Arts and Books

University Degree as Minimum Qualification for Elective Offices: Two Sides of a Coin

The House of Representatives is planning to enact a law that would make B.Sc. and HND or their equivalents the minimum qualification for the offices of the president and governor. That means, to vie for the positions of president and governor, one must possess either a Bachelors of Science/Art (B.Sc/B.A) or Higher National Diploma (HND), or any other qualification similar in content and duration.

This is contrary to what is currently obtainable in section 131(d) 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.

The bill is titled “A Bill for An Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and for Related Matters/Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fourth Alteration) Bill, 2020 (Increasing the Minimum Educational Qualification for President and Governors).”

“Section 131 of the Principal Act is altered in subsection (1), paragraph (d) by inserting immediately after the word “at least”, the words “the first degree from a University or Polytechnic or its equivalent”.

The bill was introduced by Hon. Ben Rollands Igbakpa representing Ethiope Federal Constituency of Delta State and is pending second reading. According to Igbakpa, the sponsor of the bill, it would help put the seekers and occupants of Nigeria’s top executive positions on their toes. He attributed the country’s slow growth to the current law that allowed holders of school certificates to run for such exalted positions. Such qualifications would only attract people who are lacking in intellectual discretion to make the right policies and choices that would elevate and facilitate growth and national development. This is in view of growing globalization which Igbaka explained had surpassed the era of possessing only a school certificate to run for such positions. His words:

“This Bill seeks to alter sections 131 and 177 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to raise the bar on the minimum educational qualification for election as both President and Governor.

“The world is growing. The era of somebody having attempted school certificate, I don’t think, is still tenable. These days, people in government now do meetings on-line. These days, people have to be spontaneous in their presentations.

“It is not always that the government will be working with prepared speeches. So, somebody at the level of governor should be intelligent and vast, and the only way to acquire such knowledge is by going to school beyond the school cert so that we can place our leaders at par with leaders all over the world. It will help our leaders to stand at the world stage and discuss issues, policies without always putting or reading things on paper, or reading prepared statements.”

Those who have however queried this position have asked what role such a move would serve. Does it have the capacity to prevent corruption which is the bane of our national development and economic growth? For this category, you can have the intelligentsia dominate the political landscape, if there are corrupt persons among them, it doesn’t make much sense to say they are in a better position to tackle critical issues in the society from infrastructural development to engendering policies that can enhance growth.

This is asides the fact that there are natural-born leaders whose charismatic disposition stands them out. A good number might not be privileged to acquire education at a higher level. If such person has been destined to salvage the country from our mangled mess, are we not going to be shutting them out with this brick wall?

Many people also believe good leadership isn’t always determined by educational qualification. A good number of outstanding leaders abound in history that had no educational background. They include Winston Churchill, Jacob Zuma, George Washington, Omar al-Bashir, Frederick Douglas, etc. It goes beyond the political space as we have the likes of Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Ted Turner, David Green, etc.

It is also believed that the proposition is discriminatory and strange to democracy. In other words, it doesn’t account for what democracy stands for which is generally conceived as government of the people, by the people and for the people.

On grounds that it is against the real practice of democracy, many have argued that the electorates should be allowed to decide who they want to elect in any office irrespective of paper qualifications, which is not a rider for delivering on good leadership. According to a question by a public commentator, if people without a university education cannot be voted for, what qualifies people with B.Sc. to receive their votes?

More so, it will see many politicians get involved in the corrupt practice of certificate forgery. It is important to note that this has dominated Nigeria’s political space for years. There have been numerous cases of politicians forging certificates to clinch top government positions. Many politicians have appeared in court over certificate forgery, and it cuts across the public sector, as well as the private sector. Public and civil servants are perpetrators of this heinous crime. It is the obsession in Nigeria for paper qualifications that has motivated many people to participate in forgery.

Those who are more socialist-inclined maintain that it will set up the rule of elitism, where only those who can afford the luxury of education are allowed to rule. This is because not everybody can afford the cost of education. The optimal level for the poor is education up to the secondary school level. That is, in terms of paperwork, it is the secondary school leaving certificate.

Read Also: Certificate Forgery: When Political Success Goes Awry

According to another observer opposed to fixing a degree as the minimum qualification, does it mean the children of the poor will perpetually be ruled by the rich elites? This is especially in the Northwest that has the highest poverty rate of 77.7%, whereas the Southwest had the least 49.8%. It will therefore create a dichotomy that allows a fragment of the country rule over all others, who, due to paucity of funds could not pursue education to a higher level.

Indeed, for many leadership positions, acquiring a higher level of education is important especially in view of growing globalisation. But to impose restrictions on those not able to attain university education could be seen as vindictiveness.

Education can definitely serve a vital role for development in society. Whether we make it a qualification for leadership positions or not, the most important thing is for individuals seeking leadership positions to develop strong traits and personalities that are value-driven.

Piercy Mabel

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