FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, June 22, 2020
apia@btinternet.com
London, UK
QUALIFICATION FOR NIGERIA PRESIDENT FROM 2023

he character or capability of your Head of State is the state of your country. However, we have never actually had a head of state that is profoundly interested in the cohesiveness let alone the future of our country, Nigeria. This is not without a tendency to regional dominance by the winner. Although we are now experiencing the worst of such regional dominance; this does not preclude us, the rest of Nigerians, from rallying together irrespective of political divide to ensure, within our individual political parties, we present capable Presidential candidates and see a free and fair election from 2023 general election.

The current atmosphere and experience from the ravaging coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic could not have been the impetus to propel us to have a functioning, cohesive and stronger Nigeria with which the rest of the world once again reckons. To achieve this, first, there must be free and fair nomination of candidates, elections and strictly following the Federal Character. We must not again allow a coerced, manipulated or a purchased judiciary to uphold any rigged Presidential election. Hence, there must be a national and capable President of Nigeria.

A capable President can be known in advance to a reasonable degree before and during his/her nomination and election. Some of these are through his/her age, educational qualification and length of time in politics. The political parties are here given a set of criteria which their prospective Presidential candidates must meet before they are considered for nomination to contest the Presidential election. Some of the criteria are, a Presidential candidate must;

  1. be a minimum of fifty-year old,
  2. be intelligent, have some reasonable higher education.
  3. have charisma, presentable and enormous courage (for both the President and Vice President).
    have honesty trail or track record.
  4. not have had any case or unproven case of corrupt practices and misuse of public fund.
  5. not have been or be a religious fanatic, an acknowledged sectionalist.
  6. not have at any time in his/her life, anywhere in the world, found guilty of any crime.
  7. not have been dragged to the EFCC for any reason even if eventually set free.
  8. not have been a bankrupt anywhere in the world.

A male or female Presidential candidate must be married. A polygamous male or such a female in polygamous marriage should not be allowed to contest any elective office let alone hold the office of the President, Vice President, State Governor, Chairman of a Local Government Council or to be appointed as a Federal Minister or State Commissioner. A Presidential candidate must not be too rich by our country's standard. Even, if the candidate put all of his/her wealth in trust or surrenders some of it to his/her connected persons in apparent reduction of the wealth; that should not be enough.

Although most of these are not strictly what the Constitution or Electoral Act directs, for a capable President, the future of Nigeria; we are bound to adopt them as extended and unwritten code of conduct and laws. They should be among the criteria or standards for screening aspirants for suitability for the office of the President and Vice President. Any screening committee has legal and ethical responsibility to uphold them for national interests.

A candidate at the age of fifty years old would normally have a long and reasonable career period on which his/her leadership qualities and suitability are assessed. Maturity and experience are better obtained through age. Moreover, we live in a country where age or seniority is paramount and well respected, as it enables especially good judgements. Many of those under the age of fifty, who are in haste as if tomorrow will not come for them, are preoccupied by the issue that most people in their forties in advanced countries are elected as head of state of their countries. What we should remember are that these people in general complete their desired tertiary education in their very early twenties. They then take politics or related jobs on full time basis. When they are in their forties, they have already clocked at least twenty years' experience in politics or related fields. They use at least the last four years of this period to consolidate, prepare to become leaders of their political parties and countries. Even those who are not for national leadership but are ministerial materials prepare for the ministerial portfolio they are going to take in the Government or future Government. That is during the period they are in Government or opposition; they understudy the political office or Ministry they are going to be in charge at least for about four years before hand.

In our country, Nigeria, we never had continuous democracy, stay in one political party or place let alone to get opportunity to learn political rope and acquire the necessary experience. Are you going to tell the nomadic politicians that abound in our country who are only in politics for their pockets to prepare for certain political office or responsibility? Some of what obtain in the advanced countries may only be allowed in our country with time only if there is any need. This is especially when we have uninterrupted democracy, an atmosphere of free and fair elections, stable politicians and adequate political experience in accordance with our society.

