The recent law passed on the age qualification of persons desiring to occupy elective positions in Nigeria is a welcome one. At least it has further streamlined the constitutional expectations of politicians as it concerns their ages. The law tagged “Not Too Young to Rule” which was signed into law few days ago has rejoiced not a few hearts of youths and the youthful. Since its passage, however, I have wondered why it is only the age of politicians that has been accorded such prominent status. Why are other criteria recognized by the constitution not given as much attention as the age of a politician?
Without fear of contradiction, I feel there is the need for the standardization of all the minimum eligibility criteria that must be met by politician prospecting for a elective political position. For example, besides the age of a politician, the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as Amended) stipulates Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (SSCE, Ordinary Level) as the minimum the educational qualifications of intending participants in all elective contests. In the same aforesaid constitution, mention is also made of a person’s character and conduct, clean bill of criminal records, and the like.
All of that are incontrovertibly good. Yet, my worry is the singling out of age for a special law. Why, for instance, has educational qualification not been singled out for a special law? Or is it no longer common knowledge that many people that end up winning very important political offices do not possess the minimum required SSCE, Ordinary Level? Up till today has President Muhammadu Buhari presented any evidence of his SSCE, Ordinary Level? Does Mr. President possess the minimum educational qualification? The only way to prove it is the certificate and not his classmates. And since he has not presented his certificate for verification till date, I conclude Buhari have the minimum educational qualification and as such his participation and victory and function in the office of the president are illegitimate and illegal.
But that is tale for the mariners because there is no express direct law on educational qualification of politicians aspiring for elective positions. Nigerian politicians invoke the spirit of impunity and lawlessness and turn the issue of educational qualification into a child’s play, bulldozing their ways into the executive and legislative positions that they do not possess the minimum educational qualifications to occupy. The consequences of this reflect on the overall character and conduct of such politicians. And talking of character and conduct, what is the true measure of this criterion? How are a person’s character and conduct measured? Is it by his mere words or by empirical process? Do Nigerian lawmakers rate high enough in character and conduct? Your answer is as good as mine.
A person’s character and conduct encapsulates his entire behavioural predispositions in both his private and public life. A good man in public but a bad husband and father at home cannot pass the test of character and conduct. Most lawmakers that easily pick up seats and tables hitting at others and fighting taekwondo, karate and kung fu, wrestling and kick-boxing in the hallowed chambers of the Red or Green Chambers of the National Assembly, for instance, can never be regarded as possessing requisite character and conduct stipulated for a national lawmaker. But they are all gathered there wrongly parading themselves as distinguished and honourable. But by their character and conduct profile we know they are inadequate for the legislative responsibilities they schemed themselves into.
The foregoing provides credence for my thinking and recommendation that there be a critical streamlining and determination of all requisite criteria that a potential political office holder must possess before he/she is elected to occupy such office. And designing elaborate laws for the educational qualifications as well as the holistic character and conduct of an intending contestant in a political election just as has been done for age with “Not Too Young to Rule” has become germane if the anomalies inherent in our nascent democracy must be steadily ameliorated.
I received the spark to look into this issue when recently I read again the resume nay curriculum vitae of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. In his personal bio-data, I noted on the side of age, he was born on March 24, 1965. That means when, in 2003, he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives to represent the good people of AbohMbaise/Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency, he was 38 years. Only recently he celebrated his 53rd birthday after attaining what billions of human beings could only dream to attain in their life time. And by the special grace of the Almighty God, the wide world is still very much open to his exploration and exploitation for decades to come.
Reading through his educational qualifications and schools attended, I nodded my conviction that truly he was academically quite qualified to vie for any elective post in Nigeria. He schooled in some of the best schools in the world. He graduated from University of Lagos (UNILAG). He later schooled at Harvard University and Stanford University in the United States of America. He went to school at University of British Columbia in Canada, Oxford University, London and the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom. He possesses verifiable certificates for his attendance at all these prestigious citadels of higher learning. He is different from President Muhammadu Buahri and such like who claim to attend schools but show no certificate to buttress their claims.
In the realm of personal character and conduct, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha has proven to be a very responsible man with a high level of integrity. He is happily married and has children. Never has it been rumoured or observed that he’s into domestic violence, assault and battery as many politicians are guilty of. Never has he been associated with physically assaulting anybody. Never has been enmeshed in any untoward scandal that is capable of tarnishing his image. Relatively quite reserved and focused, Ihedioha is also quite socialized, outgoing and accessible. He never toys with any task assigned to him. This leaves him little time for frivolities and gossip. This I have come to internalize about him after observing him for some years that I have secured his cherished acquaintance.
For his shining age, sound educational qualification, meritorious work career, coupled with his impeccable character and conduct, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha in many ways provide a benchmark for designing the eligibility criteria I envision for a sincere political progress with qualified political players. People must be well educated with verifiable certificates. People must not be above age 60 when they come to contest for a position. People must have a verifiable work or business career profile and not presenting a staccato of trading and hawking before becoming an emergency millionaire and billionaire. People must be generally known to be human and humane in their private and public life. People must not be associated with any form of criminality within the stipulated period before their bid to occupy an elective office. All of these from an idea of the eligibility criteria that need to be designed into specific elaborated laws as the “Not Too Young to Rule” law that has just become signed. I am persuaded strongly that with the streamlining of eligibility criteria, the era of irresponsible, less qualified persons, vying for and occupying elective political offices will ultimately be over.