President Jonathan and the ruling party –PDP- have made the military a party to the February 14th elections-a dangerous and desperate move that has put the soul of the nation in balance. To make the military serve the political interest of a party, the ruling party, PDP and of the President in an election year is to lose the country down the road depending on the outcome of the election.
In any civilized democracy, an election is a referendum on the service, if any, of the incumbent. President Jonathan understands this too late, so it seems he is finding it difficult to run on his achievements; because in six years in government President Jonathan played all kinds of politics with the country, and toyed with its fate, hence he is unable to point to success in the two most important concerns of the nation. He has failed to defend the country. He has raised corruption to an article of faith in Nigeria.
On the campaign trail, the signs are obvious that President Jonathan has work to do especially because the election is a referendum on his achievement or lack of it in office. He does not want this. Hence, there must be a diversion. Sadly, the Nigerian military became a target. It started little by little from the diversion about Mr. Buhari’s qualification to contest, an obscene proposition on its own.
It is true that in an election year, part of the strength and weakness of democracy is that everything is a target of critique and approval – both the beautiful and the ugly, sensible and thoughtless, the serious and the unserious, the deep and the profane. The so-called Buhari Certificate is one non-issue, one profanity, one negative campaign that shows the nature of democracy but the weakness and the inadequacy of the canvassers of the certificate issue. Why?
The most recent World Bank document titled “Where is the Wealth of Nations? Measuring Capital for the 21st Century” launched by the World Bank listed the top 10 richest countries and top 10 poorest countries.
Under the watch of President Jonathan, Nigeria is listed as the second poorest country in the world. Being the second poorest country in the world for a leading oil producer should be a sufficient worry for all candidates especially the incumbent under whose watch Nigeria became poorer. Rather than run on this major failure, President Jonathan and his handlers must find a useless diversion-certificate.
With N20 billion and more of the “Goodluck Jonathan 2015 Campaign Fund”-, the mysterious source of which remains politically and morally questionable, President Jonathan has a lot of money to play with – paying for distortion, and manipulation, bribing, planting stories, working on Nigerians’ sense of achievement of formal education which is not traceable to him as the President.
Two sad things are involved in the so-called certificate issue. First, is the fundamental thing which is that Mr. Buhari is educationally and constitutionally qualified to run – otherwise a President Jonathan who is facing the real possibility of losing the election would have gone to court to seek for Buhari’s disqualification from day one. But Mr. Jonathan and his handlers cannot not go to court because they know the entire certificate non-issue is a ruse and as it is turning out; it is orchestrated from the high command of the Nigerian military.
The second sad thing is that having become a mere tool in President Jonathan’s election campaign, the Nigerian military is being de-professionalised, and therefore weakened. The signs are too strong that military records were broken into, serving officers were politically manipulated, and information and data were lifted long time ago from military records. For any Nigerian who has the interest of the country at heart, this practice should be disturbing.
Manipulating the structure of the military for electoral goals, the manner the ruling party and President Jonathan as the Commander in Chief of the military have done, is extremely sickening, unprofessional and too dangerous for a fragile African democracy.
Muhammadu Buhari is a retired General in the Nigerian military. Besides being a former head of state, he was once the secretary of the military. The secretary of the military is the head of the records and archives – which include the educational records of serving soldiers and officers – of the military. He knows those records. Based on this, Mr. Buhari must know his own educational records in the files in the military he served. Thus, it is trivial to conclude that he must know that he is more than qualified educationally to contest.
Nigerian electoral act and the Nigerian constitution – with the latter as the supreme law to all acts – make a minimum education or its equivalent as a qualification for candidates. Therefore, soundly and validly, if you set a minimum of One, if I have more than One, qualitatively and quantitatively, then I am qualified. Regardless of all the cooked up and paid for media noise from a hefty Goodluck Jonathan 20 billion Naira Campaign War Chest, this conclusion is valid in logic and sound in fact and common sense.
