PDP lawyers to party: you can’t stop Buhari in court
LEGAL experts have advised the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not to launch a legal battle over Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s certificates.
Gen. Buhari is the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 14 election.
The PDP’s plan, The Nation learnt, is to go to court in a bid to stop Gen. Buhari on the ground that his certificates are not with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The army said yesterday that Gen. Buhari obtained the West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1961. But, said the army, the original copies of his certificates could not be found in his file.
It was also learnt that apart from the court, INEC can also determine Gen. Buhari’s fate.
If in the opinion of INEC Gen. Buhari can contest, no one can stop the APC candidate, lawyers said.
The PDP leadership and some Presidency officials sought legal advice on how to get Gen. Buhari disqualified, a source told The Nation, pleading not to be named because of what he described as the “sensitivity” of the matter.
But they were shocked to learn that it was all a wild goose chase.
The legal advice made available to the party indicated that Gen. Buhari cannot be stopped because Section 318 of the 1999 says any candidate can contest for elective office with a minimum of school certificate or its equivalent.
The section also does not say a candidate must pass or fail the school certificate examination or its equivalent, which could be a primary school certificate or the ability to read or write in English.
Also, if a candidate has served in the public sector for up to 10 years, this could be the equivalent of a school certificate.
A highly-placed source said: “The legal advice sought by PDP has confirmed that even if the party goes to court, it cannot stop Buhari. The party is in a state of confusion because it has to face the electoral battle with APC.
The 1999 Constitution is explicit in its interpretation of Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution by Section 318.
Section 131 states: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of forty (40) years; (c )he is a member of a political party; and (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
“In Section 318, School certificate or 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(INEC) for a minimum of 10 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 year, and
“(iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); and
“(d) Any other qualification acceptable by INEC.”
Another source said the PDP has realized its folly because it did not seek legal opinion before raising false alarms that Gen. Buhari is unqualified to contest.
The source added: “The PDP leaders have realised that all their alarms over Gen. Buhari’s certificate amounted to nothing.
“Out of shame, they have decided to keep their findings under wraps.”
Another reliable source in PDP said: “We have been briefed that there is little we can do to stop Gen. Buhari.”
In Abuja, the Army on former Head of State Gen. Mohammadu Buhari’s academic records, saying the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate obtained the West African School certificate (WASC) in 1961.
The Army however added that the original copy, Certified True Copy, or statement of Buhari’s WASC result could not be found in his file.
Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Olajide Laleye who who addressed a press conference at the Army Headquarters said:
“Records available indicate that Major General Muhammadu Buhari applied to join the military as a Form Six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina on October 18, 1961.
“His application was duly endorsed by the principal of the school, who also wrote a report on him and recommended him to be suitable for military commission. It is a practice in the Nigerian Army 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 commission as an officer indicated that the former Head of State obtained the West African School Certificate in 1961 with credits in relevant subjects.”
He listed the subjects to include: English Language, Geography, History, Health Science, Hausa and English Literature.
“Neither the original copy, Certified True Copy (CTC) nor statement of result of Major General Buhari’s WASC result is in his personal file.
“I hope this explanation will put to rest the raging controversy surrounding the secondary school credentials of Major General Muhammadu Buhari as it affects the Nigerian Army”.
The Army spokesman said the military holds Gen. Buhari in high esteem and would not be party to any controversy surrounding his eligibility for any political office.
“Suffice to state that Major General Buhari rose steadily to the enviable rank of Major General before becoming the Head of State of our dear country in December 1983.
“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,” Gen. Laleye stated.