The controversy over the failure of Muhammadu Buhari to make public his educational qualification has been turned into an issue but the general and his party affirm that they would not dignify what they claim is a non issue.

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dapo Akinrefon

It all started just over a week ago when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the course of its statutory obligations published the details of the presidential candidates and in the place of the educational qualification of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari listed an affidavit.
Buhari, the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential candidate had in the affidavit deposed thus:

“I am the above-named person and deponent to this affidavit therein. All my academic qualifications documents as filled in my presidential form, President APC/001/2015, are currently with the Secretary, Military Board as of the time of presenting this affidavit. The affidavit is made in good faith and for record purpose.”

The use of an affidavit in the place of a certificate had immediately roused suspicion from the general’s political rivals who sought to use the issue to rake mud against a candidate that is making his boldest challenge for the country’s presidency.

Educational qualifications

Given the sterling educational qualifications of his chief rival, President Goodluck Jonathan who holds a doctorate degree in zoology, it was tempting for some to make a big issue of the alleged failure of the APC candidate to produce a certificate. Or was there a doubt as to the claim that Buhari, acclaimed to have been head boy at the famous Katsina College and who subsequently attended some of the world’s best military institutions did not have any certificate to show for his endeavours?

The issue was not helped by the seemingly lacklustre response of the Buhari campaign to the issue. Questions put to campaign officials were deflected as one spokesman told Vanguard to make enquiries to the military board to which Buhari claimed to be in possession of the certificate.
Military officials who initially denied possession of the certificate were to later admit having copies of the former head of state’s credentials as they did for every other retired and serving military official. Sources close to the candidate say that the originals of his certificates were vandalised after the time he was removed as head of state and that the only copies available at the moment are those with the military board.

CPC Presidential candidate, Gen. Buhari
CPC Presidential candidate, Gen. Buhari

Remarkably, investigations revealed that Buhari had in the last three presidential contests he partook in, 2003, 2007 and 2011, had consistently used affidavits in the place of the certificates. How the issue became topical this time around in the opinion of some stakeholders is essentially because of the good prospects Buhari has in next month’s presidential election.

Remarkably, the PDP has officially not entered the fray but it is not as if sympathisers of the party and its chieftains are not trying to make a kill on the issue they believe could jeopardise the chances of the greatest threat to the party’s domination of the federal government.

Remarkably, a close aide of Buhari laughed away the matter saying that the campaign would not waste time or energy to go down to the mud with its traducers. A member of the APC presidential screening committee, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, brought another twist to the development in his own response to the issue. Abayomi, a lawyer affirmed that Buhari was screened and found qualified for the office of the president.

He nevertheless brought a twist when he affirmed that the issue of the submission of a certificate was not an issue. His assertion was in line with that of INEC which said that it did not have the powers to screen or disqualify a candidate on the basis of qualification.

In affirming that Buhari was screened and met the qualifications for president, Abayomi had put the poser as to whether presenting “his school certificate or its equivalent met the education precondition set for Presidential Candidates in the Constitution?”

He answered thus: “To begin with, the Constitution does not prescribe the presentation or show of any Certificate to qualify for election to the office of President. Under section 131(d) of our Military Constitution, a person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if “he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.” While a Certificate may unequivocally show that a contestant has been educated up to at least School Certificate level, his education without a Certificate may show, again unequivocally that he has been educated up to the equivalent of School Certificate level. For example, assuming A is the best all A student in Ajuwa Grammar School, Okeagbe, Akoko. Now on the very day before the commencement of the West African School Certificate, he sexually harassed the daughter of the English teacher as a result of which he was dismissed, will A be said not to have met the education qualification of section 131(d) of the Constitution?”

“In my view A has not only been educated up to at least School Certificate level he would also be deemed to have been educated to its equivalent.

This position finds support in section 131 (d) which neither prescribed a pass which is required for certification nor a fail which denies it. The interest of the Constitution is with the level of the education of the candidate howsoever acquired, not the certificate he acquires ipso facto.

“The APC screening Committee was made up of several eminent highly educated and enlightened men and one woman. They came to the conclusion after putting APC presidential aspirants through a most rigorous test that all the APC aspirants met the constitutional qualifications including education qualification to contest for election to the office of President. They confirmed this by awarding them a certificate. The qualification set by the Constitution for contest is the level of education not its certificate. While a certificate may irrevocably prove that the education qualification has been met, it could in the same manner prove rebut ably only that it has been met.

Possession of a certificate

“Where for example a Certificate has been purchased for example in “oluwole” as it has happened in several instances, a candidate though in possession of a certificate cannot be said to have met the education qualification of the Constitution because he has not been educated not to talk of up to school certificate level.”

“With reference to General Buhari having regard to his unimpeachable military training, an irrefutable presumption was properly made by the APC screening Committee that he met the education qualification set by the Constitution. Those who contest this or who intend to contest that he met the education qualification of section 131(d) have the burden to disprove the irrefutable presumption not General Buhari.”

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