There have been divergent opinions on the decision of the national leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to bar the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, from contesting the 2019 governorship primaries in Oyo state on the platform of the party for skipping the one year mandatory youth service to the nation.
Not a few persons have subsequently called for his resignation from President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet as they argue that whoever is not qualified to contest election should also be disqualified from holding elective position.
His traducers urge him to toe the path of honour by following the example of the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who bowed to pressure and resigned from office having been accused of procuring and presenting fake National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate.
Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has derided the President for refusing to sanction the Communication minister for evading the one year NYSC compulsory service accusing him of habouring men of questionable character in his cabinet.
The party castigated President Buhari for appointing fraudulent persons to hold key offices in his government, which they claimed has placed a weighty integrity burden on his ‘Mr. Clean’ posture. The PDP insisted that Buhari has the moral burden of explaining what gains he derives from appointing fraudulent characters into very sensitive positions, a development that questions his integrity as a leader.
But Shittu had taken his time to explain his case to whoever cared to listen that his case was not as simple as those who never served the nation. He claimed to have served the country in a ‘higher capacity’ having won an election into Oyo state House of Assembly in 1979 upon completion of one year mandatory course at the Nigerian Law School.
He had graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) a year earlier.
Shittu in his defence said his case should not in any way be compared to that of Adeosun because he never felt it was necessary to participate in the one year mandatory NYSC because he did that as a lawmaker representing his people as a lawmaker in his state Assembly.
He added that his present position as a minister in Buhari’s administration should also be seen as a service to fatherland.
Shittu, a lawyer, in a recent chat with newsmen said “the constitution says anyone who qualifies to contest an election or who has gone through an election and wins, he is obligated to move through the House of Assembly which I did for four years. So, it is a form of higher service as far as I’m concerned and even now, I am still in service”.
Asked whether his case bears any similitude with that of Adeosun he said “there are walls of difference. Unfortunately, Kemi had a fake certificate, I didn’t present any, I didn’t have one. I simply followed the constitutional requirement that if you are qualified to contest an election, it is compulsory for you to serve the nation in the capacity that you won an election”.
Evidently, Shittu’s case has ignited a fresh legal discourse on whether service to the nation ‘at a higher’ level could be a subtitute for the mandatory NYSC service.
As things stand, it would be necessary to institute an indepth investigation to determine whether Shittu deliberately skipped youth service because the NYSC law seemed not to have envisaged this peculiar claim of ‘service-in-higher-capacity.’
The question to be determined by such inquest would be whether Shittu presented his Law degree certificate to the electoral body to contest the state Assembly election in 1979 and subsequent elections he had contested without presenting the mandatory NYSC certificate.
It should also be investigated whether he presented his first degree certificate to the Senate for screening for clearance before becoming a minister under this dispensation.
If he had actually been presenting the degree certificate without accompanying same with NYSC certificate and had been cleared, one would be interested in what he had been telling them for him to be cleared for elections and appointments.
So, his disqualification from participation in the 2019 governorship poll by his party for skipping youth service could be challenged in the court of law in order to determine the credibility and legality of serving in ‘higher capacity’ argument. It would be interesting to know whether service in elected and appointive positions (higher per capacity) could actually be accepted in lieu of national youth service.