On Wednesday, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, laboured to defend himself over the allegation that he did not have school certificate, which is the prerequisite qualification to contest for president, I could not but feel sorry for him. I could see a sober former Head of State, who could only read a prepared speech to explain that he actually attended Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, and wrote University of Cambridge/West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in 1961 along with the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Justice Umar Abdullahi. He could not take questions in the press conference he addressed in Kano.
I was sorry for Buhari on two scores. One, he’s suddenly having a taste of the bitter medicine, which his political party, APC, loves to give his opponent, President Goodluck Jonathan. He had been placed on the spot and is figuratively stammering to explain himself. Two, I was sorry for Buhari because he’s a victim of the certificate mentality, which is like a plague in Nigeria. In this country, we tend to cherish certificate more than the ability to do something. This is why those, who have read too much books, as it were, and loves using “big grammar,” as we say in local parlance, see those who are not “lettered” or those who would prefer to speak plain English as less mortals. It’s a class thing, which did not start today. Chinua Achebe, in his epic book, Things Fall Apart, illustrated this. In the book, Obi Okonkwo lost the respect of his people, on his return from abroad where he had gone for studies because he only spoke “is and was.” His people expected their son to have spoken like Pastor Chris Okotie and Hon. Obayegbon, who would dazzle you with “big grammar.” Well, this is a topic for another day.
Yes, I said Buhari was having a taste of the bitter medicine of the APC because, ever since the certificate saga started, I have always wondered what APC could have done or said, were it President Jonathan whose academic claims are in dispute. I am sure that APC would have raised hell and outright called for the withdrawal of Jonathan from the race. But now that it’s the presidential candidate of APC that is in the eye of the storm, the political party is rationalising. Isn’t it funny that a political party that says it was coming to right the wrongs in governance and out to fight corruption is now querying why somebody is talking about Buhari’s certificate in 2015, when the former Head of State had contested for the post of president on three previous occasions and his certificate was never an issue? What an argument!
Yes, on three occasions, Buhari contested for the position of president and his certificate was not an issue. That nobody made this an issue does not mean that it was never one. And that the certificate saga has become an issue today is not out of place. By arguing that since Buhari used an affidavit in 2003, 2007 and 2011 and nobody said anything, it’s a crime to raise hell now, the APC is also saying that a new president cannot visit what his predecessor ignored. My question is this: Is this how the APC federal government would fight corruption, if the party forms the national government? How do we trust that APC would do what it’s promising now that the party thinks that its presidential candidate is above scrutiny and, therefore, does not owe Nigerian an explanation about his certificate? How do we trust APC to do the needful, in the true sense of it, if the party thinks that an issue not raised or addressed in the past should not ever come up?
Of course, Buhari owed and still owes Nigeria an explanation. This is why I fault his position thus: “I only consented to address you this morning because of the genuine concern expressed by many supporters and other well-meaning Nigerians that the issue be addressed. Otherwise, I would have dismissed it for what it is – sheer mischief and would not have considered it an issue worth the nation’s while.” No, Sir! It would have been wrong if Buhari never addressed issues relating to his certificate. Leaders owe their subjects or the ruled explanations, for whatever it’s worth. Whoever assumes public position must let the people know everything about him. And if Buhari thinks that this is not what it should be, he’s indirectly telling us the type of president he would be, if he becomes one.
Now, Buhari has explained. And the principal of his former school has come to his rescue by releasing a statement of result. This is what is expected. However, does this rest the case? Perhaps! But there are still issues that ought to be explained. The statement of result released by the Government College, Katsina, which is a metamorphosis of the Provincial Secondary School Buhari attended, bore the name of the student as: Mohammed Buhari. Yes, Mohammed and Muhammadu may just be the same thing, but when did our former Head of State change his name or the spelling of his name? Is there a sworn affidavit to that effect? Was there a newspaper publication to certify that the former Mohammed Buhari is now Muhammadu Buhari? Also, Buhari stated that he made Division 2 in the WASC. His principal, in 1960/61 also, in his testimonial on Buhari, said the retired soldier made Division 2. The question, however, is: Does four credits, in English Language (C5); Hausa Language (C5); Geography (C6) and Health Science (C6) and one A3 in History, translate to Division 2 in WASC? I know that in the past, a student makes Division 1 when he records all As in his papers. Does four Cs and one A translate to Division 2?
Besides, why is it that it’s statement of results not event certified by any Notary Public that Buhari is showing 53 years after he left school? What happened to the certificate that was issued him by Cambridge/West African Examination Council (WAEC)? Was the certificate lost? If it was lost, stolen or burnt, is it possible that Buhari never had any photocopy of it? If the certificate is missing or lost, where are the affidavit and the police report to that effect? I am raising these questions because when things get lost in Nigeria, a police report is required and an affidavit also. Why is the Buhari case different? It will also be interesting to know if the retired Justice Umar Abdullahi, Buhari’s classmate or exams mate, is also parading a statement of result and not certificate. Perhaps, we should wake Yar’Adua from the dead and find out what his is.
The certificate saga may not stop Buhari from contesting the election. It may not even stop him from becoming president if he wins, but the APC presidential candidate has a moral burden. His explanation of the certificate saga is tardy. Also, APC has a moral burden. The opposition political party’s hypocrisy has been exposed because its leaders want their presidential candidate to do what the party, as a progressive political party, would not tolerate others doing.
Of course, Buhari is wrong to have said this: “And although the ruling party may want to wish this away, the issue in this campaign cannot be my certificate, which I obtained 53 years ago. The issues are the scandalous level of unemployment of millions of our young people, the state of insecurity, the pervasive official corruption, which has impoverished our people and the lack of concern of the government for anything other than the retention of power at all costs.”
I beg your pardon? Mr. Head of State, Sir, if the certificate of a presidential candidate, who could be president and, therefore, the symbol of the country’s sovereignty cannot be an issue, I wonder what would. If Buhari’s certificate is not an issue, why then would the things Buhari listed be the issue. His certificate borders on integrity. And integrity is required in office as president. Therefore, he still has explanations to make, as far as the certificate matter is concerned. No amount of APC arrogance would wish this way.
However, the Buhari case should serve as a lesson to everybody. You must protect your certificate. You must have photocopies of your certificate. You can even save it in the bank to ensure that it’s safe. Buhari can get away with this, but no ordinary Nigerian would. Can you imagine going to get a job at Shell, Chevron or United Nations and when you are asked to tender your certificate, you present a sworn affidavit. And after many questions, your school presents a statement of result. Do you think you will land the job? It’s only in Buhari and APC republic that this will happen.