All over Nigeria, the beans are being spilled on the sordid past and present of Nigeria’s politicians and government officials, perhaps opening their can of worms has become a national past time. Since Omoyele Sowore and Jonathan Elendu pioneered the art of crusading against corrupt government officials on the internet, many others have joined what appears now to be the hottest bandwagon since Chris Okotie and Jide Obi released their debut albums in the eighties which opened the floodgates for the likes of Felix Liberty, Yvonne Maha and the likes to enter.
There are now several internet websites dedicated to fighting corruption, such websites continually break news stories for the enjoyment of their teeming FANS (Free Readers Associations of Nigeria), sadly some of the news they break could at best be described as rehashed beer parlour gossips and mere fabrications of the website operators which could be ascribed to the residual effects of an overdose on tombo liquor at Mama Nnenna’s joint. Nigerians however can’t seem to get enough as they chant for more. However the Igbo proverb which says that the corpse of a dead relative usually looks like a dead tree trunk should make us all to stop for a second and ask ourselves some pertinent questions, who in the land is not tainted?
Recently we read the expose by the duo of Ikenna Ellis-Ezenekwe and the irrepressible Omoyele Sowore concerning the ‘fraudulent’ educational background of Professor Maurice Iwu. Many Nigerians have since gone to town rejoicing and calling for Professor Maurice Iwu’s head, but they are forgetting that should Sowore and co come snooping in their backyards, they would surely find enough tales to keep them busy until the time when an Igbo man finally becomes President of Nigeria.
The issue of the expose on Professor Maurice Iwu who is also Nigeria’s Chief Electoral Officer concerned certificate forgery which in turn could be linked one way or another to fraud and examinations malpractice. Aha, now you see where I am going, don’t feel uncomfortable yet.
How many Nigerians can safely argue or rather vouch that the final certificate they obtained from school, be it the first school leaving certificate (FSLC), WAEC and undergraduate/graduate degree did not benefit somehow from underhand activities?
Please don’t tell me that you don’t know what I mean by underhand activity but if you insist, I will spell it for you. Let’s go then: Ever heard of omo kirikiri? Yes, the little missiles you carried with you into the exam hall, how could you have forgotten your dexterity in being able to compress the full contents of a full textbook into tiny scrawled coded language that only you could understand? Okay, you never did that, how about your special giraffing techniques? Or was your neck this elongated and stretched the day you were born? Please don’t make me laugh, now let us move on to your days as an examinations mercenary, how many people did you write their JAMB or WAEC exams for as a paid examinations mercenary? Or do you want to tell us who wrote your JAMB and WAEC exams for you? Can you swear on your dead great grand mother’s grave that you have never in one way or another aided and abated examination malpractice in your life? Even bribing university admissions officers for your name to be including in the admissions list when you know very well that your JAMB score was as low as the Naira compared to the Canadian dollar? Gotcha!
Do you think that we don’t know what your parents did on the day of your common entrance examinations to influence the high score that you ended up with, which in turn made it possible for you to be admitted into that government school you attended?
So you want to tell us that you have never heard of sorting, abi? Please let us hear word. For the guys, how many lecturers did you bribe to pass your courses in the university? Perhaps you think we have forgotten how you intimidated and threatened your lecturers with your fellow confraternity and cult members to award you your ‘let my people go’ result which you didn’t even deserve? Now, those girls calling for Professor Iwu’s neck, don’t let us start with you, if not for your bottom power, where do you think that you would be by now? Perhaps selling bread at Oshodi Bridge may even be a nobler profession had you not fully utilised your natural assets, yes, you used what you have to get the results you wanted, and we know that so you are all guilty too.
I beg all of you, make we hear word o jare. You see, if we begin to open each other’s nyash, I doubt if there will be any last man that will be left standing in the end. We are all guilty; all of us are cheats one way or the other including yours truly. I am not afraid of Sowore and his gang, if they like let them come after me, all they will find is my serial attempt to help Lizzy (not her real name) to pass her degree exams but then I was young and in love with her. I didn’t think there was anything wrong in helping a sister out with some fedexed answers written in very tiny minuscule writing that only she and I could decode. Lizzy is now a top manager in one of the banks in Victoria Island; does my little help back in the day invalidate her final degree result? How about Ada my friend (not her real name), she is a big madam in one of the oil companies in Nigeria, perhaps if she hadn’t co-financed the burial of her then head of department’s (H.O.D) mother, she may never have graduated in good time, is her degree result also invalidated by that singular desperate act?
You may argue that fraud and cheating in examinations come in varying degrees but still I will argue that cheating is cheating, it is the person who is unlucky that is caught. How many of us do not know that many families benefited from affirmative action in the educational system in Nigeria at the end of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war? The exigencies of the time encouraged such particularly kids who were coached to lie in order to qualify for admission, there were also some families that encouraged surviving relatives to assume the names of dead relatives who used the dead relatives’ certificates to secure federal government scholarships and university admissions. Some of these kids are now top dogs in the Nigerian economy; does that invalidate their final certificates as well? If we want to go down this road, then we may as well end up ferrying support staff from neighbouring African counties to come and take up temporary positions in government and industry in Nigeria because there would be only very few people left without a stain on their academic records.
