What if Buhari has no certificate?

January 17
09:29 2015


The unending monologue over whether General Muhammadu Buhari has School Certificate raises a question that is rather tendentious and faulty. The idly-conceived narrative, now spreading like wildfire, is to suggest erroneously that the Nigerian Constitution actually requires a candidate to hold or produce West African School Certificate as minimum educational qualification to contest as President.

There is humour in political propaganda, including the present one, to suggest that even if Buhari has a galaxy of stars to his Khaki as a General, it only goes to show that he was a brave General and not necessarily that he is educated. Those who came up with the Buhari-is-illiterate hoax would also want us to believe that the US Army War College was probably referring to a different Muhammadu Buhari who graduated in the Class of 1980 on 9th June of that year as the most distinguished international student. The rumour should be enjoyed for its humour, but do we have to go as far as misrepresenting the law?

What if all Buhari has to show are the stars he got as a General, does that mean he is not eligible to contest? That Buhari has not dignified the political mischief with a response probably suggests that he takes this for what it truly is. Nothing short of him pasting his credentials on his forehead as he goes for campaign would douse the rumour.

I don’t hold Buhari’s brief. I am not even interested in whether he has the papers or not. My motivation for writing this piece is the aversion for how this tribe of politicians deliberately distorts facts, propagates ignorance and peddles invectives rather than focusing on real issues about how they would rescue a nation in the cesspit of misery. I wonder how this is a political trump card for the same President who had advocated for an issue-based campaign.

The most cursory look at the Constitution would reveal to anyone that Buhari is as educationally qualified as President Jonathan with his equally oft-disputed Ph.D.

Section 131 (d) of the Constitution provides that a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent. Section 318 goes further to say that a “School Certificate or its equivalent means:

  1. a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or
  1. education up to Secondary School Certificate level; or
  1. Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and-
  1. 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
  2. attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totaling up to a minimum of one year, and
  • the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and
  1. any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The language of the Constitution is plain and unless Buhari’s scoffers are themselves deficient of the ability to read, write and understand in English Language as provided above, there is no conceivable way anyone can say Buhari is not qualified. Indeed, if Buhari is illiterate and he was, as Head of State, able to reduce the inflation rate from 23% to 5%, keep Naira at N1 to $1.4, unemployment at 6.1%, pay all debts, withstand IMF’s pressure to borrow and devalue Naira and quell Maitatsine (Boko Haram’s predecessor-in-terror), he deserves to be celebrated in the rank of geniuses like Einstein.

In contrast, President Jonathan, with his oft-disputed Ph.D, has an uninspiring scorecard of devaluing the Naira, keeping inflation at 8%, Naira-Dollar exchange rate at $1 to N184.50 (as at today), youth unemployment at 80% capped with a grisly record of running a terror-ravaged country and condoning corruption. With knowledge and competence in mind, you would begin to wonder if Nigeria is not better run by a President that has never seen the inside wall of the classroom.

From a broad view, this controversy renews interest in the undeserved recognition given to educational papers rather than the functional knowledge that education should bring. Certificate has been conventionally misrepresented as evidence of knowledge and competence. A time there was in this country when we thought that low educational qualification was probably a major factor for inept leadership.

If this was ever true, President Jonathan, Ph.D has shown us that this might be, at best, a cultural fallacy. Here we are as a nation, with a President who has a Ph.D, the economy is comatose, excess crude account is virtually empty, external reserve is badly depleted, missing funds here and there, we have only a marginal increase in installed power generation and transmission capacity but with no electricity after over N3trillion spending on power under Jonathan’s administration alone. What is more, our lives are even more insecure despite over N3.1trillion defence spending.

Realising that we may have modelled our idea of a President on false criteria, many people are disappointed and are beginning to ask the right questions about Mr. President’s Ph.D – what he did he write his thesis on, who supervised him and who (other than Patience Jonathan) was President Jonathan’s former student?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we don’t need highly-educated men in power. I am only suggesting that as between Jonathan and Buhari, our choice of a President must be for higher considerations of competence, functional intellectualism and principled leadership.

In the final sense, this controversy about whether Buhari is in possession of his West African School Certificate is futile because the Constitution stipulates no such requirement for anyone to stand election. The propriety of this is a matter for another day. Lastly however, as we are asking Buhari to show papers for his knowledge, we should be asking President Jonathan to show knowledge for his papers.

*Follow Abimbola on Twitter @beambini



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Social Comments


  1. Stanley Nwokocha
    Stanley Nwokocha January 17, 10:43

    Exactly, “as we are asking Buhari to show papers for his papers we should be asking Jonathan to show knowledge for his papers”. So why is PDP making noise about WAEC certificate, why are they misleading the public? Is that the issue-based campaign Jonathan talked about?

