Buhari: From Pillar to Post
By Chika Onuora
With initial momentum on his side, promoters of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, touted him as the man who will emerge all-out winner in next month's presidential election. His well-trumpeted moral high-ground was enough to drive his aspiration against any other candidate. Not even the impressive list of positive development indices from President Goodluck Jonathan could match the solid pillar of integrity that Buhari flaunted.
Then the controversies started tumbling in. Week after week, the Buhari candidacy has faced one scandal after another, leading to the certificate saga that has brought a once-promising campaign to a near stop. The well-oiled opposition campaign machinery, which once churned out issues and facts that were to define the campaign, has since been bogged down in firefights. In trying to extricate their candidate from one self-inflicted scandal after another, chips keep falling from the pillar of integrity on which his candidacy is built.
It all started with Buhari's health condition and his fitness to withstand the rigours of the office of President. Against the background that the last President of Northern extraction, Alhaji Umaru Yar'adua, died without completing the first of his possible two terms in office, the concern among Northern leaders over the reported collapse of Buhari on the second day of his nationwide campaign in Calabar, was understandable.
Buhari's shoddy handling of the finances of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund during the regime of General Sani Abacha is another scandal his party is still trying to dismiss as inconsequential. Over the years, the former military strongman has been hard-put explaining the humongous amounts of money frittered away in the PTF under his watch, the discrepancies associated with the award of its contracts and the lopsided nature of location of its projects.
It has still not been possible to sweep it aside, which is why General Obasanjo, who has since become more APC than the party leaders, rushed to his rescue. Penultimate week, in an apparent effort to clear Buhari, the former President who instituted the probe which revealed unwholesome dealings and phony expenditures in the PTF amounting to over N25 billion, declared, rather curiously, that Buhari is innocent of the various financial scandals that were unearthed in the PTF because he determined that Buhari did not personally benefit from the sleaze. It was Obasanjo at his duplicitous best.
The question to ask is, must he be a personal beneficiary before he is held accountable for profligate spending of public money put in his trust? The PTF cover up will, however, pale into insignificance when the certificate scandal involving Buhari, is considered. The simple personal duty of submitting his nomination form along with his personal details, has turned into the most confounding political rigmarole of all time. For a man who has over the years been sold up as upright and painstakingly meticulous, the hazy submissions about his certificates have turned out a scandal of gargantuan proportions. It all started when he submitted his nomination forms to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); but instead of attaching his West African School Certificate as required by law, he referred the electoral body to the Secretary of the military board for them.
The Board has since come out to deny it was holding his certificate and all manner of rigmarole has followed. In explaining the gaping deficit in integrity, his campaign office has carried a bloody nose for weeks; if their lawyer is not rationalizing how the military rank of general equals a school certificate, we are being inundated with phony and funny diplomas from Military institutions from across the world. When all of them refused to stick, the Provisional Secondary School Katsina, which is now known as Government College, Katsina, now remembers that it can issue him, in 2015, a statement of result for exams taken in 1961. Incredible!
It is a school certificate that the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation has expressed doubt over, but which the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation insists, brings the scandal to a close. For the APC, that can only be wishful thinking, considering that Buhari`s academic qualification is at the heart of his eligibility to contest the presidency in February 14. It cannot be swept away so easily. The Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP Campaign Organsation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has already addressed a press conference in which he described the new certificate as a forgery and super imposition of documents for which perpetrators ought to face prosecution.
Buhari's press conference on 21st of January where he attempted to explain the series of controversies surrounding his academic qualifications especially the Secondary School Certificate, ended up with more questions than providing a conclusive proof that he possesses this minimum qualification. It is indeed unfortunate that on such a simple personal duty, Buhari has been running from pillar to post, and dragging his party men down that dark alley of falsehood and uncertainty. Mallam Garba Shehu, APC Campaign spokesman, describes it as laughable that PDP would not let-go of the controversy “even when the matter has been exhaustively laid to rest.”
And we say no. Shehu's appeal ought to go to Buhari; it is indeed his duty to lay the matter to rest. And until he really comes out clean, the presidential candidate passed off as an epitome of integrity has become complicit in a matter that borders on forgery, manipulation and fraudulent procurement of personal documents. The combined effect of Buhari's certificate saga on what is left of his personal integrity, is indeed enormous. It does not only bring his claim of superior character to serious question, his presidential aspiration may also have come to a dead end, finally.
Chika Onuora contributed this piece from Asokoro, Abuja through [email protected]
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