President Goodluck Jonathan came under pressure to prosecute Candidate Muhammadu Buhari over various allegations in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election — but he declined and eventually lost to the former military head of state.
Mohammed Bello Adoke, who was attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice under Jonathan, made this revelation in his memoirs, “Burden of Service: The Reminiscences of Nigeria’s Former Attorney-General”, which is due for release in Nigeria on September 16.
He said politicians brought up the issues surrounding Buhari’s secondary school certificate, the execution of three convicted drug couriers under a retroactive decree in 1985 and the 2011 post-election riots in which hundreds were killed as grounds for the arrest and prosecution of the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Buhari was accused of being in violation of the provisions of Sections 131 of the 1999 Constitution on minimum educational qualification and Section 31 (3) of the 2010 Electoral Act which required that copies of his school certificate be attached to the INEC Form CF001. Buhari did not attach the certificate. Law suits were filed in court. In all, there were 13 court cases challenging his eligibility, the most prominent being the one filed by a certain Chukwunweike Okafor. Indeed, many private citizens went to court to challenge Gen. Buhari’s eligibility,” Adoke wrote in the book published by Clink Street Publishers in London and New York and seen in advance by TheCable.
“While the controversy was raging, a West African Senior School Certificate (WASSC) purportedly issued by the Katsina State Ministry of Education suddenly surfaced on the internet. On the face of it was the picture of a 72-year-old Buhari. It was dated 21 January 2015 (meanwhile, Katsina State was created in 1987). The certificate also contained a grading scheme that was not in use in 1962, around the time he was said to have sat for the examination. This generated public outrage as people were questioning the authenticity of the certificate and whether, indeed, Gen. Buhari had the requisite qualification or had committed forgery. A lot of petitions were sent to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation requesting that Buhari be prosecuted for forgery and INEC be advised to disqualify him.
“In one instance, I received a letter from a lawyer asking for a fiat to prosecute Buhari on the ground of certificate forgery. I was constrained to deny the application as the lawyer had not furnished me the requisite material upon which I would exercise such discretion. Beyond applying for a fiat, the lawyer was also required to show evidence of having made a complaint to the police. A report detailing the outcome of the investigation was essential to ground such a fiat.”
THE MIMIKO CONNECTION
Adoke said at a point, Olusegun Mimiko, then governor of Ondo state and member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — the party Jonathan belonged — asked that the lawyer be granted the fiat.
“A week later, I met up with Dr Olusegun Mimiko, then Governor of Ondo State, at his request. After the exchange of pleasantries, he brought up the issue of the lawyer’s request for a fiat to prosecute Gen. Buhari and appealed to me to grant it. I informed him that, regrettably, I was unable to grant the request for a number of reasons. I reiterated my response to that lawyer. I emphasised to Mimiko that the candidate in question was a former Head of State. In my opinion, even if he had no certificate, being a retired General in the Army, he must have passed Staff College which was more than an equivalent of the WASSC. I added that as a former Head of State, Gen. Buhari’s experience would be more than ‘an equivalent’ of a school certificate. I drew attention to the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution to support my assertion,” Adoke narrated.
“When I left Mimiko, I became worried that there was something going on in the political environment that I was not aware of. I drove straight to the President’s residence. After recounting my interaction with Mimiko and the uncanny feeling that was bothering me to him, he calmly responded: ‘Do what is right.’
“Having had the presidential assurance to ‘do what is right’, I decided to be pragmatic… I knew my job was well cut out for me. I was a member of the National Security Council. I knew the implications of a breakdown of law and order were Buhari to be disqualified. Besides, President Jonathan had persistently assured the world that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.”