A former National Secretary of the Labour Party, Dr Kayode Ajulo, tells TOBI AWORINDE that President Muhammadu Buhari hasn’t violated the constitution, regarding his unseen school certificate.
What do you think about the controversy surrounding President Buhari’s secondary school certificate?
This is my humble legal opinion which took me a lot of research. This case, I believe, will hold society to say the truth, irrespective of anybody’s political affiliation.
It is well-known in Nigeria that I’m not a member of the All Progressives Congress. I’m not a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. My last political intervention happened to be with the Labour Party, from where I resigned voluntarily and, since then, I have yet to get myself attached or affiliated to any political party.
I have nothing with President Muhammadu Buhari and I have nothing against him. If I had my way, I would want us to have a new president in this country.
That being the case, the truth and legality of the certificate need to be put to rest, particularly when you see that a lot of resources and time are being wasted. In my research, I made it so clear that Buhari is qualified to contest the presidency of Nigeria.
That is why when it comes to qualification, particularly when it comes to his educational qualification, the constitution is so clear about what you need to have. Section 131 talks about school certificate but, unfortunately, Nigerians seem to be fixated only on that Section 131 because that is the only section that talks about the qualification. That is where it talks about ‘you should not be bankrupt’, ’you should not be a lunatic’, and so on.
However, every (provision of the) constitution and particularly every statute of legislation always has an interpretation clause. By the time you go to interpretation clause, that is, Section 318 of the same constitution, it defines what ‘school certificate’ means. It not only defines what it means, it talks about the equivalent.
That means, ‘if you don’t have it, this one will pass for that’. And that is why you find that Buhari, having a primary school leaving certificate with 10-year work experience, is qualified because they say, if that would be the equivalent of the school certificate we have so much talked about.
So, constitutionally, Buhari does not have to provide his secondary school certificate.
Not only that. The last sub-section of that legislation clause in the constitution goes as far as saying ‘any other document that the Independent National Electoral Commission may take from you’ — it is in the constitution;
I’m not the one that prepared the constitution. But unfortunately, in Nigeria, we don’t really read the constitution. I wish we could start it from Ondo State that every student in my state must have a copy of the constitution.
I think that this should be part of the functions of the government. We have noticed today that even some lawyers pretend to know. Maybe because of their interests, they seem to deceive themselves. But it is part of the hope that I have that we need to direct the people. I won’t say (otherwise) because I am a lawyer and somebody is giving me money to go to court over something that I know is not.
I believe that our disciplinary committee of the Nigerian Bar Association and our Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee need to look at such lawyers when a case is so obvious but they still tend to disturb courts by legislating over something.
Are you saying, like the PDP alleged, it is a waste of time going back to the court to challenge the legality of the President’s failure to produce his school certificate?
What you take to court is to raise the question. But when it is so clear, particularly when it comes to interpretation of the constitution, I believe any lawyer that would be advising the PDP would advise them that when the apex court, that is, the Supreme Court, has held that when it comes to interpreting the constitution, you need not to infuse anything into the interpretation. It must be given a literary meaning.
From the literary interpretation of the constitution, it is so clear that Buhari is qualified. You may not waste the time of the court by jumping to court and using the court as a campaign ground to raise political issues. I believe that there must be a time where the court puts a stop to this.
There is also the issue of the affidavit that the President swore to, saying the army is with his school certificate….
I want to believe Buhari did not say the army is with his school certificate. He said the army is with his credentials. I discussed with a lawyer that called me this morning (Tuesday) to say the same thing. I said, ‘Have you seen his affidavit?’ In the area of his credentials, the army authorities are still with it. And it is so painful that I find myself defending Buhari.
But I don’t think I am defending him because I’m not one his agents. I’m not one of his aides, but I believe, for the sake of the law, we should not ridicule our law by trying to raise issues that are a nonsuit. It is so clear.
Have most of those raising the issue seen the affidavit? Have they seen how the affidavit is couched? Except they want to tell me they have different affidavits that General Muhammadu Buhari deposed to. But the one that has been brought to my notice and the one I have seen, when it comes to the issue of ‘my credentials and qualifications’, he never mentioned school certificate, primary school certificate, PhD, Bachelor of Science or whatever. He said, ‘Everything is with the army authorities.’
There are some facts that the court itself would take judicial notice of. There are some facts that are very notorious. It is the notorious fact that we have one General Muhammadu Buhari who was general officer commanding, third armoured division of the Nigerian Army.
It is a fact that we have somebody who was one of those that planned the coup that removed President Shagari and one of them became the head of state of this country that signed several decrees.
Part of the decrees signed by Buhari was Decree 4; we are aware of that and several other draconian decrees. It is the fact that Buhari spent over 20 years in the military. All the facts are there. So, if somebody said ‘my credentials are with the military’, I don’t think there is any perjury in that.
As I said, the one I saw — though that may not be the one that others have seen — is what I am speaking on because as a lawyer, you must speak about facts and of law. But if there is any other that may not have come to my knowledge and may point to Buhari being liable of perjury, Kayode Ajulo has not seen that. I am speaking from what I’ve seen and what I know.