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OPINION | Much Ado About a Certificate?

Picture Caption: Chairman Senate Committee on FCT, Senator Dino Melaye

By Akintokunbo A Adejumo, akinadejum@aol.com

I have written many times on a singularity, or perhaps we should call it a genetic aberration or bane of development and progress in our dear country – it is the inability to find the Truth; nobody speaks the Truth; nobody wants to hear the Truth. Even when the Truth is glaring us in the face, we almost always manage to deny it, and successfully too.

Lies, deceit, deception, fraud, propaganda, all these lead to Corruption, hence the reason we are still stymied by poverty, underdevelopment, and an acute lack of progress in everything we do. A people beyond redemption, I always say.

Lack of Truth is a very serious substance in a society of human beings; it is insincerity; it is falsehood; it is dishonesty; it is fraud; it is deceit and deception, and therefore a very poorly run and inept government and the society is what you have at the end of the day. This is manifest in our day to day struggle to escape from bad, inefficient governance and endemic corruption. We do not seem to be winning that battle. It seems every effort made to make good is thwarted a hundred times by the forces of corruption and retrogression. It is almost as if those who profess to be patriots are out to sabotage every effort for Nigeria to progress and live up to its full potential as a nation.

Let’s take the instance of educational certificates. Our President was enmeshed in it prior to the Elections in 2015. Two years after, the controversy still rages on. Many politicians and legislators, federal and states, are still enmeshed in certificate controversies and scandals, but in Nigeria, very few politicians, if any, have been sanctioned because of either producing fake educational certificates, or unable to produce one. Or even claiming to attend higher institutions they did not. Why?

It never fails to amaze me how a society such as ours, with hundreds of universities and other tertiary institutions; with several years of Western education spanning over two centuries, where Nigerians are recognised all over the world as education-loving and excelling, with very brilliant refined minds in all fields of education accomplishment  and human endeavour that one can think of, will still be brought to its shame by some fake people, usually those claiming to be its rulers (or leaders, as they like to  term themselves) who claim to have achieved some educational status and achievement when they have not.

The minimum educational requirements for elective and public office in Nigeria is secondary school leaving certificates or their equivalents. Nigerians, especially those seeking public office, are not under any constitutional obligation to attend Harvard, LSE or Oxford University before they can stand for elective office. (I wonder why most of them always claim to have attended universities abroad and not in Nigeria).

So why do our politicians lie about their education? A kind of inferiority complex is at play here, as well as crass arrogance and patent disregard for the law and Constitution of this country. The Constitution, and indeed the people themselves, have made it very simple for them to befuddle us and reach their political zenith, if I may call it that, so why exalt their educational achievements to what was not?

Only recently the committee on review of the Constitution made a proposal to make the minimum requirement to be a degree in relevant fields.  Not too long ago, a member of the senate presented an American certificate as part of the degrees he had; after investigation, it was discovered that he never attended any American university at all. As of today, he is still a member of the Senate. And this is the Senate that refused to confirm Ag. EFCC Chairman Magu as substantive Chairman, because, according to one of them, Magu cannot speak good English. A Senate, as Sonala Olumhense put it, “far and away the most corrupt and backward legislature in a modern republican democracy…stinking from many years of decay and layers of no standards, low standards, certificate-forgers, foreign-exchange speculators, paedophiles, influence peddlers, dubious former governors and money doublers, not an outpost of transparency and good governance”

Salisu Buhari (not a relation of our current President), a former Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1999 presented a certificate from “Toronto” (very vague) as part of his educational qualifications. After thorough investigation and it was discovered he never attended the University or awarded a certificate, he honourably resigned and that was the last anybody ever heard of him.  He disappeared into oblivion. There is still honour among thieves, it would seem.

The late Gani Fawehinmi went to court to challenge the certificate presented by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 1999 when he (Tinubu) wanted to contest for the governorship of Lagos State. Unfortunately, this case was never concluded; maybe or just maybe if that case was concluded and an example set by the court, no other person would have had the courage to present fake foreign certificate to boost their educational credentials.(quoting Olutoyin Eweje)

Now, my beef is this. Despite the obvious obfuscation, lies and deceit being peddled by the “lying” politicians, we still find people who are certifiably educated (that is, we know they went to the schools they said they went to, and there are hundreds of people who can attest to this, plus the schools themselves) who are supporting these fraudulent people.

What I am saying is this, and please at the risk of being labelled immodest; I am proud to have gone to a university in Nigeria, and another in Canada, taking me minimum of 6 years to study hard and earn university certificates for my efforts, my parents’ money and my family and friends’ goodwill; why would I be in support of a fraudulent charlatan who is claiming to have made the same effort as I did to earn a certificate, and thereby degrading all the educational efforts and achievement of others, all because he/she wants to be in power to rule over me?

I do not take my educational achievements lightly; it was the best thing bequeathed to me by my parents, and actually, also from my country (after all, I enjoyed some free education in the old Western Region)  and that I am in turn bequeathing to my children. I worked hard and genuinely to deserve my certificates and I will not endure or support anybody to demean either my education or that of somebody else by parading fake certificates or claims to have been so educated.

In all my years in education and academia, I have never heard of an institution of higher learning, from Colleges of Education to Polytechnic to University awarding “Certificates of Attendance” after a three, four or even seven years’ tuition. You either have a degree or a diploma, with Pass, Third Class, Second Class Lower and Upper or a First Class, for a first degree.

