The muddy waters of power has already made casualty of some politicians as politics, law and morality come to play ahead of the 2019 elections over the issue of academic and other qualifications with many politicians who have tasted the sweetness of office having sleepless nights to remain in the corridors of power amidst resistance by their opponents and ‘whistle blowers’.
The recent publication of particulars of candidates for various offices by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed a kind of “humility” by many aspirants who simply showcased the minimum academic qualifications required by law which is their secondary school results in order to shut out those trying to undermine them.
Findings by Daily Trust revealed that this is unlike what obtained in previous elections when aspirants looked for additional papers to fill in all sorts of certificates in the CF001 as required by INEC in line with Section 31 (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), which mandated the electoral empire to publish particulars of all candidates for public scrutiny.
Shortly after the latest publication by INEC, the debate on certificates, rather than issues relating to development, took the centre stage of political discuss.
On November 2, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) issued an “attestation certificate” to President Muhammadu Buhari after much furore.
Before the presentation, Buhari had been severely criticised by opposition politicians and activists soon after they scrutinized his particulars and discovered that he said his school certificate was still with the military authorities.
To a certain extent, the announcement by spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in a tweet from his verified handle that WAEC presented an attestation certificate and confirmation of school certificate result to President Buhari “softly” laid to rest, the debate over the matter though some people are still asking WAEC to indicate the exam number of the president, and even questioning the photograph used in the document.
Buhari was actually in the eye of the storm despite the fact that there are over 70 presidential aspirants in the race who have all showcased various kinds of certificates.
“What will the naysayers say next?” Adesina queried.
Buhari had experienced similar criticism ahead of the 2015 general elections when he was an opposition presidential candidate.
Bindow’s WAEC controversy
The certificate controversy surrounding the candidacy of Adamawa State governor, Muhammadu Jibrilla Bindow, came to public knowledge when the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court ordered an accelerated hearing of a case of certificate forgery filed by a non-governmental group, Incorporated Trustees of Global Integrity Crusade Network, against the governor.
There are fears that unless Governor Bindow escapes miraculously, he might likely be replaced by the APC ahead of next year’s election to avoid losing the governorship seat to the opposition if the court establishes that he actually forged the result he is claiming.
It is alleged that the governor who attended Government Secondary School Miango in Plateau State, did not sit for the final secondary school examination conducted by WAEC and therefore submitted a fake result to INEC in 2015 before he became governor.
Those who took him to court had already obtained and published a result with the serial number the governor is claiming but a different name.
Ruling on the application for a motion experte brought before him on October 22, Justice B.O. Quadri granted the prayers of the plaintiff for accelerated hearing as well as leave to serve the originating summons on Governor Jibrilla and WAEC at their respective addresses in Adamawa and Lagos.
Those joined as defendants are WAEC, INEC, APC and the Nigeria Police.
Back in Yola, an APC youth group loyal to Nuhu Ribadu, the Black Cap Revolution, staged a public protest to the state House of Assembly, demanding a probe of the governor over the alleged certificate scandal.
The group leader, Mustapha Atiku Ribadu, urged the legislators to investigate the forgery allegations against the state’s chief executive to ascertain the truth and do justice to all parties involved.
“We are not saying the governor is guilty, we are simply demanding an investigation into the matter. We’re law abiding citizens who nurture transparency, integrity and good governance. There is an allegation against our governor that the certificate he presented which earned him the leadership is a syndicated forgery, which is synonymous with corruption,” Mustapha said.
“We want Governor Bindow to come out clean and clear. We want him to appear before the state lawmakers to defend the allegation.
“However, should the allegation hold water, Bindow should honourably resign in addition to withdrawing from the 2019 gubernatorial race and face legal case, lest our state be reduced to the republic of certificate forgery forever,” he said. Receiving a letter from the group, the Clerk of the Assembly, Francis Ngangso promised to deliver it to the House leadership for consideration.
