By Philip Agbese*
Elections are around the corner again. Politicians and political parties are scheming on how to take over power or how to retain power in places where they are in charge, and therefore political shenanigans, propaganda, lies, outright falsehoods and even hate speeches are all on the increase at this time.
These are not the best times for those who value character and decency. I read somewhere some people are calling on INEC to disqualify President Buhari from contesting the 2019 general elections because he doesn’t have his school certificate. Very laughable, how many times will they try the same old trick? President Buhari has been contesting elections since 2003. Between 2003 and now there have been four election circles Buhari has contested in all these elections.
At no point was the issue of his WAEC certificate questioned until suddenly in 2015 as soon as he won his party’s primaries . Those who knew he was unstoppable from there on, began to unleash different ludicrous propaganda after propaganda. From “Buhari will Islamize Nigeria” to” Buhari is terminally ill”, to” Buhari has no certificate”. All of their propaganda fell flat on their faces.
Now that elections are around the corner, they have resurfaced again with the “ Buhari has no certificate “ propaganda. It will be a complete waste of effort this time as this election is going to be about issues and not propaganda. The election is going to be about track records of the different parties while in office.
The people are going to be comparing the roads now and then, they will compare power supply now and then. The parents of the over 7 million schools pupils being fed every school day will compare now and then. The over one million most vulnerable poorest of the poor amongst us receiving 5000 Naira conditional cash transfer every month, the over half a million graduates receiving 30,000 Naira every month all of these people will compare the party in power now with the performance of those who left power in 2015. These are what the Nigerian people will be discussing in 2019 not some mundane propaganda, sponsored by some failed politicians who squandered the opportunity to better the lot of the people whilst they were in power.
Let me also use this opportunity to dismiss their lies. The constitutional requirement to run for office of the President are very clear and unambiguous. Section 131 (d) of the 1999 constitution states that: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the president if”, subsection (d); “He or She has been educated up to at least school certificate Level or its equivalent”.
Many legal luminaries addressed this issue in the run up to the 2015 elections, so many legal opinions on this section. One of such that will help anyone interested in more clarity on this issue is the article written by the legal luminary Prof Taiwo Osipitan in the Guardian on the 26th of January 2015. He dealt extensively on the fact that the requirement was for such aspiring candidate to show evidence of education up to or even equivalent of school certificate. In the case that your certificate is missing like every other vital missing document an attestation letter can then suffice which INEC can confirm with the school. This is a very simple matter that some mischievous people hope to draw some political points from.
President Buhari’s former school , Government College, formerly Provincial Secondary School Katsina released a statement that Buhari actually graduated from the school and that he wrote the School certificate Examination there. The school later went ahead to release the result to the public, including a copy of the result spread sheet showing other candidates who sat for same exam with their results as well. So what other evidence would the detractors of the President require before they are satisfied?
In an interview granted to the punch newspapers on the 13th of November 2016, Chief Alex Ajayi. The octogenarian who was a former director at the West African Examination Council (WAEC) mentioned in the interview and I quote him “I had the opportunity of issuing WAEC certificates to three former Heads of State; Buhari, Abacha and Babangida in the 60s”.
It is outright ridiculous and very mischievous to claim that President Buhari isn’t educated up to school certificate level. A man that rose to the pinnacle of his career . A general in the Army . He has attended several courses across the different continents of the world.
There are those who believe that the PDP might have sponsored some people to tamper with President Buhari’s documents with the army. If not, how could this suddenly just be an issue in 2015. The same forms he submitted to INEC 2003, 2007 and 2011 and this issue was not raised, then suddenly in 2015 his documents are missing. I am tending to believe in this line of thoughts by now. If not, how do you confidently wake up and then start accusing a retired general of the Nigeria army that he didn’t attend secondary school. There must be something informing such confidence may be they know something we don’t know.
In 2015 whilst President Buhari and his party were out there campaigning, telling the people what they will do. I remember a Fani Kayode and his fellow party man Gov Ayo Fayose were busy selling propaganda to the people calling Buhari all sort of names. Rather than tell the people what they have done and what they intend to do better they rather preferred abuse and propaganda. We all saw what the outcome was President Buhari trumped them at the polls with a wide margin. The Nigerian people will have none of their nonsense any more.
The Same thing is already playing out now. President Buhari as usual will not join issues with anybody. He has been focused on the job at hand, commissioning projects up and about the whole country, on the other hand those who are challenging to take over are not telling Nigerians what they will do better but want to start the nonsense they did the other time and lost, again. The propaganda that could not save them whilst in power is not likely to get them back to power now that they are out. Nigerians are interested in real issues that affect them daily. Not mundane propaganda about President Buhari’s health or certificate.
*Agbese is a human rights law researcher based in the United Kingdom.