It looks like the issue of General Buhari’s WAEC certificate, a major issue talking point during the 2015 presidential campaigns, hasn’t gone away.
A federal high court sitting in Abuja has dismissed the preliminary objections filed by President Muhammadu Buhari in the case filed against him challenging his competence to stand election into the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when he lacks the basic educational qualifications set out in the constitution.
Justice Ademola Adeniyi on Thursday, May 26, 2016 dismissed the preliminary objections filed by President Muhammadu Buhari in the case instituted against him, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/110/2015 by an Abuja based Legal Practitioner, Barrister Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe.
This development was received with shock by the presidency as members of Buhari’s government had forgotten about the existence of the court case.
The Trent learnt that panic has hit Aso Rock as the court ruling took President Buhari and his aides by surprise as they all thought the matter of the ‘missing WAEC certificate‘ had been laid to rest when Buhari won the elections. The source says that this ruling has posed a big distraction for government activities at the Presidential Villa.
“Nobody even knew the case was still on. The story was not even reported in the mainstream media. No paper carried the Thursday ruling. But I can tell you the Presidency is rattled and seriously hoping that the case does not resurface again in the public domain because of the huge embarrassment it could cause the President. But more importantly, there are concerns about the safety of the judge and the plaintiff,” a inside source disclosed to Signal, an online newspaper.
The Missing WAEC Certificate: A 2015 Campaign Issue
This case represents a weak spot for President Buhari as it challenges his eligibility to hold the office of the president. During the 2015 presidential campaigns it was discovered that Buhari failed to present his secondary school certificate INEC as required by law. Rather, the former military general submitted a sworn affidavit claiming that his academic credentials were with the Nigerian military.
The Nigerian Army issued a statement saying that it was not in possession of Buhari’s certificate or that of any other soldier. The institution explained that like any employer, it only sights credentials and returns them to the employee. Following intense pressure, the army later disclosed that Buhari never presented a secondary school certificate when joining the military, rather he presented a letter of recommendation from his school principal.
The, then ruling party, had called for Buhari to step down from the race following the scandal which appeared to end when Buhari, through Premium Times, presented a statement of result from his secondary school in Katsina showing that he obtained an F9 in mathematics. The rules of army require that a commissioned officer must earn a pass in mathematics before admittance.
The issue of Buhari’s lack of a WAEC certificate formed the basis for over 30 lawsuits around the country during the 2015 elections. After the elections, former President Goodluck Jonathan personally intervened in the cases, asking the plaintiffs to withdraw their suits in the interest of peace.
One Courageous Lawyer, 20 SANs, and One Year Later
Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe had in February 2015 filed an originating summons at the Federal High Court, Abuja asking the court to disqualify Buhari from contesting for the position of the president not having sat for the Secondary School Certificate and also deposing to a false affidavit about his educational qualifications contrary to the Electoral Act.
Buhari and the APC instead of entering a defence on the merits and exhibiting any educational certificates obtained by Buhari, tried to frustrate the hearing of the case by filing several objections to the competence of the action.
President Buhari reportedly retained over twenty SANs led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, Chief Akin Olujinmi, Femi Falana, etc., who for over one year now have failed to file any defence for Buhari or APC but instead used every trick in the book to delay the case.
But on Thursday, the Justice Ademola Adeniyi in his ruling on the case, dismissed all applications by the defendant as totally lacking in merit. He held that the suit filed by Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe was competent and the service on Buhari and APC was also competent.
He thereafter adjourned the case to the 16th day of June 2016 for hearing of the substantive originating Summons to determine whether Buhari’s educational qualifications meets the minimum standards required by the constitution.
According to reports, only the counsel to INEC was in Court, the plaintiff was absent but wrote to the court explaining that he received notice of the date for the ruling the previous night and was out of town and could not make it. APC (2nd Respondent) and Buhari (3rd Respondent) were absent, were not represented and did not write to court.
The WAEC Certificate Still Remains Elusive
During the 2015 campaigns, APC confessed that it cannot produce the WAEC certificate of its then presidential candidate, General Buhari.
It will be recalled that there were claims by online handlers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the Nigerian Army located President Buhari’s “missing certificate” after the elections.
However, there is still no official statement by the Nigerian Army up till this day corroborating claims that the certificate has been found.
The new defence minister appointed by Buhari, Brigadier General (rtd) Monsur Dan-Ali, had derided the leadership of the army during the election period over the certificate saga saying they “did not show Buhari respect”, but still failed to produce the result. Human Rights groups have demanded that the defence minister produced the president’s WAEC certificate.