Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has been accused by President Muhammadu Buhari of not possessing the required educational qualification to contest the February 23, 2019 election.
In Buhari’s counter-accusation, he dared Atiku to produce his “educational certificates, indicating the schools attended by him, with dates,” before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal. The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, winner of the election. But Atiku and the PDP filed a petition before the tribunal seeking an order nullifying Buhari’s victory and another order declaring them as the true winner of the poll.
The petitioners alleged, among others, that Buhari gave false information about his school certificate in the Form CF001, which he submitted to INEC. They had alleged that Buhari did not possess secondary school certificate he laid claim to in the form. But in a reply filed on his behalf on Wednesday by his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the President said he possessed more than the constitutionally required educational qualifications to contest the election.
He said it was Atiku who lacked the required educational qualification and challenged him to contradict the assertion with proof. Buhari said he was “head and shoulder above” Atiku in terms of educational qualifications, training and courses attended, both within and outside Nigeria.He also said he surpassed Atiku in terms of acquisition of knowledge, certificates, laurels, medals and experience.
The reply read in part, “The respondent (Buhari) avers that he is far more qualified, both constitutionally and educationally, to contest and occupy the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria than the 1st petitioner; and that in terms of educational qualifications, training and courses attended, both within and outside Nigeria, he is head and shoulder above the 1st petitioner in terms of acquisition of knowledge, certificates, laurels, medals and experience.
“Respondent states further that it is the 1st petitioner who is not qualified to contest the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and challenges the educational credentials and certificates of the 1st petitioner.
“The 1st petitioner is hereby given notice to produce and tender his educational certificates, indicating the schools attended by him, with dates.”
Buhari denied submitting false information to INEC in respect of his educational qualification.
He quoted his resume as reading, in part:
“Elementary School Daura and Maid’adua – 1948 to 1952;
“Middle School, Katsina – 1953 to 1956;
“Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Daura Government College, Katsina) – 1956 to 1961.”
The reply added, “He (Buhari) did not, at any time, provide any false information in the Form CF001 submitted to the 1st respondent, either in 2014 or 2018.
“The affidavit of compliance to the 2019 Form CF001 was correct in every material particular.
“In filling Form CF001 in 2014 and 2019, the respondent was not oblivious of the constitutional qualifications stipulated in Section 131 of the Constitution and interpreted in Section 318 of the same Constitution.
“Petitioners themselves are also not oblivious of the fact that the respondent possesses far more than the constitutional threshold expected of a candidate contesting for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Buhari asked the tribunal to dismiss the petition, saying that it contained more of pre-election issues, which the Court of Appeal, sitting as a tribunal lacked jurisdiction to entertain. He argued that the petitioners’ claims were self-defeating.
He noted that while the petitioners claimed to have won the last presidential election and also won elections in many states in the South-South and the South-East regions of the country, they also urged the court to nullify the election and order a fresh presidential election.
Buhari argued that by virtue of Section 137 of the Electoral Act the, petitioners could not question the results of elections in states where they claimed to have won and still retain themselves as petitioners.
He faulted the petitioners’ claim that the election was marred by corrupt practices and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
He added, “To the knowledge of the petitioners themselves, and acceptance of the 1st respondent in particular, as well as Nigerians generally, the respondent meets far more than the constitutional and educational threshold demanded of a candidate contesting for the office of President of Nigeria.”
Buhari also denied the claim by Atiku that the TraderMoni policy of the government was a vote-buying measure. He argued that the policy formed one of the many social intervention policies of the Federal Government, directed at alleviating the suffering of the masses.