However, the Speaker of the House, Kabiru Mijinyawa, dismissed the demand at a plenary, saying the House could not investigate a matter that was already before a court of law.
Meanwhile, an aggrieved APC governorship aspirant, Mahmud Halilu who is younger brother to the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, has threatened to drag Jibrilla to court for using a fake WAEC certificate.
Besides the court threats, the controversy became more interesting when INEC released names and credentials of 28 governorship aspirants in the state as voters and critics discovered that Jibrilla who emerged the APC candidate attached a school testimonial to his nomination form rather than a WAEC certificate.
The inclusion of “a mere testimonial” seems to have confused some of his supporters and emboldened his critics while curious voters were seen snapping the document with their handsets and flipping through other papers attached to the form.
Efforts to see what Jibrilla presented to INEC ahead of 2015 were not successful. Before he became governor, Jibrilla had served as senator and it is only what happens in the coming days in the court that will unravel the mystery behind his credentials.
Ashiru’s certificate case and Kaduna PDP
There have been reports since Alhaji Isa Ashiru emerged the governorship flag bearer of the PDP in Kaduna State, that there are issues with his credentials.
It has remained one of the issues his media team had to battle with it for weeks but just as the matter was about to die down, a major stakeholder in the party, Dr. Muhammad Sani-Bello, brought it up.
Dr. Bello, one of the PDP governorship aspirants who later withdrew from the race to support Ashiru, made the observation about discrepancies in the educational qualification of Ashiru formal by publicly making it an issue in the factors that made him resign from the PDP.
While announcing his decision to quit the PDP, Dr. Bello said he was not comfortable working with Ashiru as his academic credentials were allegedly under question.
He said, “Based on my findings, the documentation of the candidate contains certain flaws which remain unexplained,” but made no effort to explain further.
Checks by our correspondent at the INEC office in Kaduna showed that Ashiru attached photocopies of all the educational qualifications to his form to substantiate his claim of attending various schools from primary to university.
Ashiru in the form said he attended LEA Primary School Kudan, Kufena College in Zaria, Katsina Polytechnic, Kaduna Polytechnic and Bayero University, Kano from where he obtained the LEA Primary Certificate, the General Certificate of Education, June 1980, National Diploma Business Administration, 1985; Higher National Diploma Business Administration 1989; Post Graduate Diploma, Marketing, 1999 and Masters in Public Administration, 2002.
The PDP candidate who said he was born on October 23, 1962, said he completed the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in Borno State in 1990.
Ashiru explained that there are no discrepancies in his credentials and that his certificates which he presented to INEC for the forthcoming election are all genuine and complete.
He described the allegation as a manifestation of the desperation of the APC to create doubt and confusion in the minds of the people of Kaduna State about him.
The PDP candidate had contested and won elections four times in the past as he was a member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007 and member of the Federal House of Representatives from 2007 to 2015.
Since Dr. Sani has left the PDP, our correspondent learnt that no formal complaint has been sent to the party to interrogate the issue further.
There are indications however that one of the aspirants who contested the primary with Ashiru is trying to take up the matter with the party so that the ticket of the party would be handed to him.
PDP leaders in the state say the matter is not an issue as they are sure that Ashiru’s papers are genuine but the APC, our correspondent learnt, is highly interested in the matter and is trying to establish the discrepancy as a counter-strategy in the scheme towards dislodging the PDP at the polls.
Atunwa’s problem in Kwara
There are allegations that the governorship candidate of the PDP in Kwara State, Razak Atunwa, did not participate in the NYSC programme.
Atunwa was alleged to have sourced a forged NYSC discharge certificate which he submitted to the PDP to prove his eligibility for the office of governor.
In his previous contest, it was gathered that nobody knew what he presented since the issue of certificate was not as serious as it is today, but Atunwa is said to be a graduate of Law.
For this election, it was learnt that Atunwa submitted a secondary school certificate.
