If the proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution by the national conference sails through, the presidential ambitions of some notable Nigerians may come to an abrupt end.
Investigations by our correspondent in Abuja showed that the proposal that whoever wants to be the President should have a university degree may become an albatross for such politicians.
Among the politicians that may be barred are a former Head of State, Maj.Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.); a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido.
Section 131 of the present constitution spells out qualifications concerning anyone who is aspiring to be a President.
It says, “A person shall be qualified for election to the office as the President if (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of 40 ; (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by a political party; and (d) he has been educated up to at least school c ertificate level or its equivalent.”
Although the proposed amendments did not alter the section significantly, it adds that anyone who aspires to be a President must have paid his tax as and when due and must be a university graduate.
The proposed amendments in the Section 131 of the Principal Act is altered by:
(A) inserting a new subsection (c) as follows:
“(C) he has paid his tax as and when due” and “(d) he is registered to vote”
(b) deleting the word “and” in paragraph (d) with the following and renumbering same as paragraph (e)-
“(e) he has been educated up to at least the university first degree or its equivalent”.
If the amendments are carried out, a clean copy of this Section of the constitution will now read, “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if :
(a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth, (b)he has attained the age of 40 , (c) he has paid his tax as and when due(d) he has registered to vote and (e) he has been educated up to at least the university first degree level or its equivalent.”
Meanwhile, delegates to the conference have expressed divergent views on whether this aspect of the amendment should be implemented or not.
A delegate from the northern part of the country, said the provision was aimed at stopping some notable presidential aspirants from the zone.
The delegate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, vowed that the zone would mobilise and “stop the offensive aspect of the amendment at the National Assembly.”
“We are waiting for them. Let them put whatever they want to put and see whether that will pass through the National Assembly,” he added.
But another delegate, Prof. Isaac Albert, said there was nothing wrong with the provision, adding that it would be wrong to assume that the section was amended to punish the North.
He said, “No, it is wrong to assume that we are targeting northern politicians. In fact, there are many professors in the N orth.
“What we did was an attempt to improve academic standing of those who want to lead this country. We indeed have enough graduates in the region.”
Another delegate, Chief Paul Enebeli, who is the President General of Ndokwa Nation and member representing the South-South, said Nigerians would be deceiving themselves to think that the people from the northern part of country were not educated.
He said most of the people who attended best schools outside the country were from the North.
Enebeli, who defended the provision, said, “Having a degree means you will have experience to govern and lead.
“Look at the quality of the delegates from the north who attended the conference. Majority of them are degree holders. We even had professors among them.”
But a delegate from the North, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, disagreed, saying that though it was good to be well educated, having degrees might not necessarily mean you could lead better.
He said that some Nigeria’s past leaders whom he scored high were not university graduates.
Mohammed said, “We have had those who didn’t go to the university and have done well as our leaders.
“And we have had and still have those who went to the university and are leading us as if they never went to any school.
“At the level of the Presidency, what you do is mere management and consultation, which having degree may not be necessary .” (Punch)