By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
The poster boy in certificate scandal in Nigeria is the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari who claimed he was 36 years old in 1999, even when he was born in 1970. According to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the minimum age to be a lawmaker in the House is 30.
He claimed he attended University of Toronto in Canada and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. the Unfortunately for him, the university denied him. Was everything about Salisu falsified? How many Salisu is out there presiding over our common patrimony either in our Colleges and Tertiary Institutions, Hospitals, security and what have you?
Contrite Salisu had said: “I apologise to you. I apologise to the nation. I apologise to my family and friends for all the distress I have caused them. I was misled in error by my zeal to serve the nation. I hope the nation will forgive me and give me the opportunity to serve again”. Where is Salisu now?
Let me not go into President Muhammadu Buhari's certificate saga, Kemi Adeosun's NYSC scandal, Dino Melaye Harvard saga and the EFCC Boss , Ibrahim Magu's Integrity test saga as well as Prof Maurice Iwu's certificate squabbles because certificate falsification and exam malpractice is in vogue today and nobody is doing anything in that regards. The scenario is hopeless and mines laden!
National Human Rights Commission last year recommended that Professor Maurice Iwu who was INEC's Chairman between 2005 and 2010 be prosecuted for conducting what international observers perceived as one of the most bizarre elections ever held in the world. Is the situation still same after this 2019 General Election presided over by Prof Mahmood Yakubu, so called acclaimed Nigerian academic, guerrilla warfare expert, and professor of political history and international studies at the Nigerian Defence Academy? What a shame! Professor of his standing been bribed by illiterates and people below his standard to rig elections? Was Prof Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, another academic and former Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano who presided over the 2015 General election as INEC Chairman better than Prof Yakubu with his famous inflated figures and registering of underage voters in the North? Two of a kind!
You can imagine former President Goodluck Jonathan accusing Prof Attahiru Muhammadu Jega led INEC of conspiracy that cost him his re-election in 2015. Jonathan in his new book accused INEC's biased distribution of voting materials to the electorate as precipitating his defeat at the March 28, 2015 general elections.
Jonathan said: “For some inexplicable reason, the INEC had been able to achieve near 100% distribution of Permanent Voter Cards in the North, including the North East, which was under siege with Boko Haram insurgency but failed to record a similar level of distribution in the South which was relatively more peaceful''. You can't beat that!
We all witnessed the infamous comment by President Muhammadu Buhari that dogs and baboons would be “soaked in blood” if 2015 elections did not go the way he desired. He was declared winner and nobody whined and giggled. He received congratulations across board but in 2019, he unleashed army and security agents on Nigerians, depriving the people their choice with INEC collusion? What a shame! Where are the International Observers? Have they been bought? Or were they this time around bought over by the ruling party or was it that the people parading now as International observers were pre-arranged by INEC or APC or both?
Prof Iwu gave us staggering of governorship elections because of fraud tinted election results. Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Kogi states election are now different from others. Anambra too is a unique case of stolen mandate in 2003 by Dr Chris Ngige before Mr Peter Obi recovered it. That election conducted by Sir Abel Guobadia after Ephraim Omorose Ibukun Akpata died in active service was something else.
Election rigging, examination and forgery of certificates are in same category and the bane of societal growth and development. We all know of Christian Abah, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadigbo Federal Constituency of Benue State, who was kicked out of the legislative chamber by an Abuja Federal High Court in 2016 for submitting a forged certificate of academic qualification to INEC.
He had forged the Ordinary National Diploma certificate purportedly issued to him in 1985 by the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State. Has he not worked in several places before his aspiration to be a member of House of Representatives? So many of us in high positions of Authority as Officers in Nigerian Army, Police and other security agencies have not only forged certificate but state of origin and local government of origin. Some others in Tertiary Institutions as Lecturers, PRO's , Non Academic even Technicians and drivers parade one form of forged certificate or the other. Journalists in high places of authority are not left out, yet we profess Christ for Christianity and Mohammed for Islam.
