When I read the Headlines in ThisDay Newspaper edition of Sunday the 11th January 2015 with the screaming and bold caption “PDP: Buhari is Not Qualified to Contest February 14 Election” I was naturally curious to know what warranted such a sensational and alarmist headline.
I found that the story was attributed to the Spokesman of President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Office, Femi Fani Kayode; instinctively concluded that the story was more of shadow than substance, knowing the character of the author.
Truly after leafing through the story I found to my chagrin and consternation that it was full of fury and blustery but no substance whatsoever. The story was well calculated hype to deceive the undiscerning.
The headline was characteristic of the slap dash, inconsistent and impetuous character of Femi Fani Kayode that he has starkly manifested to Nigerians ever since he defected from APC to PDP after a mid night visit to President Jonathan whom he had severely lampooned and called unprintable names previously.
I was hugely disappointed when I read through the story where Femi Fani Kayode alarmingly but maliciously and falsely accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of covering up the failure of the Presidential Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari to make available his certificates to entitle him to contest the Presidential Election.
Femi Fani Kayode interpretation of Section 131 (1) (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that provides that a presidential candidate must be educated to School Certificate Level to be eligible to contest Presidential Election was ludicrous, outlandish, bizarre, obtuse and totally out of sync with the intendment of the makers of the Constitution.
Section 131 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides thus:
“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”
When the words used in the Constitution are clear and unambiguous they must be given their ordinary and natural meaning; no more no less.
It is equally ridiculous and puerile for Femi Kayode to suggest that General Muhammadu Buhari has no certificate and therefore INEC ought to disqualify him.
I know Femi Kayode is a lawyer and I expect that he would do a good job of interpreting the Constitution correctly and not allow his phobia for General Buhari to take the better of him to the extent that he would show such pathetic understanding and appreciation of the canons of constitutional interpretation and the tenor of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
Otherwise how on earth would Femi Kayode suggest that Gen. Buhari is not qualified to contest on the ground that he failed to present his School Certificate to INEC and therefore INEC ought to have disqualified him? In the first place INEC has no modicum of power to disqualify any candidate even if such candidate did not meet the constitutional requirement prescribed by the Constitution.
General Buhari had in his sworn Affidavit in support of his Nomination Form which he submitted to INEC stated that his Certificates are with the Nigerian Army Secretary.
The Army through its Director of Public Relations, Brigadier General Olaleye Lajide confirmed indeed that Gen. Buhari’s Certificates are with the Military Secretary. Femi Kayode would still want us believe that he has no certificate and therefore no eligible to contest?
General Lajide had dismissed with a wave of the hand reports in the Nigerian media that the Army could not find Gen. Buhari’s Academic Records as false. He further said that the reports in the Newspapers that the Army could not locate Gen. Buhari’s record were untrue.
One would have thought that the explanation and confirmation by Gen. Lajide would put to rest the controversy. But alas the likes of Femi Kayode are not interested in running a decent issue-based campaign; they want to continue to mar Gen. Buhari, malign, and defame him in order to divert attention from serious social and economic issues that the two Presidential Candidates should address and articulate their plans on how to tackle the Country if elected into office.
Ironically the Vice Presidential Running Mate to President Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo also had sworn to an Affidavit in support of his Nomination Form submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission to the effect that all his academic certificates were burnt in a fire incident that gutted his residence in his home town. Has anybody raised any question as to the non eligibility of Architect Sambo because he swore to such an Affidavit?
Does Femi Fani Kayode know that the non qualification of Architect Sambo on the ground that because he swore to an affidavit that his Certificates were burnt he is not qualified to contest the forthcoming Presidential Election invariably would disqualify President Jonathan from contesting because they both are running on a Joint Ticket?
Femi Kayode has hypocritically not made an issue of the fact that Architect Sambo did not present his academic records to Independent National Electoral Commission!
There is nowhere in the Constitution or Electoral Act that requires that a candidate must present his academic records to the Electoral Commission.
The Constitution only expects that a candidate show that he is educated to School Certificate Level or its equivalent. So if a candidate is able to establish that all he possesses is a First School Leaving Certificate, it suffices.
The Courts have interpreted the phrase “educated to School Certificate or its equivalent” used in Section 131 (d) of the Constitution in a legion of cases.
In the case of UKPO VS. ADEDE (2003) 3 NWLR (PT. 755) 671, 1st the Respondent’s election as a Senator elected to represent the Cross River Northern Senatorial District in the National Assembly was challenged by the Appellant on the ground that the 1st Respondent presented a forged School Certificate to INEC and was therefore not qualified to contest the election.
The Principal of the Secondary School which the 1st Respondent attended was called as a witness by the 1st Respondent and he tendered a Statements of Result dated 1972 to establish that the 1st Respondent was educated up to School Certificate Level or its equivalent. The Court of Appeal held that the 1st Respondent was qualified to contest the election because there was evidence that he was educated to School Certificate Level or its equivalent and had therefore satisfied Section 65 (2) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution.
A person shall be qualified for election under subsection 1, of Section 131 of the Constitution if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate Level or its equivalent.
Undoubtedly, Gen. Buhari is educated up to School Certificate Level or its equivalent. He attended Provincial Secondary School, Katsina. He attended the Nigerian Military Training Centre (now Nigerian Defence Kaduna). He thereafter attended the Mons Officer Cadet Training School, Aldershot, United Kingdom. He attended the Defence Staff College, India, and the United States War College.
The United State War College has since confirmed in a reaction to email sent to Carrol Kerr, the Scholar Public Affairs Officer by one Iwalaiye Sunday that Gen. Buhari attended the institution in 1980 and graduated and earned a United States War College Diploma. Kerr also confirmed that United States War College awarded Master Degree to its class of 2000.
This qualification alone has fulfilled the requirement of Section 131 (1) (d) of the Constitution.
Gen. Buhari has more than satisfied the provisions of Section 131 (1) (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that provide that a Presidential Candidate must at least be educated up to School Certificate level or its equivalent.
Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, defines the phrase “School Certificate or its equivalent “ used in Section 131 (1) d) of the Constitution thus:
“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
(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
One would have expected that Femi Fani Kayode would avail himself the provision of the Freedom of Information Act that vests on him or anybody the right to access information from any public institution and apply to the Nigerian Army to make available to him Gen. Buhari’s Academic Record in its possession if he is not satisfied with the explanation of General Lajide rather than making outlandish postures on the pages of the newspaper that are all sound and fury but empty in substance and depth.
Also Section 32 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) vests on Femi Fani Kayode the right to file an action in the Federal High Court or High Court seeking an Order disqualifying Gen. Buhari from contesting the election if he strongly believes that Gen. Buhari deposed to false information in his Nomination Form by claiming that his Academic Records are with the Army.
The grand standing, posturing and playing to the gallery by Femi Fani Kayode in the media amounts to nothing but a red herring to divert the attention of Nigerians from confronting his principal – President Jonathan on the promises he made to them in 2011 that he has glaringly failed to fulfill. By Femi Fani Kayode dwelling on irrelevancies and frivolities and peddling of falsehood such as the non-possession by Gen. Buhari of academic certificates, Kayode hopes to prevent the electorates from passing a vote of no confidence on President Jonathan on the 14th February 2015 election and becloud the sense of reasoning of the electorates with the hope of preventing the electorates from sending the President packing out of Aso Villa, which has become inevitable and long overdue.
By Okoi Obono-Obla
Culled from News Punch