What is it about Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos (QC) these days? It has a preternatural tendency to obscure its fecund image. It is in the glare of publicity like an imprecated bete-noir and all for the wrong reasons. Is this the same school that recently celebrated 75th anniversary of educating girls to become ladies and women to become mothers? Is this the same school that has imparted grace to girls that lacked finesse? Is it the same school that has survived the myopic attention of various education ministers? Is this same school that is attempting to become the albatross to our sick society? Is QC trying to make a statement of its uniqueness or is there a grand plan to annihilate the excellence she imparts?
Do I wish to provide answers to the questions posed? To do so, is to attempt to walk in the mire of foolhardiness. I was never at Queens College; I have no affiliation with the school. I am not married to a Shekewa girl (Shekewa was a slang by which Igbobians of my time referred to QC). However, I am acquainted with some of the alumni of the school and this is not the motivation by which I reflect on this great school. Simply stated, QC is perhaps the modicum of our innate greatness. It embodies the finer examples of how as a nation, we can co-exist amidst competition and our education can retain its past glory and turn out the best of female minds to advance our course as a nation. QC has produced some of the finest brains and beauties in this country and accordingly, I have no business defending it, when some of her daughters can do a better job at that.
We have heard of the alleged scandals of frolicking girls at the hands of opportunist male staff an allegation of young seducers propelling QC into limelight for less than good reasons. Indeed, these seduction allegations portend child abuse and criminality but they are not as banal as parental abuses, which culminated in forgery to gain admissions to the school. We must not allow these forgeries to go without the sanctions available in our legal framework or at least a condemnation of sorts. If we pretend that these criminal actions are an aberration, we are pretending that it is an evanescent affair that has not desecrated our children. The truth is that, if only one child is affected by this fraud, that is one child too many and we must not permit a dangerous signpost to our hope of reconstructing this nation.
The intertwined implications for decency and a need to punish or at least publicly censure the parents who forged the admissions of their children ought to remind us that all may be fair to war when passing an entrance examination to a school like QC. But, the admission process at QC is no war and collectively we should exercise our civil responsibility to name and shame the errant parents. At least, others may be deterred from attempting a shameful ploy to gain advantage of the ineptitude in our system.
The backdrop of QC as the epitome of what our schools standard should proffer is perhaps a reason why some parents want their daughters to attend the school at all cost. But is the same strong desire to opt for a particular school amongst thousands of schools in our country, not an indictment on all levels of our government? Is it also not indicative of our recklessness? We have allowed States and Federal Ministers of Education to deny our children of opportunities of good education as dispensed at QC? There must be something wrong with our schools policy. Or is it true that the forgers would have perpetrated the same crime against their children, had there been a level playing field in our school system? I submit that these are difficult questions and without the knowledge of the type of parents that have taken 30 children through this peculiar situation, I shall remain none the wiser.
However, the school principal, Mrs. Omolara Euler-Ajayi cuts an interesting poser by saying “Everybody wants to identify with QC through all possible means, even at all risks including forgery and fraud,” I disagree with her outlandish statement, which in itself is an overstatement and an attitude that indicates a premise that she is missing the whole point of what has happened in her school. By stating that “everybody” is interested in QC, the principal needs to seek a good adviser to inform her that not all Nigerians are interested in her school. At least, I and many other people that I know are not interested in the school. Aside from the sentiments of Mrs Euler-Ajayi, it should be asked of her, if she has assisted the police in arresting and prosecuting the parents of these children. Has she exercised her civil responsibility of calling for the criminal prosecution of the parents? What civil responsibility has she exercised to deter other parents from doing the same? It may soon be realised that she has not exercised the responsibilities to warrant her boasting of any victory at “Waterloo”. Is it any wonder why we allow crimes to thrive when in essence, we ought to have ensured that criminals are nailed at all costs? If Mrs Euler-Ajayi has reported the matter to police and she insists on pressing charges, I applaud her.
