The Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday hit back at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after the opposition party took President Muhammadu Buhari to task over his Secondary School certificate.
The Presidency dismissed the flak from the PDP as an indication of idleness on the part of those speaking for the party on the matter, while the APC branded the criticism trivially.
“The certificate saga is a dead issue, only idle people will consider it,” the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Mr. Femi Adesina, told The Nation yesterday when contacted.
“It is something that had been laid to rest before the 2015 general elections,” he added.
“Those raising the issue (PDP and others) are idle and they have run out of ideas. They see defeat staring them in the face and they are desperate to cling to any straw. This issue was resolved before the 2015 election.
“It is a matter of fact that when President Buhari and others joined the military, they took their original certificates from them. The military knew where they kept the original certificates of the President.
“In fact, a former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Alani Akinrinade corroborated that the military collected the original certificates of all its officers. The PDP believes it is going to lose the elections, and they will lose, and it is raising dust over a dead issue.
“The military already said they lost the certificates. But does it mean that it did not exist that the President went to school, sat for examinations and passed; attended military courses and War College.
“It does not change the fact that the President rose through the ranks to become a Major-General in the Nigerian Army and a Military Head of State.
“Didn’t those opposed to President Buhari go to court over his certificate and lost before? They will still lose this time around. It is a dead issue.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Lanre Issa-Onilu, spoke along the same line of thought.
His words: “It is a dead issue. When PDP has something new to say, Nigerians will be ready to listen to the party.
“This certificate issue was thrashed in 2014. The President has the minimum qualification he ought to have to stand for election and he had more than the minimum.
“PDP thrives on the trivial. We want to tell Nigerians what we have achieved in the last three years and why the President should be re-elected. Instead of engaging in meaningful discourse, PDP trades on the trivial.”
Buhari had, in a sworn affidavit attached to his nomination form for next year’s election, said his certificate was in the custody of the military.
But the PDP insisted that the certificate be produced for the President to be believed.
Buhari, in an attachment to the form his party submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) listed his academic and military attainments as follows: Elementary School Daura and Mai Aduwa (1948-1952); Middle School, Katsina (1953-1956); Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Government College, Katsina)-1956 to 1961; Nigerian Military Training School, Kaduna (1962-1963); Cadet Officer Course Aldershot, UK (October 1963); Platoon Commander Course, Nigerian Military College, Kaduna (1963-1964); Army Mechanical Transport School, Bordan, England (1965); Defence Service Staff College, Wellington India (1973-1974); and United States Army War College (1979-1980).
Lending credence to the affidavit of President Buhari, another presidential candidate, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (rtd) of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) claimed that his credentials were still with the Nigerian Army.
In his nomination form, Al-Mustapha said: “My entire personal documents including my certificates and awards were taken away by the then government in 1998. Formal complaints were registered before High Court of Lagos (2000-2001) and Federal High Court 3 (Lagos Division)-2004-2007 but the government refused to obey court orders till today.
“However, Nigerian Army (my employer-1983 -2013, is in custody of the certificates this applicant is asking of.
“I was a victim of persecution for 15 years (1998-2013) over trump up charges. I was however exonerated and freed of the wanton charges vide Court of Appeal ruling: “Major Hamza Al-Mustapha v, The State CA/L/469a/ 2012”-Judgment delivered on 12th July 2013.”
Sections 130 and 131 of the 1999 Constitution provide eligibility guidelines for a presidential candidate.
Section 130 of the 1999 Constitution says: “There shall be for the Federation, a President” and such “President shall be the Head of State, the Chief Executive of the Federation and Commander- In –Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation”.
“Section 131 states: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if –
*He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
*He has attained the age of forty – years.
*He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
*He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said on Friday that Nigerians who have an issue with the credentials submitted by candidates contesting next year’s elections are free to challenge such claims in court.
Citing Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act as amended, the INEC chair said: “Each candidate nominated by a political party is required to provide details of his/her personal particulars by personally completing the Form CF001 and to swear an affidavit at the Federal High Court, a High Court of a State or the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“Within seven (7) days from the close of submission of these documents, the Commission is required to publish the Form in the constituencies that candidates seek to represent as required by Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
“This will give the general public the opportunity to view the affidavit of personal particulars of those who aspire to represent them.
“Any person with reasonable ground to believe that any information on Form CF001 submitted by a candidate contains incorrect or false claims are at liberty to file an action against such candidate at the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State or the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).”