The controversy being generated by the inability of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) to submit his certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is unavoidable. Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, says, 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 (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent. Gen. Buhari in affidavit he sworn to at the Federal High Court, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, said all his academic certificates were with the Secretary of the Military Board; this the military has confirmed. It is unfathomable that Gen. Buhari, a self-styled anti-corruption crusader who supposed to demonstrate integrity, honesty and transparency in all his deeds could keep Nigerians in suspense over the submission of his certificates. Nigerians expected him to be above board in all things!
However, there are certain questions to be asked. How did Gen. Buhari’s original certificates get to the military as nobody submits original certificates to organizations; certificates are only showed for sighting and confirmation. Original certificates are never submitted! Again, let us agree that Gen. Buhari actually submitted his original certificates to the military, why is it so difficult for him to retrieve them and submit same to INEC? Additionally, why did Buhari submit an affidavit to INEC in place of his certificates that are with the military? Affidavits are tendered when documents are lost and the concerned issuer of such documents had not issued replacements. To obtain replacement of lost certificates does not usually take a long time; fortunately for Gen. Buhari, he has his certificates with the military so he can easily obtain them and submit same to INEC. In the case of Buhari, many years had gone since he retired from the military yet he didn’t deem it fit to retrieve his certificates from the military after 30 years! Can Nigerians say with confidence that the action of Gen. Buhari portrays him as a man of integrity and honesty?
Gen. Buhari had contested the presidential election three times; 2003, 2007 and 2011. Does it mean in the past three elections, Buhari did not submit his certificates to INEC for scrutiny? If he did not submit his certificates to INEC in previous elections, why was he cleared by INEC, the electoral regulatory body to contest in those elections? These questions are germane owing to the fact that Nigerians are demanding accountability from the current government and it must be extended to those aspiring to contest the 2015 general elections because electoral fraud is the worst type of corruption. Was it not a colossal failure on the part of INEC to have cleared Gen. Buhari in those past elections without verifying his educational qualifications?
Some Nigerians in one school of thought, had said Gen. Buhari could contest the presidential election without the requisite qualifications or with NEPA bill! This is rather ridiculous and appalling. The questions on the minds of probing Nigerians are: first, is that what the constitution recommends? The section of the constitution quoted above clearly states what is expected of a presidential aspirant. Second, are Nigerians who said Gen. Buhari could contest the presidential election without school certificate or with NEPA bill also saying the constitution should be suspended just because Gen. Buhari is in the presidential race? If the constitution is suspended to enable Gen. Buhari contest the Presidential election, should it also be suspended in other areas of our lives to enable all Nigerians do things without adhering to the constitution? For instance, should candidates seeking admission into higher institutions be allowed to gain admission without having five credits including English Language and Mathematics as required by the laws of the land? Can Nigerians say without fear or favour that this is the type of change they have been clamouring for? I do not think so!
In another school of thought, some Nigerians said since Gen. Buhari had contested the presidential elections three times and was cleared by INEC in those instances, it was no longer necessary for him to submit his academic qualifications. Are these Nigerians saying if a candidate had written the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination before and such a candidate reapplied for same examination, he or she should not submit their West African Examination Council (WAEC) results or its equivalent to JAMB as evidence that they are qualified to write the examination?
Undoubtedly, the issue of Gen. Buhari’s academic qualifications had attracted sentiment rather than constitutionalism; this is not palatable for the country considering the fact that Nigerians are currently demanding accountability. It must be stated obviously that if Gen. Buhari refuses to retrieve his academic qualifications from the military and submit same to INEC as demanded by the 1999 Constitution, he should not arrogate to himself the status of an anti-corruption crusader!
Every Nigerian must be made to play by the rule especially at this time that the demand for accountability from the leaders is vehement. Every Nigerian including Gen. Buhari that is aspiring to contest for any elective positions should demonstrate integrity and honesty by supplying the prerequisites as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution which is the supreme regulatory law of the land. No Nigerian should be accorded the status of a sacred cow in this era of accountability.