There has been a lot of furore generated recently when the issue of President Buhari’s WASSCE certificate was dug up again. In fact, it was the president himself and some of his aides who dug further into the controversy as he got the Registrar from West African Examination Council (WAEC) headquarters in Ghana, Iyi Uwadiae, and the Head of National office, Nigeria, in photo fanfare manner, to present him with a result attestation which many quarters have referred to as shady.
The matter has since called into question the credibility of WAEC itself as a reputable regional examination institution because there has been a lot of inconsistencies and loopholes in the certificate compared with the testimonial President Buhari presented in 2015. Though in 2015, WAEC Ghana denied having any record of President Buhari, yet an attestation certificate was presented to President Buhari on Wednesday.
Whether the O’ level result of the president is valid or not, this lingering controversy should, however, throw more light on the tendency by many politicians to doctor their certificates in order to appear suitable in public eye. The credibility of institutions is also at stake here as some will bow to political pressure time and again in order to suit paymasters while some will stand their ground.
The recent allegations of NYSC exemption certificate forgery over which former Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, had to resign comes to mind. Many were surprised that the NYSC could stand its ground on such a politically damning matter. Or could it be that the NYSC thought it was easier to come out truthfully on the matter since public outcry already boxed them into a corner on it?
It was not long after this umpteenth episode that the Communications and Technology Minister, Adebayo Shittu, confessed to not having an NYSC certificate after he was publicly called out too. The matter died a natural death albeit easily seemingly because he owned up to his fraudulence early enough and he was ‘forgiven’ by the public, unlike Adeosun.
Prior to the Osun State elections too, the matter of Senator Ademola Adeleke’s WAEC certificate became a subject of controversy too. What saved him, however, was the court order that compelled WAEC to confirm if he actually sat for the exams – and WAEC confirmed he did and confirmed his result. Another sword of Damocles remained hanging over his neck, however, as the Police are prosecuting him for impersonation in an alternate National Examination Council (NECO) scandal. The case is still in court.
We would recall that there was a time the certificate and schools attended by notable politicians and technocrats such as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Peter Fayose, Salisu Buhari, Dino Melaye, Gabriel Suswam, Goodluck Jonathan, Stella Oduah, Ndi Okereke Onyiuke and many others were a subject of huge controversy. While a few had to resign from their political office in embarrassment, others were either vindicated by their educational institution or escaped unscathed as the matter completely got killed in the public mindset.
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, was also recently criticized for claiming he graduated with a First Class bachelor’s degree in the University of Nigeria whereas his certificate read he has a Second- Class Upper in Law from the same institution. He had to quickly reiterate that he was misquoted when he claimed to have a First Class, in a press release.
It thus appears we seem to have arrived the season of forged certificates, spurious claims, and lying politicians again as we were when the 4th republic began. Anyone found wanting normally should be prosecuted and jailed for perjury for false declarations and misleading the public, but we seem to be a nation that is quick to overlook serious crime while severely punishing lesser sins.
Are our institutions going to be continually faced with the trial of bowing to the pressure by politicians to alter records going forward? Are these institutions strong enough not to kowtow to whatever unscrupulous demands these lying politicians might be demanding of them? Should any institution at all be under direct supervision of any one politician? Then how can we protect and ensure that our public institutions remain steadfast, fair and untainted in the midst of the trickery common in political machinations?
The answers are inconclusive for now as we watch keenly how events unfold in the near future.