Speaking the Nations Mind

Obaseki’s Missing Certificates And The Scent Of Suspicion By Daniel Obasohan

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The least expected controversy about Mr Godwin Obaseki, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the September 10 governorship election in Edo State was the one about his educational qualification.

But out of the blue, it broke that he had deposed to an affidavit that the original copies of not one but all of his educational certificates, including his NYSC certificate, are missing. What he could therefore tender as the proof of having attended the schools he claimed were photocopies of the lost original documents.

Incredulous as this may sound, it is not improbable. However, the level of its acceptance would be largely dependent on the circumstance of the reported occurrence. It is not unusual to have all such documents

destroyed or lost in incidents of inferno, extreme flooding, ghastly motor accidents or armed robbery, of which development must be promptly reported to the police.

However, in the present case, Obaseki claims that he lost his certificates in the course of his changing offices. By this statement he has established the fact that he knows how and when the certificates got lost. The question that arises is, did he report to the police and when and where? Whereas his office is in Lagos and he lives in Benin City presently, he obtained an affidavit from a High Court in Abuja on June 7.

Ordinarily, a man losing his certificates would not make the headlines or stir public interest; but when it involves a governorship candidate in an election who, by law, is expected to put up the evidence of his admitted qualifications for public scrutiny, there is bound to be suspicion about the claim.

Thus, Godwin Obaseki’s unexpected revelation has left a scent of suspicion. Even his very recent claim that the originals have now been found in his house in the United States also raises suspicion and a whiff of incredulity.

Unless and until he makes public the original documents, it will be difficult to erase the impression of possible perjury that has been created in the minds of people.

Back to the development before his very recent claim that the documents have been found in the US, his party, the APC, and his supporters have rallied round him in defence saying that it was possible he really lost the certificates. Yes it is possible to have lost them, but then it is possible that it could be convenient for him to have lost them. Some others say it was not in doubt that he is educated and went to the institutions he claims. The more arrogant ones have challenged his opponents to go to court if not satisfied with the claim in the affidavit.

One cannot but agree that Godwin Obaseki is an educated man and there is no doubt that he went to the schools he claims. However, being smart or intelligent is no proof of having sat for a particular examination. The proof of it is the certificate which comes in the name of the bearer and particulars of the examination and which on no account could be altered.

It is to guard against getting away with altering the particulars of the certificate that makes possessing the original copies which may be required for verification, a sine qua non. Whereas the photocopy is an indication of how the original looks, it is no foolproof evidence of how it is. Therefore, losing the original could be a way to conveniently conceal material facts, and anyone could be excused suspecting Godwin Obaseki of this until he can sufficiently prove otherwise.

The issue of challenging the opposition to go to court should be a line of defence by Obaseki’s party and his supporters. The weakness of our statutes or legal instruments should not be the basis for the privileged and the powerful to circumvent the law or due process. It has not been a good commentary how the issues of disputed certificates of elected officials, particularly of the ruling party have been resolved.

The depressing thought of the unbelievable outcomes of previous cases in court should not be a deterrent to would-be litigants if they feel a legal option can be explored to get at the facts.  However, the onus of removing reasonable doubt at this material time is on Godwin Obaseki. In the event that he is unable to discharge this responsibility, the public, particularly the voting Edo public should reflect deeply on whether he can be trusted. We cannot be unmindful of the fact that Obaseki has a prior shadow of doubt as to how trustworthy he is.

First was the issue of whether he is not an archetype of the bloodline that would pose a threat to the dignity of the Benin Royal Throne.

In any case, the kernel of this matter is that of trust. Given that not much is known to Edo people of Godwin Obaseki, should he be

Mr Obasohan sent this piece from Benin City.

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