Its People who lead , not Degrees

Its People who lead , not Degrees

By Evans Karangu

Despite Education being the most powerful weapon, you can use to change the world as quoted by Riley B. King- an American guitarist and singer, many politicians, entrepreneurs, famous artists and prominent people have proved this wrong through the achievements they made in life.

Following the High court’s move to suspend the Commission for University Education(CUE) from revoking Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja’s university degree, pending hearing and determination of his case and also prohibiting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), from striking Sakaja from the list of candidates cleared to run for the Nairobi Governor’s seat, the question as to whether academic papers determine a person’s leadership skills arises.

The world has seen exemplary leadership from politicians with no university degree notably the first President of the United States of America – George Washington who didn’t complete his school education because of his father’s death, and former South African President Jacob Zuma who also served as Deputy President for the country never went to school, Abraham Lincoln, a President who guided the (USA) during her dark state was self-educated and many others.

The University act of 2012 signed by the late President Mwai Kibaki is “An Act of Parliament to provide for the development of university education; the establishment, accreditation and governance of universities; the establishment of the Commission for University Education, the Universities Funding Board and the Kenya University and Colleges Central Placement Service Board; the repeal of certain laws, and for connected purposes”.

In 2011, the degree requirement was tabled in parliament and set to be implemented in the 2013 general elections, but the majority of MPs did not meet the qualifications therefore they managed to lobby for a five-year suspension of the passing bill.

In 2016, the parliament of the day amended the principal act to allow only those with recognized university degrees to run for political office.

The Amended Elections act of 2022 which clearly states that all candidates in the six elective positions must have a university degree to be able to qualify to run for office was however postponed in the 2017 polls to give time to allow Members of Parliament and Members of County Assemblies to acquire the required academic qualifications.

On 14th of June 2021, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati made a declaration to confirm that even MPs and MCAs must also have degrees to be allowed to run in the 2022 general election.

Cases of fake degree certificates have been arising. This has caused the Kenya National Qualifications Authority and the Commission for University Education to verify academic certifications, a move declared by IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati in 2021.

Many have the view that university degree requirements will only restrain political leadership to only the elite and will deprive a number of good leaders who may not have been privileged to pursue higher education from vying for political positions.

File image of Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja. |Photo| Courtesy|

Concerns that the bill should seek to provide for inclusivity in the election process by enabling persons who can read and write to vie for election have also been raised.

The deputy president has always reiterated that The Constitution prohibits any unreasonable restrictions being placed on the way of voters or candidates to be able to vie or vote in any elections. He has been asking for Parliament to come up with laws that will not discriminate against any Kenyan.

The requirement for a degree is a two-edged sword. It can easily be interpreted as a violation of political rights and also the fact that those overseeing governors should not have degree requirements but the prescription applies to governors then it raises concerns as once stated by  Mutula Kilonzo Jr in June last year. Many also argue that provided one can read and write(literate), they should be allowed to run for political office.

Senator Sakaja moved to court to challenge CUE’s decision to revoke recognition of his university degree, arguing that it was made unfairly and in favour of his political rivals. Should a candidate’s political rivals create mischief and craft a political agenda so as to block a candidate from vying for a political seat using academic requirements?

Professor Herman Manyora of the Nairobi review has posed a question as to where are our Universities when cases of fake degree certificates arise and why aren’t they there to help support such cases by ascertaining the authenticity of degrees?

Where is Uganda’s Team University because Sakaja attached his degree certificate alongside a letter from the Executive Director informing that he enrolled for a Bachelor of Science in Management as a student in Distance Learning and graduated on October 21, 2016? Society is also at risk because if it is possible for one to buy a degree certificate, what message are we posing to the younger generations in school?

The success of Abraham Lincoln, Jacob Zuma and others rising to higher positions in office without a University degree proves that one can perform in leadership without having academic papers. It is a legal consideration at the moment but should Sakaja be barred from vying for the gubernatorial seat?

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