By Eric Elezuo
In the runoff to the 2015 Presidential election, the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign team stirred the hornet’s nest with the claim that General Muhammadu Buhari as he was then known, does not possess a basic educational qualification to vie for the office of the president. This, by all standard, is a simple West African Examination Certificate. It must be noted that section 131 of the 1999Constitution (as amended) is clear on the conditions to be fulfilled by someone aspiring to the position of the President of Nigeria.
As to be expected, the Buhari group fight to the allegation with everything they have got, including the sympathy of majority of Nigerians, which miraculously were rooting for Buhari. Much as Buhari couldn’t produce the certificate, he claimed it was with the army. But in a swift reaction, the army denied having such a document in its archive. Nigerians mocked the pronouncement, saying it was witch hunting. Of course the then President Goodluck Jonathan must hook-winked the army as the Commander-in-Chief to hide Buhari’s certificate. Buhari went ahead to win the election, and of course, a lot of heads rolled in the army, including that of the Director of Army Information as of then. A made up drama of a WAEC official in the Presidential Villa presenting a WAEC certificate to Buhari. The celebrated episode gathered a lot of discourse as there were so many loopholes in the document. Yet, it stood.
But the ghost of Buhari’s certificate scandal never rested as the echo resonated time and time again during the four years Buhari was in the seat of power. It became louder as the 2019 elections drew closer with Atiku Abubakar campaign team bring up the matter again. This time, they claimed they had tangible proof that Buhari never had a certificate. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not pay heed. Buhari won again, much as he couldn’t present a certificate, evidence of his education, to INEC.
In the affidavit he submitted to the electoral body, he said his academic qualification documents are with the Secretary of the Military Board.
Then the time came for Atiku to prove his case, to prove that Buhari, as he claimed, has no certificate, and there is no proper place to do that except the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal.
Gen. Paul Tarfa, testifying for President Muhammadu Buhari said he had always passed with ‘flying colours’ all exams he sat.
Tarfa said he was enlisted with Buhari into the officer cadre of the Nigerian Army on April 16, 1962, adding that Buhari had achieved an enviable record during the military training.
He listed some of their colleagues to include Brigadier Ola Oni, Maj.-Gen. Durojaye, Col. J.C Ojukwu, Brigadier Shelleng as well as Maj.-Gen Musa Yar-Adua, but he could not say much about certificate.
On his part, the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari claimed he had personally gone to collect the Cambridge University West Africa Examination Certificate of the president on July 18 for further proof.
“I can confirm that I was the one that collected and signed the Cambridge University West Africa Examination Certificate on behalf of the president on July 18, 2019,” he said.
On his part, Malam Suleman Mai-adua, Buhari’s classmate in Katsina Provincial Secondary School, who came to court with a group photograph of the class six of 1961 set and their principal, said they graduated from the school with Cambridge University West African Examination Certificate in 1961. He identified himself and Buhari in the picture. he had been asked if there is difference between a picture and a certificate, he answered ‘yes’. He answered in the negative when asked if a picture can take the place of a certificate.
Among documents tendered by Buhari’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun included Cambridge Assessment International Education Certificate for Muhammadu Buhari obtained in 1961.
However, events took a dramatic turn when a West African Examinations Council official, Osidehinde Adewunmi, testifying for Buhari, denied signing the Cambridge University Moderated Examination certificates produced by the President.
Adewunmi, who is WAEC’s Deputy Registrar, School Examinations in Nigeria, who appeared before the tribunal upon a subpoena issued on him by the tribunal at the instance of Buhari, confirmed that he certified the Cambridge University documents but admitted that they were not issued by WAEC. The mystery continues. Who therefore, is lying and who is not. Did the president lie on oath about having a certificate, and what happens if proven he doesn’t have one.