Both soundness and validity are derived from universal reason, a universal product applicable in every situation. President Jonathan may not be interested in this finesse in thought, but he has no option because the universal nature of the mode of reason that validates Buhari’s candidature and infuses soundness on it is a not a Nigerian product.
So it cannot be manipulated or changed by Nigerian politicians including Mr. President, a candidate in the election, because this tool of reason belongs to all members of a universal community and humanity. To dispute this is to constitute oneself into a threat to reason and common sense as President Jonathan and his Campaign Team – the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Team have sadly done.
Unfortunately, in constituting a threat to reason and common sense, President Jonathan knowingly dragged the Nigerian military into the murkiness and dirtiness of Nigerian politics making the military to continue to lose its neutrality and credibility which may weaken its will to fight, for no one fights for a partisan and bad commander.
Towards the election, Mr. Buhari had sworn to a legal affidavit about his educational records. To ask for originals after an affidavit is presented is to attack reason. Why? Simple. Let us take the most natural part of us – age. Many people do not have original birth certificates. What is used is a “DECLARATION OF AGE’. This is an affidavit. It is silly and against common sense for you to ask me for my birth certificate after I have shown you a declaration of age, affidavit.
You can, however, question my affidavit if you believe that I lied about my age. But that is not what President Jonathan and his handlers are manipulating the keeping of military records to say. They keep shifting from – Buhari’s educational records, to perjury, to forgery just to anything, any grab able straw as a distraction from making the election a referendum on President Jonathan’s achievement or lack of achievement in office for six years!
In Nigerian elections, big money plays a major role. Virtually, everyone is bribe-able, unfortunately including officers of the military. A section of the military hierarchy seems to be part of this political manipulation of the military and its records, which may include actual lifting of data and unauthorized disclosure of information.
For example, in response to Mr. Buhari’s statement that his educational records are with the military, the army spokesperson, Olajide Laleye, earlier confirmed with a broad and vague language to the effect that the papers of serving and retired officers are with the military as a matter of procedure and routine. Mr. Laleye added that officers could apply for copies.
Two weeks after, same Mr. Laleye came out to say the copies of records are not with the military.
But the Commander in Chief – President Jonathan – and the high command of the military must clear themselves in what appear to be contradictory statements by the military spokesperson and the military secretary, Major General Abbah, on behalf of the Chief of Staff.
Both Messrs. Laleye and Abbah’s statement tally up to a point after which their oral/written presentations differ.
In publicly disclosing Mr. Buhari’s records, Mr. Laleye said: “It is a practice in the Nigerian Army that before candidates are shortlisted for commissioning into the officers’ cadre of the service, the selection board verifies the original copies of credentials as presented.” General Abbah’s private mail to Mr. Buhari on his educational records said the same thing.
But Mr. Laleye concluded thus “There is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s.”
The spokesperson’s conclusion was categorical without informing whether this categorical conclusion applied to Mr. Buhari alone or to all candidates in the 60s. Whether Mr. Laleye’s conclusive ambivalence is an act of omission or commission, covert or overt act, to mislead the public about Mr. Buhari or a national group to which Mr. Buhari belongs in the country remains to be seen. But such act from a military spokesperson is extremely dangerous and disturbing.
That is, it is dangerous for Mr. Laleye to give the impression that the military verifies X (candidates’ credentials) all the time but that he is not sure if the military verified X of all candidates in the 60s or whether the military only verified the X of just a few candidates-from a part of the country and did not verify X of other candidates from another part of the country.
This is the false and extremely dangerous view members of Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organization have openly pushed on behalf of President Jonathan who is constitutionally the Commander in Chief of Nigerian military. It is capable of ethnic cleansing and ethnic conflagration in the military. It is too dangerous.
However, Major Abbah made a different conclusion thus “However this department is not privy to what obtained in the 1960’s…Major General Buhari’s WASC is however not in his personal file as it was not the practice of this department to keep such documents at that time. The practice of maintaining photocopies of academic credentials of officers in their personal files commenced in the 80’s.
