The non-issue about Buhari’s qualification – Part 2
Apart from the steady rise he enjoyed in his military career to the topmost rank of full general, and the many key command posts he had held in the Army from 1963/64 up to July 1975, the previous political combined with military appointments which retired General Buhari had held to-date include having been Military Governor, North Eastern State of Nigeria, August 1975–March 1976; Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, March 1976–June 1978; Military Secretary, Army Headquarters, July 1978–June 1979; Head of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, December 1983–August 1985; Member, Council of State (being one of the country’s highest advisory bodies, since August 1985 and up to-date; Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund), 1995 -1998.
Although most of these appointments, particularly the last set, could be described as political and as having been made and received under a period of military rule, there can be no disputing that performance at the duties involved would have required of any occupant of those jobs and offices to possess considerable experience and judgment, as well as the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Language, plus the possession of other qualifications beyond the level of the Primary Six School Leaving Certificate. Would anyone say retired General Buhari did not possess even these minimal qualifications? But ultimately, is that combination of qualities just stated not what the educational requirement prescribed for election to the office of the President ultimately reduces to?
The latter set of questions, arising from the fourth point just made, leads naturally to the fifth and last observation and, perhaps, also the most crucial point that I must make for capping the foregoing counter-argument of my intervention in the debate regarding the alleged “certificate scandal”. It is that retired General Buhari more than satisfies the constitutionally stipulated educational criteria requiring him as a candidate to have “been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”. For, although Article 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states among other requirements for election as President that “a person shall be qualified for election to the office of President” if s/he “has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”, that provision is not meant to be taken in the literal sense or taken out of context, but rather interpreted according to the meaning originally intended by framers of the Constitution.
The meaning of the phrase “School Certificate level or its equivalent” is to be found in the Interpretation, Citation and Commencement part of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which begins from Part IV, Article 318 (1), and is meant to have been read alongside Article 131(d). In that Interpretation part of the Constitution can be found defined what the framers of the Constitution meant and intended by that provision, which ought to be read by anyone seeking a fuller understanding of the phrase regarding “School Certificate or its equivalent”.
To quote from Part IV, Article 318 (1) of the Interpretation section of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) expressing the meaning given by the framers in full, then, by the constitutional provision in Article 131(d) requiring any candidate for election to the office of President to have “been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”, the framers of the Constitution are understood to have meant the possession of any of the following credentials: “(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 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 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 any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
Thus, constitutionally, the ultimate test about retired General Buhari’s educational qualification rests on whether or not he possesses “Primary Six School Leaving Certificate” plus “the ability to read, write, and understand and communicate in the English Language”. In the currently raging debate on the matter, one has not heard anyone on the contending side of the argument state that even this minimum qualification the retired General does not possess – that is, if we discount everything else about his professional career life, and above all the record of exemplary public service.
Given all the foregoing, it is hoped that this matter about retired General Buhari’s educational non-qualification for election to the office of the President in 2015 will have been finally settled and permanently laid to rest. It is in fact a non-issue for campaign purposes and irrelevant to the forthcoming 2015 Elections. Possibly, the INEC authorities, including those working in their Legal department, already know this.
Adekanye is Emeritus Professor of Political Science & Civil-Military Relations; and Fellow of Social Science Academy of Nigeria.
This article first published by The Guardian, on January 19, 2015 has been reproduced because of its prescience as demonstrated by the tribunal’s ruling last Wednesday on the presidential election.