A course lasting a week or even a month does not entitle one to a Degree or Diploma. That is where a Certificate of Attendance comes in, and even at this, it does not mean one has passed or excelled in the course. It only means, as it says on the tin, one has attended. One may sleep throughout the course, but that person has been there. I know many instances of Nigerian legislators, federal, state and local governments, who spent our money to go overseas on some dubious courses organised by equally dubious trainers, who, whilst in the UK or US for the supposed course, were busy shopping and taking in the sights rather than being in the training room. But they come back to Nigeria, flaunting and flashing Certificates of Attendance, the knowledge, and the money a burden on the poor citizens of Nigeria.

I have no doubt Senator Dino Melaye (who happens to be a friend) is educated, and have, at one time or the other, attended Ahmadu Bello University, one of the first-generation and great universities in Nigeria. He has been a Member of the House of Representatives and now a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I have seen him in action, in and out of the Senate. I have proffered advice to him in the past. Of course, I have never broached the issue of educational certificates to him; I believe that is left to him to handle. Of course, again, we know why the issue of his certificates is suddenly being brought to the fore. He has proven himself to be a fifth columnist in the APC, and the Rottweiler of the Senate President. He is laying himself wide open to political disaster, just as he did on behalf of ex-Speaker, Patricia Etteh, that got him in the bad books of ex-Speaker Dimeji Bankole; and that led him (Dino) to being de-selected by his then party, PDP to run for a second House of Representative term

Dino does not need to file suits against anybody, least of all Sahara Reporters (you don’t mess with them); he will surely end up with eggs all over his face and sink his own political ambition and reputation. What he should just do is bring out his certificate (the Vice-Chancellor of the university has now confirmed that Dino is a bona-fide graduate of the university, with a Third-Class degree in Geography), although he’s not bound by anybody or anything to do that. After all, many of his ilk and political co-travellers have gotten away with this in the past.

With all kinds of depressing revelations being brought out in this certificate saga, it behoves Senator Melaye to back down and suppress his braggado; he can still stay in his favourite Senate, but his credibility is shot to pieces. If you live in a glass house, you do not throw stones. His Senate President himself has not used his medical degree certificate as his minimum qualification for both his governorship and senatorial stints for reasons best known to himself.

However, in this piece, the issue is not about Dino Melaye; not about President Muhammadu Buhari, not about Salisu Buhari and these others who have been embroiled in certificate scandals such as former President Goodluck Jonathan, Prof Maurice Iwu (former INEC Chairman); first Senate President in the Third Republic, Evan(s) or Evan Enwerem;  “Dr” Ayo Fayose, Governor of Ekiti State; former Aviation Minister Stella Oduah; former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole; current Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki; former Benue State Governor, Gabrliel Suswan; APC Chieftain and leader and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; Senator Andy Uba; former DG of Nigeria Stock Exchange, Ndi Okereke-Onyuike, and a host of others.

The issue is with a system and society that allows such proliferation and no punishment of such fraud; the problem lies with some of our universities who cannot, for reasons best known to them, verify simple attendance and graduation records at their campuses (it is a shame on our institutions of tertiary learning, I hear most of them don’t even have functional websites or url’s); it is a shame on our governing system that we allow fraudsters and forgers and deceptions to invade the corridors of power and lord it over us, make laws for us and to direct our affairs. It is a shame truly educated members of our society are complicit in allowing these forgeries and fraudulent declaration to prosper in all areas of endeavour and it is an indictment on our society as a whole that it is a very degenerate society which allows such dishonesty and crime to survive and thrive. No wonder all is not well with us. Isn’t it a shame that a country as proud, rich and recognised all over the world in educational achievement is being governed (and ruined) by crass illiterates, educated illiterates and people of little or no intellectual and academic standards?

All this boils down to what I have always suspected and written about – that we Nigerians think we are smarter than each other – friends, colleagues, mates, family, acquaintances, and the next man on the street; we always love to take undue advantage, we are wont to cut corners every time to get everything and everywhere. Politicians and civil servants delude themselves that they are the only smart Nigerians because they can sit in their dingy little offices and forge invoices and receipts to embezzle money meant for others of their fellow Nigerians to make their lives better.

We need to change this culture. One causative agent of this depravity is the low level that our educational system has gradually sunken into in the past four decades. Another is the poverty level forced on us by our insensitive and corrupt rulers, military and civilian, over the decades. All these have led to self-deprecation, self-doubt and lack of confidence and belief in our academic, political, and governmental systems, for the main reason that they cannot be trusted to be genuine and authentic. Nigerian universities are no longer respected abroad; our degrees are taken with pinches of salt these days, unlike in the glorious past, opening the way for unscrupulous Nigerians with fraud in mind to take advantage of the gaps in the system to become elected official, civil servants, appointed officials, and even gurus in the private sectors. Criminals and fraudsters populate the legislature and the executive arms of government; charlatans are prescribing justice, impostors run the banking and economic sector and half-baked academicians run our institutions of higher learning.

On the forgers and perjurers, themselves, perhaps we should spare them some pity, as explained earlier in this article, that psychologically, such people are prone to lack self-respect and esteem, lack of confidence in one’s abilities and a warped urge to fit into a level of the society which they could not believe they have found themselves or want to be; their inferiority complex and moral bankruptcy is very acute

Unfortunately, despite what the laws says on perjury (section 118 of the Criminal Code) which prescribes imprisonment for 14 years, and may even be punishable by death or life imprisonment if done to harm another person, and for forgery (Section 465 of the Criminal Code Act), the Nigerian wheel of justice is grinding notoriously and criminally too slowly such that these miscreants of perjury and forgery may escape punishment, especially the politically exposed persons.

It is obvious that a person who perjures or forges certificates to get into office is more than extremely likely to perpetrate all kinds of corruption if elected or appointed into office. This again explains the reason corruption is so endemic and rampant in Nigeria today, and seems so indestructible.

Tell the Truth always!!!!

 

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