(I wrote this article in October, 2018. I think the Presidential Elections Tribunal agreed with much of what I wrote here. Please Read on).
This is purely a legal opinion please. It is devoid of any political posturing. So if you want to know what the law says on this issue, read on; if not, this is a good place to stop. I understand that in an election period ignorance and be a blissful tool for propaganda.
President Buhari, in place of his credentials submitted an affidavit to the effect that his academic credentials are with the Nigerian Army. This is not the first time this is happening and INEC has consistently been clearing him to run for president.
Many persons have called on INEC to disqualify the president from contesting for his failure to present his academic credentials or at least his SSCE Certificate. But can INEC disqualify him on this count? Is the President qualified to run despite not submitting his academic credentials?
I will answer both questions together by looking at the greatest law of the land: the Constitution; so that anyone who points to any other law after reading this will clearly be out of place, for no law is greater than the Constitution.
Section 131, of the 1999 Constitution, sets out what qualifies a person to run for the office of President of Nigeria as follows:
“A. He is a citizen of Nigeria.
B. He has attained the age of forty years.
C. He is a member of a political party and he is sponsored by that political party.
D. He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”.
Now, our focus will be on “D” above. Has President Buhari been educated up to School Certificate Level or its equivalent? Again let’s turn to the Constitution to answer this question.
Section 318 (1) of the Constitution defines what School Certificate or its equivalent means.
“‘School Certificate or its equivalent’ means:
(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-
(i) 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
(ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, and
(iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and
(d) any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
There you have it. You have seen what School Leaving Certificate or it’s equivalent means. You can see that INEC cannot disqualify Buhari because non submission of his certificates is not a constitutional disability.
It is apparent (thus INEC is satisfied) that Buhari can show
“(ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year”
and/or Buhari has demonstrated
“(iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission”, so this suffices for academic certificates as required by the Constitution.
Though many persons have argued that certificates don’t necessarily make good leaders, some of us will still love to see highly educated persons lead us, but until that is captured in the Constitution, “the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language…” is the highest academic qualification required. That’s the law. The law is the law.
– First Baba Isa (FBI) is a Legal Practitioner and writes from Abuja.