You know somebody who is a local government chairman claiming a certificate he has not acquired, same goes to a PRO in an Institution , a House of Assembly Member, a Medical Doctor, a Journalist, a student , National Assembly member elect, just mention it , yet we continue in spiral of silence to be seen as good friends while the society decay. Why should we continue to allow criminals of academic qualification forgery thrive in criminality and certificate forgery to the detriment of those who have worked hard to earn such qualifications? That's why we have not progressed because those who ordinarily should not preside over our affairs are leading, contaminating the spirit of hard work, discipline and honesty. This culture of reckless impunity must stop. Let's take action against quacks enjoying privileged positions by exposing and shaming them.
Engaging in forging National Diploma ,ND certificate to gain admission for a Higher National Diploma, HND certificate and other unscrupulous acts of certificate forgery Nigerians indulge in just to obtain or secure job or attain public office has assumed a frightening dimension. The 16 man committee set up to screen the over 40,000 degree certificates obtained by Nigerians from some foreign countries to ascertain their authenticity by Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu is apt but the screening should as well zero in in the staff of all the Tertiary institutions and other organizations in Nigeria. Then, prominent office holders especially those already with petitions hanging on their heads should be investigated. Why shy away from this by organisations, Ministries, security agencies and the Judiciary?
People should be encouraged to write petitions even anonymous petitions against those they know with fake certificates because it is rampant due to craze for paper qualifications in Nigeria.
Have you heard that the UK, Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), an agency set up to investigate issue of fake degree, closed about 40 websites awarding fake degrees to UK students following a crackdown? Nigerians are their greatest victims because of craze for paper qualifications and the inordinate desire to cut corners. Today, so many people parade with pride and arrogance PhD's bought from websites and others with degrees concocted at a business center.
Mediocrity has taken the center stage. People are not interested in acquiring requisite skills and knowledge required for a position but certificate to grant them access and thereby engage in all forms of malpractice to continue to be in the system. People with questionable certificates are today calling the shots in our Tertiary Institutions, Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals at states and the federal levels as well as private organizations even when we know all these.
Imagine when an employee got into his or her job placement with fake academic credentials, is the person not going to encourage all forms of fraud in that office as far as his or her bread is buttered?
Can we emulate what happened in Tanzania recently when the country's civil service sacked over 10,000 civil servants for having fake education certificates? This is because, they are criminals setting the hands of clock in the nation backward by encouraging other forgeries. Hard work must pay!
Section 118 of the Criminal Code said about perjury which those with forged certificates are committing especially under oath states thus: “Any person who commits perjury is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. If the offender commits the offence in order to procure the conviction of another person for an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life, he is liable to imprisonment for life.”
On forgery, Section 465, of the Criminal Code Act, says, “A person who makes a false document or writing knowing it to be false, and with intent that it may in any way be used or acted upon as genuine, whether in the state or elsewhere, to the prejudice of any person or with intent that any person may, in the belief that it is genuine, be induced to do or refrain from doing any act, whether in the state or elsewhere is said to forge the document or writing.”
What are we not saying? Can't culprits of perjury and forgery be punished within the law of Nigeria?
Fast forward, this is 2019 and unfortunately the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room categorically stated that the shortcomings of the 2019 general elections were glaring even as it recorded the death of 58 Nigerians.
Yes! Votes were bought in Adamawa, Sokoto, Lagos, Delta, Enugu, Ekiti, Bauchi, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kwara, Zamfara, Kebbi, Oyo, Kano and Osun States to mention but a few between N500 and N5,000.
Imo State Resident Electoral Commissioner Prof Francis Emeka Ezeonu laid the blames of violence, thuggery and vote buying on the footsteps of Nigerian politicians.
Prof Ezeonu, a Professor of Environmental Biochemistry and Toxicology from Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka who has stood out with Dr. Mike Igini (REC of Akwa Ibom) among all Resident Electoral Commissioners in Nigeria lamented how top politicians in the state allegedly hijacked electoral officers to work against the electoral processes.
He confirmed the arrest of 105 men with fake army and police uniforms and branded vehicles of the security Agencies. What a mess! Ezeonu appealed to Nigerian Politicians to jettison desperation, which leads to shortcomings, greed and everything negative and be committed to patriotism, for a greater future.