The dust has not settled yet over the shocking judgement by the Supreme Court on the gubernatorial election in Bayelsa sacking the governor- elect David Lyon and his deputy Degi Biobarakuma a day to their inauguration. The court, in a unanimous judgement, upheld the Federal High Court verdict disqualifying Mr Degi, Lyon’s running mate, for submitting forged certificates to INEC. The Supreme Court ruled that the offence of Degi- Eremeinyo affects Lyon and nullified their candidature.
Therefore despite the controversies, the Independent National Electoral Commission promptly carried out the directives, issuing the Peoples Democratic Party’s Duoye Diri and his Deputy Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor certificate of return.
Now for the politicians and emotionalists, that is one big opportunity to vent the spleen on the Supreme Court and INEC. But for the development-oriented persons, it is a moment for reflection on our electoral system and the need for drastic review.
Certificate forgery and false submissions is not a new entrant into our political landscape. It dated as far back as 1999 with Hon. Salisu Buhari as a poster boy. We have gone on to see ministers and even presidents dancing in the murky waters of academic qualification scandals till this moment. The retinue of claims and counterclaims with the intermittent court cases are innumerable. What this portends is a rise in the dirty act which we must now rise to curtail unless we desire to be perpetually ruled by mediocre.
As the electioneering for 2023 gathers momentum, the National assembly as a matter of urgency should review the establishment act of INEC. What makes a working system in advanced nations is the presence of mechanisms making crime almost impossible. Paying little attention to this scope has been Nigeria’s Achilles’ heel.
The commission, set up in 1998 to oversee elections in Nigeria, presently lacks the statutory power to verify elective office seekers’ certificates and disqualify them on such a ground. The party nominates and submits candidates. What the INEC does is displaying their names publicly hoping for objection from any quarters. This is how we do that we have possible certificate forgers in top elective positions today.
Assuming INEC had sent a correspondence to his schools to verify the submitted certificates – Ahmadu Bello University or Toronto University, the nation would have been spared the ignominy of having Mr Salisu Buhari as HoR Speaker in 1999. This, as a matter of fact, could have also avoided the people of Bayelsa who voted en masse for David Lyon the deja vu of a lost mandate. I can’t help but feel for those people who stood gallantly to effect a political change in their state– it must really hurt.
We can only spare ourselves such an anguish in the nearest future if INEC is empowered to verify certificates and possibly disqualify erring candidates. It is even one swift move to rid Nigeria of the culture of faķe documentations; as forgery of school certificates, birth, degrees and NYSC discharge, threatens to become a national emblem.
Kwara State University, Malete