Buhari's certificate 'scandal' amounts to needlessly flogging a dead horse

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja felicitated with the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu on his 75 birthday.

The conversation surrounding the 2019 presidential election has to evolve past a certificate scandal that's already been overplayed.

Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is clear on the conditions to be fulfilled by someone aspiring to the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Chief among those conditions, Section 131(d), is the stipulation that such a person must have been educated up to "at least School Certificate level or its equivalent".

The incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, has failed, once again, to present a certificate, evidence of his education, to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the affidavit he submitted to the electoral body this month to enable him to contest in the 2019 presidential election, he said his academic qualification documents are with the Secretary of the Military Board.

The president's story has always been that he sat for the West African School Certificate (WASC) while he was a student of the Provincial Secondary School (now Government College) in his native Katsina, just before he joined the Nigerian Army in 1961.

"Let me say for the record that I attended Provincial Secondary School, Katsina. I graduated in 1961 with many prominent Nigerians. We sat for the University of Cambridge/WASC Examination together in 1961, the year we graduated.

"My examination number was 8280002, and I passed the examination in the Second Division," the president explained in 2015 when the issue of his non-submission first raised eyebrows.

Before the 2015 election, little fuss had been made about the candidate's failure to submit his certificate; but when it did, it was the only thing anyone could talk about for a long while. It was so big that when he directly addressed the situation in Kano in January 2015, it was with unbridled irritation.

"I only consented to address you this morning because of the genuine concern expressed by many supporters and other well-meaning Nigerians that the issue be addressed. Otherwise, I would have dismissed it for what it is – sheer mischief and would not have considered it an issue worth the nation’s while," he had said.

Shortly after his address, Premium Times exclusively obtained a computer printout of his WASC result from Cambridge University, as well as a statement of result signed by the principal of Katsina College.

According to the result, the president obtained five credits in English Language, Geography, Hausa Language, History, and Health Science. However, he failed in Mathematics and Woodwork, and had a pass in Literature in English.

 

Despite this revelation, the controversy over Buhari's certificate was not put to rest, and this was exacerbated by the Army's shifting positions on the issue.

A day before the result was made public, then-Director of Army Public Relations, Olajide Laleye, said the Army did not have Buhari's original, certified true copy or statement of results.

He said, "Records available indicate that Buhari applied to join the military as a form six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, on Oct. 18, 1961.

"His application was duly endorsed by the principal of the school, who also wrote a report on him and recommended him to be suitable for military commission.

"It is a practice in the Nigerian Army that before candidates are shortlisted for commissioning into the officers' cadre of the service, the selection board verifies the original copies of credentials as presented. There is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s."

Buhari's certificate scandal attracted over a dozen lawsuits all over the country with plaintiffs demanding the judiciary disqualify him from contesting for the position of the president.

He survived all of them and made history to become the first opposition candidate to topple a serving democratic president when he beat Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election.

Three years later, and we're back to Ground Zero.

What has changed in 3 years?

Since it was revealed last week that the president had, once again, provided a sworn affidavit in lieu of a certificate, the outrage has been as loud and adversarial as it was in 2015.

However, the allegations have not changed from the same things that have been bandied around for years without success. Actually, the only new point that has surfaced is the president's failure to order the military to produce the certificate in question since he's now the nation's Commander-in-Chief.

Just like in 2015, many individuals, groups and opposition parties have threatened litigation and vowed to get INEC to kick the president off the ballot for next year's election.

Many have also piled the pressure on the electoral body and its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to do the unthinkable and bar the president from contesting on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

However, just like in 2015, it does not appear like anything will stop Buhari's name from appearing on the ballot next year.

Which begs the question: Why flog a dead horse that's already been over-flogged?

There are two active crowds involved in the scandal: people who want to see a clean contest and opponents who want to exploit it for political gains.

Many neutrals are concerned that Buhari's failure to put his certificate scandal to rest is damaging for the nation's electoral process. Why does the president get to be the only one, of all 79 presidential candidates, who cannot produce a certificate that cannot be questioned?

For someone that touts himself as Mr Integrity, Buhari drags a lot of baggage with him that proves otherwise is true, no matter how well he tries to get it glossed over.

This makes it a juicy bit for the opposition to bite into and hope to, at least, unsettle the president's campaign for as long as the scandal can.

These concerns, for whatever reasons they're raised, are legitimate. However, the scandal is also a distraction, as the presidency has relentlessly maintained, for its own benefit.

What many people can agree on is the fact that Buhari will most definitely be on the ballot next year regardless of all the machinations deployed to prevent that eventuality. So why drag it like the result will be different from what played out in 2015?

The president's opposition, most notably the People's Democratic Party (PDP), has trumpeted how the campaign for 2019 should be issue-based and focused on how the candidates can better the lot of Nigerians. This overplayed scandal does not do any of that.

It's a lot of posturing and browbeating that'll end in a familiar, inevitable result.

At the end of Buhari's January 2015 address of the scandal, he said the spotlight should be on the government's performance in office and not his certificate.

He said, "The issues are the scandalous level of unemployment of millions of our young people, the state of insecurity, the pervasive official corruption which has impoverished our people and the lack of concern of the government for anything other than the retention of power at all costs."

The president not only spoke for the 2015 election, he appears to have set the template for the one in 2019, too.

The conversations of any real note should be focused on the president's performance in office. Any other thing would be an exercise in futility, a terrible waste of time.

Source: politics

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