If a bill before the Senate stipulating higher qualifications for those aspiring for the presidency, vice presidency, governorship and deputy governorship goes through, the dreams of many veteran presidential and governorship aspirants will be aborted. A member of the PDP, Senator Istifanus Gyang representing Plateau North wants anyone aspiring to the office of the President or governor to be a holder of at least, a Higher National Diploma, HND.
The Bill which has been passed for second reading is seeking amendment to section 131 (d) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) to expunge the current provision of an education up to the secondary school level. Since the bill was introduced, some pundits consider former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as one of those being targeted. Although 2023, is still three years away, some political watchers expect Atiku to be on the presidential ballot again as he did in 2007 and 2019. So what has this got to do with Atiku? It is common knowledge that the erstwhile customs boss has a Diploma in Law from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. As it is with most universities in the country, this Diploma is neither the equivalent of a degree or HND and this has led to speculations that the bill is aimed at stopping Atiku in his tracks. A member of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP told Vanguard on Tuesday that the bill is one whose time has come.
According to him, it makes no sense to think that the proposed law is targeted at anybody, stressing that for long, Nigeria has been the laughing stock of the international community for some calibre of leaders it paraded over the years. Speaking anonymously, the NWC member noted that what Senator Gyang has done should leave every Nigerian proud. “We should be happy because leadership is not something you can do when you are not prepared. “Preparation comes by education and experience. I pray that this bill becomes law in no distant time because in a situation where those occupying prominent elective offices do not have basic qualification you can’t expect magic. “Atiku has not come out to tell anyone that he is running for the office of the President in 2023 but if a law is passed which ends up shutting the door against him, so be it. “For now, the bill remains a proposition but when it becomes law, I am sure Nigerians will salute the lawmaker and the PDP for coming up with it because as a party, the PDP is always thinking about reforms and new ways of doing this.” On insinuation making the rounds that the deposed 14th Emir of Kano is being lured into the PDP ahead of 2023; the soft-spoken official had this to say: “I have read those insinuations too but the former Emir to the best of my knowledge is not a member of our party. “I do know that in politics, anything is possible. So, there is a chance that he may join the PDP but it would be wrong to say the bill is being sponsored to pave way for Sanusi at the expense of Atiku. The Sanusi to PDP claim is a rumour and our party does not trade in the rumour market.” Bill long over due – Adeniran However, Professor Tunde Adeniran told our correspondent that the bill was long overdue, noting that it had nothing to with a particular individual. He said: “I don’t think it was targeted at any individual. I am convinced that 21st century Nigeria should require not just an HND or first degree as a minimum educational qualification. There should also be minimum job/work experience in addition to educational qualifications.” Toeing a similar path,Prince Kassim Afegbua, former Commissioner of Information in Edo State and spokesman to former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (retd), wants Nigerians to rate the bill on its merit rather than reduce the debate it has elicited to ridiculous level. In his words, laws all over the world are made for the advancement of the society and not for the pleasure or discomfort of an individual. In a telephone conversation, Afegbua said: “We must begin to get serious for God’s sake about what we desire as a nation, if we are desirous of moving the country forward. Why would people always think that laws are made because of individuals? Why won’t they look at the bigger picture. Who told them Alhaji Atiku is contesting in 2023? Has he told anyone he is running or people are just trying to generate conversation around him? “It is about time our candidates for presidency possessed minimum qualifications that will enable them have the capacity and cognitive awareness to interrogate issues and the challenges that confront us as a nation. If you set minimum qualification of being a graduate for those seeking employment, why won’t a president possess better qualification? “Please, let us take a holistic view of this requirement and stop this weather-beaten rhetoric of narrowing discourse on the basis of an individual.” Also speaking, a member of the PDP National Executive Committee, NEC, said though the bill addresses the age-long clamour for well educated persons to occupy elective offices in the land; mustering sufficient legislative support, especially at the State Houses of Assembly “may be problematic.” “I jumped up in joy when I read of the bill in the papers but I quickly asked myself: “Can the bill get the minimum constitutional requirement particularly at the state levels for the needed amendment to take place? This may be problematic and I doubt if the bill would scale through,” the chieftain who does not want his name in print, added. While patriotism may not be the sole motivation behind the sponsorship of this bill, there is doubtless, a mileage its passage into law would fetch the polity. Nigerians are waiting for what many of them have been clamouring for, for decade.