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Why semi literates are governing Nigeria – Prof. Nwabueze

By Emeka Mamah

Apparently miffed by the degeneration in Nigeria’s political and economic fortunes in the recent years, the National Chairman of the Patriots and Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, Professor Ben Nwabueze has called for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to ensure an upper age limit of 70 years or below for anybody to be eligible to contest for office of President, Governor and state and national assemblies.

Prof. Nwabueze

Nwabueze said that “Our dear country is bleeding to death. It needs a leader to save it.” He gave poor marks to President Muhammadu Buhari in the last three , stressing that his performance was abysmally low.

These were contained in a statement in he issued in Enugu.

According to him, any claim that “Nigeria is anything other than an underdeveloped country or that its economy has been, or is being effectively managed is fanciful, indeed a fallacy… or based on dream.”  On age limit, he said that “the wear and tear and stresses of life, coupled with health and other challenges, rob every one of us, after the age of 70 years, of the energy required for the job of governing Nigeria,” pointing out that “Anyone aspiring to govern and lead Nigeria as President should also be a person with plenty of energy, a high amount of energy characteristic of the youth, the energy of youth, the kind of energy that will enable him or her to engage in the arduous task of mobilising the people for national transformation; mobilisation of the people for such a purpose being one of the most arduous tasks of political leadership.|

Qualification for political office

He also called for the review of qualifications for political office holders from the elementary school certificate to university degree or equivalent, saying that the bane of the country’s leadership was semi literacy.

He stressed that a situation where semi literates were governors or president did not augur well for the country as they lacked the intellectual capacity required for good governance.

He also said that the first school leaving certificate prescribed as qualification for office holders in the constitution should be substituted with university degree since semi literates who occupy offices of governors, president or become members of both the state and National Assembles do not have the intellectual capacity to lead the nation.

According to him, there was no part of the country which had not produced several university graduates to represent them as governors, president or members of the state and National Assemblies these days.

The statement further read, “Good leadership: The qualities and credentials needed for good leadership can readily be identified. The primal credential is good education, such as would enable the leadership to combine -ideas and power, intellectualism and politics.

“Leadership is a critical part of Nigeria’s problem of governance because the educational qualification prescribed for our political leaders by section 131(d), as amended by the National Assembly in 2010, and section 318(1) of the Constitution does not equip them to be able to combine ideas and power; intellectualism and politics.

“In these days of widespread ‘expo,’ certificate faking and general degeneration in the standards of education in our schools and colleges, primary six school leaving certificate prescribed by the Constitution for those seeking elective political office is really next door to illiteracy.

“A semi -literate President or Governor is what the prescription tantamounts to. What little literacy is acquired from the educational system at the primary school level is soon lost owing to the lack of a reading culture that pervades our society, caused to a considerable extent by the enthronement of wealth as the determinant of social standing and the consequent inordinate pursuit of it and of other mundane, non-intellectual pursuits.

“No one with this kind of thoroughly inadequate educational background can be expected to read, with understanding, the Constitution of Nigeria, laden, and it is, with difficult and perplexing concepts, or the books on constitutional law, political science and sociology where the knowledge of these concepts can be found.

“And knowing that he cannot understand them, he would have no inclination or disposition to buy the books or to read them.

The desire to accommodate educationally backward areas, which no doubt is the reason underlying the provisions, is no justification for prescribing such low level of educational qualification for election to the office of president, state governor or member of the National Assembly.

“There is no state in the country today that does not have a fair number of university graduates.

“The effect of these provisions is, lamentably, to entrench in the Constitution the intellectual poverty and educational inadequacy which has characterised leadership at the level of the presidency since independence in 1960 right up to the election of President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007 (the first university graduate to hold the office of Executive President discounting the interim arrangement under which Chief Ernest Shonekan, a university graduate, ruled for four or so months) and the ascension to the presidential office by Vice-President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan on May 5, 2010, after the death of Umaru Yar’Adua.

“The low educational qualification prescribed for elective political leaders has resulted, sadly, in the relegation of intellectualism in government and politics in the country. Intellectualism is concerned essentially with the notion of ideas, that is: the mental ability to comprehend ideas, and to reason or think them out.

“An intellectual is a person engaged in creative and rational thinking about the world, about humanity, about human relationships, and about the governance of human society; he is a person dedicated to the study and understanding of ideas that govern and shape our world, society, the organism known as thestate, and generally to intellectual pursuits and interests. “The power of ideas in shaping human life and in liberating, liberalising and stimulating the mind is well highlighted in a book by Peter Watson titled Ideas : A History From Fire to Freud, first published in 2005, a tome of a book, 1117 pages, which everyone aspiring to govern and lead Nigeria should read.

“Our Constitution should, therefore, prescribe an upper age limit for the presidency, say, 70 years or lower, as is the case in some countries of the world, and as is done for non-elective public officers in Nigeria.

“In addition to the sort of education that would enable the leadership to combine ideas and power, intellectualism and politics, the type of leadership needed for our country has to be one, not only committed to democracy and constitutionalism, but also one at once dedicated, single-minded, selfless, disciplined, patriotic and highly motivated in the national interest with a deep concern for the public good/welfare, a leadership able to mobilise the various strata of society, and prepared to commit suicide by sacrificing its vested economic interest in the preservation of the status quo.

“It must be a leadership whose sincerity of purpose is so transparent as to induce people to adopt the desired new patterns of behaviour in place of the old ones and whose dedication to the cause is sufficiently total and selfless to inspire confidence, a leadership that is seen to be practising what it preaches.

“People cannot be persuaded by the leadership to be tolerant, honest, public-spirited, patriotic, fair-minded, law-abiding, devoted, disciplined,” among others “if the leaders themselves do not practise those virtues.


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