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EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATION AND POLITICS IN NIGERIA: A MISPLACEMENT OF PRIORITY???

Nigerians are arguably the most educated people in Africa and among the top most educated people in the world. Currently, the country is estimated to have some 200 million people and many of the families represented in this huge number have got at least a graduate. And outside the country, many very educated Nigerians can be seen working in both the formal and informal sectors. In the United States of America for example, Nigerians are the single most educated black population. This not surprising because the average Nigerian won’t rest until he/she has atleast a diploma.

Knowing this about the country, employers of labor – both private and public employers – are won’t to recruit mainly job seekers who have at least a diploma, HND or a university degree. And these days, having a Master’s degree is increasingly becoming the benchmark in securing any good job whose pay can truly take one home. And while expecting these diploma/first degree/master’s degree applicants to be young, they also expect them to have atleast 100 years (pun intended) of working experience. Hell, how does a young and recently graduated boy/girl acquire relevant work experience if they cannot be hired because they do not have experience?

Now, juxtapose these high expectations of employers, public and private, with what is expected of those seeking to occupy elective political positions in the country: the least educational qualification needed to be the president or a state governor in Nigeria is secondary school leaving certificate. Therefore, with an ‘ordinary’ WAEC/NECO certificate, any Nigerian is qualified to become the President of the country or a state governor and he or she need not have any years of experience in politics, governance and government. This means that the Nigerian political system is structured and built in such a way that the least educated person can superintendent on the most educated person – if he or she can win an elective position – while the educated are expected to operate below and take key instructions from this person.

This setup/structure is both worrisome and unfortunate seeing that politics is the lord and master of every sphere of society – because it has the authority to allocate values and presently determine who gets what, when and how. Thus, the quality of the group of people who occupy political offices in a country, ceteris paribus, largely determines how well that country is governed. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Nigeria is not making progress seeing that the very educated are in the civil service and in the private sector but they take instructions/directives from politicians who know next to nothing.

Both the public service and the private sector with a large presence of educated people cannot make progress in a country where less educated and less experienced people, because they are politicians, calls the shots in terms of overall strategic business and economic policies. For Nigeria to make progress, we have to amend that section of the 1999 Constitution and up the basic educational requirement for political office seekers across board – say a diploma or first degree, along with some level of political and public governance experience – particularly with regards to the offices of the president, governors and members of the National Assembly.

What do you think?

©Chad Otsapa

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