It was a simple tweet but what followed is a sad reminder of the loss of values that has made our country what it is today as we continue to build what my friend Bolaji Abdullahi described as a “nation of hustlers”. First, the tweet: “I lost my teaching job today (32K) where I teach (Maths and F/Maths), because I refused to assist the students in the exams hall (during NECO) having taught them very well…”
Aside looking for another job, the man was obviously expecting kind words and to be sure, he got not a few since Nigerians are basically good people. But he also received many negative responses and these are what interests me because of what they say about how far our country has degenerated. One of the respondents, who probably felt disappointed that a teacher would refuse to help his students to cheat in an examination, wrote: “You should have helped them though, you put yourself into this.” Another one came with a sharp rebuke: “If I had a good job waiting, I won’t employ you for this tweet.” Now wait for this ‘do-gooder’ who had a similar experience: “I remember my Account teacher also refused to do this for our WAEC then and I ended up teaching the whole students offering that subject that day.”
Of course, not all those who were critical were unsympathetic going by this response laced with a dose of ‘realism’ about the environment under which the teacher was operating: “Sorry about that but it’s your fault…it’s not a bad option assisting students. We are in Nigeria.” I bet “We are in Nigeria” says it all. That point was made even more eloquently by the next respondent: “Are you a good teacher when your students fail? I got my current job through the help of a parent I taught the ward some years back…the ward is in FUNAAB (Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta) now doing fine. My dear, don’t let us deceive ourselves. You should have pushed…”
In case there are people out there who still cannot decode what ‘pushing’ means, the next person minced no words: “You should have just assisted them. Now, what have you gained? African teachers are terrible and just love to see students fail exams.” The last response I read before I stopped was the crisp title of this piece: ‘Na you f*ck up!’
In all the foregoing, what worries me is not so much that some people could not distinguish between right and wrong but rather that what they say is a reflection of what our society has become and the rot within the education sector. I understand that many of our schools, especially the private ones, have what they call ‘Exam Officer’ whose duty basically is to ‘liaise’ with invigilators during examinations. The reason for it is because when parents pick schools for their children, they look at their ‘WAEC records’. And since most private school proprietors are in the business of making money, they have found a way of securing good grades for their students through malpractices.
Incidentally, the problem is not restricted to some unscrupulous school proprietors, there is also a political angle to it. There is the story of a governor (now former) who on assuming office said his first priority was to improve on the WAEC rating of his state. But when his commissioner of education proposed a number of measures which included improving the welfare of teachers, reviewing the curriculum etc., ‘His Excellency’ reportedly laughed. He had his own idea which was implemented by the next examination session: He voted a tidy sum of money for invigilators to look away in many of the schools within the state so that teachers could answer the questions for their students!
In the latest edition of its weekly bulletin, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) states, and quite correctly, that most of the ills in our society and the distortion of values can be traced to this challenge: “If the malaise of corruption is not holistically addressed at the stage of examination malpractice, which is most times sponsored by parents, it will grow to become a monster. Many corrupt leaders today might have started off on this path through experimenting with examination malpractices. It is a fallacy to think that such individuals would outgrow such acts. This set of individuals mature to something more destructive and demeaning in the long run.”
The summation by JAMB is quite apt. In his piece, ‘Are You Blurring the Line Between Right and Wrong?’ Frank Sonnenberg wrote: “Can you imagine a world in which cheating is acceptable, lying is tolerated, and stealing is a way of life?… Can you imagine the stress and anxiety that would result if ‘every man for himself’ became standard behaviour? That would change the way that you viewed relationships, treated business associates, and raised your children. What would happen if the clear distinction between right and wrong became blurred? The result? Immoral behaviour would become so prevalent it would alter our social fabric.”
Examination malpractices are now so prevalent in our country that most examination venues have become what they call ‘miracle centers’ where candidates are made to pay extra fees to dubious officials to get help in an examination. Any wonder that one continues to encounter school certificate holders with credit in English who cannot string together one correct sentence. Not surprisingly, many of the young people I have had the opportunity to interact with in the past three years tell me, ‘Everybody is doing it’. Of course I am well aware that not everybody is doing it, but it is so prevalent that it has become the new normal.
A friend recently shared the story of a domestic staff of his who despite being a near-illiterate was desperate to enrol for WAEC so she could go to university. Knowing the mental capacity of the girl but intent on helping her actualise her dream, my friend counselled her to register in Junior Secondary School (JSS) 2 and even volunteered to pick her tuition bills. But the girl would not subscribe to such a ‘demeaning’ proposition. On further interrogation, my friend discovered that she had actually procured the services of someone who would write WAEC for her. He simply terminated her appointment.
Perhaps, the real tragedy here is that most examination malpractices going on in our country today are institutionally backed, organized or aided by people who should ordinarily be regarded as authority figures. The challenge is that we are gradually building a society where it is okay to achieve ‘success’ by any means necessary; where our students are being led to believe by their parents, who pay the money, and the teachers, who receive the money, that there is nothing wrong with cheating. With most of our young men and women seeking to ‘hammer’, it is also no surprise that the popular artistes in the country today are those who glorify a lifestyle or culture of dishonesty.
I worry for the future of Nigeria.
The Lies That Blind
There are two important prayers in Yorubaland for parents. One, ‘Olorun o ni je ki e ma saree omo yin’ which translates into ‘God will not let you know the grave of your child’ and the second, ‘Olorun koni fi ina omo jo wa’ which also translates into ‘God will not allow us to know the pain that comes with losing a child’.
