Things are really spinning out of order in an annoying manner as we head towards the general elections in Nigeria this February. It is bad enough that many citizens were unable to register for the elections during the very limited window opportunity provided by the electoral body. It is also worrisome that many registered voters are unable to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), less than three weeks to the election, even as the electoral body admits that some of the cards are still being expected from the printers. As if that is not enough stress, the politicos have refused to allow us focus on more weighty issues about the elections.
For the past few weeks, so much focus had been on the academic qualification of Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). One initially thought there was nothing to fuss over there, but it consistently made it to the front burner. Let me quickly address this issue dispassionately here.
Section 131 of the Nigerian Constitution says a candidate for president must have been “educated up to at least School Certificate level”. On the face of it, being educated up to school certificate level means you studied and got to the stage of writing the school certificate examination. You need not have passed the examination; otherwise it should have been couched as a person who “has obtained the school certificate”.
More importantly, the interpretation section of the Constitution (Section 318(1)) defined “School Certificate or its equivalent” to mean:
(a) a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or (b) education up to Secondary School Certificate level; or (c) Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and
(i) service in the public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years, and
(ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, and
(iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and
(d) any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
Thus, even if a candidate did not obtain any other qualification, he or she would still be qualified under paragraph (c) if the person had just the primary six school leaving certificate had served in the public or private sector for a minimum of 10 years and satisfies INEC that he or she can read, write, understand and communicate in English. The clincher, however, is paragraph (d) which says “any other qualification acceptable to INEC”. The question, therefore, is: has INEC accepted Buhari’s qualification? Clearly it has and it has said so.
Another annoying issue ahead of the elections is violence. Although the major candidates and parties in the election openly embraced each other and promised to run a violence-free campaign, incidents of violence have been reported now and again, just like hate messages are flying all over the place openly and clandestinely. Like many citizens, I have received a few hate messages from known and unknown contacts, all claiming to love me, my faith, my region etc so much that they take the privilege to urge me to support a particular way. I waste no time to tell the senders that their messages are hate message and idiotic. This is where I expect to see the effectiveness of our security operatives to trace the sources of these messages and go after them.
And while all this is going on, highly-placed politicians, including state governors, have engaged in similar hate speeches such as referring to fellow citizens as cockroaches or suggesting illness and nearness to death of opponents. There are also the disturbing reports of physical attacks on the campaign team of President Goodluck Jonathan, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While one condemns every act of violence, the police and other security operatives have no excuse for failing to arrest and prosecute culprits after every act of such violence. The problem stems from describing these acts as ‘electoral or political violence’ the same way we classify some other acts of violence as ‘domestic violence’. Whenever we do so, we then suggest that those acts of violence should be treated as ‘political’ or within the family, as the case may be. I submit that the best way to handle violence is to first see it as the crime that it is and act accordingly. That is the minimum irreducible standard we must insist on and we must do so as we continue on this bumpy road towards the general elections which is 20 days away.
Published on Sunday January 25, 2015 at http://www.thenicheng.com/bumpy-ride-polls/