    Reply to this comment
  2. simply femmy
    simply femmy January 17, 11:18

    Many thanks abimbola for shedding more light to the discuss which. I found very informative. But I think the call on the Buhari certificate is not the fact that he is qualified but that no person is bigger than the law.

    The issue. Is that what ever you have has equivalent to the qualification that you have expose in your article he should present it to put a stop to this controversy.

    I’m worried that a certificate that lots of us are quick to show when asked at interview is causing this long article.

    Are you saying that Buhari should not attach his “qualification” to fulfil the requirement of INEC as stipulated by the. Law that you’ve quoted severally from and thereby disrespect our constitution that if elected president he will swore to defend?

    This is a man that has been proven to deal with Nigeria un equitably and this bring to mind that biblical saying that “if you are found short in small things who will commit the big one into your hand!

    Reply to this comment
  3. TheVO
    TheVO January 17, 12:51

    Nice article bro, nicely written. I like the ending part…Jonathan should show knowledge of his papers.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Ahmqdrogo
    Ahmqdrogo January 17, 14:03

    A word of wisdom.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Twinkle
    Twinkle January 17, 14:37

    My standing ovation to this piece. In as much as I agree with Mr. Abimbola Ojenike, I am of the opinion that S131(d) of the Nigerians 1999 constitution is due for an amendment to reflect modern day educational realities. People should stop beating around the bush and step out to say the truth. I don’t know about others, but for me I WANT A MAN WHO CAN DO THE JOB. Security zero, electricity -1, employment rate -2, inflation haaa that has left my chat and we are all saying cock and bull stories. Those who keep infringing on Nigerians right to information should know that soon someone will sue them at the international court. Truth be told between the devil and the deep blue sea, won’t we go to the deep blue sea and see if we can form collabo with the habitats’ there and form a reasonable purposeful life? I think I will stop here. Before I spill a whole write-up in the comment section.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Bosqi
    Bosqi January 17, 15:57

    Nice piece there, beatifully written.

    There is simple thing here that PDP can do, they can go to court & challenge is eligibilty on the basis of not having a certificate to show like our PhD President, rather than this rabble rousing.

    If INEC, the electoral umpire controlled by the sitting President is satisfied that he has met the minimum requirement as demanded by thr constitution, I dont understand why we these guys are crying more than the berieved.

    They sold us a boogey, & some Nigerians fell for it. We should concentrate on issue rather than dissipate energy on mere distraction that this is in real sense

    Reply to this comment
  7. albashramah comforter
    albashramah comforter January 17, 22:32

    I totally agree with the writer. Another critical point is that, the wordings of the Constitution in Section 131(d) clearly shows that it ia only INEC that can determine whether Buhari or any candidate possesses the minimum educational requirements. Once INEC is satisfied with,Buhari’s paper I dont think anybody should raise any issue therefrom. If any of the opposition parties is aggrieved, let them go to court now and stop misleading the electorates. I am not surprised anyway, those that say Buhari has no certificate are themselves illiterate to know that US ARMY WAR COLLEGE and NIGERIA DEFENCE ACADEMY are both degree awarding institutions.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Tobi_topaz
    Tobi_topaz January 18, 15:00

    I think the “Buhari has no certificate” allegation by President Jonathan tells more about our Mr President and this further strenghtens my believe on what the Former President (OBJ) said about him (Jonathan) that he loves dwelling on issues that doesn’t really matters while giving his utmost attention to trivial matters; in order word, I would say Mr Jonathan always seem to passive as the Country’s President. As for INEC, they already asked PDP or any party agrieved by Buhari’s alleged lack of certificate to charge him to court if they so will, so I think case closed there (on INEC’s part)

    Reply to this comment
  9. mlog
    mlog January 19, 19:42

    you guys are incredibly ignorant! I don’t blame you na, just a sorry shame!

    Reply to this comment
  10. Musuru
    Musuru January 19, 22:46

    Please Nigerians don’t write rubbish and shove it into our eyes! If a fellow Nigerian can be crucified for this same issue, why shouldn’t people pounce on him too? Very very selfish and silly write up!

    Reply to this comment
  11. @lalspeaks
    @lalspeaks January 21, 15:16

    On the one hand, to base competence on paper qualification is to fail to learn from our failing government led by an ostensible PHD degree holder. On the other hand, to excuse GMB from the responsibility of at least meeting the constitutional standard of an INEC approved qualification is to be arbitrary. So while I’m not going to think GMB any more or less competent because of his possession or lack of a certificate, I am going to insist that he complies with what is at least a logical interpretation of the constitutional standards regarding qualification to stand office.

    Reply to this comment

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