Raising Qualification Bar For Presidential Aspirants

Raising Qualification Bar For Presidential Aspirants

Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, stirred conversations across the country on the need to raise the qualification for presidential aspirants.

It must be noted that it is not the first time such contention is coming from someone of the status of the Speaker. Much as the same has been a source of debate even among various classes of Nigerians.

Gbajabiamila advocated that the National Assembly should raise the minimum educational qualification for presidential aspirants.

He made the position known while speaking at the 52nd Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos ,UNILAG, on Monday, January 17, 2022 as he also called for the review of the minimum educational qualification for other top offices, including the National Assembly.

As set in the Nigerian constitution, a presidential aspirant is qualified to contest for president if he/she has at least a secondary school certificate.

Section 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, puts it thus; “ A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent”.

Indeed, the Speaker contended that the provision of the section is a product of a different epoch, which was a reflection of the political reality of that time.

He was convinced that taking such a step would help the country to reform its electoral system and provide strong leadership.

Gbajabiamila stressed; “As we have reduced the age for eligibility to contest those offices, so also, we should increase the minimum educational requirement. We cannot be talking about raising the standard of education and requiring the barest minimum for people vying for political offices.

“It is time to take another look at the provision. Let us lift our gaze from considerations of small things to focus on the pursuit and achievement of grand ambitions that lift us all and save the future.

“Let us raise a generation in whose hearts the light of understanding is lit and cannot be put out”.

To cap up his speech, he also maintained that a direct primary election method will increase greater participation in the leadership recruitment process.

The flip side of the Speaker’s argument is often presented by others who think that educational qualification anywhere in the globe does not approximate intelligence in any guise. They are quick to mention that ‘exposure’ was what anyone needs to meander through the difficult terrain of leadership. They stretch their position further by maintaining that not all individuals with qualifications higher than First Leaving Certificate, Secondary School certificate have a proven record of performance in leadership either.

We are concerned that the issue of qualification has dogged the country’s political elite for a while now. Not too long in history, President Muhammadu Buhari was equally entangled in a certificate issue when some of his political opponents approached the courts that he was not qualified to run for the nation’s highest office alleging that he did not file a school certificate in his documents. He wriggled out, stressing that his documents were in the custody of the military authorities in the course of his career as military personnel.

It is important to highlight here that a clear qualification is necessary for aspirants in various offices. While it is true that academic qualification does not equate intelligence more often than not, the percentage of persons who just passed through the school system without getting the necessary grooming is lower.

Again, a higher qualification, if added to the requirement for presidential aspirants would enhance the dignity of that office even as we counsel that a higher qualification, matched with a rigorous screening process by the parties and the independent Electoral Commission, INEC, to bring out the latent capacity of individuals would go a long way in determining capacity. Besides, to ensure that qualifications paraded by aspirants in the event that a change in the status quo has been adopted is not merely by name, aspirants and indeed candidates should be put to public scrutiny through debates and presentations of all kinds.

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