Ever since he joined partisan politics at the dawn of the fourth republic, integrity has been President Muhammdu Buhari’s unique selling point. Hence, in all the elections he has contested since 2003, down to the 2015 poll which he won against all odds, his integrity and perceived incorruptibility have featured prominently. Against this backdrop, the avoidable issue of whether or not Buhari possesses the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) should not have reared its ugly head once more ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The phrase “avoidable” is used here judiciously for three reasons. One, as a veteran election runner (having contested not one, not two, not three, but FOUR presidential polls) President Buhari and his handlers should have settled the certificate saga beyond reasonable doubts long, long ago. Second, as someone who was coming to equity (in this case, by posturing as Mr. Integrity and by launching an anti-graft campaign) it ought to have been apparent to His Excellency’s camp that anything other than to come with hands that are less than 100% clean would raise eyebrows. Third, given that Mr. President’s administration has been rocked by a few certificate scandals lately (including those involving the immediate past Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the current Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu) one needed not be a rocket scientist to know that certificate issues would feature in the 2019 election campaigns.
At this juncture it is pertinent to state that we as a media organization are not in doubt that in terms of experience, exposure and education President Buhari is more than qualified to run for any post in Nigeria. His military training and the various posts he held prior to his retirement (including the position of Petroleum Minister as well as Head of State) lay ample credence to this assertion. The problem, in our view, lays in the perception of alleged false claims or perjury.
Specifically, eyebrows were raised when the president, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) declared in the nomination form he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his credentials were with the military high command. Given that this same claim had been made by PMB in 2014/2015 with less than encouraging reactions, it’s not difficult to fathom why the latest claim was received even less kindly by generality of Nigerians.
To make the matter even worse, the little matter of the “attestation” certificate presented to Buhari penultimate week was mired in self-induced, needless controversy. Whereas officials of West African Examination Council (WAEC) insisted that the said document was presented to the president following a request made by him and/or his aides, Buhari’s aides (notably his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Garba Shehu) declared that it was WAEC that initiated the move and not the other way around! Needless to say, critics and opponents alike quickly latched onto this inexplicable hiatus to call Buhari’s integrity to question.
As stated earlier, the matter at stake is not Buhari’s qualification to run for election, more so as the constitution doesn’t specify WASC or degree or diploma as basic qualification. Looked at in this context, it is crystal clear that someone somewhere messed up this otherwise straight-forward matter. It is mind-boggling to note that rather than do the needful, the Presidency has continued to muddle-up as evidenced by the brouhaha over who initiated the WAEC attestation document handed over to Buhari penultimate week.
For a leader who is known to place high premium on integrity and/or incorruptibility, the seemingly endless certificate controversy is a needless, avoidable distraction. The onus is on him to settle this sore point once and for all by doing the needful. This is more so as any questionable issue involving a country’s president as a person also involves the nation he leads as a whole. This is a matter involving integrity, transparency and accountability. Let it be treated as such.