Read Time: 4 minutes
HE. Abubakar Atiku, Left and President Tinubu, Right
I speak as a Nigerian. That it took the courageous activism of HE. Abubakar Atiku to force the discovery of information concerning the President of Nigeria is a disgrace to our national institutions.
As a nation, we have a full retinue of staff at the Department of the State Security, the National Intelligence Agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Embassy of Nigeria with the full complement of staff in Washington DC and the Nigerian Judiciary that have variously ruled on matters concerning President Tinubu’s academic qualifications. Yet, we can not have a definitive conclusion about whether he has the academic qualifications he claimed he had or not. Disgraceful.
That all the aforementioned institutions allowed a man to be sworn in without definitive statements about his qualifications is a national tragedy. For 23 years the issue of President Tinubu has been a recurring decimal in our national equation. Under his reign, a current youth corps member is serving as Minister, and people under investigation by EFCC and made public are sitting in the Federal Executive Council. And they all passed through security screening.
The office of the President of Nigeria is so important both in its moral authority and its strategic importance to our national security and safety that nobody who has possible blind spots that can make him or her a potential asset for foreign intelligence or governments should be allowed a mile near that office. This should be a primary burden on all our national institutions. Legal technicalities and silence by state institutions should be deemed high treason.
It highlights my previous statement that a constitutional amendment to finish all electoral cases before the assumption of office is now a matter of urgent national priority. The current disgraceful proceedings against a Nigerian President in a foreign court under election petition matters are damaging to our collective moral and legal standing as a people.
If it turns out tomorrow that our President presented a forged certificate to INEC, Nigerians will bow down their heads globally in shame. On the other hand, if it turns out that his certificate is genuine, again our reputation as a people is still in tatters because of the failure of national institutions to perform due diligence no matter who is involved. On both counts it reinforces global perceptions and prejudice against Nigerians. We all bear the burden.
A forged certificate finding leaves President Tinubu in a vulnerable position morally and legally. As he did not present primary and secondary certificates to INEC, a forged CSU certificate makes him unqualified to stand for the office of President as he does not possess the minimum qualification S.131(D) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. of course, the next issue is the case of perjury, the presentation of false documents under oath.
How INEC, accepted a university degree without the qualifying certificates would continue to be a national mystery. A language in our electoral legislation to forestall such obvious infractions is required.
The decision of the District Court and the whole proceedings is not a moment of triumphalism but a sober moment of introspection. It is a moment when as a nation we ask ourselves:
What are our national values?
Who or which institution should have ordered the full investigation of the questionable certificate?
Considering that he did not present a primary or secondary certificate should our courts be concerned with the technicality of the tendering process of the CSU certificate or the disgrace and global moral damage a forged certificate would wrought on Nigeria?
Why did our national security system not conduct a discrete investigation and advise the candidate and INEC about the status of his certificate?
A few years ago The DSS, in an act of institutional independence and courage, wrote to the Senate to reject Police Commissioner Magu as EFCC Chairman not minding his nomination by a sitting President. This was based on their intelligence report of his nefarious conduct that pales into insignificance against a possible forgery case by a President. Why the silence now?
For me, the issue is beyond legalism. If and that is a big if, the certificate is forged, President Tinubu should resign immediately. It is not a legal matter but a national honour and moral issue. If he does not, the National Assembly should do the needful to restore our dignity as a people. I also expect the Supreme Court to rise to the occasion and restore order to our electoral process.
If the certificate is not forged, the President should conduct a wide-ranging reorganisation of our national security system for failure to save the country from this needless embarrassment and reputational damage.
On either count, the National Assembly should start a constitutional amendment process to end all election judicial challenges before the assumption of office of all elected persons at all levels.
A reform of the judiciary to introduce an automated case assignment system, the introduction of a transparent process for recruitment of judges, and the public display of evaluation of judges’ performance annually using the agreed framework to increase public oversight of judicial officers and improve the administration of justice. The growing unanimity in arriving at decisions in our courts is disturbing.
The bold challenge of President Tinubu by HE Abubakar Atiku in the US is the most prominent sign of state failure. It is depressing but maybe it is an inflection point to alter the character of the Nigerian state to live up to the words of the second stanza of our old national anthem
Our flag shall be a symbol
That truth and justice reign
In peace or battle honour’d,
And this we count as gain,
To hand on to our children
A banner without stain.
1 October 2023