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A senator’s battle with alleged certificate scandal
Those of us who recognize the National Assembly as one of the most important institutions and symbols of our democracy are very cautious in joining the bandwagon in disparaging or denigrating the institution.This explains why some of us are always in pains when we read and watch the somewhat negative image of the institution being presented daily by some of our media to the national and international community.In a very competitive global world where propriety is measured by the conduct of public officials, we need a surfeit of men and women of integrity and character.
But the underbelly of the seventh Senate, as typified by Senator (Dr.) Deacon Domingo Alaba Obende, representing the Edo North Senatorial District, has once again been exposed and brought to public attention through a case that has just been filed at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Whereas Edo North is one area that is so blessed with highly qualified men and women that can proudly represent the people at all levels, it would appear inexplicable that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) would present someone with questionable credentials as a senatorial candidate.
His opponent in the April 9, 2011 election, Senator Yisa Braimoh and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are heaping a moral burden on Obende and he will be legally compelled to prove to the world that he is the owner of the many names -Domingo, Alaba, John, Saliu, Obende- that inconsistently appear in the different certificates he parades. This legal voyage by Braimoh and the PDP will be to prove that Obende, for instance, forged the First School Leaving Certificate he presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It must also prove that the certificate, with which he purportedly gained admission into the University of Benin to study Public Administration on a part-time basis from 1997 to 2001, and, at the end of which he was awarded a Bachelor’s degree, was a fraud.
Obende, according to Braimoh and the PDP, claimed to hold a Craft Training Certificate in Painting and Decoration from the Government Trade Centre, Yaba. Their contention: this is a Ministry of Labour Trade Test Class III or II certificate issued by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to artisans. Another contention: it is definitely not the equivalent of the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.) Ordinary Level, West African School Certificate (WASC) Ordinary Level, National Examination Council (NECO) or even the Teachers’ Grade II Certificate which could probably B. PA from 200 level? At the end of the case, the court will have to decide whether Obende is a fit and proper person to sit in the seat of a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerians deserve to have men and women of honour and integrity, with the right qualifications, to represent them at all levels.
This (to bar persons of questionable characters) was the intendment of the old practice that candidates for elective offices in Nigeria should be screened by the State Security Services (SSS) and the INEC, even though it was not a perfect one. But the National Assembly changed the practice.
Political parties are now saddled with the responsibility of screening their candidates. This development has, unfortunately, allowed political charlatans with megabucks to buy their ways into elective offices.
The National Assembly may want to tinker with the relevant electoral laws by allowing the SSS and INEC to screen candidates of political parties, as this will go a long way in saving us the embarrassment.But it is hoped that Obende will prove Braimoh and PDP wrong. He must be prepared, therefore, to come out and prove to the court and the world that he is above board like Caesar’s wife and that he is a fit and proper person to represent his Edo North district in the Senate.
Nasamu, a political scientist, contributed this piece from Benin.