BY OSBORNE IWEKA

QUALIFICATION FOR PRESIDENT.

The agitation surrounding qualification required by a President has been overshadowed by politics, we have left the main issues and are busy pontificating on inanities.

Qualifications as defined by Collins English Dictionary are the qualities and skills that you need for an activity or task.

The Business Dictionary denotes it as fitness for purpose through fulfillment of necessary conditions such as attainment of certain age, taking of oaths, completion of required schooling or training, or acquisition of degree or diploma.

Qualification does not necessarily imply competence.

Qualification goes beyond having certificates. For stewardship, where public interest must be held at a premium for the well-being of all and self aggrandizement scorned at, qualification is intertwined with good character, integrity, honesty and sincerity.

Bad leadership has be our albatross in this part. The minders of our collective destinies wanting to ensure they perpetuate themselves continually in office set out the self-serving 1999 constitution. A major reason for our lack of progress lies with that document.

In detailing the requirements for presidential office, section 131 provides:

“A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if –
(a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
(b) he has attained the age of forty years (now thirty-five years);
(c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
(d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

Still in line with ensuring they remain relevant, section 318 (1) defines “school certificate or its equivalent” as

“(a) a secondary school certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s certificate, the City and Guilds certificate; or
(b) education up to secondary school certificate level (i.e without the certificate); or
(c) primary six school leaving certificate or its equivalent and …
(i) service in the public or private sector in the Federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years, and
(ii) attendance of courses or training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totaling up to a minimum of one year; and
(iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission; and
(d) any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.”

The question of President Buhari having the required qualification is suitably laid to rest by these sections of our constitution. The matter of him stating on oath that he has the secondary certificate which he has been unable to furnish is left for the legal minds to unravel.

In a desperate pursuit to accommodate educationally backward area these provisions must have been couched. Prescribing abysmally low level educational qualification for electoral office is an albatross that we are now carrying.

These provisions are the edge from which inept and unfit persons sip into power.

The United States of America, the standard bearer for democracy attained great strides developmentally because it was ruled by suitably qualified hands. Most of their founding fathers were people of deep thoughts and vision. Fit, mostly educated and proper.

Retired military officers with minimal education have a stranglehold on our polity. The Obasanjo’s, Babangida’s, Useni’s, and a host of others have been a recurring factor in our governance and still wield enormous influence. This has not helped our progression.

The intellectual poverty and educational inadequacy being perpetuated by the 1999 constitution seriously needs to be addressed. Educationally qualified individuals with strong character and moral rectitude are urgently needed to change the course of our history.