The development has generated a lot of disquiet in the state and among members of the party, with insinuations that if fully established, he might likely be replaced by Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the erstwhile national publicity secretary of the APC who recently followed Senate President Bukola Saraki to the PDP.
Sources within the party say things have really “fallen apart” and the “centre can no longer hold.”
It was rumoured that one of the PDP aspirants during the primary election who is close to Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, blew the whistle about the fake NYSC certificate.
Findings revealed that Atunwa remains the preferred choice of Bukola Saraki even though other forces within the party want someone else.
It was gathered that the aspirant who blew the whistle believes that if Atunwa is eventually dropped as the PDP candidate, he might get the ticket but surprisingly, Atunwa’s name appeared in the INEC list as the PDP candidate for the next year’s election.
Meanwhile, Atunwa while reacting, said, “I did not submit any unsupported NYSC certificate as suggested by you.
“I strongly advise that you verify each and every assertion you wish to make. You may wish to make formal enquiries/verifications of all institutions concerned.
“You should also be circumspect enough to authenticate the provenance of any document you may be handed if it’s not from a formal and official source.”
Atunwa may survive the heavy wind because of the support he enjoys from Saraki who is the political leader in the state and considering that he only submitted his secondary school certificate.
But, in the event he must be replaced, many feel the ticket might be given to somebody from Kwara North, including Zakari Muhammed, Aliyu Ahman – Pategi and Shaaba Lafiagi, while others feel Malam Bolaji Abdullahi might still be the lucky man.
Adebayo Shittu screened out
The Minster of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu could not also actualize his dream of becoming governor in Oyo State after he was screened out by the APC over his failure to participate in the NYSC.
Shittu, a SAN who has already gone to court to seek interpretation, said he believed serving as a member of the House of Assembly soon after graduating from the Law School was enough replacement for the NYSC programme.
What the Constitution says
Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution sets out that a person can vie for the office of president of Nigeria if he has certain qualifications and with the exception of age, the qualifications are similar to other offices such as governor, member of the national or state assembly.
The requirements include being a citizen of Nigeria and attaining the required age, being a member of a political party and sponsored by that political party, and must have been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
Section 318 (1) of the Constitution defines what school certificate or its equivalent to mean a secondary school certificate or its equivalent, Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, City and Guilds Certificate; or Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and service in the public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to INEC for a minimum of 10 years, and attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to INEC for periods totaling up to a minimum of one year, and the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in English language to the satisfaction of INEC and any other qualification acceptable to INEC.
A lawyer speaks
An Abuja-based lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Agbo Madaki, says there are reasons why many politicians are desperate to forge their way into public office, despite the fact that the basic requirements are not difficult to come by. “Mind you, the law did not say you must have a degree or HND. But the truth is that ours is a culture of flaunting what we don’t have. Unfortunately, that has become part of our culture such that you find people who don’t possess some of these higher certificates and the tendency is for them to forge so that people now regard them as having what ordinarily they don’t have. I think low self-esteem is part of the problem here,” he said.
“And that is also possible because people have been forging successfully in this country. That is not to say that the law is weak because forgery is a criminal offence in Nigeria and punishable by both the Criminal Code and the Penal Code.
“However, the problem here is that of selective application of justice. Simply because most of the people involved are the elite or people of high means, in other words, the rich and famous, they often escape without prosecution,” he said.
“Law enforcement in Nigeria is weak and porous. Why the offenders escape is because the law enforcement mechanism in Nigeria is weak. I believe the Nigeria Police, by virtue of their training, have the capacity not only to investigate but also to prosecute, especially going by the Supreme Court decision recently. They should ensure that the offenders are apprehended and prosecuted,” he said.
Dear Esteemed reader,
As part of our drive to keep improving the content of our newspaper, we are conducting a readership survey to enable us serve you better.
Kindly take two minutes of your time to fill in this questionnaire.
Thank you for your time. Click here to begin