Saturday, 18 May 2013
Oshiomhole vs Airhiavbere: A Tale Of Certificate Forgery By Theophilus Ilevbare
The resounding victory of 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 wings. This was as they watched retired Major General Charles Airhiavbere’s high hopes for the July 14, 2012 elections crumble like a pack of cards when he failed to win in his polling unit where he voted, losing by a landslide across the 18 local government areas of the state. This proved that when the electorate is 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 prolong court battle to reclaim his stolen mandate from Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, was in a hurry to perform and demonstrate to the 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 was provided for areas that have had low water resources for the past 25 years due to rocky landscape and low levels in the water table, road construction and reconstruction, the agricultural sector has been repositioned, and 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 completes unfinished projects.”
Despite the elections being 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 were 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. He also claimed that the Governor tendered a fake certificate on oath to INEC from Blessed Martins Modern Secondary School from which he dropped out, which going by a constitutional provision does not qualify him to contest 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.
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 contrary to an investigation by 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 that he claimed to have graduated from in 1965. If he was born in 1953 and graduated from a secondary school in 1965, as declared under 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 bore Adams Aliyu, and his Ahmadu Bello University Adult Education certificate submitted to INEC, bore Adams O. Aliyu, while subsequent certificates bore his current name Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole. This disconnect in his names was made evident when the comrade governor in a handwritten affidavit, that 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. The PDP’s candidate argued that in line with the provisions of the constitution, he 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 specializes in providing education opportunities for adults with few or no formal qualifications, where he obtained a diploma in Economics and Industrial Relations. He is 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, and through which he is 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 the General Airhiavbere’s petition, on the basis that it was a pre-election issue, which only the regular court had jurisdiction to handle. Consequently, on Arhiavbere’s appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled in his favour that the tribunal had erred, with regrds to the law, by disqualifing itself from entertaining the questions and issues regarding Oshiomhole’s educational qualification to contest the governorship election and therefore restored its pleadings and ordered that the Acting President of the Court of Appeals should convene a new tribunal to revisit the petition filed by the retired Major General.
Because of his grand performance since being in office, there has been a show of public sympathy towards Governor Oshiomhole’s travails at the tribunal, 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. It's 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, Mr Gabriel Suswan won a case of educational qualification instituted against him at the Federal High Court in Abuja by a Chieftain of the PDP, Mr Terver Kakih. On the flipside, Former Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, 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.
Does a certificate translate to good performance in Public Office?
Past Governors Lucky Igbinedion and Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, both 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 and his government’s profligacy and lack of will power to fight corruption.
History reminds us of great men, which through no fault of theirs that they had little or no formal education, who aspired to become the authority in various fields. The likes of Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Michael Faraday and many others. 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 the like 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 claiming 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 doldrums and inept leadership of the heisty hands of former PDP Governors, putting the state on the path to economic recovery and sustainable development. The current 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 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 the authenticity of his certificates? Will he be able to weather the storm?
Only time will tell.
God Bless Edo State, God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters