Lessons from Buhari's certificate controversy

Source: pointblanknews.com

- Written by Aloy Ejimakor -
As above caption suggests, this piece will address the few lessons learned from the ongoing controversy surrounding the pertinent academic record or qualification of Mohamadou Buhari, the APC presidential candidate. I don't know about the rest of the folks out there but some of the lessons I learned from the drama are as follows:

First, the Electoral Act, not the Constitution, needs to be amended to expressly empower INEC to 'reject' (not disqualify) a nomination that doesn't come with all the documents necessary to determining whether such candidate is qualified to contest or not. It should include the rider that until the candidate later presented the missing documents, and within time, such nomination shall be considered to have failed legal muster.

Such new law will comport with INEC's now prevailing view, coming after the certificate scandal broke, that it is the duty of political parties to ensure that their candidates are qualified before bringing them before INEC. It is telling enough that, vide Buhari, INEC feels powerless to scrutinize any documents or claims, no matter how patently ludicrous they might have appeared.

It is pertinent to make it clear that there is a clear-cut difference between the transitional impact of an INEC 'rejection' and the finality of court 'disqualification'. Whereas, a rejected candidate can be accepted and validated at a later time whence he produced the required documentation, a disqualified candidate remains absolutely barred if he has exhausted his right of appeal; besides the likelihood that such disqualification often occurs long after the candidate had won the election.

So, it follows that, consequent upon rejection, a political party will still have sufficient time to substitute or replace a candidate who remains unable to present the required document before the deadline set for close of nominations. If this had been the case, it is highly likely that APC would have seriously considered replacing candidate Buhari with another candidate who is free from such 'small but mighty' baggage which has turned extremely distracting to a party fighting tooth and nail to wrestle power from an incumbent and popular president. But because the scandal broke after it became legally too late to substitute Buhari, APC may, out of desperation, and going forward, resort to dirty tactics that will not bode well for the polity and the ultimate credibility of the election.

Second, given the its constitutional importance, all claimed academic qualifications, especially the famed WASC and the other genres the Constitution mentioned, must be independently verified before they are determined to be valid. This will save Nigerians the headache and embarrassment of having to, down the line, contend with a candidate who filed unverifiable documents, or otherwise intentionally set out to game his political and the system. Instead of being in denial, we must acknowledge the notorious fact that some highly placed folks are possessed of the uncanny proclivity to always cheating the system, especially if they have been getting away with it.

Third, the suggested amendment should include broad and clear definitions of what constitutes acceptable or legal evidence of the pertinent academic qualification. Here, we need not look farther than just adopting the time-tested system in use by Nigerian universities, before granting admissions, for verification of entry qualifications, which particularly includes the use of transcripts issued directly from the examining body, not just a statement of result from a secondary school as we have seen in the instant case of Buhari. I might add that the rising escalation in the controversy since Buhari released that statement of result suggests a widespread lack of confidence in the credibility of such documents, made stronger by the unique intensity of this very electioneering.

Finally, contrary to what some fringe political partisan are saying, this certificate issue has proved to be as important to Nigerian voters as the rest of the campaign issues are. Why? Because it directly bears on personal integrity, merit and playing by the rules – three key qualities Nigerians of this era are yearning to see in their leaders.

Aloy Ejimakor writes from
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