Perhaps we should also be wary when some of these politicians counsel us, as I leafed through the pages of a Nigerian daily recently, bought from one of those shops operated by Asians in Woolwich, I almost fell out of my seat when I stumbled upon the picture and comments of an old secondary school mate concerning the forthcoming general elections in Nigeria. The guy in question could be described as an aspiring politician and used to live in the United Kingdom with us; he has not won anything yet, and to my knowledge is not contesting for any elective position in the April/May elections but I have to give it up for him, he has been quite active lately in the political arena, especially in the media which he has been working to his advantage. He is one of the vocal supporters and loyalists of IBB, ably buoyed by his famous surname which stems from his being a member of a once revered political dyn
asty from south east Nigeria.
What caught my attention was not really seeing his face again, after all I have been reading about him on the internet, but rather his comments and exhortations of Nigerian politicians who he said have a tendency to rig and cheat at elections. I said to myself that wonders shall indeed never end, just as the gentiles are wont to ask, I wondered if indeed ‘Saul’ was also among the prophets.
I swear, I need to clear my throat before I continue this gist. How times have changed, to imagine our friend Ben (not his real name) advising politicians to campaign harder in selling their manifestoes to the electorates rather than relying on electoral malpractice was like listening to the devil himself advising a drunkard to stay away from the bottle. What gives me that feeling? Well, if you knew Ben, you will agree that he was the greatest ‘OO’ (ogbu oge) that there ever was, and his exam malpractice skills (aka mgbo, odu, bullet) were next to none. In fact I don’t think that I have ever encountered any other person, nor even heard any exam malpractice story that would rival Ben’s exploits back in secondary school. He was famed in and around Enugu in our days for his many ‘OO’ tendencies and characteristics.
I remember how Ben elevated the art of examinations malpractice during our final year WASC/WAEC exams. He had spent the time he was supposed to be reading and revising for the exams touring secondary schools in around Enugu, in the old Anambra state in search of leaked WAEC exam papers. Ben came back one morning from his last tour of duty, Oghe Boys Secondary School it must have been which was also famed at the time for being the last bus stop in anything exam malpractice, the joke back then was that any exam paper that was not available at Oghe Boys was not available anywhere else. Oghe Boys was particularly symbolic because it had a big reputation as a second chance secondary school (a last chance salon).; this meant that any Enugu boy who had performed woefully at the first WAEC sitting would usually end up at Oghe, a community school where everything goes.
Ben came in that morning looking very forlorn and disappointed. He announced that all was not well, that all what he saw in his many stop-overs in the several secondary schools that he visited along the way were fake papers, he told his listeners including those who contributed money to fund his search that he has been in the business long enough to know a real WAEC paper when he saw one (he was a repeat student). He also told his ‘disciples’ and all those who had contributed money for Ben’s version of Gulliver’s travels not to panic, that he had one last ingenious plot that would rescue their day.
Ben’s plans needed the active collaboration of junior class 4 students who were not writing the WAEC exams. For his plan to work he also needed the collaboration of an invigilator, the invigilator part wasn’t so much a problem as this particular teacher (Mr Sam) was ever willing to play ball as he supplemented his meagre teacher’s salaries with cash gifts from students and their parents. Mr Sam’s good natured spirit endeared him to all and it was rumoured that he was also sleeping with some of the male students entrusted in his care by unsuspecting parents.
On the appointed examination day, because students sat according to their assigned WAEC registration numbers, all that was needed was for the students seating right at the back window row in the first floor of the classroom block to create a decoy situation by attempting to ‘giraffe’ each other’s work, this led to some students seating at the back row to be moved to Ben’s row, and students on Ben’s row now took positions at the back row. Ben’s Plan A had worked, he now had a vantage position by the window, and it was time to put into motion Plan B. Already the junior class 4 students were waiting at the ground floor back area to supply Ben’s every need.
Ben first wrote down all the questions he required answers to, and using a black cotton thread pre-smuggled into the exam hall, he lowered the questions down to his collaborators, working in clockwork precision the guys downstairs ripped off relevant sections of the textbook containing the answers Ben wanted and afterwards the ripped sheets would begin an upward ascent to the exam hall. Watching Ben seating by the window, with one arm leaning or dangling over the broken Louvre framed window and eyes darting like a Sahara desert Iguana was a sight to behold, think of a one-armed fisherman at work.
We had never seen anything like it in our entire lives, the scene playing out before us seemed like a scene from a Steven Spielberg movie. When Ben finished with each imported sheet, he would quickly circulate it wide to all others in on the scheme, the ones he owed who had sponsored his previous travels. I remember thinking at the time that Ben was indeed an ingenious student only that he was applying it in the wrong direction.
I have not spoken to Ben in ages but would remember to connect the WAEC story to his electoral malpractice comments whenever I see him. Perhaps you may think that Ben has changed, well, yeah right; if you believe that the leopard ever sheds its spots, then you would believe anything.