By David Dimas
Following a resurgence in the clamor by Nigerians for President Muhammadu Buhari to present his attestation certificate and confirmation of school certificate result by the WAEC, the examination’s Council Registrar, Dr. Uyi Uwadiae personally delivered a certificate for an examination the President reportedly sat for many years ago.
In response, some members of the public and the opposition People’s Democratic Party openly accused the presidency of allegedly procuring a spurious West African Examination Council Certificate for the President.
The widely publicized profile-raising presentation ceremony has been described by many as “disgraceful”, and “an insult on the country’s integrity and the highest position in the country”.
Section 131 sub-section (d) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states that 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.
Thissimply means Senior School Certificate of Education, otherwise known as “SSCE” to Nigerians. It is an examination widely conducted by the examination body called West African Examination Council (WAEC) which has its headquarters in Ghana.
The West African Examination Council enjoyed this monopoly until in 1999 when the National Examinations Council (NECO) was established by statute to conduct similar examinations within Nigeria. In other words, certificates from either of these examination bodies could suffice as qualification to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The authenticity of President Buhari’s WAEC certificate remains a subject of controversy among Nigerians at home and in the diaspora.
Incidentally, Nigerians are not strangers to certificate drama episodes.
On the 16th of February 1999, Nigerian investigative news publication, THE NEWS Magazine, ran an article probing the credibility of the then speaker of the house of House of Representatives’educational credentials.
The politician denigrated the Magazine for attacking him and marketed his innocence and incorruptibility. His self-confidence and firm retort in addressing the assertions were quite resounding when one considers the scale of such a scam.
He sued the publication for libel. But the media house, after presenting its sources and evidence, proved to Nigerians that the man occupying the 4th highest position in the country, at the time, never attended the university as he claimed. The politician resigned as the speaker and from the House of Representatives.
As Nigerians, we have endured so much from our leaders.
In the last quarter of 2014, Nigerians were psychologically, culturally and socially insecure. We needed a change. The land was drifting towards anarchism. The APC took their chance and continuously attacked the credibility of the then ruling PDP.
They electioneered on the change mantra with a promise to fight corruption. Expectations became high when the “change” ship birthed the shores. The masses saw this as an opportunity to consign the Jonathan-led PDP to history. They voted for the APC with high hopes for a government they could hold accountable, or so they thought.
In all fairness to President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians are well aware that he was handed a debauched system by his predecessor. But again, the citizenry voted him in because they believed that a transfer of power to a different leadership will bring hope to our security and wellbeing. But that simply has not happened yet. Instead, Nigerians are now badly, deeply, and profoundly divided along religious and tribal fault lines. In reality, insecurity is at an all time high.
The government’s mouth piece and foot soldiers have continued to fault all who complain on how the ruling party is unable to manage the people’s expectations and reality they are facing in their everyday lives.
But then, the point must be made that Nigerians have the right to speak out or enunciate their pains under the APC just as they did under the PDP leadership.
The primary job of a democratic government is to ensure that social and security institutions do not just catch us when we fall but protect us from the crisis and dangers that intimidate or threaten our wellbeing. The job of modern, democratic institutions and structures is precisely to prevent all that will deprive the masses of liberty and justice.
The average Nigerian is raised and shaped to make terrible choices like choosing tribe and religion above performance and results. We have become a society that idolize the mega-rich and vilify the poor.
Quite literally, we have continued to practice clear-cut nepotism in our self-styled democracy. Hypocrisy and denial are now the pillars of democracy in Nigeria.
Peremptory declarations and constant explosions of rage and smear campaigns are now a regular feature of Nigerian political mentality. Under the terms of this bizarre understanding of democracy, we have built a reputation and history for failed ideas and solutions.
On the contrary, people who have embraced the ostrich-approach to issues desolating our country are always quick to shut down whoever dares to speak on the countries situation.
Nigerians, per a 2016 American Community Survey, are the most educated immigrant group in the United States of America. In fact, a 2016 American Community Survey found that 45 percent of Nigerians in the diaspora work in education services, and many are professors at top universities.
Now, knowing that Nigerians are making history and shattering academic and professional records abroad, let’s consider the question: Is certificates saga a recurring decimal of shame in our country? Our answers may vary on this, but Nigerians have the right to express how they feel about such recurring scenarios.
In civilized climes, campaigns via any platform to express trust betrayed by any leadership that promised to meet the people’s expectation may stop politicians from winning a reelection. Although that might never be the case in Nigeria, it still may help raise awareness that Nigerians are ever ready to hold their leaders accountable.
And so, if you ask me, what is really at stake in these troubled and strange times we keep experiencing as a nation, I would say it is not just about salvaging Nigerian democracy, but also about genuinely rebuilding the idea of a functional society that will be respected locally and globally.
David Dimas wrote from Laurel, Maryland, USA and can be reached via email at [email protected] or via Twitter @dimas4real