Youth obey the Clarion call. Let us lift our Nation high, under the rain or in the sun, with dedication and selflessness.
Rasak Atunwa, the Kwara State PDP governorship is the latest high profile Nigerian who never sang this song under the watchful eyes of men in uniform, ready to dish out “frog jump” or embarrass you in a special way.
At no point has the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) ended careers like we are currently witnessing.
First was the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who had to resign after being accused of not serving and forging her certificate of exemption. The government took time to explore different options, and even had Prof. Itsa Sagay coming out to say “Who cares about NYSC, we cannot afford to lose her.”
While the Minister of Communications, Bayo Shittu still gets to keep his job, his governorship ambition was given an early retirement, as the ruling party screened him out.
Even though the downfall of high profile Nigerians should be celebrated because of political divides, many Nigerians also fall within the category of schooling oversea and being unable to heed the clarion call. The forgery allegations made against Adeosun and Atunwa were inexcusable, not serving is equally an offence under the NYSC act.
Lots of Nigerians with dual citizenship schooled and worked abroad before coming home, and already exceeded the age for participating in the scheme. This contraption raises the argument on the need and practicality of the NYSC.
Back to the political issue, this saga is just starting, the intrigues are still subject of speculations. We are in the stage of initial denial and counter arguments as the stakes are incredibly high, with political ramifications.
Brief Political history of Atunwa
Atunwa, who is from Asa Local Government Area in Kwara State, is a member of the House of Representatives (HoR) representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency. He was elected in 2015 under the All Progressive Congress.
Prior to his stint in the HoR, he served as commissioner for four different ministries in Kwara State between 2005 and 2011. In August 2005, he was appointed the Honourable Commissioner for Land and Housing. A year later in August 2006, he became Honourable Commissioner for Information and Home Affairs. In July 2007 he became Honourable Commissioner for Works and Transport. He was moved to the Ministry of Finance in November 2009.
He was the Honourable Speaker of the Kwara House of Assembly from 2011-2015 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He led the 37 APC members of the House of Representatives to the PDP on the 24th of July.
He won the Kwara State PDP governorship ticket after defeating Sen Shabba Lafiaji during the governorship Primary.
The debate is already ongoing on the likely outcome of the latest scandal. A legal practitioner, Henry Eni-Otu said from a legal point of view, the allegations are not sufficient to force Atunwa to quit the race, as INEC has no such power.
He said, “Razak Atunwa can only be disqualified from contesting the office of governorship of Kwara State if it can be established that he presented forged documents to INEC in respect of meeting the constitutional requirements for contesting the elections come 2019 or if a court of competent jurisdiction finds him guilty of a criminal offence in relation to dishonesty or breach of the code of conduct
“These disqualification can be effected by INEC prior to the 2019 Elections on any of the above scenarios coming into effect.
“This is pursuant to the salient provisions of Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) particularly sub-section 1 paragraph (e and g) which provides thus:
“No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a state if-
“(e) within a period of less than ten years before the date of the election to the office of the Governor of a state he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of the contravention of the Code of Conduct; or
“(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
He further explained, “Hence the options available for other political parties in Kwara State are to lodge a concerted investigating procedure either through writing to NYSC to ascertain the authenticity or otherwise of Razak Atunwa’s certificate.
“Second, they have to ascertain if Razak Atunwa did in fact submit the forged documents to INEC as part of his documents for clearance.
“If he did submit confirmation, they may now officially petition INEC evidencing the facts imploring INEC to disqualify him from contesting”.
On whether he can be substituted after this period, the provisions of Section 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended provides thus:
“33: A political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute it’s candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to section 31 of this Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.
“35: A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered by himself to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey,” he said
As things stand, the polity may be sitting on a Pandora’s Box.