Keyamo made this assertion while featuring as a guest on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
He said “There are other levels of qualifications to run for the office of President. In fact, if you have occupied the public office for a reasonable length of time, by the provisions of the constitution, you do not even need a WAEC certificate to become President of Nigeria”.
Keyamo who is director strategic communications of President Muhammadu Buhari, 2019 presidential campaign, also argued that Buhari’s certificate is not in question because WAEC itself confirmed that the President passed his examination and was issued a certificate.
“It becomes extremely foolish for anybody who is not statutorily empowered to issue WAEC certificates to come and challenge the body that has the statutory power to issue certificates,” he said.
In differentiating between President Buhari’s case and the situation with Senator Ademola Adeleke, Keyamo noted via Twitter that the case in Osun state borders upon a forgery.
“Let me end my free lecture series by saying that the crux of the matter is that if you don’t have a WAEC certificate, there’s no need to go ahead & forge one in a bid to be Governor or President. You can still be qualified, regardless”
On this one wonders whether a democratic society such as Nigeria where it is presumed that the political powers come from the electorates cannot challenge a perceived illegal situation or a legal misnomer. It was recently postulated by a respected member of the Bar that one does not need to have a WAEC certificate to become a president of Nigeria. Whilst this is shocking to hear, especially in respect of the number one political position in the country expected to be occupied by one well learned in various aspect of knowledge and skill and not to mention well schooled, we must analyse the veracity of such a statement with the express provisions of the law.
SECTION 131 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) expressly provides thus, “131 a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if-
- he is a citizen of Nigeria by Birth
- he has attained the age of forty years
- he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
- he has been educated up to at least school CERTIFICATE level or its equivalent”.
In Nigeria, it cannot be in dispute that evidence of school education is a CERTIFICATE. It is obvious from the foregoing section of the constitution that the constitution does not specifically mention WAEC certificate. It is important to define at this stage the expression “school certificate level or its equivalent” in order to fully grasp the proper interpretation of the said section.
Section 318 of the constitution which is the interpretation section defines the expression as meaning :
- A secondary school certificate or its equivalent. Or Grade II Teacher’s Certificate…..
- education up to secondary School certificate level; or
- Primary six school leaving certificate or its equivalent AND-
(i) Service in the public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to the INEC for a minimum of Ten years, AND
(ii) Attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the INEC for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, AND
(iii) The ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Lasnguage to the satisfaction of the INEC, AND
- Any other qualification acceptable by the INEC.
At this point a lot of us may be shocked at the actual provision of the 1999 constitution as to the qualification for election into the most important and most sensitive office of the commander in chief of the federal republic of Nigeria. However, when compared to the statement made by Festus Keyamo, one would have to come to the conclusion that he was not wrong as to the law regarding qualification to the office of the president, that is, a person does not necessary need to possess a WAEC certificate to be elected into trhe office of the president.
According to the law, a person with A Secondary School CERTIFICATE or a First School Leaving Certificate can become a president of such a country as Nigeria.
Notwithstanding all that has been said, Festus Keyamo erred in his statement when he mentioned that In fact, if you have occupied the public office for a reasonable length of time, by the provisions of the constitution, you do not even need a WAEC certificate to become President of Nigeria. According to the section 318 above, being in public service alone cannot qualify you to be elected into the office of the President. The section mentioned expressly that it is only when a person possesses a Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent that he must combine it with section 318 (i) – (ii) that is,
- service in the public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to the INEC for a minimum of Ten years, and
- attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the INEC for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, and
- the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Language to the satisfaction of the INEC,
The use of the word “AND” in section 318 (c) i-iii shows that those entire requirements must accompany a Primary Six School Leaving Certificate.
It is clear that the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria needs an overhauling but that is a topic for another day.
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