Home News House of Representatives Divided Over Educational Requirements for Political Office, Steps down the bill

House of Representatives Divided Over Educational Requirements for Political Office, Steps down the bill

House of Representatives Divided Over Educational Requirements for Political Office, Steps down the bill

In a contentious session on Tuesday, the House of Representatives witnessed heated debates over a proposed bill seeking to elevate the minimum educational requirement for political office holders in Nigeria.

The bill, presented by Hon. Adewunmi Onanuga, aimed to amend Section 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution to mandate a university degree or its equivalent for candidates aspiring to the highest political offices in the land.

However, the argument surrounding the education qualification of public office holders was heightened following the controversy surrounding former president Muhammadu Buhari’s education. The credibility of Buhari’s senior school certificate came under serious question in the first four years of his leadership, owing to many factors, including poor leadership acumen. It thus ignited and fueled the debate on whether a higher educational qualification should be a prerequisite for leadership roles.

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Onanuga, the sponsor of the bill, argued passionately for the need to raise the bar, stating, “It had become necessary to peg a university degree or its equivalent as the basic minimum educational requirement to vie for political offices.”

She emphasized the importance of ensuring that political officeholders possess the necessary educational background to effectively lead the nation.

Benson said in support of the bill, “Anyone who is going to oppose this bill should tell us if his son or daughter is in the university or not. I can’t believe that in this modern age, some people will say ‘don’t go to school but yet go and be the president.”

Support for the bill was also echoed by House Leader Julius Ihonvbere, who highlighted the significance of knowledge in modern leadership.

“We all know what the world is today. In a world where knowledge is power, we see leaders of other nations who make excellent presentations but here, we have leaders dodging debate.

“I don’t think this requirement should apply to all political offices. For local governments, it might not be required but the president, vice-president, national assembly members should be required to own a degree,” he said.

Another lawmaker, Leke Abejide, in support of the bill, added: “The world has moved, Nigeria should not be left behind. If we put a mediocre candidate to head an important political office, we will end up in disaster.”

However, the proposed amendment faced staunch opposition from some lawmakers. Hon. Aliyu Madaki argued that leadership quality is not solely determined by one’s level of education.

“Your level of education is never a determinant of what you will do when you are put in a position of leadership,” Madaki asserted, advocating for maintaining the existing educational requirements.

Other dissenting voices raised concerns about the potential exclusion of less privileged individuals from participating in politics. Usman Bashir expressed concern about limiting political office eligibility to degree holders, highlighting the disparity in access to higher education across the country.

“We have less privileged Nigerians who couldn’t afford to go to the university. I propose that we allow the minimum requirement for political office holders to remain the school certificate,” Bashir argued.

Similarly, Ahmed Jaha cautioned against overemphasizing qualifications over practical knowledge and governance experience.

“Qualification alone is not a true taste of knowledge. We are making laws for good governance and peace in this country. We will not make laws that will favor only a few number of Nigerians.

“How many Nigerians are degree holders? America that we refer to have done greatly in educating her citizens but here in Nigeria, what have we done in improving our education system?”

Hon. Inuwa Garba said, “The mover of this bill is not aware of what is happening in some part of this country. Some schools in some parts of the country have been shut down for a while now. Certificate is not a true test of knowledge. The bill is discriminatory against some people.”

Despite the impassioned debates, Hon. Onanuga ultimately chose to step down the bill, acknowledging the need for further deliberation and consensus-building among her colleagues.

“It appears some of our colleagues need further lobbying. I will move to step down the bill for now,” Onanuga conceded, signaling a temporary halt to the legislative process.

The contentious discussions surrounding the educational qualifications for political office holders underscore the broader debate on the role of education in leadership. While proponents argue for higher academic standards to ensure competent governance, opponents emphasize the importance of inclusivity and practical experience in political leadership.

In a country striving for progress and development, the balance between educational requirements and inclusive representation is believed to be a critical consideration for shaping the future of Nigerian politics. However, it is not clear whether the current education requirement will be changing anytime soon.

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