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Despite the release of President Muhammadu Buhari’s West African Examination Council result on Friday, an action seen as suspicious by the opposition, his failure to present his academic credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission, as stipulated in the Electoral Act, has been facing a severe backlash, JESUSEGUN ALAGBE writes
The 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five-star army general and statesman reputed to have played a major role in the Cold War, is also believed to be one of the most influential American leaders of all time.
In June 1965, he noted in an article he wrote in the Reader’s Digest magazine – titled What is leadership? – that the singular determinant of success for a leader is nothing else than integrity.
Once the people starts questioning the integrity of their leader, Eisenhower said such a person shouldn’t boast of having any success.
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section, gang, a football field, in an army or in an office,” he stated.
Speaking of a leader, Eisenhower posited that if such a man’s associates or followers found him guilty of a fraudulent act, he had failed.
“If they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose,” he said.
Coming back home to Nigeria, as the 2019 general elections are approaching, the electorate are questioning the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, following his failure to submit his academic credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
According to the Electoral Act, which is based on the 1999 Constitution, any person seeking to contest election to the office of the President must produce their secondary school certificate or its equivalent.
“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,” Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution said.
However, last Thursday when INEC posted the names of over 70 candidates for the 2019 presidential election, whereas candidates from other parties submitted their academic credentials to the electoral body, President Buhari didn’t, stating that his certificates were with the military.
Rather, he presented an affidavit to the commission, wherein he said, “I am the above named person and the deponent of this affidavit herein.
“All my academic qualification documents as filled in my Presidential form, APC/001/2015, are currently with the Secretary of the Military Board as of the time of this affidavit.”
Curiously, this was the same reason Buhari gave when he contested for the presidential election in 2015.
At the time, the military denied being in possession of the President’s credentials, adding that in the early 1960s when he joined the Nigerian Army, no record showed any verification was done on the original copies of his credentials.
“Records available indicate that Major General M. Buhari applied to join the military as a Form Six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, on October 18, 1961,” a former army spokesperson, Olajide Olaleye, had said.
Olaleye added, “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 a 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 that are presented. However, there is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s.”
As the military had denied possession of the President’s original copies of certificates about four years ago, Nigerians were however stunned last Thursday when Buhari again said in an affidavit that he couldn’t submit his credentials to INEC because they were with the military.
“How could the President ever bring up same empty rhetoric again? Does he think we are daft?” a lawyer and social commentator in Lagos, Tobi Oladele, asked.
“If he wanted to outsmart us, he should have thought of another excuse instead of telling us his credentials were with the military. I guess he forgot that’s what he told us four years ago,” he added.
Apart from Oladele, other Nigerians noted that the President’s excuse for not submitting his academic credentials as required by law raised questions about his integrity.
“Coming from someone acclaimed to be leading an anti-corruption war, I found the issue disturbing; it shouldn’t have come from him,” a political scientist in Abuja, Dr. Femi Kolawole, said in an emailed statement to our correspondent.
Kolawole said his anger about Buhari’s “unfortunate lie” was that it would put a stain on his anti-corruption crusade and would make “many Nigerians, as well as foreigners, to believe the war is a hoax.”
He said, “The President has committed many offences at one fell swoop. In 2014, he told us his certificates were with the military. Four years later, he brought the same excuse. This could mean many things.
He said, “We have many questions to ask the President, but it is unfortunate he barely has regard for democratic principles. I have never heard him address issues like this, rather, he seeks to blame others for his predicament.
Following an outrage that greeted Buhari’s failure to provide his certificates, the electoral body’s Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had told Nigerians who felt concerned about the matter to go to court.
“We have pasted the form CF001 in all the constituencies for all candidates nominated by their political parties. Are there details in the form that you think are inaccurate? The citizens, if convinced there is inaccurate information, can initiate legal action,” he had told journalists last Thursday.
Then, on Friday, Yakubu had a 30-minute secret meeting with the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Abba Kyari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“The Buhari administration does some things with impunity because it knows it can get away with them. INEC, being an independent body, ought to have no secret meetings or dealings with President Buhari or any of his aides. This sends an I-don’t-care signal to us, which is very bad,” a political analyst in Lagos, Mrs. Chinyere Nwachuku-Ojo, said in a telephone conversation with our correspondent.
She added, “If at all the INEC chairman wants to meet the President or any of his aides, such meetings should be made public. They shouldn’t be behind closed doors. The one Yakubu had with Kyari smacked of insensitivity, already with several allegations of nepotism under this government.”
Speaking on the President’s certificate saga, a Lagos-based columnist and social commentator, Mr. Femi Aribisala, has outright concluded President Buhari has no school certificate, hence his resort to filing an affidavit with INEC.
Knowing full well that a proof of credentials was required by all presidential candidates, Aribisala wondered why the President had been unable to get his academic credentials since many years ago.
In addition, Aribisala said Buhari had committed perjury when the military denied his claim that it was in possession of his academic certificates.
He said, “Instead of providing his certificates to INEC as now required by law, Buhari deposed to an affidavit at a High Court in Abuja in 2015
“Since that time, Buhari has not been able to collect his certificates from the military. He has made the same deposition again, four years later, claiming his certificates are with the military board. This affidavit turned out to be false in 2015, and it remains false today.
“In 2015, the military board deposed that it did not have Buhari’s academic credentials. That means Buhari committed perjury when he swore on oath that the military had 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 in the Nigerian Army.
“This denial by the army that it has Buhari’s certificates means he committed perjury when he swore on oath that the army had them. Section 118 of the Nigerian Criminal Code reads: ‘Any person who commits perjury is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.’
“It is because the Nigerian judiciary is a respecter of persons that Buhari was allowed to violate this code, be above the law, and become president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The very fact that President Buhari has returned to this lame excuse suggests his school certificate is actually non-existent.”
Citing the case of a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who resigned when it was discovered that she presented a forged National Youth Service Corps certificate, Aribisala said Buhari should live up to his integrity mantra by dropping his presidential ambition in 2019 since he did not have the minimum requirement to contest in the elections.
This submission was similar to that of the Save Lagos Group, who has also advised Buhari to disqualify himself from the 2019 presidential election over his inability to present his school leaving certificate as required in the Electoral Act.
The advocacy group’s convener, Adeniyi Sulaiman, urged the President to heed its advice in order “to prove his acclaimed integrity status.”
Sulaiman who is also the executive chairman, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice, maintained that Buhari needed not be told he was not qualified to seek the presidency again.
“Now, what is the difference between President Buhari and Mrs. Kemi Adeosun? There is no moral justification for Buhari to accept Kemi Adeosun’s resignation letter if he too could not resign for submitting fake document to INEC.” he said.
Meanwhile, as the controversy continues to surround Buhari’s certificate, the West African Examination Council on Friday presented an attestation certificate and confirmation of school certificate result to him.
The Council’s Registrar, Iyi Uwadiae, presented the certificate to Buhari on Friday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
However, another question raised by Nigerians on Friday was, “Why is the President just getting his WAEC attestation certificate in 2018 and not in 2015?”
Meanwhile, opposition political parties under the aegis of Coalition of United Political Parties have described the sudden release of the confirmation of result by WAEC to Buhari on Friday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, as suspicious.
They said that there were indications that the result was hurriedly released to stall the commencement of the suit seeking to disqualify the President from the 2019 election, describing the action as laughable, unbelievable and a desperate effort to mislead the court and shield the President i from disqualification from participation in the general election.
Credit: The Punch
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