We have had quasi, controversial but steady democracy since 29th May 1999. Major opposition political parties have never actually prepared themselves adequately to win any election in order to form the next Government. In a presidential system of government, there is nothing to stop at least any major opposition political party from choosing its Presidential candidate and cabinet at least three years before the next general election as the shadow Government in order to be fully ready to win the general election and form the Government. This is not only necessary in a parliamentary system of government but even more advantageous in a presidential system. It does not have to being done in the USA before we adopt the practice.

It is the failure of the incumbent Government that makes a prepared opposition political party to win a general election and form the Government. It is an ineffective and ill-prepared opposition that makes a failed incumbent Government to retain office at a general election. For effective governance; where there is a strong Government, there must also be a strong and responsible opposition political party. You do not need foreign political consultants to advise you on how to win your election in your own country which is with much different tradition and culture from their own.

Many people under the age of fifty years old are generally and unnecessarily more radical, intolerant, extreme and are prone to serious errors of judgement, whatever their education and experience. Therefore, vision or leadership qualities observed in those below the age of fifty years old are not enough. With the related leadership qualities; maturity for the office of the head of state starts at the age of fifty years old. Despite few notable achievements; the serious errors of judgement, mistakes and failings by many of those who assumed the position of the head of state in their forties and under are lessons that they should not lead a country.

Until our presidential system last; a nominated Presidential candidate should automatically simultaneously become a candidate at his/her constituency for a seat at the House of Representatives. This would enhance our democracy, the quality of the opposition, our legislature and legislation if a Presidential candidate who failed at the Presidential election is elected at his/her constituency for a seat at the House of Representatives. His/her membership of the House of Representatives would strengthen the opposition and make effective challenge to the President and Federal Government of the day.

Our country has never had a willing, national and capable President to carry out the desired restructuring. Some if not all of the areas for restructuring are as follow, to:

  1. scrap the wasteful thirty-six State Government areas and replacing them by ten Regional
    Government areas with five in the North and five in the South as follow; Lagos Region,
    South-West Region, Mid-West Region, South-East Region, South-South Region; Middle
    Belt West Region, Middle Belt East Region, North-East Region, Mid-North Region and
    North-West Region.
  2. adjust the Local Government areas in each Region;
  3. establish four national rotational leadership zones as follow; South-South-East,
    North-Central, South-West and North.
  4. balance National Assembly membership 50% each between North and South;
  5. reduce number of political parties to two with permission for independent candidates;
  6. re-instate the pre-eighties good and high standard of education structure;
  7. decentralise the Police Force into several Independent Police Commands, preferably
    making each Senatorial District an Independent Police Command;
  8. banish Islamic religion from official laws, finance and other affairs of the country;
  9. restore the Naira as a convertible currency at the foreign exchanges.

It will not take a capable and honest President more than six months to restructure the country accordingly and for the National Assembly to enact the enabling laws.

The North has ruled Nigeria for 45.5years since independence on 1st October 1960 - 28 May 2023. This is on the assumption President Buhari will complete his second term of office by 28 May 2023. Within this, the far North alone has ruled for 28.5years as in Table 1 below with nothing to show for these years. Upon all, the area remains backwards, dragged and continue to drag the rest of the country down with it. This has been amid preferential treatment of the region in terms of Federal revenue allocation, appointments, employments and public investments many of which have today vanished due to poor management, corruption and embezzlement with impunity by their elite and misuse of Islamic Religion.

Table 1 - The number of years each proposed zone has provided a leader for the country.

To ensure there is no further monopoly of power by any part of the country; there should be equitable and permanent national leadership rotation arrangement. The South and North rotational zones would in this respect alternate each other in the rotation. At these times, a President from the South-South-East zone is best placed to carry out the desired restructuring of the country. The zone had ruled the country the least, only 6years, in the past 62.5years of independence on 1st October 1960. This is notwithstanding that majority of the best brains in the country are from this zone. The next President who should be from this zone will put the country on a formidable foundation, which no further head of state nor any section of the country will again be able to abuse, misuse or subvert.

