The dust has not settled 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 Egwrujakpor 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, as old as our democracy you may say, 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 counter claims 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 if INEC had sent a correspondence to his schools to verify the submitted certificates if Ahmadu Bello University or Toronto University wouldn’t have spared this nation 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, PhD and NYSC discharge, threatens to become a national emblem. This will also save the nation of resources holding bye-elections, a judicial overruling of a candidacy may cause or the attendant tension in the land. It will also be a wake-up call to political parties to be circumspect in their nominations.
Now that we are here, maybe we could review the academic qualifications for elective offices, too. The statutory educational requirement is not only ridiculing but discouraging the need for academic excellence. The notion that leadership position is for all comers is a bad body language. Such implications on us include having ill- educated and incompetent persons with big pocket steering the state affairs. We cannot sustain these templates hoping for rapid development. Putting in the aforementioned electoral reforms is a big step in the direction of change. Let the action begin!
Kwara State University, Malete