BUHARI'S CERTIFICATE CONTROVERSY AND THE ESSENTIALITY OF EDUCATION - By Omoshola Deji


Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election has ended, but the contest is ongoing at the tribunal. Politics is a mean
game - and politicians devise every means to win. That ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar is challenging the
result doesn’t mean he won. He may have indeed lose and still be imploring the tribunal to return him elected.
In the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence that he won doesn’t mean he actually did. He may
have robbed Atiku and still be persuading the tribunal to pronounce him validly elected. Aside determining who
really won, two major issues are before the tribunal: Atiku’s citizenship determination and Buhari’s certificate
verification.
The suits are distinct. Deciding when and where to be born is beyond Atiku’s control, but Buhari could have
averted the certificate controversy if he had devoted time to education. Atiku would be suffering for an action
taking by the colonialist, if the court rules that he is not a Nigerian, but Cameroonian. The genesis of Atiku’s
citizenship case is the 1884 scramble for, and partition of Africa. His citizenship may not have been a subject of
litigation, if the western nations had not partitioned Africa. The tribunal thus has an unenviable task of
determining Atiku’s eligibility to contest for president, on account of the West’s adjustment of his ancestral
boundary, before he was born.
The testimonies and evidences presented at the tribunal revived Buhari’s certificate controversy which started in
2014. Buhari’s witness, Major-Gen. Paul Tarfa (retd) avowed that the Army never collected the certificate of
the 1962 course officers during recruitment, as earlier claimed by Buhari. This landmark confession revealed
Buhari’s claim that his certificate is with the military in 2014 is untruth. Nigerians thought then President
Goodluck Jonathan ordered the military to withhold Buhari’s certificate in order to disqualify him for
contesting. Suspicion brew after Buhari won the election and still couldn’t present his certificate, despite being
the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The certificate-with-the-military excuse became untenable.
Buhari did not attach his certificate to the 2019 presidential nomination form, as lawfully required. To make
amends, Abba Kyari, the Chief-of-Staff to the President tendered the president’s Cambridge assessment
international education certified statement of West African School Certificate (WASC). Kyari claimed he
personally signed and collected the document on behalf of Buhari. Atiku’s counsel argued during cross
examination that colleges don’t release certificate to third parties. This assertion is untrue. Colleges do release

