In a bid to put to rest the controversy surrounding the credentials of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Army has stated that it is not in possession of his West African School Certificate (WASC) with which he enrolled in the Nigerian Military Training College in 1962.
At a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, the Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Brig-Gen. Olajide Laleye, said the clarification was necessitated after the barrage of requests from individuals and corporate organisations seeking to know the true position of Buhari’s credentials.
But in a swift reaction, the APC warned that those bent on destroying its candidate may end up destroying the country’s military by dragging it into politics.
Providing further insight, Laleye said: “I don't have that information on whether General Buhari has applied for his credentials. The reason why we put this press conference together is because individuals and corporate bodies have written severally requesting for his credentials.
“We want to make it clear that we hold Buhari in high esteem having risen through the ranks.
“Now the raging controversy concerning this has been what the Nigerian Army presented to you as facts. We have not added anything and we have not subtracted anything.
“In his personal file in the Nigerian Army, we do not have his original copy of his WASC, nor does the Nigerian Army have the certified true copy of his WASC results, neither do we have a photocopy.
We don't have any of them but we do have other documents to show how he was recruited into the Nigeria Army as was entered in Form 199A.”
The army spokesman explained that the available records indicated that Buhari applied to join the military as a form six student of the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, on October 18, 1961.
“He was fully endorsed by the principal of the school, who also wrote a report on him and recommended him to be suitable for military commission.
“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 credentials presented.
“However, there is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s,” he said.
Nevertheless, Laleye said the entry made in the Nigerian Army Form 199A at the point of documentation after commission as an officer indicated that the former head of state obtained his secondary school certificate in 1961 with credits in the relevant subjects: English Language, Geography, History, Health Science, Hausa and a pass in English Literature.
“Neither the original copy, certified true copy nor statement of results of Major-General M. 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 Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as it affects the Nigerian Army,” he said.
Laleye also described the recent CNN report titled, “The Battle Against Haram”, in which its reporter, Nick Robertson, alleged that the Nigerian Army is riddled with corruption and lacked kits and equipment as a “show of ignorance, poor journalism, unprofessionalism and the handiwork of a sponsored documentary”.
Laleye explained that there is no army in the world where its personnel do not purchase additional uniforms and kits to augment those officially issued to them.
He maintained that the Nigerian Army, without fail, issues uniforms and kits to its personnel periodically.
“Like other armies,” he added, “the Nigerian Army has over the years, established ordinance shops in all its barracks and cantonments where uniforms and kits are sold at a subsidised prices to its personnel from allowances already provided in their pay slips.”
He also insisted that the Nigerian Army boasts a very functional healthcare delivery system in the country.
According to the army spokesman, there is no barracks or cantonment that does not have at least one medical inspection room, medical reception station or medical hospital.
“The Nigerian Army fully subsrcibes to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and this is functional in all its health facilities.
“Specifically, personnel in the North-east have the best medical treatment in that all the various health facilities at all the barracks and contonements are well equipped.
“Notwithstanding this, personnel with extensive injuries are evacuated to the 44 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna, while others are promptly flown abroad for medical treatment.
“Therefore, issues of a soldier of the Nigerian Army paying for treatment and drugs covered by the NHIS is absurd,” he said.
In addition, Laleye debunked reported allegations of corruption in the army, saying that the authorities had in the past requested that any evidence should be brought before it.
Till date, he said, no such evidence has been forwarded. “Rather all we see and hear are sweeping statements of the purported corruption in the Nigerian Army.
“In the case of Nick Robertson, his leading questions and introduction of the word ‘corruption’ to the unknown person purported to be a soldier of the Nigerian Army was most unprofessional and merely justified a paid exercise.
“The CNN in the past has interviewed authorised personnel of other countries’ armies and not unauthorised hooded criminals to speak to the media.
“The CNN knows very well how to contact the relevant offices to clarify issues concerning the Nigerian Army but chose to conduct a clandestine interview in a kiosk with a faceless person and a masked individual who obviously knows nothing about the NA,” he said.
But in reaction to the army's statement on its presidential candidate, the APC yesterday warned that those bent on destroying Buhari on the basis of his certificate, may end up destroying the country’s military.
The party said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Goodluck Jonathan administration have constituted themselves into a court of law and “will like nothing more than the disqualification of our candidate so they will face no challenge in next month’s election”.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party warned that the PDP and the Jonathan administration were playing a dangerous game by trying to compromise the military in order to satisfy selfish political objectives, and urged the military, as a symbol of national unity, “to beware of those who may be seeking to use it to achieve selfish and divisive ends”.
APC said the statement by Laleye was in direct conflict with what he said on January 4 on the same issue.
“In an interview with the Punch on January 4, 2015, Brig.-Gen. Laleye 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. Laleye now saying that he did not make that statement? If he did, what has happened between then and now to make him recant? It will be interesting to know what has transpired between then and now,” APC said.
More worrisome, the party said, is the statement by Laleye that there was no evidence that the certificates of all those who joined the army in the early 1960s were verified by the Selection Board.
“Is he now saying that all those who were commissioned into the officers’ cadre in the 1960s did not have their certificates verified? Does this not confirm what we said that in trying to destroy General Buhari, the PDP and the Jonathan administration will end up destroying the army as an institution?
“Or is it only General Buhari that was commissioned into the army in the 1960s?” it asked.
The party also quoted Buhari as saying in an affidavit dated November 24, 2014 that “all my academic qualification documents as filled in my presidential form, President APC/001/2015, are currently with the Secretary Military Board as at the time of this affidavit.
“Those who are behind the latest controversy should now tell Nigerians what happened to General Buhari’s certificates between the time of his affidavit and now”.
APC added: “In any case, even if the army now says it does not have the certificates of General Buhari, he is still very qualified to run for the country’s highest office, as stipulated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The party quoted Section 131 (d) of the constitution as stating, “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of president if he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.”
APC said the meaning and interpretation of school certificate level or its equivalent can be found in the constitution under Part IV, Section 318.
In that section, a School Certificate or its equivalent is defined as “a secondary school certificate or its equivalent, Grade II Teacher's Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or education up to secondary school certificate level; or Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent”.
The party said since Laleye has now confirmed that Buhari had indeed applied to join the army from form six, the principal of the school he attended even attested to his suitability, and that the form he filled contained his secondary school certificate results, there is no scintilla of doubt about his qualification to run for president as stipulated by the constitution.
“However, 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 will face no challenge in next month’s election. This is wishful thinking,” it said.
APC said the PDP and the Jonathan administration should expend their energy on how to revive their floundering campaign instead of seeking the disqualification of its candidate.
On the contradictions in the statements credited to the army spokesman, the party said: “It is true that our once globally-respected military has now been made comatose by the PDP-led federal government, but we believe things have not reached the level where the same military will be engaging in actions that amount to self destruction, just to satisfy some political interests.
“We believe things have not reached a level where we, as a nation, will now be giving the impression that a man who rose to become a major-general in the Nigerian Army does not have the requisite qualifications.
“What really is happening in our country if some politicians have now decided to engage in an action that will amount to dragging the military into politics, dividing an institution that is a symbol of national unity, trivialising the service of those who fought to keep Nigeria one and ridiculing the same country it is supposed to be ruling?
“We have said it before and will like to repeat: Enough is enough with this distraction orchestrated by the PDP and the Jonathan administration whose electioneering campaign for next month's polls has suffered a train wreck.”