As we have not got the President to restructure the country between now and 28 May 2023; all the political parties should kick start the restructuring by effecting the proposed national rotational leadership as in Table 2 below from the 2023 general election by fielding their Presidential candidates and running mates from South-South-East zone. This is to ensure should the elected President die, become incapacitated or removed from office before the expiration of his/her term of office, the Presidency will remain in the same zone for the remainder of the term of office of the Government. With this, the Presidency will not go to another zone by default and then disrupt the normal rotational pattern.

Table 2 - Order of Permanent National Leadership Rotation for the proposed four Zones.

A four zonal structure of national rotational leadership best suit our country, Nigeria. It is optimum, more satisfactory and economical. If the term of office of the Government is four years, with two consecutive terms per zone, the waiting period by each zone to provide a leader for the country will be 24 years (4 x 8 - 8 = 24). The proposed four zonal structure was created according to areas of compatibility irrespective of ethnic differential. The political parties should now kick start permanent national rotational leadership from the 2023 general election by nominating all their Presidential candidates and running mates from the South-South-East zone.

The candidates for all the elective positions in the country should have reasonable education and relevant experience. These are not a guarantee for honesty and good leadership, which our country needs most today. But they give the ability for self-reliance, initiative and thinking which enable a good degree of leadership. Yet, we must not change the present constitutional minimum educational requirement for election into any elective office, which says "A person shall be qualified for election ------- if: he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent" The Constitution did not say you must have a minimum of secondary school leaving certificate or its equivalent certificate. In the actual meaning or its interpretation, the Constitution meant a minimum of class five or its equivalent.

Can anyone now be surprised why President Buhari was never perturbed by his critics, accusers and Court case on the issue of not having a secondary school leaving certificate? The Court decided the case in Buhari's favour as he met the minimum educational requirement by his education to at least class five. Whether he had or has the leaving secondary school certificate or not was immaterial. But, if Buhari had forged any certificate along his class five testimonial, he would have lost the case on ground of forgery and disqualified from office.

In my view, those constitutional lawyers who drafted our Constitution had it mind that having a certificate is not only evidence of education. Attendance of the whole course for the designated period also serve as evidence of education. Hence, they were not categorical on certificate obtained. If you study hard and bright enough to pass school certificate examination or its equivalent such as the general certificate of education (GCE) ordinary level at class three or four and have the certificate, you have been educated to school certificate level as evidenced by your certificate. It does not matter how many years you were at school to obtain the certificate. Those who drafted our Constitution were not and are not stupid. It is those our Court Judges who are corrupt, cannot or are unable to interpret our Constitution and Laws that are the problems and failings of our Courts. As things are in the country, those nursing Presidential ambition who had certificate forgery cases at the Governorship or National Assembly levels and got away with their forgery, elected and served in those offices, as our people and electorate at national level do not politically forget and forgive; they will not have easy ride at their Presidential candidacy nominations let alone get elected as the President of the country. The Presidential election will not be there for them to buy and rigged nor the judiciary will be there for them to buy to uphold the rigged election.

Those who agitate for the change of minimum educational requirement from the present constitutional requirement of school certificate level or its equivalent to higher but different educational qualifications requirement for different categories of elective offices should ditch the pompous idea. Leaders are first and foremost born. Time will overtake the present constitutional minimum of school certificate level or its equivalent for any elective office. In many advanced countries the law is generally silent on a minimum educational qualification for any elective office. They often leave the issue for the electorate to decide as to whom they elect. Today, in those countries, if you do not hold a minimum of first-degree or its equivalent not anyone will nominate and elect you over a first-degree holder for any elective office.

That time is already here in Nigeria where we now have very large number of university first degree holders and equivalent qualifications. Therefore, there is no need for us to wasting our time, legislating and enacting laws to prescribe a university first degree and equivalent as the minimum educational qualification requirement for any elective office in the country. Hence, political party members and the electorate will not ignore a university first degree holder to nominate and elect a class five educated, whatever his/her comparative experience. This will not happen or hold even in the event of a rigged, manipulated nomination or election.

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