Reasons why former President Goodluck Jonathan refused to prosecute General Muhammadu Buhari, the then-presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change despite the widespread violence that rocked some parts of the country and claimed many lives following the 2011 general elections, have now been public.
Former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, in his new book entitled “Burden of Service: Reminiscences of Nigeria’s former Attorney General”, pointed out that even though the administration accused Buhari of inciting the violence, which claimed many lives, including 12 members of the National Youth Corps, the mood in the land did not allow it to move against Buhari.
Adoke said in the new book due for launch any moment from now, that the Jonathan administration was further restrained from arresting and prosecuting Buhari because of its strong belief that doing so would only create more trouble in the land.
The former AGF said that in a bid to let the matter just die naturally, the Jonathan administration raised a fact-finding committee headed by a respected Northern religious leader, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, a retired Khadi of Niger State, to probe the violence.
“The newly-elected Jonathan government came under pressure to arrest and prosecute Buhari. Reasoning that any move against the latter, no matter how legal and altruistic, would only lead to more needless deaths, Jonathan refrained from toeing that line.
“Rather, on 9 May 2011, he inaugurated a 22-man Presidential Committee on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances to investigate the causes of the post-election violence in parts of the country and make recommendations to forestall a reoccurrence.
“The committee made a general condemnation of the political class in the country. It attributed the violence to the widespread desire for change in the political make-up of the country and that when it became apparent to many people that the change was not forthcoming, they resorted to violence.
“Other notable findings of the committee included: the subsisting culture of impunity, bad governance, inciting political statements, insecurity, poverty, corruption, unemployment and the extravagant lifestyle of political office holders.
“Although the committee’s findings did not specifically indict Buhari, the fact that he was associated with the making of “inciting political statements” led to the clamour for his arrest and prosecution over the loss of lives and property that followed the elections.
“Despite the clamour, government refrained from arresting him. Our consideration was the mood of the nation. We noted the bitterness in the core north. President Jonathan decided to cultivate Buhari given his cult-like followership in his part of the country.
“The strategy was to gain his confidence so that he would rein in his supporters for the necessary conducive atmosphere to govern the country.
“The 2011 presidential election had been peaceful until the results started rolling in. That was when violence broke out in some Northern states particularly in Kaduna and Bauchi states, leading to significant loss of lives and destruction of property.
“Many political watchers insisted that Buhari’s style of campaign was responsible for the ensuing crisis. He was quoted as inciting his supporters to “escort the ballot, protect the ballot and kill if need be.” After losing the election, he did not concede, thus triggering violent reactions from amongs his supporters in the North. Innocent people were killed. Most notably, 12 NYSC members lost their lives in Bauchi State,” Adoke recalled.
Jonathan was under pressure to try Buhari over certificate scandal too..
Adoke also highlighted the unceasing pressure, which President Jonathan came under to prosecute Buhari over the claim by his party members that he does not possess a school certificate and was therefore not qualified to have stood for election as president.
The former minister said however that he and others intervened to stop the trial of Buhari, thereby giving some members of the administration to accuse him of ‘being a Buhari supporter’ in the cabinet.
Adoke revealed that it was notable politicians who stoke up the accusations surrounding Buhari’s certificate and wanted him tried at all cost so that he would not dare to contest against Jonathan.
“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.”
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.
The former minister said: “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.”