If you raise questions about my secondary school education or university education or my National Youth Service Corps or my age, I will not respond by hiring 13 Senior Advocates of Nigeria to battle with you. I will not prod my classmates to pay a visit to me. I will not publish my NYSC photographs. Neither will I prod my supporters to start attacking anybody who asks me to present my certificate.
I will react in a simple way by publishing my secondary school certificate, my university certificates, my NYSC certificate, or my birth certificate with my baptismal certificate, as the case may be.
If I decide to sue the person or group for libel or scandal, that will be after I have shown the public the certificate in question.
This procedure is in tandem with the saying of my people that when a man is accused of being having ibi (which some call scrotal elephantiasis), it does not require a long process or noise or a quarrel. What the accused man needs to do is to raise his wrapper or loincloth for his fellow men to see if the accusation is true. Once confirmed otherwise, that is the end of the matter.
To ensure that my certificates and other credentials are within reach, I have kept sets of copies in different locations. I have also saved copies in my email addresses as well as on the cloud. So wherever I am, I have access to them. If the physical copies get lost or missing, for any reason, the online copies can be reached and printed out. So I will not have to give any excuses about fire burning them or water destroying them or thieves stealing them.
When a matter is straightforward, it does not require long stories and processes. It is only when truth is scarce in a matter that long stories crop and drama crops up.
Before the 2015 election when the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari, was accused of not having a secondary school certificate, based on the fact that he did not attach any in his application since 2003 when he began to contest for president, one expected him to take that simple route of presenting his certificate. But he did not. It was during that debate about his certificate that the famous saying arose that even if Buhari had a NEPA bill as certificate, he would still be voted for.
Even after he was sworn in as President, someone sued him that he did not have a secondary school certificate and was, therefore, not qualified to be the President. Rather than present his certificate, he hired a team of 13 Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend him in court. Nobody knew what went behind the scene that made the applicant to discontinue with the case.
A similar scenario arose recently. Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial District, was accused by Sahara Reporters of not graduating from Ahmadu Bello University with a certificate. Rather than present his certificate, Melaye published his NYSC pictures. Since then all kinds of drama have continued to be staged about the certificate. The only thing that has not been done is to present a copy of the certificate. And many see that as a pointer that there are questions over his possession of a university certificate.
Ironically, those who are most vociferous about the non-presentation of Melaye’s certificate are those who said that it was not important for Buhari to present his secondary school certificate two years ago. One finds it hard to define such double standards and hypocrisy.
But the reason is not farfetched. Even though Melaye is of the same party as Buhari, he has angered many supporters of the APC with his support for the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on his prosecution for allegation of false declaration of assets as well as illegal change of rules of the Senate. In addition, Melaye has often criticised the administration of Buhari and also had an altercation with Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of Chief Bola Tinubu, national leader of the APC. He has, therefore, become a sort of enemy that must be cut down to size.
This has been the nature of the criticism of many people on national issues. Today, you will read some people shout themselves hoarse on the need to obey the rule of law. A week of month after, you will find the same people shout themselves hoarse on why it does not matter if the rule of law is obeyed on a matter involving somebody they do not like. Today, you hear such people advise an officer being probed to resign. Tomorrow, you will see the same people state that an officer being probed does not need to resign. It goes on and on.
This happens because most people take positions on issues based on political, religious or ethnic considerations. They judge situations based on emotions. They judge situations based on the individuals involved, not on issues. They, therefore, vacillate on issues depending on who is involved.
But when you respond to issues based on principle, you cannot be caught changing your stand on issues like the so-called British weather. If, for example, you believe in the respect for the rule of law, that will be your stand always. Even when your enemy or political opponent is on trial and he is granted bail by a law court, you will be among those who will say: “Obey the court and let him go home.” If you are against extrajudicial killing, even when the security agencies shoot at people demonstrating against the government you support, you should be among those who will say: “This is a democracy and citizens have the right to peacefully protest without being killed by the police or the soldiers.”
In the same vein, if you have no tolerance for corruption, you should condemn any act of corruption or ostentation or waste exhibited by those in office, no matter who the individual is. If your political ally spends N250m to decorate the streets while owing the workers, you should condemn it the same way you condemned a governor you don’t like who spent N300m to organise a party while owing workers.
That is how to stand on principle. That is how to avoid hypocrisy. That is how to take actions that will make politicians stand on their toes and deliver results, knowing that they will not get support when they deviate from basic leadership norms.
Party members can wallow in partisanship but not non-party members who say they want the best for the nation. Those who don’t belong to political parties and want the growth and development of the country should not allow politicians to drag them into the murky waters of political hero-worship and fanaticism.
After all the drama, it was reported on Monday, March 27, 2017 that the Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University told the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges that Melaye graduated (as Daniel Melaye) with a third class division from the Department of Geography. If he presented his certificate immediately this issue began, all this drama and waste of national time would have been unnecessary.
However, Melaye can now continue with his court case against Sahara Reporters to serve as a warning that allegations should not be made against people without facts.
Azuka Onwuka, firstname.lastname@example.org; 0809-8727-263 (sms only)