certificate to third party on the instruction of the graduate, but certain conditions must be met. Such includes,
but not limited to: a letter from the graduate indicating that his/her certificate be released to a third party; and
such party must provide a valid form of identification.
To strengthen his defense, Buhari brought in Oshindehinde Adewunmi, the Deputy Registrar of the West
African Examination Council (WAEC) in Nigeria to lead evidence in support of the document Kyari tendered.
This unfortunately did more harm than good. When shown the document Kyari claimed to have collected on
Buhari’s behalf, Adewunmi stated that the document is not a WAEC certificate, and he has never worked for
the body that issued it. The witness said he cannot affirm the authenticity of the document because it does not
bear his signature.
A comparison of the two documents Buhari presented – the Cambridge certified statement of WASC and the
1961 result sheet of the Provincial Secondary School Katsina – revealed some inconsistencies. One stated that
Buhari sat for eight subjects, while the other stated he sat for six. The name on one is ‘Mohamed’ while the
other is ‘Muhammadu’, although Buhari’s witness stressed that both names have the same meaning and are
interchangeably used in Islam.
The discrepancies in the documents is making people opine Buhari would lose the case. Their argument is
premised on Section 131 of the constitution, which states that ‘any contestant for the position of president of the
country must have a minimum qualification of School Certificate or its equivalent’. However, they fail to take
cognizance that Section 318 (1c) stated that ‘anyone with primary school certificate who has served in the
Nigerian public or private sector, in any capacity, for a minimum of ten years is deemed to have the equivalent
of a school certificate’. Buhari is thus qualified to contest and be president having served in the Army for over
ten years. That however opens the door to new arguments.
The tribunal can only sack Buhari if his years of military service, which makes him qualify to be president
under Section 318 (1c) is declared void. If Buhari joined the military with inadequate qualification, could his
years of service be declared void? If Buhari was recruited into the military without a certificate and was not
given a duration to produce it, who should be blamed? Buhari or the military? In any case, would it be fair to
make Buhari suffer for the wrongs of the military recruitment board as the Supreme Court did to Ademola
Adeleke in Osun?
The litigations and embarrassment the certificate scandal has brought upon Buhari could have been avoided if
he had dedicated some time to scholarship. He had enough time to acquire more qualifications after General
Ibrahim Babangida toppled his military regime in 1983. Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo -- Buhari’s senior
in age and in the military -- bagged a Bachelor and Doctorate after he left office as President in 1999. Buhari is
not an accidental president. His three unsuccessful race for the nation’s top job, cumulatively 12 years of aiming
for president, is enough for him to have bagged a diploma or degree.
Buhari was yearning to lead but failed to prepare for leadership. This showed in his six-month late appointment
of ministers in 2015. It is also manifesting in his abysmal performance and mishandling of sensitive national
issues. His lack of ideas, narrow-mindedness and sectionalism is disintegrating the country and hampering
growth. He has given little for every much expected. One cannot, in fairness, totally attribute Buhari’s
shortcomings to insufficient education. The government of his predecessor who holds a doctorate was a colossal
failure.
Nonetheless, that Goodluck Jonathan failed doesn’t mean Buhari should. Buhari’s underperformance hinge on
his apologists cheering of wrongs. Justifying Buhari’s failure to get educated is moronic. Many of those
defending him severely punish their children for not scoring ‘A’. They want their children to earn higher
degrees, but passionately defend a president with a controversial certificate. Some of these apologists demand

for Bachelor’s degree, National Youth Service Corps certificate, and five years working experience before they
can hire and pay 70,000 Naira (about $200) per month. Such a brazen show of double standard is galling.
Sections 131 and 318 of the 1999 constitution needs to be amended. The framers made it possible for anyone to
be president, so long as they can “read, write, understand and communicate in English language to the
satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission”. The best may never get to lead the rest if the
constitution is not amended. The less educated ones would continue to govern; appointing and issuing directives
to professors. Nigerian leaders, many of whom are not so educated, controls the resources and earn huge, while
the professors and citizens earn peanuts. The professors that should be ruling the less educated are the ones
conducting elections to bring them to power.
Nigerian education needs oxygen. The struggle to make ends meet has turned many professors to political job
seekers and errand boy. High fees, vast unemployment, and inadequate reward for academic excellence is
discouraging people from becoming educated. A friend once said “education is the master key” and “Bata re a
dun kokoka” loosely translated “you would wear the best shoes if you’re educated” inspired many to invest in
education, but they’ve gained nothing. Politicians and political thugs are the ones wearing the best shoes.
Everyone must endeavor to be educated despite the challenges and discouragements. Buhari and Osun state
former governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke’s ordeal is a strong lesson that the education you fail to
acquire may be all you need to win tomorrow.
Things are turning around for the good of the educated. Education is changing the game. Faster than anyone
imagined. The educated ones are bringing innovation to businesses and taking over the jobs from the
uneducated. Booking taxi through apps is gradually gobbling the job of the uneducated drivers. Many people
view education has the ticket to working in an office, dressing corporate. No. Education ideally gives you a
knowledge of the world around you and the skill to do things in a better way.
The case of Wunmi comes to mind. Wunmi is a female university graduate who studied mass communication,
but earns a living from furnishing homes. She uploads furniture pictures on e-commerce platforms and contract
artisans to produce them when she has order. The artisans’ inability to open and manage an e-commerce store is
fetching Wunmi money. She wouldn’t have been an intermediary if the artisans are educated. She is earning
huge, thriving and expanding, while the uneducated artisans are earning less. That’s the power of education.
Buhari, Adeleke, and Wunmi are lessons. Learn.
*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via moshdeji@yahoo.com

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