by Theophilus Ilevbare
The resounding victory the Comrade Governor, Adams Oshiomhole recorded over the combined cult of fixers, godfathers and godsons who for ten harrowing years withheld the dividend of democracy from the Edo people for the grand satiation of their ancient greed and rapacious tendencies have left a bitter pill in the mouth of the PDP big wigs as they watched retired Major General Charles Airhiavbere’s high hopes for the July 14, 2012 elections crumble like a pack of cards.
He failed to win in his polling unit where he voted, losing by a landslide across the 18 local government areas of the state, to prove that when the electorate are allowed to make the best possible choice on who governs, Nigerians and indeed the Edo people, can make a difference with democracy.
In his first tenure in 2008, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole on assumption of office, after a prolonged court battle to reclaim his stolen mandate from Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, was in a hurry to perform and demonstrated to Edo people that the change they crave is not impossible as the PDP made it seem. Across the State, schools were refurbished and built, potable water provided for areas without water for 25 years due to rocky and low level of water table, road construction and reconstruction, the agricultural sector has been repositioned, internal revenue leapfrogged from a paltry 200million to about 2billion naira monthly.
In the health sector, hospitals were built and renovated. For the first time in almost a decade, Edo was truly working as it became a massive construction site. His unprecedented achievements earned him accolades and awards from within and outside the state. His impressive first term scorecard resulted in a clamour from royal fathers, chiefs, professionals, clerics, civil societies, organisations, groups and the Edo man on the streets to seek a second term in office. As the elections drew near, the Edo people were not just rooting for him but prepared to defend their votes to ensure that the Comrade Governor, as he is now fondly called, is given an opportunity to consolidate on the giant strides in his first term. The Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa, CFR, while receiving ACN leaders to his palace prior to the July 2012 elections summed up the wishes of well-meaning people of Edo state this way “we are all praying for Oshiomhole to be re-elected in 2012. I and my chiefs are also hoping that he comes back and complete unfinished projects.”
Despite the elections widely considered as free and fair, the PDP went ahead to contest the outcome of the poll at the State Election Petition Tribunal. After consultation with the leadership of the party, within and outside the state, they made a U-turn and withdrew their petition barely three days after it was filed. The state chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih in a press statement titled Let God Be The Judge remarked “we have resolved not to file election charges at the tribunal in the interest of the state”.
However, they still maintained that the results where manipulated to favour the incumbent. Apparently the PDP weighed its options and decided not to proceed with its case, thinking it would turn out to be an exercise in futility.
General Airhiavbere (rtd) would not have any of this as he proceeded to file an application challenging Oshiomhole’s re-election on the basis of certificate forgery and perjury. He alleged that the elementary school Oshiomhole claimed to have attended was not in existence at that time, and that he also tendered fake certificate on oath to INEC from Blessed Martins Modern Secondary School from which he dropped out. Going by constitutional provisions, this disqualifies him from contesting the election.
Against this background, General Charles Airhiavbere told the Tribunal that all certificates presented to INEC by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to contest the July 2012 election were mere documents.
Indeed, a closer look at Governor Oshiomhole’s credentials showed that though he claimed to have attended Iyamoh Primary School, Iyamoh, in the then Midwest state from 1957-1962. His claim is however, contrary to investigation at the Edo State Ministry of Education which revealed that Iyamoh Primary School was founded in 1963, a year after the governor said he graduated from it. His name is said not to be in the class register nor among the graduated class of the Blessed Martins Secondary Modern School he claimed to have graduated from in 1965. If he was born in 1953 and graduated from a secondary school in 1965, as declared on oath, could it be correct that he complete secondary school at the age of 12?
Curiously, the name on Oshiomhole’s primary and secondary school certificates simply bears Adams Aliu, and his Ahmadu Bello University Adult Education certificate submitted to INEC, bears Adams O. Aliyu, while subsequent certificates bear his current name Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole.
This disconnect in his names was made evident when the comrade governor in a handwritten affidavit he personally deposed to INEC stated that he had no previous names other than Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. The discrepancy in Oshiomhole’s stated dates, names and schools belie the veracity of his claim and may be considered as perjury on oath. The PDP’s candidate argues that in line with the provisions of the constitution, the governor was not eligible to stand as a candidate in the election.
