During my university days, I decided to use a period of strike to go for further practical training in my field: journalism. I approached my state-owned media house, the Osun State Broadcasting Services and met with the news head there. After explaining my aim to him, he asked if I come with a recommended letter from my institution. I told him no. I showed him everything about me- I.D card, admission letter- everything but the letter. My explanation that I have done similar training in a federal media establishment won’t enter the man’s head. I left.
Leaving the place, I felt bad. I felt bad not because I couldn’t achieve my aim but for the attitude of the man. He so much believed in a sheet of paper that he wanted me to produce over the truth. If I had gone there with a forged letter of recommendation, he would have easily allowed me to stay. Not knowing the person at the other end and being sure that the Nigerian factor of poor fact finding tradition, I know the man or his organization won’t bother to cross-checked with  the issueing institution if my claims are real.
The recent certificate hoax of the presidential candidate of the APC, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is a pointer that we are a nation who so much belief in papers over one’s ability. While I am not saying that merits should be pushed to the background, we as a people has placed to much premium on acquiring certificates over excellence, integrity and human development. Of course, standard requirements should be uphold in all official engagements whether in public or private sector. But if we really want to grow, we must also bring down our certificate-does-all-magic mentality.
What has the certificates and big, intimidating CVs got to do with productivity and performance. I would rather employ a sound and productive SSCE holder than an Msc-weilder whose expertise only ends on paper. Isn’t it depressing that a man who has been working in public or private set-up for like 20 years but with a less fancied certificate but a fantastic experience and service delivery will be paid less to a fresh graduate who will still be put through by those people he is to supervised?  So, because of this certificate-does-it-all mentality, everybody is now struggling to be certified, through all dubious means.
It is in Nigeria that you will see someone with a masters degree and many professional certification only to fail woefully when put on a task in his/her field. When I was at the NYSC orientation camp, I saw men who by mere looking at them, you know they are above 40 years of age. They came for the discharge certificate. If there are to be proper hauling of the qualifications of civil servants in federal and state civil service, I am sure monumental cases of certificate forgery will be unearthed.
The United States with more than 300 Million population doesn’t have much degree holders than we do. A look at their educational attainments shows that as at 2014, High school graduate is 88.15%, some college 58.33%, associate’s and/or Bachelor’s degree 41.50%,
Bachelor’s degree 31.66%, Master’s and/or Doctorate and/or professional degree 11.57%, Doctorate and/or professional degree 3.16% and Doctorate 1.68%.
In 2005, the vast majority of the population, 85.2%, had finished high school and nearly a quarter, 22%, had earned a Bachelor’s degree. The percentage of both college and high school graduates has continued to increase since 2000.
Certificates are important for evidence and reference purposes as well as for records, but certificates are just mere papers and until the holder can prove what is in there with his/her ability, then it remain so. If the US can industrialize without being the highest producers of
B.Sc’s ans PhDs, then Nigeria should stop being a certificate-does-it-all nation. We should know how to identify talents and use them towards nation building. After all, most of those thinkers whose innovations and inventions are useful to mankind are not those with the highest of degrees.
(Comrade Abdulateef Usman Abiodun, a journalist/political analyst.