For the past few weeks the APC presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari was under sustained attack from the rival PDP camp, asking him to produce his secondary school leaving certificate.
This was ostensibly based on the constitutional requirement that:
A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the 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
The attack was coordinated by the PDP’s campaign director Femi Fani-Kayode. There is even a parody song about Buhari’s failure to produce his certificate.
Last week a lawyer started court proceedings seeking Buhari’s disqualification on grounds of failure to produce his certificate. Buhari even went as far as addressing a press conference on the issue, producing a certificate from his secondary school in Daura and hoping that should put an end to the matter. Fani-Kayode responded by claiming what Buhari produced was a fake.
It’s been attack and counter-attack, with the APC claiming that the PDP would rather concentrate on the certificate than on the real issues afflicting the country.
But the real issue about the certificate saga is that it exposed the ignorance of Buhari and those asking him to produce his certificate. From Buhari’s response to the matter it was quite clear that he had never bothered to read the same constitution that he would be required to uphold if he wins the (s)election. Buhari’s apparent disinterest in the constitution should not come as a surprise with his history of overthrowing a constitutional regime in 1983.
The constitution is quite clear above on what is required.
It goes on to explain how to satisfy that education requirement in Part IV section 318:
“School Certificate or its equivalent” means
(a) a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, or 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 totalling 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;
We even have case law in Nigeria that further explains the constitutional requirement. In CAN v Adelowo the Court of Appeal ruled that:
“From the clear words of the constitutional provision, it did not require or state that an aspirant or candidate… must pass or possess a certificate. The most important thing is to have been educated up to secondary school level or the equivalent, passing the senior secondary school certificate examination and obtaining a certificate cannot be read into… the 1999 constitution as amended. What is required under the law is that there must be evidence that a candidate is educated up to the required level and not that he must or should produce a certificate to prove the level of education attained…”
Buhari finished secondary school and then went to the Nigerian Military Training School (which later became the Nigerian Defence Academy). He then attended the Mons Officer Cadet College in Aldershot, England. Both the NMTS and Mons are further education facilities that are higher than secondary school. So he satisfied the first requirement of being educated to secondary school certificate level or its equivalent by virtue of the fact that he was educated beyond secondary school. By serving in the Nigerian Army for several years, he satisfied the interpretation part of the requirement, which states a primary school certificate plus 10 years in public service can be treated as sufficient.
Despite the law being quite clear on this, Buhari’s accusers ignored the law. Buhari and his advisers ignored the law in their response to his accusers. The constitution that is meant to be “the supreme law of the land” was roundly ignored by all concerned.
This helps explain the level of lawlessness in Nigeria, when those that should set an example for their followers can barely conceal their complete disregard and contempt for the law. There is no place for the Rule of Law with Buhari more accustomed with rule by the barrel of the gun and both the APC and PDP governed by the Rule of Loot.