The controversy surrounding the West African School Certificate (WASC) Examination result of President Muhammadu Buhari was laid to rest yesterday as the West African Examination Council (WAEC) handed to the President the attestation of the certificate issued to him in 1961.
But in different reactions, the Presidency described the development as an end to the smear campaign of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the President while the PDP described it as a tragicomedy.
The PDP had turned Buhari’s inability to submit his WAEC certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress into a major campaign issue in the build-up to the 2015 election.
Buhari had explained then that his certificate was with the military, but the then ruling party insisted that he had no certificate in spite of a statement of result provided by Buhari’s former school and retired General Alani Akinrinade’s claim that it was the tradition in the military to take the certificates of new recruits.
And while the matter appeared to have been settled with Buhari’s victory in the 2015 presidential election, it reared its head again with another presidential election in the offing and Buhari once more the presidential candidate of APC.
The controversy was however laid to rest with WAEC’s presentation of an attested version of the President’s certificate to him in Abuja yesterday.
A statement issued by President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said that the documents were presented to the President at State House during a courtesy visit by a delegation of WAEC led by its Registrar, Dr Iyi Uwadiae, and accompanied by Olutise Adenipekun, Head, National Office, WAEC; Abiodun Aduloju, Head Public Affairs, WAEC; and Olufemi Oke, Zonal Coordinator, WAEC Abuja.
Receiving the certificate, President Buhari thanked the examination board for upholding its integrity over the years, saying that he expected nothing less from the institution.
The President said it would have been impossible for him to attend the Defence Services Staff College, India (1973) and thereafter, United States Army War College as a Nigerian military officer if he did not sit the WASC examinations in 1961.
He recalled that during his secondary school days, it was very difficult to commit examination fraud even though it was not impossible.
He said: “My colleagues and I who spent close to nine years in boarding school both in primary and secondary, including Gen. Musa Yar’Adua, when we intended to join the military, we had to take a military examination.
”We were examined in three subjects-English, Mathematics and General Knowledge-because English is the language for general instruction throughout the country because of our colonial heritage.
”Mathematics in the military was necessary, coupled with Geography. We were trained on how to be dropped off in the bush, given only a pair of compass, and since we were not astronomers, you had to learn to find your way, calculate, using the Pythagoras Theorem and others to work out your position.”
In his remarks, Uwadiae said it was possible for candidates to lose their examination certificates through fire and any other unfortunate incident.
”We don’t issue certificates twice but we can issue attestations or duplicate copy of the certificate.
”We also have what we refer to as confirmation. Usually, universities were using this in those days when Information Technology was not in vogue.
”Whoever sat for WASC exams in whatever year, we have the records in our database. And Mr President, we have the records of the examinations you sat in 1961.
”We have the attestation of results which we issue to candidates who lost their certificates and confirmation of results.”
Presidency, APC taunt PDP
Reacting to the development in a statement yesterday, the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, described it as god-sent, considering that WAEC is a non-political entity.
“This should put to rest the absurd allegations by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, brought up again and again, that he (President Buhari) did not attend a secondary school.
“The unreasonable position of the PDP had been sustained all along in spite of testimony by classmates who read with him in school and graduated together, and that fact that a court of law had given a ruling on the matter,” Shehu said.
He added: “In 2014-2015 when they raked up the issue, I remember that it took the courage of the then college Principal to issue a statement of results from available records.
“In doing so, he defied the ruling PDP government in the state which asked him not to.
“At the time we got the results sheet, reports said that the government had determined to send arsonists to burn the school to ashes so that the existing records would be obliterated.”
Shehu wondered why the PDP chose to dwell on the issue of Buhari’s certificate in its political fight for 2019 instead of more serious ones like security, corruption and job creation.
He said: “In its political fight for 2019, the PDP is not relying on the big issues of the day-security, corruption and jobs-but on small, distractive matters that take little or no account of national interest.
“But what do you expect of a group that has stopped thinking, just blowing hot, toxic air, indulging in divisive politics and is raking up sectional issues so that the people will forget the real issues of corruption, infrastructure, security and economy for which they have no plans?”
In his own reaction on his Twitter handle yesterday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, wondered what next Buhari’s critics would say after yesterday’s event.
“WAEC presents attestation certificate and confirmation of school cert result to President Buhari. What will the naysayers say next?” he wrote.
The National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the party had always been confident that President Buhari has all it takes to contest the 2019 election, adding that all the noise about the President not having a certificate was based on mischief.
“We know that the President is well qualified for the contest. In fact, he has more than the school certificate they are talking about. But they don’t just want to acknowledge that because of mischief,” he said.
On his part, Chairman of the Buhari Media Organisation, Niyi Akinsaju, said the presentation from WAEC vindicated the President and has now pave the way for other political parties to begin to do the right thing and face the election.
He said what the PDP had been doing was mere mischief aimed at tarnishing the image of the President and destroying his weapon of integrity with which he will face the election.
He said Nigerians are aware of the fact that the President is well qualified, having been educated in the best military institutions in the world, adding that the President could not have been admitted into those institutions without the required qualifications.
The PDP, he said, merely refused to accept the affidavit presented by the President, adding that as a man of integrity, the President has gone further to prove that the affidavit he presented was genuine.
It’s a political certificate, says PDP
The PDP yesterday described the attestation received by the President WAEC as tragicomedy.
Reacting to the President’s receipt of the document, spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the PDP never expected President Buhari to dramatically come this low because “you cannot have a certificate and be calling it an attestation.”
Ologbondiyan said: “What are they attesting to? We stand by our position that Mr. President has no school certificate.
“It’s simply a political certificate. We have said that the Buhari presidency and his handlers are always fretting at the mention of a certificate, so they want to mislead Nigerians to say that Mr. President has a school certificate.
“If Mr. President has a certificate, why did he not use it in the 2015 election? Why is the certificate suddenly emerging a few months to the election?
“And have you checked the photograph that was attached to the certificate? In 1961, was it the requirement of WAEC to have a passport attached to school certificate?
“Even in our own generation, was it a condition in WAEC that you must submit your passport to be attached to your certificate?
“They should come off it. It’s too low.”