Opinion

Iniobong Umoh: Presidential Certificates And Hypocrisy

These days on the internet, if you criticize General Muhammadu Buhari you are seen as a supporter of Goodluck Jonathan and anti-progressive. The Buharists have taken over the cybersphere with their adulations and support for the man. I am not a fan of general Buhari, neither am I a fan of Goodluck Jonathan. I believe neither of them has the capacity to fix Nigeria. The two prominent parties have only succeeded in presenting two un-desireable candidates to us.

In recent time, the Apc seems to be gaining ground, the ranks of the party is swelling with the increasing number of young Nigerians who are disenchanted with the lackluster leadership displayed by president Goodluck Jonathan over the past five and half years.

The presidential campaign trains of both parties are currently traversing the length of breadth of the country seeking for votes from the electorates. Interestingly, the major talking point of the campaign is revolving around the personality of retired general Buhari, his age, his academic qualification and to some extent his religion. The vital issues affecting the welfare of Nigerians have been discarded. The mudslinging is in full course via various channels including newspaper advertorials.

In all of this, one issue that cannot be wished away and swept under the carpet is the issue of academic qualification of General Buhari.
Section 131(d) of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria states that:

“131. A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if-
(d) he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.”

The Pdp did the right thing by asking the Apc flag bearer to tender his certificate after the information filtered out that he presented a sworn affidavit in place of his certificates in his documentation to Inec. This has generated controversy and a lot of angry exchanges have arisen from the camps of the two candidates. In a move to resolve the issue, the West African school certificate (Wasc) result of the Apc candidate has been released by the principal of the secondary school he attended. This however has not calmed down frayed nerves as the controversy still rages on as to the authenticity of the document.

The Apc and their supporters are accusing the Pdp of deviating from the real issues on ground by the party’s continued criticism of the educational qualification of General Buhari which the Apc views to be a trivial matter.
In my opinion, the academic qualification of GMB and anyone who aspires to lead Nigeria must be scrutinized. Why are Buhari’s supporters displaying hypocritical stance on this issue?

On facebook and twitter, i have seen master degree holders, doctorate degree holders even Bsc holders arguing and stating that possession of a certificate is not an important requirement for the post of president of the federal republic of Nigeria. Infact some have trivialized the matter by saying that an illiterate can become president as far as he wins the election. This is just sad.

Why are we closing our eyes to the fact that the Nigerian society is one that places much emphasis on academic qualifications? Certificates, degrees and even the class of degree one has, to a great extent determine an individual’s status. Right from nursery school level to the tertiary level, students are advised and encouraged to study hard so that they can graduate with good grades and certificates which will enable them get good jobs.

In Nigeria, the quality of your certificate determines the kind of job you get when job recruitments are carried out based on merit. Graduates with first class and second class upper degrees are better placed to get jobs than graduates with lower grade degrees. Even polytechnic graduates with their Hnd and Ond degrees are discriminated against by recruiters.
Which blue chip company in Nigeria will recruit a graduate with a second class lower certificate over one with a first class degree if recruitment is done strictly on merit? I once attended a recruitment test in which organizers informed us applicants that we shouldn’t waste our time taking the exams if we didn’t graduate with first class or a ‘very strong’ 2-1degree.

Buhari apologists should stop playing with our sensibilities. Is it now that we are realizing that the worth of an individual should not be based on the certificate that he/she carries but on what he/she can deliver, on what he/she can bring to the table? Is it now that we are realizing that people should not be discriminated against based on their age and qualification?
The minimum requirement for recruitment in most firms is the possession of at least a second class upper degree and an age not higher than 26 years. The very people who opine that a 72 years old Buhari is not too old to become president are the very same one who will sit on a recruitment panel and deny a brilliant young man/woman a job placement in a firm because he/she is above 25 years.

How many Buhari supporters can employ a Wasc holder as Ceo of their company over a phd holder who is eminently qualified?
We must be cautious of the precedent that we are setting. If a man can rule us with an o’level certification, what kind of encouragement or motivation are we giving to our students who are staying up all night studying and reading just to come out with good results? Are we telling them that your class of degree does not matter anymore now?

Are we saying that you can now get a good job in the highly saturated Nigerian labour market based on what you can deliver? Are we saying that you don’t have to reduce your age anymore to fall within the age requirement for employment?

I think that the school certificate benchmark requirement for the office of president is too low. It should be upgraded to “possession of at least an Ond or its equivalent”. This is the 21st century for Christ sake! We need innovative and versatile leaders who are well read and well versed in diverse areas to steer the ship of this nation. We should have leaders who are at par with and can hold their own among their counterparts in the western world. We don’t need leaders who are struggling to retrieve wasc certificates issued fifty decades ago.

If Buhari wins the 2015 presidential elections will he open up the economy and create opportunities for enterprising Nigerians who are currently locked out because they don’t have high class degrees and are not fresh faced teens? Will he create an egalitarian society where you are treated based on the value that you can deliver, not because of who you know?
He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. Buhari’s supporters should calm down and allow due process to take its course. If you are coming to wipe out corruption from Nigeria then you must meet the basic requirement for holding that office. This sense of entitlement is not what we need.

It is left for the electorates to decide which candidate is the right man for the job on polling day.

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– Iniobong Umoh. [email protected]

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