By Abubakar Salihi, Bode Gbadebo, By GEORGE OKOJIE
In a rare move, the Nigerian Army (NA) has denied being in possession of either the original or photocopies of the West Africa School Certificate (WASC) records of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in February 14 elections, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
However, Buhari is going to speak on his academic records in Kano today.
The Army’s action has already elicited sharp reactions from Nigerians, with many accusing the military of dabbing into the partisan political arena.
The Army’s disclosure follows the ongoing controversy since December 30, 2014, when it was discovered that rather than tender copies of credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari had tendered an affidavit, saying the military board was in possession of his certificates.
But yesterday, the director of army public relations, Brigadier-General Olajide Olaleye, told journalists at a press conference in Abuja that the army only had a letter from the principal of Buhari’s secondary school, Provincial Secondary School in Katsina, recommending him for enlistment in the military school in 1961.
Olukolade said: “The media hype on retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s credentials as well as the numerous requests made by individuals and corporate bodies to the Nigerian Army on this issue have necessitated that we provide the facts as contained in the retired senior officer’s service record.
“Records available indicate that Major General M. Buhari applied to join the military as a Form Six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, on 18 Oct 61,” he said, an application that was duly endorsed by the principal of his school, who also wrote a report recommending him as suitable for military commission then.
“It is a practice in the Nigerian Army (NA) that before candidates are shortlisted for commissioning into the officers’ cadre of the Service, the Selection Board verifies the original copies of credentials that are presented. However, there is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s.
“Nevertheless, the entry made on the NA Form 199A at the point of documentation after commissioning as an officer indicated that the former Head of State obtained the West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961 with credit passes in relevant subjects: English Language, Geography, History, Health Science, Hausa and a pass in English Literature. “
He, however, revealed that “neither the original copy, Certified True Copy (CTC) nor statement of result of Major General M. Buhari’s WASC result is in his personal file.”
The defence spokesman asserted that the Nigerian Army holds Buhari in very high regard and would not wish to be involved in any controversy surrounding his eligibility for political office, adding that he rose steadily to the rank of major-general before becoming the head of state in December 1983.
Meanwhile, the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO) has faulted the claims by the Army authorities, saying it is an unnecessary distraction and non-issue.
APCO’s director of media and publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, told LEADERSHIP last night that General Buhari would react to the development this morning in Kano.
“The issues at hand are security, economy and infrastructure. Will Buhari’s certificates lead to the release of Chibok girls from Boko Haram? Buhari will address the matter tomorrow (today) at about 9am. It is regrettable that the Army is descending into politics arena,” Shehu said.
He added that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had nothing tangible to show for the six-year rule of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Those after Buhari may destroy the military, APC warns
The APC has warned that those bent on destroying its presidential candidate, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, on the basis of his academic records may end up destroying the country’s military.
In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party warned that the PDP and the Jonathan administration were playing a dangerous game by trying to compromise the military in order to satisfy selfish political objectives.
It urged the military, as a symbol of national unity, to beware of those who may be seeking to use it to achieve divisive ends.
It also stated that the statement credited to the Nigerian Army’s director of public relations, Brig-Gen. Olajide Olaleye, at a press conference in Abuja yesterday – that the Army is not in possession of Buhari’s certificates – was in direct conflict with what he said on January 4, 2015, on the same issue.
“In an interview with the Punch on January 4, 2015, Brig.-Gen. Olaleye said: ‘Every serving and retired Army officer has at least a copy of his certificates and credentials kept in the Nigerian Army while that same serving and retired officer has copies of those same certificates and credentials’.
“Is Brig.-Gen. Olaleye now saying that he did not make that statement? If he did, what has happened between then and now to make him to recant? It will be interesting to know what has transpired between then and now,’’ APC queried.
But more worrisome, the party said, is the statement credited to Olaleye that there was no evidence that the certificates of all those who joined the army in the early 1960s were verified by the selection board.
“Is he now saying that all those who were commissioned into the officer cadres in the 1960s did not have their certificates verified? Does this not confirm what we said that in trying to destroy Gen. Buhari, the PDP and the Jonathan administration will end up destroying the army as an institution? Or is it only Gen. Buhari that was commissioned into the army in the 1960s,’’ it asked.
The party also quoted Buhari as saying, in an affidavit on November 24, 2014, that ‘all my academic qualifications documents as filled in my presidential form, President APC/001/2015, are currently with the secretary, Military Board as at the time of this affidavit.’ ‘’Those who are behind the latest controversy should now tell Nigerians what happened to Gen. Buhari’s certificates between the time of his affidavit and now,’’ it said.
According to the party, even if the Army now says it does not have the contentious certificates, its candidate is still qualified to run for the country’s highest office, in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The party quoted Section 131 (d) of the Constitution: ‘’A person shall be qualified for election to the office of president if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.’’
APC said the meaning and interpretation of ‘’School Certificate level or its equivalent’ can be found in the Constitution under part IV, Section 318. In that Section, a ‘’School Certificate or its equivalent’’ is defined quite succinctly thus:
(a) A Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate
(b) Education up to Secondary School Certificate level
(c) Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent.
The party said since Brig.-Gen. Olaleye had now confirmed that Gen. Buhari indeed applied to join the Army from Form Six, that the principal of the school he attended even attested to his suitability, and that the form he filled contained his Secondary School Certificate results, there is no scintilla of doubt about his qualification to run for president as stipulated in the Constitution.
The party accused the PDP and the Jonathan administration of constituting themselves into a court of law, and would relish to see Buhari disqualified from the election, which he described as ‘wishful thinking.’
On the contradictions in the statements credited to the Army spokesman, the party said: “What really is happening in our country if some politicians have now decided to engage in an action that will amount to dragging the military into politics, dividing an institution that is a symbol of national unity, trivializing the service of those who fought to keep Nigeria one and ridiculing the same country it is supposed to be ruling?