That was a long, long time ago. The ravisher had since gone back to his faraway home beyond seven seas. Of the triplet sons sired in the parasitic relationship, North was the favourite. Like the biblical Jacob got the support of his mother against his brother, Esau, North got the support of the invader father to beat his better-suited brothers, East and West, and emerge successor. After gifting the lesser-talented brother the mantle of leadership on October 1, 1960, Nigeria was on the path of the ruinous years of nepotism, ethnicity and incompetence that followed. In the successor’s disdain for western education since the 1940s lay the Boko Haram bombs that have been going off across the northern region since year 2000.
A strident carol by the public against Buhari’s certificate saga wasn’t melodious to the ears of the Nigerian Army during the countdown to the 2015 presidential election. So, the Army was forced to come out and say what it knows about the abiku certificate. This was after the then presidential candidate swore to an affidavit which he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, claiming that his academic qualification was with the Secretary, Nigerian Military Board. But the then Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Olajide ’Laleye, said that apart from other qualifications obtained by the major-general while in service, the Army was only in possession of a letter from the Principal of Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, recommending Buhari as fit for military commissioning.
How the principal’s letter recommending Buhari to the military could be retrieved 57 years after and Buhari’s all-important certificate could disappear without a trace caricatures his much vaunted anti-corruption war. Naturally, both the principal’s letter and Buhari’s certificate should be in the same closet of the military if Buhari ever finished secondary school.
In a press conference, which went viral, ’Laleye had said, “Suffice to state that Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rose steadily to the enviable rank of Maj.-Gen. in the Nigerian Army before becoming the Head of State of our of dear country in December 1983. However, 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 of his credentials have necessitated that we provide the facts as contained in the retired Senior Officers’ Service Record. Now, the records available indicate that Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari applied to join the military as a Form 6 student of 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. Now, it is the 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 the 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 Nigerian Army 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 the relevant subjects. Neither the original copy, the Certified True Copy, nor the Statement of Results of Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s West African School Certificate result is in his personal file.”
Did Buhari need to stick to the theory that his school leaving certificate is with the military authorities? Yes, he needed to – in order to cover up for the years of unequal treatment and discrimination against the East and the West, and the other sons of Nigeria. Admittance of guilt and recourse to legal interpretation would’ve been the credible way to go, but affinity to clan, rather than nation, had been the Achilles’ heel of Buhari’s avowal to integrity.
For the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and many supporters who point to the alleged military courses attended by Buhari as testimony that he truly obtained a school leaving certificate, I wonder if they’ve not heard about fake graduates who founded and ran hospitals, law chambers etc. Original and fake are two sides of the coin perpetually on the toss in the Nigerian public space. A Liberian footballer, Ali Dia, got a disastrous 53-minute Premier League appearance for Southampton 22 years ago when his agent purportedly pretended to be George Weah and recommended him to the club. He was fielded by manager Graeme Souness as a substitute against Leeds. The Telegraph described Dia as a “footballer who bluffed his way onto a Premier League pitch”.
Doesn’t the certificate saga reveal a secret about the bedrock of incompetence in our national leadership? In some decent countries, tongues would’ve been wagging and asking questions by now. Are the military leaders before and after Buhari ‘certificate-less’, too? The level of brilliance among the soldiers that insurrected shortly after independence suggests a number of them had formal education but the emptiness among those that came in 1983 and after was noticeable.
Lai Mohammed said, it’s an insult for Nigerians to think that Buhari doesn’t have a school leaving certificate; it’s the greatest of insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians for the Presidency and the West African Examination Council to shamefully disagree on who requested Buhari’s ‘certificate’ from WAEC. WAEC said Buhari requested the attestation, but the Presidency said Buhari never did. Corruption is dancing on the grave of Aso-o-Rock’s integrity. The more Buhari and his men try to bury the ghost of the certificate, the more it sticks its feet out like an ‘abiku’.
How can WAEC try to validate a non-existent certificate by issuing Buhari an attestation? What’s the basis for the attestation when WAEC has no record of Buhari ever sitting its exam? I remember WAEC used to warn that its attestation can’t stand in lieu of its certificate. Has this changed?
In the raging certificate controversy, a Yoruba folklore song came to mind: “Iya, mo paasi, eran lo je kaadi mi’, meaning, “Mum, I passed, but a goat ate my report card,” I also remember the Igbo song, “Akwukwo na atu uto, ona-arahu na mmuta, onye nwere nkasi obi…,” which extols the virtues of education.
In Nigeria, snakes eat money, goats eat certificates. Up Nigeria!