It is against the foregoing background that one can imagine the pain of Afenifere Leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti who lost his daughter in very tragic circumstances last Friday. Sadly, the nonagenarian has not been allowed to mourn with any modicum of dignity. It would seem that to some people, the identity of the killers is more important than the loss. Even the presidency played the game, going by the first tweet from the Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr Femi Adesina: “President Muhammadu Buhari condoles with Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, whose daughter, Mrs Funke Olakunrin was killed along Ondo-Ore road by those described as armed robbers by Ondo Police Command…”
Of course, Adesina’s statement was a response to the stories that the woman was killed by ‘Fulani herdsmen’, even before the conclusion of any investigation. Those who were quick to identify the ‘assailants’ and which ethnic group they belong as well as those who were eager to exonerate them are equally wrong. Neither had any basis for their hasty conclusions which only create a perfect condition for opportunistic crimes to thrive. In the end, the criminals win. What would matter to Pa Fasoranti is that those who killed his daughter are apprehended and brought to justice.
What is lost in the controversy trailing Mrs Olakunrin’s death is that in a plural society such as ours, resort to profiling not only creates and perpetuates a poisonous social environment, it also makes peaceful co-existence very difficult. It becomes even more dangerous when the profiling is associated with a crime as heinous as homicide. That was the point being made during the week by no less a personality than the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah. By defining people by which sections of the country they come from, the religion they practice or what language they speak, we have succeeded in creating territorial entrepreneurs who now seize available space to make their usual occasional threats on behalf of “their people”.
What is going on in Nigeria today is very disturbing because it is beyond the usual ‘gra-gra’ that we are familiar with. This is different, caustic and destructive. Nothing perhaps explains the underlining situation better than Chris Ngwodo’s book, ‘Fate of the Union: Breaking the curse of identity politics and reclaiming the Nigerian dream’ from where I picked the title of this piece. It should be a recommended text in all our tertiary institutions not only because Ngwodo brilliantly dissected how identity has become the lens through which issues are viewed and magnified in our country but also for the solutions proffered by the author.
Meanwhile, President Buhari should be held responsible for the state of affairs for two reasons. One, the national security situation is getting out of hands and if constituting a cabinet is too much for him to handle, it is easy to understand why the nation is practically under the gun. Two, his mismanagement of our diversity in the distribution of opportunities and implementation of potentially divisive policies has continued to energize certain subliminal impulses in our society. The president should therefore be worried that it is under his watch that Nigerians now appear incapable of having a conversation without ethnic, religious or even political party profiling.
Beyond the obvious personal tragedy that the death of Mrs Olakunrin represents for her family, the undue emphasis on the political status of her father has only helped to muddle the waters. We need to return this killing to the domain of the current national discourse on insecurity as a clear and biting urgency. Only in that context does it make greater meaning. If a person of such a status can be do casually murdered on a highway, what is the plight of the common person whose death in similar circumstances is not even likely to be reported?
This tragedy would be wasted if we allow it to be lost in the brackish waters of Nigeria’s perennial political brickbats. On the contrary, Mrs Olakunrin’s death would be elevated to martyrdom if it helps us in extracting from the federal government a more serious commitment to finding an end to the inferno of insecurity that is raging across Nigeria.
To Pa Fasoranti, as well as the husband and children of Mrs Olakunrin, I extend my condolences.
Overland’s Shameful Conduct
On Monday, a family guest was going back to her Ibadan base from Abuja and that morning, she bought Overland Airlines ticket for 4PM. By mid-day, there was a text message that the flight had been rescheduled for 7pm. Not wanting to travel that late, the woman asked that the ticket be changed for the next day, following assurances from the airlines officials that Tuesday’s flight would be punctual. By the morning of Tuesday, however, there was another text message from Overland, postponing the flight till 8PM!
With several commitments in Ibadan, the woman decided it was better to take a flight to Lagos and then head to Ibadan by road. But all efforts to get the refund of her ticket money from Overland were thwarted by the officials: She had to write and wait for some big officials to approve, a process that would take days. Since Overland had forced her hands and because she needed to be back to Ibadan that day, she decided to wait for the 8pm flight. By 5pm, there was again another text message, this time that the flight “has been cancelled.” Just like that!
Overland Airlines knew they were not going to fly to Ibadan but rather than inform their customers, they kept selling tickets. But they are not alone in this patently fraudulent practice. It is the same culture of impunity that pervades the whole system. For instance, in the first quarter of this year, according to data from the Consumer Protection Department of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Domestic airlines operating in Nigeria recorded 7,926 cases of delayed flights. Within the same period of January to March, no fewer than181 flights were cancelled, going by the report. That the airlines continue to treat their passengers with contempt is because the NCAA is not alive to its responsibility.
To develop as a nation, we cannot continue to condone this sort of reckless behaviour in such a vital sector.
Asue Ighodalo @ 60
As I rounded up this column last night, I learnt that my very dear egbon, Mr Asue Ighodalo will be 60 tomorrow. I wish him happy birthday in advance.
2019 Teens Conference
Online registration for the 4th edition of the annual conference which brings together teenagers and young adults within Abuja continues and interested teenagers and their wards can visit www.rccgteapteens.org for all the details, including information about previous editions. The theme for this year is ‘Nurturing Your Talent; Developing Your Character’ while the speakers are: The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; the Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe; comedian and media personality, Dr. Helen Paul and the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Mr Samson Itodo. Usually a day of fun with music, food and drinks, attendance is free but pre-conference registration is mandatory.
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