After Oshiomhole’s claim to secondary education, he obtained an adult education certificate from Ahmadu Bello University before proceeding to Ruskin College, Oxford, an educational institution that specialises in providing education opportunities for adults with few or no formal qualifications, where he obtained a diploma in Economics and Industrial Relations. He is also an Alumnus of the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.
The 1999 constitution stipulates, “a person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if
(a) He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;
(b) He has attained the age of thirty-five years;
(c) He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and
(d) He has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”
Sub section (d) above is the relevant section Airhiavbere is holding unto, asking the election tribunal to quash Oshiomhole’s election.
Pertinent to note, on Sept. 27, Justice Suleman Ambrusa of the election petition tribunal , struck out several paragraphs of General Airhiavbere’s petition, on the basis that it was a pre-election issue, which only the regular court had jurisdiction to handle.
On Arhiavbere’s appeal, the court of appeal ruled in his favour that the tribunal erred in law to have disqualified itself from entertaining the reliefs that bothered on Oshiomhole’s educational qualification to contest the governorship election and therefore restored its pleadings and ordered that the Acting President of the Court of Appeal should re-constitute a new tribunal to revisit the petition filed by the retired Major General.
Because of his grand performance since been in office, there has been a show of public sympathy towards Governor Oshiomhole’s travails at the tribunal and many consider Airhiavbere’s petition as a desperate attempt to clinch power at Osadebey Avenue. A more objective angle to the tribunal proceedings can be a simple clarification of the Nigerian constitution as it applies to qualifications when running for public office. Its not unusual in Nigeria to have cases of certificate forgery post election. As it is with other court cases, evidence is key and certificate forgery is a very difficult one to prove.
Senator Yisa Braimoh had his suit of certificate forgery against Senator Domingo Obende representing Edo North Senatorial district dismissed by a Federal High Court in Abuja. Similarly, Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswan won a case on educational qualification instituted against him at the Federal High Court Abuja by a chieftain of the PDP, Terver Kakih. On the flipside, former Speaker of Federal House of Representative, Alhaji Salisu Buhari was disgraced out of office for awarding himself a fake certificate he claimed to have obtained from the University of Toronto. Today, there abound numerous cases of certificate forgery in the country.
Issues of certificate forgery are not uncommon in other political climes. President Barack Obama, during the run-up to his re-election into the White House had to prove his place of birth was Hawaii by publishing his original birth certificate to effectively silence his critics.
What has a certificate got to do with performance in public office? Past Governors, Lucky Igbinedion and Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor with degrees had nothing to show for the combined ten years they were in office. We have a President Jonathan who makes a mockery of the Ph.D degree with poor grasp of national issues, his government’s profligacy and lack of will power to fight corruption.
History reminds us of great men, no fault of theirs that they had little or no formal education, but who aspired to become authority in various fields. The likes of Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Michael Faraday and many others come to mind. The emphasis placed on certificates and formal education in this part of the world is another reason numerous cases of certificate forgery are periodically unraveled in the country. If charisma, leadership skills, political sagacity and such are yardsticks for public office holders, then Governor Oshiomhole is light-years ahead of his contemporaries.
Governor Oshiomhole’s remark about General Airhiavbere sums it up: “Ironically, the guy, who is saying that I did not go to school does not know the difference between UN and the World Bank. He does not know the difference between European Union and IMF”.
Undeniably, Governor Oshiomhole has lifted Edo State from the doldrum and inept leadership of the heisty hands of former PDP Governors, putting the state on the path to economic recovery and sustainable development. The election petition tribunal sitting is a distraction.
Though Oshiomhole has tried to brave the odds, sources close to the governor say he has been shaken by the discovery of discrepancies in his academic qualification. Earlier, Oshiomhole in his response to the petition filed against him at the tribunal said he considered it frivolous. These allegations have however gathered momentum and now seem capable of truncating his giant strides and unwavering commitment to the upliftment of Edo state and its people.
The big questions remain; can Governor Adams Oshiomhole prove his certificates? Can he weather the storm?
Only time will tell.
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