone scared that the law degree could become a subject of litigation and may thus disqualify him from participating in the election or get him removed from office assuming he wins the election? These are questions begging for answers. May we not have a trumpet we cannot blow in the open to the excitement of our supporters. Can someone shout a big amen?
Ondo State governors, right from the Second Republic till now, that’s from the period of the late Michael Adekunle Ajasin through Bamidele Olomilua to Adebayo Adefarati through Dr Olusegun Agagu to Dr Olusegun Mimiko and now Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, have always been known for commanding intellectual capacities with impeccable academic credentials whose veracity is never in doubt. The people of the state will never descend so low to elect a man whose character is as debatable as the certificates he purportedly parades.
Against the backcloth of the above, therefore, the October election, beyond being a periodic opportunity for the electorate to elect a Governor who will steer the ship of the state for the next four years, it’s also going to be a referendum on the characters of the leading candidates. The people of the state deserve a leader who will face the job of governance head-on as soon as he is sworn and not someone who will be snaking in and out of courts to defend his certificates.