Mr. Laleye’s “… There is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960’s …” is different from Mr. Abbah’s “… this department is not privy to what obtained in the 1960s…”
It is instructive that Mr. Laleye did not inform as Mr. Abbah did “that it was not the practice of this department to keep such documents at that time.” Neither did Mr. Laleye inform as Mr. Abbah did that “The practice of maintaining photocopies of academic credentials of officers in their personal files commenced in the 80’s”. At least, the media did not report that Mr. Laleye said this.
Verified background information also revealed that Mr. Laleye had been posted out at the time he held his conference, which suggests that he was only motivated politically to speak before leaving especially because the military secretary, Mr. Abbah, was sending Mr. Buhari’s records to him when Mr. Laleye was speaking. More importantly, as both the Cambridge for Mr. Buhari and University of Port Harcourt for Mr. Jonathan have shown, institutions may not publicly disclose someone’s private records without that person’s authority.
Hence, the question is: Did Mr. Buhari officially give permission to the military on whose behalf Mr. Laleye allegedly spoke to publicly disclose his records? If the answer is No, then Mr. Laleye was politically motivated especially given the differences between Mr. Abbah’s presentation as military secretary on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff and Mr. Laleye’s presentation as military spokesperson.
This view is further strengthened by the fact that President Jonathan who cannot run on achievement must look for a diversion. Second, it seems that all what President Jonathan is using the military to achieve is that “I have a PhD, my opponent has a WASC”. And President Jonathan and his handlers really want Nigerians to vote on the basis of this dubious, false and unintelligent comparison in the face of being the second poorest country in the world, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, one of the least attractive countries to tourist in the world, a mind boggling un-employment rate, and continuous loss of territories to Boko Haram under the watch of President Jonathan.
But more importantly, President Jonathan’s analogy of PhD/WASC is so false to insist on it as an election campaign issue as a roundabout way of furtively proving that President Jonathan is better than Mr. Buhari calls the critical nature of the totality President Jonathan’s education into question. And we have seen that lack in critical capacity in President Jonathan’s service to Nigeria and his handling of Nigerian affairs.
If paper qualification is an issue, then in Mr. Buhari’s case, President Jonathan’s PhD can be said to be the equivalent of Mr. Buhari’s rank in the military as a Major General and vice versa. Given the all-important nature of the military, this is one reason retired Generals in serious militaries in the world are sought after in research universities and academic research centres. The world needs their brains to literally be “downloaded” and “unpacked’. This is a verifiable universal practice. It is already an open world. Let us go to any research university in the world, ask and be educated.
So, based on the failed manipulation of military records by President Jonathan’s handlers, it is reasonable to conclude that as overriding Commander in Chief, President Goodluck Jonathan has made the Nigerian military to be part of the 2015 elections on behalf of himself.
To bring an institution whose duty is the deployment of weapons of war and death in defense of the territorial integrity of the country into electoral politics is extremely dangerous and disturbing. You just don’t do it. It is not done.
It factionalizes men and women of the military, which can reasonably lead to ethnic cleansing. It factionalizes units in the military. It factionalizes the deployment of weapons of war, their keeping, storage and use. It leads to the death of a country.
By this singular act, President Jonathan has proved to be a bad Commander in Chief and his troops may not trust him. Regrettably, that is very dangerous for Nigeria.
If this election is going to make any meaning to all of us moving forward, President Jonathan as the Commander in Chief and whose behalf he and his handlers brought the military into the partisanship of the 2015 elections must apologize to Nigerians and the military for a short-sighted unpatriotic campaign tactic that could lead to ethnic cleansing and disintegrate the country. Your military is one institution you must never manipulate for any reason. Sadly, President Jonathan does not know this. He has done this.
Adeolu Ademoyo firstname.lastname@example.org is of Africana Studies and Research Centre, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.