It might not seem like it, but there was once a time when news of forged certificates in Nigeria’s political hemisphere was a cause for surprise — such a time being as recent as 1999. In that year, Salisu Buhari, Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, supposedly being the ripe old age of 36 for political office and riding the wave of a degree from the University of Toronto, as well as a completed NYSC programme, had the skies set as the limit for his political aspirations.
Only, he didn’t have a degree from the University of Toronto, chances are, he couldn’t tell the cafeteria from the convocation halls of the University, or any university for that matter. He also made up the story about participating in the NYSC programme and his age, yeah, he lied about that too.
A little about Mr. Salisu Buhari.
In 1999, Salisu Buhari was a Nigerian politician whose zeal to reach the top of his career was perhaps matched only by his gross disqualification to do so. Using little more than his status as the progeny of a First republic politician (Malam Salisu Buhari) and a bag of lies strong enough to make any Sunday school teacher blush, he made it to be the representative of the Nasarawa Constituency of Kano State under the PDP and shortly after that, the fourth Speaker of the House of Representatives; following Nigeria’s long stint with military rule.
Separating Truth from fiction.
At the time of his appointments, his birthday was officially listed as January 3, 1963. While his qualifications for contesting office stemmed from a Bsc in Business Administration from Toronto University, Canada in 1990, a diploma in Accounting from the Aminu Bello University – Zaria in 1988 and the completion of the NYSC Programme in 1991.
But as we now know, none of it was true.
We’re not sure, but Salisu Buhari might hold the record as the only Nigerian politician whose football age actually pushed him close to an early retirement. In actuality, he was born on January 3, 1970, one year younger than the constitutionally prescribed 30 year age-limit for members of the House of Representatives and 7 years younger than his publicised age.
His educational qualifications were also a long-winding sham. Despite gaining admission to ABU Zaria, he was withdrawn for falsifying his credentials, proof that his nasty habit of lying wasn’t newly sprouted. But perhaps most damning was the degree in public administration which must have materialised from thin air, as the University of Toronto certainly had no parts in it.
The Lies Fall Apart.
Perhaps bolstered by this mustache —
Mr. Buhari really thought he had a chance of faking his way into a completed tenure as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. However, on February 16, 1999; barely six weeks into his role as speaker, an investigative media outlet – The NEWS Magazine, decided enough was enough and published an exposé into the many lies of Mr Salisu; the likes of which Nigeria’s crop of leaders in 2019 could possibly do with.
In it, they set out to unequivocally prove that the only thing real about Mr Buhari was perhaps his impressive mustache (it is an impressive stache) and nothing more. Regarding his qualification from Toronto University, an official of the school – Carlo Villanueva was approached and quoted as saying no student by that name had been registered.
The veracity of his degree from Aminu Bello University was dispelled, and it was brought to the fore that his admission had been revoked for falsified credentials.
Also refuted were his claims to have completed the mandatory year-long NYSC program in the employ of Standard Construction, Kano. The NYSC had no record of his participation. He probably used Kemi Adeosun’s certificate plug.
Salisu Fights Back.
Like every guilty Nigerian man caught in a lie, Salisu Buhari began an overly-aggressive fight to prove his innocence; going so far as to sue the publication for libel in response to the claims made against him.
At this time however, an investigation had been instituted by the presidency under the office of the then National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Muhammad Gusau. Their findings led to the decision to prosecute Mr Buhari, a resolution which was forgone for his resignation, following the intervention of some notable Nigerians.
(Which would have been perfectly reasonable had it been a nuclear family matter in question and not the commission of a series of literal crimes, but Nigeria)
Buhari Bows Out.
On July 22, 1999, exactly 49 days after his election as speaker, Mr Buhari tendered his resignation on the floor of the House in letter which he read, complete with crocodile tears pon his irises.
This letter, read out loud unironically, contained such incredulous claims like : “I was led to error by the zeal to serve the nation.”
And the gutsier statement: “I trust therefore, that the nation will forgive me and give me another opportunity to serve.”
The unbelievable guts of these men.
His seat was filled by Alhaji Ibrahim Inuwa, who was allegedly placed there to merely keep the seat warm for Buhari’s cheeks to slide right back in, because Nigeria is apparently filled with mugs that wouldn’t notice or care it seems.
Luckily, their plan never came to fruition, despite Inuwa’s resignation on June 8, 2000.
What did he get up to afterwards?
As we all know, the Nigerian reward for political bad deeds is an elevation to better, more dignified places, and Mr Buhari is no exception.
Following a pardon for his disgraceful behaviour by President Olusegun Obasanjo; Salisu had the good sense to go into hiding and steered clear of politics to set up a company – Rumbu Nigeria Ltd in Kano State, where he remains the chairman.
Unfortunately, his hiatus didn’t last long, as he had pivotal roles to play in Yar’Adua’s campaign in 2007 and Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign in 2011.
In 2013, the Jonathan administration made him a member of the Governing Council of the University of Nigerian Nsukka, on the excuse that he had been pardoned and forgiven.
Is there a better lesson to show your children than a pardon and a half-assed apology is all you need to get by in Nigeria? Repercussions for your actions be damned. I think not.
Last we heard, Salisu Buhari was really learning the consequences of his actions, with a membership in VP Osibanjo’s board of the Nigerian Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council.
Crime doesn’t pay? You must not know where to hang in West Africa.