To Play Safe or to Play Strong: A Response to Chike Ofili’s Buhari and Sambo Certificate Questions Begging for Answers

An elegant writeup as usual, Chike! You raise profound issues and leave your readers with no doubts as to what is good for Nigeria.

However, there is a little bit of that overkill, which, alas, is also associated with your writing. It strikes one as if you are acting in a drama, ala Nollywood – highly entertaining in a few places, and, to be honest, mostly boring and makes for a painful watching, or, in this case, reading. Again, that is your opinion, which sometimes, you mold into ‘gospel truth’ (my reading of your writeup).

The subject of your letter is lack of educational certificates of the APC presidential candidate and the PDP vice presidential candidate or rather that they have not provided evidence that they indeed have achieve formal education certification.

Now, mostly all this is in the realm of speculation as nothing as been proved as conclusive. Agreed, the silence on the part of the subjects does not help their case. However, given that these guys are not new entrants into our polity, there is much more that needs to be verified and disposed of before we begin to sit in judgement. Of course, it’s easier for you to take the speculative route again and wish away the ‘misdeed’ as Jega’s collusion with his kinsman, both members of the privileged Fulani. Others have consistently said that Professor Jega has been leaning more towards PDP. How we can reconcile this paradox is left to be seen.

Mind you, there has been numerous cases of certificate scandals in the country, and there will be many more, but you have chosen to colour these ones with Fulani privilegism, if I may coin a word. You may be right in doing so, given that most certificate scandals from the North may have been those involving people of the Hausa and Fulani stock. And the apparent educational gap in their part of the North.

The Constitution is not as watertight on this issue as you think. I am not a lawyer so I may be out of my depth here. Now, if one lies about getting a certificate, that’s criminal and one should be prosecuted. But if someone says their certificate is missing or kept somewhere, then it’s not so clear cut.

Now if Buhari does not have a school certificate but swore an affidavit that he has it and that its with the Army, then he has lied. But INEC cannot prosecute him, neither can APC. Someone who feels aggrieved by this should. You can! As an interested citizen, you can go to court. PDP can! As an opposition party, they stand to gain a lot if the courts can convict Buhari of lying! But first, sir, they would have to prove that he doesn’t have a certificate!

Our Constitution is fraught with difficulties. It says one thing in a section and cancels it out in another, except in a few cases. Some lawyer, it was Abdul Mahmud, posted on Facebook thus (I don’t know how to provide link to his Facebook post):

For those accidental constitutional lawyers, please this is a gentle reminder. On the Presidential Certificate saga, to quote S.131 CFRN 1999 isn’t enough. Please, this section, particularly subsection (d), must be read in conjunction with S.318(1) CFRN 1999 to understand what it means to be “educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent”. Well, the CFRN 1999 says “ability to read, write, understand and communicate in English language” is equivalent to School Certificate. This is the minimum level of presidential eligibility. Oya, I am off to the British Council to do The Proficiency in English Language Test. The drafters of our constitution must be stupid. Stupid (Abdul Mahmud, on Facebook).

Of course, Olu Oguibe thinks differently. Nevertheless, INEC has said they cannot prosecute Buhari (according to Kayode Idowu, INEC spokesperson).

Don’t get me wrong, I think having a school certificate is great. But in this case, there are graver things at stake than a mere piece of paper. The man can read, write and communicate and that should suffice. I am a believer in literacy, functional literacy. There is a difference, for me, between ‘ilmi’ (education) and ‘kwakwalwa’ (intelligence). Buhari has gone to some of the best military schools in the world and has risen to a General. If there was a faulty foundation, then let us try and rectify the system that promoted it. Now if he is proven to have lied, that’s an entirely different thing. Different entirely!

My opinion of this issue is that if Buhari lied about having a certificate, he should be prosecuted and if proven guilty, he should be disqualified from the presidential race. I think that in the last contests, Buhari was not seen as a threat and the possession or not of a certificate did not matter. Now that Buhari is seen as a real threat, some mischief has been cooked up. I am willing to change my opinion if he is proved to have lied!

In your conclusion then, that Buhari, your man, does not deserve to be president on the basis of his being of the Fulani stock, you have taken a gracious helping of assumption and arbitrary sentencing!

For your information, the North has changed a lot. While I was growing, we, the minority peoples of the North, were bamboozled by the Fulani and Hausa elites. Then, they said we were all Northerners and should unite for our common goal. Afterwards, they differentiated between the Hausa and Fulani on one side and the other ‘yare’ (tribes) on the other; and between Muslims and Christians. Secondly, the majority of Hausa and Fulani citizens are not beneficiaries of the elites like say Namadi Sambo or Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. They have been worse off by the privilegism of the elites. In fact, as you pointed out, it can be argued that the local populations of the Hausas and the Fulanis and other parts of the North have fared better under non-Hausas and non-Fulanis. Nomadic education in Nigeria was greatly boosted by the appointment of an Igbo Professor as the first Executive Secretary of the National Council for Nomadic Education! And as you are wont to point out, Goodluck has invested in Almajiri Schools! I might even hazard a point that the effect of Dangote’s billions might not really be felt by the ordinary Hausa or Fulani person, or the minority peoples for that matter! If the masses from the Hausa and Fulani stock are shortchanged by privilegism, you don’t want to know what we, the Minorities of the North, go through.

So you see, the talakwa (masses) of the North do not really benefit from Hausa or Fulani privilegism. They, like you, would like to see the end of these elites. But we have people who have sided with the ordinary people such as Aminu Kano. You can also attest to the fact that Buhari has not lived in that cloud of privilegism. Yes, he might have climbed up on it as you rightly said, but he has parted ways with it. You call him ‘my Buhari’ so I assume you know the kind of life he lives. I would not bore you by listing the proves of his austere way of life and his regard for rule of law. We need that kind of example irrespective of his Fulani roots. I don’t need to point out to you, anyway, that generalisation can be an injustice!

On the subject of privilegism, you must know that the Hausa and the Fulani do not have exclusive rights to it. It exists in all parts of the country. It manifests in being from a particular people or clan, attending a particular school or being in a particular profession, and so it goes on. No sir, privilegism is not a preserve of the Fulanis or Hausas. Look around you and you will find it everywhere.

I was in my first year in Vet School when Buhari overthrew the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari and there was a semblance of equalisation in his dealings with all classes. I say semblance because I agree that there was favouritism in his testament of Shagari and Ekwueme. That is a fault that he must account for. But during his brief dictatorship, he did not pay too much attention to people’s privileges. Emirs and Obas were treated just like you and me. Again, I say there is a semblance of hope that he can hit privilegism where it hurts.. But first he needs to win and election and then get everybody behind him.

Now to conclusions. Whereas you prefer that we return an ineffective, albeit ‘safe’ government as you posit, just so the ‘privileged’ Fulani do not come to power, I prefer we try the ‘strong hand’ as you so put it. This is because, in my opinion, we need a strong hand to right the injustice perpetrated by the privileged class in our society, which you know, learned as you, that they are found in every part of Nigeria.

Playing a SAFE hand would maintain the status quo and keep Nigeria in bondage. Playing a STRONG hand would bring about change and propel us to greatness as a nation. Devoid of any sentiments except the good of the nation, let us lay aside our SAFE hand and play our STRONG hand!

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