Nigeria is a funny country, we cry when we are supposed to be quiet, while we keep quiet when we are supposed to cry. I see no end to Nigeria’s problems.
In 1999, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari, was forced to resign and later prosecuted on two-count charge of falsification of date of birth and forgery of Toronto University’s certificate. Even when the 360 members of the lower legislative chamber, voted that Salisu be forgiven, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo-led Federal Executive still prosecuted him. The same Chief Obasanjo later gave us controversial stories about his own date of birth.
On page three of his book, My Watch, Chief Obasanjo admitted that: ‘Normally, in the illiterate communities of those days, significant general or special events were used to date personal or family events.’ He was trying to tell the whole world that it was difficult to accurately determine his own date of birth. However, he had the conscience and temerity to prosecute Salisu, who might also be confused about his own date of birth. Still in the same book, Chief Obasanjo went further to state that: ‘But whatever it was, I was happily born on Ifo Market day, not before 1934, and not later than 1937……….. I do not know my exact date of birth, and mindful of the foregoing account, I have arbitrarily chosen March 5, 1937, as my official birthday.’
However in 1951 when Chief Obasanjo was about gaining admission into Baptist Boys High School (BBHS), he adjusted his age in order to evade the maximum age of 12 years. He proudly boasted as thus: ‘I secured a declaration of age of twelve years in 1951, so my declared age on admission to Baptist Boys’ High School was twelve, that is, according to the school’s records. I was born on March 5 in 1939, the same date as my official birthday, but in a different year. (This is colloquially known as school age!)By that, the hurdle of age for admission into BBHS was scaled.’
Remember, it was the same Chief Obasanjo that assured us that his date of birth could not be earlier than 1934 or later than 1937.
Salisu might have received the similar tipoff that for somebody to be the speaker of our Federal House of Representatives (FHR) that person must have attained the minimum age of 30, according to the Constitution of Nigeria. By following Obasanjo’s footsteps, Salisu simply adjusted his age from 29 to 36 years. I am not supporting anybody, but it is clear that both Obasanjo and Salisu Buhari previously adjusted their dates of birth to achieve a particular feat, however, as the late Gani Fawehinmi said: ‘ Nigerian law is like a cobweb, it is strong when it comes to the weak and weak when it comes to the strong’, Salisu was sacrificed in that age adjustment saga while Chief Obasanjo, the then Chief Executive, was spared.
Dr. Paul John writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State