21st January, 2015
Damilare Okunola & Maduabuchi Nmeribeh/Kano
A Lagos lawyer, Benjamin Umudjoro, has said that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, does not have any case as regards the controversy surrounding General Muhammadu Buhari’s secondary school certificate.
PDP has made an issue of the school certificate of Buhari, the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, saying Buhari does not have the certificate and as such is not qualified to contest the 14 February presidential election.
Umudjoro, a legal practitioner with Owhe Chambers, who spoke with P.M. NEWS Wednesday morning in Lagos, western Nigeria, explained that the law has been wrongly interpreted to suit PDP because of their ulterior motives.
He noted that, “there appears to be a misinterpretation of section 131 A of the constitution here.
“Buhari is more than qualified according to the provisions of the constitution. He has attended every necessary course to justify his eligibility to vie as Nigeria’s President.
“He can read and write, understands and can communicate in English Language as stipulated by the constitution, what else could anybody need to justify the man?”
Speaking further, Umudjoro stated that “unless INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) states otherwise, the Presidential Candidate of the APC is an eligible candidate to vie for the post of Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The person in control of the Army right now is under the control of the PDP-led Federal Government. What were you expecting him to say?
“Buhari was said to have taken an oath of office to state that all his credentials were intact. But if this is found to be untrue, he can only be sued for perjury and not a disqualification by INEC.
“And it is even difficult to sue him at this stage. The whole idea is just to destabilize Buhari ahead of next month’s elections.”
Buhari, on Wednesday in Kano, northwest Nigeria, defended himself over the school certificate controversy, describing it as a sheer mischief engineered by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Buhari who was welcomed in Kano on Tuesday by thousands of his supporters, delayed his campaign movement to Katsina and Zamfara to clarify issues surrounding his WASCE certificate after the authorities of Nigerian Army claimed they were not in possession of the originals of his school certificate.
Buhari also advised the PDP and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s campaign team to focus on issues such as insecurity, poverty and unemployment, instead of resorting to unnecessary attack on his person.
Buhari told journalists on Wednesday that: “I advise you to do what you know best. I consented to address you this morning because of the general concern of my many supporters and well-meaning Nigerians that the issue be addressed. Otherwise, I would have dismissed it for what it is—a sheer mischief, and will not have considered it an issue.
“I assumed all along, all my records were in the custody of the Military Secretary of the Nigerian Army, a position I have been privileged to occupy myself; much to my surprise, we are now told that although a record of the result is available, there are no copies of the certificate in my personal file. This is why I formally requested my old school—the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, which is now known as Government College, Katsina, to make available the school copy of the result of the Cambridge West African School Certificate. This will be made available to the press the moment this is available.
“However, let me say for the record that I attended Provincial Secondary School, Kaduna. I graduated in 1961, with many prominent Nigerians, including Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former Chief of Staff in the Supreme Headquarters; and Justice Umar Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal. We sat for the University of Cambridge WASCE examination together in 1961, the year we graduated.
“My examination number was 8200002 and I passed the examination in the Second Division; and although the ruling party may want to wish this away, the issue in this campaign may not be my certificate which I obtained 52 years ago—the issues are the scandalous level of unemployment of millions of our people, the state of insecurity, the pervasive official corruption which has impoverished our people and the lack of concern of the government to do anything other than deification of power at all costs,” he concluded.
Some documents sent to online news portal, PremiumTimes by the Nigerian Military on Wednesday further laid to rest accusations by the PDP that the retired Army General has no academic credentials.
One of the documents showed Buhari’s application letter in 1961, with which he joined the military.
The letter dated 18 October, 1961 and addressed to Headquarters, Royal Nigerian Army read: “I have the honour to apply for the regular service in the Royal Nigeria Army. My name is Muhammadu Buhari and I am a Fulani. I am eighteen years old and I am in form six at the provincial secondary school, Katsina.”
A statement by the Military also revealed that “Maj-General Muhammadu Buhari commenced his preliminary military training at the then Nigerian Military College, Kaduna on 19 April, 1962 and proceeded to the United Kingdom to complete his cadet training at Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot.
“He was commissioned in the rank of second lieutenant on 26 January, 1963. He attended relevant military courses including United States Army War College Course in Pennsylvania and Defense Services Staff Course in Wellington, India.”
This further quells reports suggesting that the APC presidential standard bearer is an illiterate who has no academic qualification to warrant him vying for the highest political office in Nigeria.
What The Law Says
According to Section 131 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if:
(a) He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
(b) He has attained the age of forty years;
(c) He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
(d) He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
Part IV of Section 318 of the Constitution which deals with interpretation, says “School Certificate level or its equivalent” means:
(a) A Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or
(b) Education up to Secondary School Certificate Level; or
(c) Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and –
(i) Service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years, and
(ii) Attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totaling up to a minimum of one year, and
(iii) The ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and
(d) Any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.