Pursuant to Section 131(d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent. By the school certificate, it implies Ordinary Level. This therefore renders anyone that has attained or acquired education leading to a certification by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) or its equivalent eligible to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Incidentally, the polity has since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) been subjected to unending controversies over Buhari’s claims that his WAEC certificate is in the custody of the Nigerian Army. Some numbers from the opposition resultantly demanded from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) outright exclusion of Buhari from the race on account of his inability to provide the WAEC-certificate. Absurdly, the same issue came up ahead of the 2015 presidential election but was resolved in favour of Buhari leading to his contest.
Be that as it may, by the above constitutional provision, it is pertinent to note that WAEC certificate is not absolute for the election of a President in the subsection. It unambiguously utilized the word “at least” which destroyed the absoluteness of WASC as a requirement. By this position, must O’Level; that is, WAEC certificate be presented as academic requirement? The answer is emphatically NO. Any aspirant with superior certificates needs not present WAEC certificate to the electoral umpire. The academic requirements merely begin from WASC (West African School Certificate) without end. Thus, aspirants with Diploma, Bachelors, Masters or doctorate degrees or their equivalent in military need not present WAEC certificate which is simply the least academic requirement to participate in the race.
Had it been the Constitution strictly requires School Certificate or its equivalent only, then, the hullabaloo would make sense if not provided. The word ‘at-least’ literarily means ‘not less than’; ‘at the minimum’; ‘if nothing else’. And therefore, WASC is not absolute requirement. Anyone with superior qualifications need not be harassed over the minimum requirement. Again, it would amount to belittling the office of Nigeria’s President to peg the academic requirement for the position at O’ Level. The essence of bringing the academic qualification to the minimum of WASC is to promote universal suffrage and not that a school certificate holder is sufficiently trained to lead the nation. Therefore, it would amount to a charade on the system if the academic requirement for the number one position in the nation is O’Level academic qualification. In consequence; WAEC certificate is not absolute requirement.
Seriously, it amounts to absurdity to be heating up the polity over President Buhari vis-à-vis O’Level. Buhari’s rank as a Major-General in the Nigerian Army is a certification superior to O’Level which cannot be contested, let alone several doctorate degrees from various accredited universities in the country. Other various trainings and certification in the military are equally all superior to WASC and therefore Buhari is not under any obligations to present O’level or any particular certificate as far as the election to the office of the President is concerned. Having acquired numerous certificates, Buhari is at liberty to present any of the certificates he holds. If his WAEC certificate is unavailable, any of his other certificates can serve the purpose provided it is superior or equivalent to O’Level.
In other words, the society has been busy for nothing which is akin to indolence. At this point, campaigns should be extensive, policy and issues based on national interest and not on frivolities. The fundamental issue that should dominate the polity at this critical juncture is the resuscitation of the economy alongside the people. By pegging the minimum academic requirement on O’Level or its equivalents in the Constitution, it is obvious that almost all electorates are academically eligible, albeit distinct from soundness, to run for office of the President. Therefore, issues should shift to competence, credibility and ideology for service-delivery. For example, by Buhari’s first term scorecard, has the country been realistically, economically secured, restructured, and significantly making progress to necessitate his reelection for consolidation and progression?
On the other hand, does the leading opposition, PDP now have what it takes to lead the country distinct from its 16 years of administration? Does it now have significant blueprints or reviewed policies for the people different from the typical rhythm with no economic foresight? What policies or strategies can it guarantee to put in place towards ensuring that the nation doesn’t revert to the era of a ‘leading consuming-nation, fantastically-corrupt state and colossally looting dispensation’? The above questions should dominate the squabbles in the political terrain.
As for the populace, particularly the electorates, national interests and welfare of the people should always be the decisive factors. The unending dirges over minimum academic requirement are uncalled-for and symptomatic of misappropriation of priorities and values. The masses’ concern should be on the way forward; essentially, with a judicious comparative assessment on the system under PDP’s watch of nearly two decades and the present APC one-term administration. Holistic appraisals will give astute directions. This is no good time to be pursuing shadows or for aimless and deceptive propagandas. The people are keenly enthralled to see realistic manifestoes, sound policies and political-will for service-delivery and dividends of democracy.
–Umegboro is a public affairs analyst
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