MYNATION EDITORIAL – Without prejudice to the on-going litigation surrounding President Muhammadu Buhari’s certificate saga, it is amazing that what looked ordinary on the surface is now assuming a worrisome dimension.
An Abuja-based lawyer, Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe had gone to court, challenging the president’s eligibility in contesting the 2015 presidential election, on the allegation that he lacked the basic West African School Certificate, WASC, which is a mandatory requirement by law for anyone vying to preside over the affairs of the country.
Prior to the election, different imputations had peaked that the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, did not attach the certificate to his presidential nomination form filed before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In going to court, the plaintiff is seeking to nullify Buhari’s claim that his academic qualifications were with the Secretary, Military Board of the Nigerian Army.
Among others, Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe is pursuing an order to withdraw the Certificate of Return given by INEC to Buhari, and subsequent issuance of a fresh one to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who came second in the presidential election.
In showing how much importance the president attaches to the case, he had hired 13 Senior Advocates of Nigeria and 10 other lawyers to defend him. Buhari approached the appellate court to challenge the ruling of Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court; Abuja delivered on May 26, 2016, wherein he held that the plaintiff properly served the suit. At the last resumed sitting, Justice Adeniyi adjourned further hearing on the matter sine-die (indefinitely).
The case has however attracted reactions from across the nation. It is trivial for the president to hire over 20 lawyers to argue against the mode of service of a court process. While the president was served through the APC National Headquarters in Abuja, his argument is that he should have been served through his address in Kaduna.
MYNATION NEWS salutes the courage of President Buhari in offering to defend himself, in a country where past executives have had a traditional disregard for court rulings. But, it is puzzling that Buhari has, rather than using the courts to finally lay the controversy to rest, decided to elongate the prosecution.
We see this as needless waste of time and resources, which may eat into governance and taxpayers’ money. At a time like this when there are enormous challenges of state to be tackled; he would be distracted from performing his crucial functions, given his displayed commitment to the trial.
As the appeal court decision is being awaited, we counsel the president’s legal team, led by Wole Olanipekun, SAN, without the slightest intention to breach judicial interpretations, to advise the defendant to use this opportunity to present the certificate since only the president can do so as a way of dousing tension as well as saving himself and the nation the needless distraction
The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, UCLES, now Cambridge Assessment, which conducted the examination in the 60s has said it can only confirm or authentic results at the direct request of the candidate or with the permission of the candidate.
MYNATION NEWS has confidence in the president’s claim that he indeed has the certificate in question, especially as someone who has risen to the position of a General in the Nigerian Army. Besides, he is touted as a respecter of rule and order, as embedded in the Nigerian Constitution, which he swore to defend.
The nation, which is expecting to see the quick delivery of democracy dividends, cannot afford the distractions which this court case would have on the president. Moreover, the lawsuit in question borders on non-compliance with Electoral Act and Constitutional provisions.
MYNATION NEWS recalls that many of the president’s allies had, before the polls, made spirited efforts to answer questions raised on the certificate, including the media show made of a school certificate presented as belonging to the president.
Given the controversy that surrounded the publication, especially against insinuations that the published certificate allegedly had some contradictions, it is imperative that Buhari presents the certificate to the court.
This is crucial, given his administration’s disdain for forgery, corruption and related crimes. Beyond that, no one is above the law. It is in this context that the Senate President and his deputy are currently facing trial over the alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules used in electing them into office.
Nigeria must be seen to be a country which respects its laws, no matter who is involved. It is against this backdrop that anything which suggests forgery or corruption must not be encouraged. Let the president lead the way by convincing the electorates that he was eligible to contest the election.
This is even more expedient as only on Monday, the governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, was removed from office by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. This was not because he did not win the governorship election, but because he allegedly failed to show proof of tax payments to government, as part of the conditions for contesting the election.