The Stella Oduah in All of Us By Niran Adedokun
As much as I hate to generalise , something always worries me about the way we react to issues in Nigeria. We are a terribly impulsive people. Ever ready to arrive at conclusions without deep thought. We pass judgment almost always too soon. Even when awkward things happen in our society, we do not reflect on them, we rush to take sides and in no time, move on like nothing has happened and then wait for the next record -breaking ignominious event. We are like the drunkard who constantly forgets the indignity of the previous night.
Earlier this week, allegations filtered in through an online media platform that Nigeria’s current Aviation Minister, Ms Stella Oduah, might have made bogus claims about her qualifications. According to the report, officials of St. Paul’s College Lawrenceville, Virginia, United States where Oduah claimed to have gained a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) told the news platform that no such programme ever existed in the institution. The report further insinuated that the lady may not even have obtained her first degree from the institution.
Although the silence of the Minister and allegations that she has gone to work online in a bid to pull off any information related to her educational attainments smell of guilt, I would still treat this as an allegation until we hear Oduah’s side of the story. I would also advise commentators to tarry a minute and let us reason together, just before you cast a stone.
Thinking about this matter, I recall that the Oduah case, if it turns out to be true, would be the third high -profile false educational claim scandal in the 14 years of Nigeria’s return to democratic rule. The first was blown open by The News magazine some weeks into our new democratic experience in 1999. It involved a young man with the name Salisu Buhari, who was just elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. The News reported that Buhari did not attend the University of Toronto in Canada as he had claimed and that he falsified his age. After a series of denials and the magazine’s insistence on its scoop, Buhari admitted that he indeed forged documents and perjured himself.
Not long after, Tell magazine went to town with the alleged fraudulent educational claims by the then Lagos State Governor. In some sense, the claims against the governor were a tad more grievous than Buhari’s. The former governor was alleged to have lied about information regarding his primary, secondary and tertiary education.
That is where we are now, a point where two of the most prominent examples of falsification of records are not just walking the streets but are back in national prominence. The former, after a ”go and sin no more” Presidential pardon was recently appointed to the Governing Council of the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka, Enugu State, while the latter is the current poster boy for what is the most progressive of Nigerian politics. Only God knows what reward Oduah would get if she is eventually proved guilty of this accusation
While condemning the detestable act of taking Nigerians for granted, the point must be made that what we see in high places is the simple manifestation of an infested system. We have a system which has decimated merit, a polity that has devalued morality and slaughtered all known values. In this country, I have seen different levels of compromises. I have seen parents buy examination questions for their children, just to give them an advantage over others. I have seen parents pay for their children to be coached in the middle of examinations. I have heard of false oath-taking in our courts, I have heard of false marriages in our courts especially by graduands who want to evade National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) postings, that is not to mention the almost widely accepted lack of capacity of Nigerian artisans to speak the truth. I have heard of teachers giving marks in exchange for one form of inducement or the other. I have seen people falsify their age to fit into the requirement for a job or some other benefits. There is just no end to what a lot of our compatriots would do to get their heart desire.
But do you really blame them? Resilient as they are, Nigerians will always find ways to circumvent and survive the frustrating collapse of institutions of the state. In Nigeria, children would pass matriculation exanimations but not get into institutions until someone bites a carrot. Here is a country where students end up spending six years to complete a four-year course as lecturers are sure to embark on ceaseless industrial actions in the course of their academic career. Then they graduate two years later than they anticipated and employers, including governmental organisations, would place some age requirement that they no longer meet. So what do they do? These graduands approach a ready court clerk, claim to have lost their birth certificates and swear to an affidavit claiming that they were born two years later than their actual date of birth! It is called Declaration of Age and that gets them ready for any age requirement by companies, but then, they have perjured themselves. Only God knows how many people in top positions in today’s Nigeria are guilty of this infraction. It is a country where companies without any iota of academic roles insist on employing candidates with first class degrees or at least a second class upper degrees. To beat them at their game, some dumb blonde whose only aptitude is a pretty face would seduce a lecturer, settle herself and curiosly come up at the top of her class. Not to be left in the cold, the young man who is not so endowed would bring out some money, (usually nothing enough to prosper anyone), and buy any class of degree that he wants ready for sucker companies that value certificate over the quality of the personality that they intend to employ. No wonder so many companies end up employing incompetent impostors who cannot help themselves when confronted with the reality of the task at hand.
This is the tragedy of a nation without class. A nation which stifles the ability of its people to attain to their best potential would most definitely breed manipulators, some of who will falsify things just to survive or for an ego trip, a desire to lord it over others. The latter is the reason why public officials lie to us since you can be anything and everything in this country with your school certificate.
Although perpetrators of these acts are most certainly sure to end in ignominy, the ultimate loser is the country and its future. The tendencies described above engender the failure to build a society capable of competing in the technological world of the 21 century not to talk about the future. While we wait for the latest case of deception in high places to play out, we need to rededicate ourselves to excellence in spite of the brickbats that our politicians are throwing at each other. Unless we reorder our priorities and put merit over parochial considerations, generations after us will have no idea what it is to be meritorious. They will celebrate mediocrity, lies and vice, tendencies on which no country can survive. And just before you get self-righteous and cast that stone, check yourself and see if you are guilty of some little infractions that may one day blow up in your face.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to email@example.com