Just before the provision of a glint as to why some parents would risk blighting the lives of their children to gain admission to the school, it is appropriate to recall that forgery of the electoral bill as a simulacrum to what the parents of these thirty children have done. Therefore, it is arguable that the forgery, when compared with the illegal entry of an unscrupulous addendum into our electoral bill, the crimes perpetrated by these parents are incomparable to the electoral bill fraud. So, let the first lawmaker or the president be the first to cast the stone against these parents. Could that be true or right? Well, anyone that comes to justice must look to her for fairness; our justice system was incapable of punishing the perpetrators of the illegal addition to the electoral bill, why would it be fair to expect the same justice to deal with the parents of these children evenly?
Instead of a criminal trial, a strong public disapprobation for them is appropriate. It would be an adventure in hypocrisy for our lawmakers or the executive to comment on this shameful farrago. Yet, in a civilised society, these are the people that the people should look up to. Anyway, across the field of truth, I looked and found no one. I looked up to that vociferous Prelate Sunday Mbang or our venerable Nigerian Pastor Adeboye to condemn the parents of these children publicly but I cannot find them. I admit that in the stillness of their voices, they may have spoken, it is pity that when they are needed to be heard clearly on an issue which the church ought to champion, I suggest they are busy apologising on behalf of Obasanjo and putting their noses in the affairs of the State when they should be concerned about the moral decadence in our society. If you are close to these men of God, please remind them that Nkurumah said the rot in a nation starts from the homes of her people. These men should concern themselves in condemning forgeries of this nature and not who is planning a coup or 500 Million Naira bribery paid to lawmakers; their recent pronouncements in the matters of the Nigerian State is an abuse of their robes; that is if Adeboye wears one.
If you have been impatient or excited about my unjust introduction to Shekewa, be reminded that I know very little of these acquaintances who are alumni of the school. However, I can say that many of their parents excelled in our civil service, industry, medicine, law, academia …etc. The achievements of the fathers of most of these girls (now ladies) have in many cases, not all, been surpassed by the achievements of their daughters. These ladies are posters to instruct the Governor of Zamfara State on how to promote innate qualities in women rather that putting them behind purdahs. It must be said that some of these alumni achievers of the school merit their attainments. Nonetheless, there are those who have attained the dizzy heights of their careers because their fathers’ names continue to open doors that would otherwise have been shut against them. They serve in our judiciary and other institutions. It is their appointments that are questionable, it is how much experience they have and what precedent are set for future intakes to the Bench or Civil Service. The question is not that they are clever enough to be where they are, I am sure they are. As it appears that their appointments are based on their parentage then it can be inferred that being clever is not enough to merit their appointments. What type of nation we are striving to construct? We must seek a nation where excellence knows no pedigree; where there is order in judicial and civil service appointments. If we keep encouraging clever girls to reach the pinnacle of their careers by the virtue of their parentage, we are inflicting an irreparable damage on the future of our country and we are encouraging a trend to buck the system we are trying ever so hard to rebuild.
If it can be stated that the fraud at QC must be punished, why do we abandon Hon Obande and Speaker Ghali Na’abba suit? In all of the allegations of waste and misappropriation of funds, it is surprising that M.A. Balarabe has not been requested to account for the money paid to him. In our country, I expect the delivery of receipts and accounting for stolen money is a trail for the gullible. But is it? I recall a bizarre case-law in which a tradesman was indicted for overcharging, have we neither precedents nor legislation to nail Balarabe? If the traders willing to supply Mr. Balarabe with false receipts are aware of their civil responsibility and a trap to account to tax for the alibi they provide, a prosecution of the man may allow a plea bargain and as most cowards, he would turn against Na’abba to give insight of how funds were siphoned from the House of Representatives.
In this current “I would destroy you before you me” atmosphere between Obasanjo and Ghali Na’abba, why do we not concentrate on lesser beings like Balarabe by way of prosecution, to destroy the House of cards that for now protect Na’abba? We may find that the a la Daboh versus Tarka repeat show in Obande versus Na’abba is only a distraction and we may never know, if Na’abba misappropriated State Funds. However, I am puzzled as to the tactics of the Speaker; his court action is baffling; if he is innocent, why not lay bear the books and show the turf for which he is made? Could it be the same turf that allowed the parents of 30 children from QC to pervert the admission process of QC?
This is Nigeria. If you believe in seeking the truth and exercising a civil responsibility, hit the road because in this country, we protect our own regardless of their criminality. Our own national laws are an ass, that is why we tie them down and use them against the weak.