The Nigerian Army has said it is not in custody of the original certificates of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
The Army, at a news conference by its Director of Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Olajide Laleye, in Abuja on Tuesday, added that it was also not in possession of the photocopies or statement of results of Buhari.
It however explained that the entry made for documentation by the APC candidate on its(Army) Form 199A, indicated that he wrote and passed the West African School Certificate in 1961.
The Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, Garba Shehu, said in a terse statement on Tuesday night that Buhari would address a new conference on the issue on Wednesday(today).
Buhari had in an affidavit he deposed to at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on November 24, 2014 and submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission on December 18, 2014, said that his certificates were with the military.
“I am the above-named person and deponent to this affidavit therein. All my academic qualifications, documents as filled in my presidential form, President APC/001/2015, are currently with the Secretary, Military Board as of the time of presenting this affidavit. The affidavit is made in good faith and for record purposes,” he had written.
When the controversy over Buhari’s qualification gathered momentum, Laleye told The PUNCH during an exclusive interview which was published on January 4, 2015, that the military authorities were ready to release credentials and certificates in its custody to serving and retired officers in need of them.
He said that the procedure for the retrieval or collection of the certificates was known to all serving or retired officers of the military.
On Tuesday, Laleye said that military records showed that Buhari applied to join the Army on October 18, 1961. .
The Army spokesman explained that it was the tradition of the Army to ensure that a selection board was set up to verify the original credentials of candidates shortlisted for commissioning.
Laleye said that records did not show that the process was followed .
However, he said that the entry made for documentation by Buhari on Form 199A indicated that he had credit in English Language, Geography, History, Health Science, Hausa and a Pass in English Literature.
He said, “The media hype on Maj. Gen. Buhari’s credentials as well as the numerous requests made by individuals and corporate bodies to the Army on this issue have necessitated that we provide the facts as contained in the retired senior officer’s service record.
“Records available indicate that Maj. Gen. Buhari applied to join the military as a form six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina on 18 October 1961.
“His application was duly endorsed by the principal of the school, who also wrote a report on him and recommended him suitable for military commission.
“It is a practice in the Army that before candidates are shortlisted for commissioning into the officers’ cadre of the service; the selection board verifies the original copies of 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 Form 199A at the point of documentation after commission as an officer indicated that the former Head of State obtained the WASC in 1961 with credits in relevant subjects.
“Neither the original certified true copy nor the statement of result of Maj. Gen. Buhari’s WASC result is in his personal file.
“I hope this explanation will put to rest, the raging controversy surrounding the secondary school credentials of Maj. Gen. Buhari as it affects the Nigerian Army.”
Although the Army authorities did not allow journalists to have copies of the documents filed by the former Head of State for his commissioning as an officer, they created an opportunity for the documents to be sighted
The Principal of the school, in recommending Buhari for commissioning as an officer, said “I recommend him for military commissioning; I consider that Mohammadu Buhari will pass the West Africa School Certificate in English, Maths and three other subjects.
Laleye said that the Army holds Buhari, who rose to the enviable rank of Maj. Gen, and was Head of State of the country, in high esteem and would not be party to the controversy over “his eligibility for any political office.”
However, the APC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, urged the Peoples Democratic Party not to compromise the army in the name of giving President Goodluck Jonathan an unfair advantage ahead of the February 14 presidential poll.
The APC said compromising the army could backfire. It said the military, as a symbol of national unity, must beware of those seeking to use it to achieve selfish and divisive ends.
The party said it found it funny that the army spokesman had told The PUNCH in a publication on January 4, 2015 that it had the certificates of all serving and retired officers only to deny having Buhari’s credentials two weeks later.
It said, ‘‘In an interview with The Punch on January 4, 2015, Brig.-Gen. Olaleye said, ‘Every serving and retired Army officer has at least a copy of his certificates and credentials kept in the Nigerian Army while that same serving and retired officer has copies of those same certificates and credentials’
‘‘Is Brig.-Gen. Olaleye now saying that he did not make that statement? If he did, what has happened between then and now to make him to recant? It will be interesting to know what has transpired between then and now.”
The APC added, ‘’Is he (Olaleye) now saying that all those who were commissioned into the officer cadres in the 1960s did not have their certificates verified? Does this not confirm what we said that in trying to destroy Maj. Gen. Buhari, the PDP and the Jonathan administration will end up destroying the army as an institution? Or is it only Maj. Gen. Buhari that was commissioned into the army in the 1960s.”
The APC argued that even if the army did not have Buhari’s certificates, he (Buhari) “is still very qualified to run for the country’s highest office, as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.”
The party said since Olaleye had now confirmed that the form Buhari filed contained his Secondary School Certificate results, there was no scintilla of doubt about his qualification to run for President as stipulated by the constitution.
It added, ‘‘We know that the PDP and the Jonathan administration have constituted themselves into a court of law and will like nothing more than the disqualification of our candidate so they that will face no challenge in next month’s election.’’
Also, the Director, Media and Information Management Directorate of Buhari Support Organisation, Chidia Maduekwe, said the issue of Buhari’s certificate was inconsequential.
He said, “INEC has said it and I am saying it again, if anybody has doubts about the general’s credentials, the person should go to court.
“What the constitution says is that a person seeking for the office of President should be educated up to the level of school certificate and there is evidence that the general was in school up till form six, his school principal attested to this, he joined the army and rose to the peak.”