18 April 2019

Nigeria: The Season of Unreason

opinion

I am naturally watching with keen interest the exchanges between the APC and the PDP over the petition by Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari, the exchanges which appear to be a rehearsal of what we are to expect from the hearings at the Election Petition Tribunal when it is convened.

It appears that for lawyers, to win a case, there are sometimes no limit to the extent you can go to dig out what to us laymen may be considered irrelevances meant only to appeal to our emotions rather than to reason. It is anything goes, fair or foul. What seems to me of utmost importance at this point in time is: Was the Presidential Election rigged or not? Was it free and was it fair? One of the grounds of appeal, which I consider otherwise solid and interesting, by the petitioner PDP is that Buhari does not have the West African School Certificate and so by implication he was not qualified to contest the last election ab initio. The APC, the respondent to use the court language, fires back, saying the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku, is not a Nigerian by birth.

First, the PDP salvo. I consider it silly, to put it mildly. Buhari had contested the Presidential election four times before this year's election under this present 1999 constitution. What does it say of Nigerians that we are just discovering that he does not have a school certificate? He fought for the Nigerian mandate to govern up to Supreme Court. In his last year in the secondary school he was the Head Prefect. His classmates included the retired President of the Court of Appeal, the Hon. Justice Abdullahi and the late General Shehu Yar'Adua who was President Obasanjo's deputy in his first coming. I remember General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau testifying to it that he was the school's head prefect, and that he was his junior. I don't know of any school who in the fifties and sixties would make a dullard its Head Prefect. Buhari had held major public offices long before now as Minister of Petroleum and Head of State which is the same as President of Nigeria save for the nomenclature. His colleagues considered him worthy of the high office from among many others who were high up in the military hierarchy. He has held command positions in the Army. He was at the War College in the United States, the college former US secretary of State Powell attended, the certificate from which is said to be equal to a Master's Degree. The constitutional provision he is to satisfy say he is to have a school certificate or its equivalent. Those should serve as enough equivalent

The APC in an act of vengefulness says Atiku is not a Nigerian but a Cameroonian. Here is a man whose grandfather is from Wurno in Sokoto State and the 1999 constitution says one is covered if any of one's grandparents is a Nigerian. That his grandfather was from Mowu is in his biography and has never been in dispute. Yes, he may have been born in Northern Cameroon, and there was a plebiscite in 1961. Older Nigerians know that the 1963 Republican Constitution cured what may have been perceived as the probable weakness of the 1999 Constitution which is being used as a trap to catch Atiku. The Republican Constitution gave the people of the then Northern Cameroon cover in a special provision. It recognized the plebiscite of the people of Northern Cameroon and backdated it to before 1st October, 1960, to admit them as citizens by birth and to give them the status of citizenship by birth. In other words, anything to the contrary had long been annulled and buried and the 1999 cannot exhume it to give it life and bite. I consider the claim of APC ridiculous and in the words of Atiku himself illogic. Here is a man who has been Vice-President of Nigeria, and was a ranking officer in the public service. His four wives are Nigerians distributed across different zones of the country--from the West, from the East and from the North. There must be a certain level below which we should not fall even for good taste. We are truly in the season of unreason.

Nigeria

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