Former Head of State and All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming elections, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, has said that the certificate saga against him was meant to ridicule him and his quest to wrest power from President Goodluck Jonathan. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said it would not be drawn into the controversy as it is bent on delivering credible elections for Nigerians.

Buhari, who spoke with The Guardian through his media aide, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, Saturday, explained that the present crop of Army personnel has been politicised, the reason for which an officer would challenge the certificates of his superior just to cast an aspersion on him and also favour his principal who would be vying for the same election.

Fashakin said: “The controversy that is being generated by the certificate issue is something that is not acceptable. They are just looking for something to hold desperately to be able to prevent Buhari.

“What are the facts of this case? Before now, Gen. Buhari had contested elections for three occasions. Are you going to say that he didn’t present any certificate for those three times? He also had risen to the position of a Major General in the Army and all his credentials are well documented by the Army in those days. It is not only that he rose to the position of a Major General; he also rose to the position of a military Head of State.

“Now, the Army of that same country claims that he does not have a certificate. It is something that should puzzle us as a people. The Chief of Army Staff said that he does not know what people are talking about, meaning that they do not have records of his certification to have passed certain courses, including academic attainments.”

According to Buhari, “These are issues that raise some questions. That we can have a Major General in the army, whose certificates are now being subjected to debate, point to some political ends. What I would say is that this is a no case submission.

“ May be, the person talking about General Buhari’s certificates today, was just struggling to become a Captain when Buhari was Head of State. Where was he then? So, if they are talking of Buhari’s certificates in the Army, the first question we should ask is: who is the person talking?”

He also argued: “If the Army can come out to deny its own, especially someone who became a GOC, and also commanded three of the four divisions of the Nigerian Army as it were, and now to be subjected to this kind of vilification because of some obvious indescribable political ends, then you know that there is something fundamentally wrong with the nation.

“As a matter of fact, General Buhari was even a prefect in his secondary school, so… it is even a shame on all of us that someone who became our Head of State would now have to be ridiculed in this manner because of some terrible political ends that some people are pursuing. It is a collective shame on us as a people.”

Meanwhile, INEC has continued to keep mum over the alleged certificate scandal involving the APC presidential candidate.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had alleged that General Buhari did not possess the requisite certificate to contest in the February 2015 presidential election, claiming that he submitted a sworn affidavit to INEC, rather than the original of his certificates.

INEC yesterday refused to react to the recent comments from the Nigerian Army, saying it was not in possession of Buhari’s original certificate.

The Nigerian army had on Friday explained that it does not keep original certificates of its officers and men of the force, stressing that the officers’ file contains only photocopy of their credentials.

The commission refused to comment on the whole issue when The Guardian sought to know the certificates, which the APC presidential candidate submitted before he was cleared to contest the presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011, when he contested on the platforms of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu, urged Saturday that the commission should be left out of the controversy, adding that it was not in a position to comment on the issue as its duty is to give the country an election that would be viewed as free and fair all over the world.

“We would not want to have anything to do with the certificate issue. We view it as an issue between the political parties, which the commission would not want to be involved in. Please leave us out of that and I would not want to comment on that. Our Job is to give Nigerians the best of the election and not to join politicians and political parties in their politicking,” Idowu said.

The commission disclosed that it has received the list of all presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly candidates from the various political parties, adding that the list is being scrutinised before it would be published on January 13.

As reactions continue to trail the non-submission of Buhari’s academic certificates to the INEC, the presidential candidate of the United Progressives Party (UPP) Chief Chekwas Okorie, and an environmental rights activist and former governorship candidate of Nigeria Advance Party (NAP) in Anambra State, Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, have said that the issue has no bearing on the election.

In an interview with The Guardian in Enugu yesterday, Okonkwo, who is the convener of Movement for the Voice of Democracy, said the provisions of the electoral act did not give INEC the right to insist on the provision of academic certificates.

He contended that various pronouncements of the Supreme Court specified that the ability to read and write was all that should entitle a citizen to contest for election, pointing out that there is no way the APC could be disqualified from contesting the February 14, 2015 election.

Okonkwo said it is pedestrian to suggest that a man who earned a commission in the Nigeria Army is academically deficient, wondering whether Buhari could have attained the heights he reached in the military without requisite qualification.

He said INEC was right in its position that the commission was not empowered to disqualify a candidate presented by a political party, since, according to him, the onus lies on the political party to examine those it was presenting for an election based on the provisions of the Electoral Act.

“The option open to anyone who feels strongly about the issue of APC presidential candidate’s academic credentials is to go to court,” he declared.

He added that what INEC did by publishing the documents submitted by candidates is to enable those with claims and objections to proceed with them.

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