By Femi Aribisala
THESE are interesting times. Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate whose only policy plank is that he will fight against corruption without wavering, is not as straight-forward as he would have Nigerians believe. Buhari lied under oath. He perjured himself claiming his school-leaving certificate is with the military. This has now been revealed to be a tissue of lies.
This is a scandal of immense proportions in an aspiring presidential candidate. Under no circumstances should it be swept under the carpet. For this blatant perjury, Buhari must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It should also lead to his disqualification from contesting for election as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In the language of Buhari’s own anti-corruption rhetoric, Nigeria must be shown to be a nation of laws and of the rule of law. No man, no matter how highly-placed, no matter his ethnic or political pedigree, should be shown to be above the law. For this reason, a public example must be made of Buhari.
Buhari has run for the presidency on three earlier occasions. On those occasions, he did not contravene any law with regard to his non-existent certificates because there were no provisions for them. However, with the new Electoral Act, there is now a requirement for proof of credentials. But instead of providing his certificates to INEC, as now required by law, Buhari deposed in an affidavit at a High Court in Abuja that: “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.”
This affidavit has turned out to be false. The military board says it does not have Buhari’s academic qualification credentials. That means Buhari committed perjury when he swore on oath that the military has them. As a matter of fact, the military board does not even have the photocopies of Buhari’s credentials because he did not submit them when he enrolled into the Nigerian Army.
Maybe Buhari expected the military to let sleeping dogs lie about this. However, the Nigerian Army released the following statement which quickly gave the lie to Buhari’s affidavit: “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 that are presented. However, there is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s. Neither the original copy, Certified True Copy (CTC); nor statement of result of Major General M Buhari’s WASC result, is in his personal file.”
Guilty of perjury: This denial by the army that it has Buhari’s certificates has put the APC presidential candidate on the horns of a dilemma. As I said, it shows Buhari committed perjury. In the bid to repair this damage, Buhari cobbled together a press conference during which he said the following: “I had assumed all along that all my records were in the custody of the Military Secretary of the Nigerian Army. Much to my surprise, we are now told that although a record of the result is available, there are no copies of the certificates in my personal file.”
This excuse is hogwash. An experienced politician like Buhari who is running for president surely has a panoply of aides, assistants and advisers. He should know that it is not acceptable for a man to swear an oath in court based on assumptions “all along.” Oaths are sworn as certification that what is said is true. Truth is not amenable to assumptions. Section 118 of the Nigerian criminal code reads: “Any person who commits perjury is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.” This is the fate that must now befall Muhammadu Buhari who must not be allowed to be above the law.
Buhari stated in his affidavit that his academic qualification documents: “are currently with the Secretary, Military Board as of the time of presenting this affidavit.” However, the evidence indicates that Buhari must have known that this was not true at the time he swore on oath to this. This is because Buhari was the Military Secretary, Army Headquarters, from 1978-1979.
That means Buhari should not be believed when he says: “I had assumed all along that all my records were in the custody of the Military Secretary of the Nigerian Army.” On the contrary, Buhari knows from his experience as Military Secretary that certified true copies of the credentials of military men are not kept with the military board. Nobody keeps the originals of their credentials with the organizations where they worked: only photocopies are kept there. Therefore, Buhari was just being disingenuous when he claimed his certificates were with the military.
Having been thrown under the bus by the military brass, Buhari came up with another gambit. He now declared that Provincial Secondary School, Katsina (now known as Government College, Katsina), which he attended over 50 years ago, would make available to the public the school’s copy of his Cambridge/WASC certificate. In doing this, Buhari blundered yet again. He shows that, in spite of his highfalutin campaign on the platform of integrity, he does not believe in transparency.
Buhari failed to explain the contradiction in the letter of recommendation from his school principal to the military which suggests he had not graduated from school before he opted out to join the military. The principal said: “I recommend him fit for military commissioning. I consider that he will pass the WASC examination in English, Math and three other subjects.”
If you want to confirm your exam credentials, you don’t write to your school asking for a copy of your result; you ask the relevant examinations council to provide you with a copy of your result. Instead of Buhari to ask for his result from Cambridge/WASC, he asks for his primary school in Katsina to tell us his result. The primary school then presents a result that is inadmissible as evidence of Buhari’s result. It presents a result headlined “Katsina State Government,” when Katsina State did not even exist in 1961 when the result is alleged to have been given.
A statement of result by Katsina Provincial Primary School is inadmissible, according to Buhari’s INEC affidavit. To repeat: Buhari said in an oath to INEC that “all” his academic qualification documents are with the military. When that did not work, he turned to his primary school. But what his primary school provided is not his academic qualification document. It provided what is ostensibly a photocopy. However, in law, you cannot authenticate a document by providing the photocopy. You must provide the original.
The credentials Buhari needs to rest his case are with Cambridge/WASC; and only Buhari can apply to get them. Therefore, if he is really interested in putting this matter to rest, he should stop wasting time. The military board cannot apply for his credentials on his behalf; neither can Government College, Katsina.
The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES), now known as Cambridge Assessment, affirms this position on its website. It says: “We can only confirm or verify results at the direct request of or with the permission of a candidate. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”
In short, Buhari should apply for and get his certificate by himself. That way, he would not have to go through the dubious circuitous routes he has been following to his detriment. If Buhari truly wants all the brouhaha over his certificate to die down, he needs to request for his certificate from Cambridge/WASC with the utmost urgency and quickly present this to INEC as proof of his compliance with electoral regulations. Otherwise, APC has a big problem in its hands.
Suspect documents: The document Government College, Katsina has presented is suspect. It contains an obvious alteration on the Mathematics column which effectively renders it invalid. Indeed, the document itself states that: “any alteration or erasure renders this Statement of Results invalid.” Other anomalies evident in the statement include a recent photograph on an old document; a wrong name (Mohamed instead of Muhammadu); and the absence of the principal’s name.
There are other nagging questions pertaining to the validity of the results published by the Katsina State government. How come the expectations of Buhari’s grades as expressed by his principal turn out to be virtually the mirror-image of his alleged results? This suggests the likelihood Katsina State might have fabricated the Statement of Results to fit in with the grades predicted by the principal. In effect, the evidence suggests that what Buhari has asked Government College, Katsina to present to INEC as evidence of his credentials is a forged certificate. According to Section 137 (10) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution: “A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
Forgery is implied in this case because the Katsina Ministry of Education issues the transcripts of an examination it did not conduct. The Ministry of Education, Katsina, did not conduct WASC exam in 1961. Therefore the ministry could not have issued Buhari a WASC certificate in 1961.
INEC cannot address this matter because in the precedence established in the case of Atiku Abubakar in 2007, only the judiciary has the power to ban a candidate. However, the courts are on strike at the moment. Nevertheless, Buhari needs to save himself and his party future embarrassment by coming clean now.
Many of us, knowing Buhari’s antecedents, have always insisted his anti-corruption stance is a ruse. Buhari “talks water but drinks wine.” He preaches anti-corruption but is surrounded and sponsored by the corrupt. This scandal of his non-existent certificate has again confirmed our fears. Buhari is not fit to be president of Nigeria. As soon as the judiciary strike is over, Buhari must be prosecuted for perjury to the full extent of the law.