Gbajabiamila Seeks Increase in Minimum Qualifications for Presidential, N’Assembly Aspirants

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•Says Nigeria has not done enough to adjust its educational system

Udora Orizu

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday said the current constitutional provision where the educational qualification for Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly aspirants was pegged at senior secondary school certificates should be increased.

Gbajabiamila who stated this while delivering a paper titled: ‘Building Back Better: Creating a New Framework for Tertiary Education in Nigeria in the 21st Century,’ at the 52nd Convocation of the University of Lagos, said increasing the qualifications would be another step in reforming the electoral system and providing strong leadership for the country.

He said despite the change around the globe, Nigeria was yet to adjust its education and skills acquisition system to meet the new realities.

While stressing that the foundation of Nigeria’s educational system was still rooted in a different age, was designed to meet the social, economic and labour demands of a different societal and economic model, he opined that there was the strong need to come up with pragmatic ways of addressing the problems in Nigeria’s education sector.

Gbajabiamila said, “I also sincerely believe that the National Assembly needs to look into section 131 (d) of the 1999 constitution with a view to increasing the minimum educational qualification for persons aspiring to be future Presidents of Nigeria and other top offices including the National Assembly as against the current minimum requirement of a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent.

“As we have reduced the age for eligibility to contest those offices so also, we should increase the minimum educational requirement. It will be another step in reforming our electoral system and providing strong leadership for the country.

“When we consider the problems of education infrastructure, access to educational opportunities, quality of instruction, the welfare of teachers, lecturers and professors, we will do well to remember that all of these factors matter only to the extent that they are necessary to build institutions that produce citizens who can advance the cause of Nigeria.

“Our world has changed. The old certainties from which we derived assurance and built our expectations no longer exist. The value of the extractive industries that have powered our economy has deteriorated. It continues to do so rapidly, as technological advances lead us toward a future where coal, crude and gas are replaced by renewable alternatives of solar, wind and water.”

He added: “For Nigerian citizens to thrive in this new world, participate fully and productively in the new global economy and benefit from rather than be consumed by the technological advancements that are changing our world, tertiary education in Nigeria must be prepared to embrace reinvention and adapt to disruption.

“In a digital age, where socioeconomic participation is based on intellectual ability and access to information, a purposeful and well-rounded education is a fundamental human right because the individual’s ability to participate fully in society depends almost entirely on the quality of education available to them. Unfortunately, it is still the case that the foundations of our educational system are rooted in a different age and designed to meet the social, economic and labour demands of a different societal and economic model.

“As the world has changed, we have not done enough in government, academia, and society to adjust our education and skills acquisition system to meet these new realities.”

The Speaker advocated close collaboration between educational institutions and the organised private sector to have a better system.

He equally called for the strengthening of industrial training for students and called on tertiary institutions to make practical training a part of undergraduate studies.

Gbajabiamila further disclosed that the House of Representatives had already commenced work on a legislative framework for funding tertiary education through student loans.

The Speaker said the House was also considering a draft legislation – the Students Loan (Access to Higher Education) Bill – which he personally sponsored and which sets out to provide interest-free loans to students.

According to him, the repayment of these loans shall commence two years after completion of the National Youth Service and that public support for any such system will depend significantly on the tertiary institutions themselves.

Gbajabiamila added that higher institutions of learning should adopt across the board a system of zero tolerance for individuals, students or staff who are credibly accused of harassment, intimidation, and any infringements of individual autonomy.