If the candidate successfully passes the examination in flying colours, his political party considers it a bonus, and is saved the possibility of losing a hard won seat. The rather low requirement (bar) for such important offices, when fresh graduates, are expected to have some experience, in addition to good grades to be employed in the public service or the private sector, has continued to be questioned.
However, some analysts have justified the very low educational requirement for candidates contesting public office, on the grounds that it widens the space for massive participation in political contest by all and sundry, which is cardinal in democratic governance.
While the entry bar has been made extremely low, the Electoral Act and the Criminal law seriously frowns at document forgery of any kind, because it attacks integrity, credibility, and vitiates trust that public service demands. It’s the singular reason why forgery is frowned at and punishable by imprisonment, fine, or both.
Both the Criminal and Penal Codes, that apply in the Southern and Northern parts of Nigeria, expressly prohibits and indeed criminalizes forgery. In fact Sections 362 to 364 of the Penal Code, imposes a 14 years imprisonment, with option of fine or both. It also can cause the disqualification of a candidate for an election and can stop him from assuming office even if he wins.
The jury is still out as to why candidates for elected public offices forge certificates, considering the huge risks. It must be stated that the unfortunate situation of forgery, falsification of documents or impersonation, is unfortunately not limited to politicians.
But for the forged certificates of Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo, his running mate, David Lyons of the All Progressive Congress (APC), would have been the governor of oil rich Bayelsa State. Lyons, was actually rehearsing for his swearing in, when the Supreme Court delivered the judgement that crashed his dreams.
The Supreme court, without any hesitation affirmed that the deputy governorship candidate forged the various certificates that he presented for the governorship elections. Said the Supreme Court “clearly it’s fraudulent for one person (Degi-Eremienyo), the deputy governorship candidate, to concurrently bear several names that he variously, and chamelonically used to suit any environment”. The court consequently declared the certificates presented by Degi-Eremienyo as forged, because of the variations of the names,in the different certificates.
Diri, the PDP candidate was the ultimate beneficiary of the disqualification of David Lyon, the APC governorship candidate.
Sunday Marshal Katung, the PDP Senatorial Candidate for Southern Kaduna, who had in a perplexing decision jettisoned his House of Representatives seat, which any day is a safe seat, for the deputy governorship position under Isa Ashiru Kudan, in the 2019 elections. Like the Pentecostal Christians will say, Katung must have clearly seen the light, to move on. And this might have been helped by his involvement in the legal team of his friend, Senator Douye Diri, the Governor of Bayelsa State.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Kaduna State, is without any iota of doubt confronted with the Bayelsa State scenario. Its governorship candidate, Isa Ashiru Kudan, accussed in 2019 of allegedly possessing doubtful qualifications, by Prof. Mohammed Sani Bello, has finally dragged Bello to court.
The case before Justice Edward Andow of the Kaduna State High Court, clearly has serious implications for the PDP in the 2023 governorship race.
Isa Mohammed Ashiru, in the suit is asking Professor Bello, who has since decamped from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC), to retract his 14th November, 2018, statement, which he deemed defamatory. Ashiru, is also asking Bello to pay N100 million for defamation of character and an order of perpetual injunction, from further publishing any defamatory statements concerning him.
While for Isa Mohammed Ashiru, the case is simply about the defamation, for Bello, it seems like an opportunity for the issues surrounding Ashiru’s credentials to be frontally addressed.
The vexatious part of the interview Ashiru vehemently complained about, are Bello’s questioning of his credentials: “the genuineness of the documents that our candidate presented for the purpose of contesting in the 2019 general election”.
The other offensive portion of the interview by Bello, which according to Isa Mohammed Ashiru, defamed him are the following words; “this is somebody who read Business Administration at Diploma Level, and that is Ordinary Diploma, read Business Administration at Higher National Diploma Level, attended a Post Graduate Programme at Kaduna Polytechnic, and then later attended a Masters Degree Programme with Bayero University. Is it possible, I mean we have all gone to school, is it possible for you to accomplish this kind of studies and get certificates with this kind of 2 credits? 2 Credits in unrelated subjects – Economics and Islamic Studies, so I believe it is not possible and as a lecturer in the university, I know that it is not possible. Now, the next question I ask, probably the candidate Isah Ashiru has had to sit for a make up examination, either WAEC or NECO as the case may be, is there any evidence for that? There’s no evidence, so that’s the problem”.
Expectedly Bello, has predicated his defence on justification, fair comment and public interest. He believes that the burden is on Isa Mohammed, Isa Ashiru Kudan or Isa Mohammed Ashiru to prove that the name on the GCE, Isa Mohammed, is the same as these other names that he is variously known with, especially as there is no affidavit to show that they belong to one and the same person. “ It’s my contention that Isa Ashiru Kudan, did not depose to any affidavit before a Commissioner for Oaths in any court in Nigeria to affirm that both Isa Mohammed and Isa Mohammed Ashiru refer to one and the same person”.
Legal analysts believe that the refusal of Isa Mohammed Ashiru, to swear to an affidavit, might prove critical to his case,one way or the other, even though the candidate obtained further educational qualifications; a Pre- National Diploma from Katsina Polytechnic (Now, Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic) in 1983, a National Diploma in Business Administration from the same Polytechnic in 1985, a Higher National Diploma from Kaduna Polytechnic in 1989 and a Master of Public Policy and Administration from Bayero University, Kano in 2002.
For instance, his Higher National Diploma certificate bears Mohammed Ashiru Isa, while the Post- graduate Diploma Certificate from the same institution bears Isa Mohammed Ashiru and his Masters Degree certificate from the Bayero University bears Ashiru Mohammed Isa. His National Youth Service Certificate bears Mohammed Ashiru Isa, while the Certificate of Participation in a course on ‘Current Affairs and World Politics for Public Officers’ which he attended at West London College in June 2008 has Isa M. Ashiru on it.
Under the Penal Code, perjury must be given under oath or under express provision of the law, which is different under the Criminal Code, as it is deemed to have been made whether under oath or not.
On November 15th,when the fireworks resume on the mother of all case, at the Kaduna State High Court, Kaduna State citizens will be following the proceedings with keen interest.