Usually those (mis)leading us reason that we, like them, don’t give a damn about their maladministration of the country. They take it for granted that we can connect their past and present actions in our bid to decipher how altruistic they are. This explains their approval of acts that portrays them as holier. They pooh pooh one of the maxims of equity that he who must come to equity must come with clean hands.
They, by their actions, spurn the biblical injunction that challenges those without sin to throw the first stones. See them trying to throw the initial stones, when we know what humongous a sin they carry. They exploit the system in a manner that they want to visit on commoners the same laws they and their co-travellers subvert. I surmise they are emboldened by the supposed monumental amnesia and nonchalance of Nigerians. Sadly for them, we now live in an age where prompters abound to jog our forgetful memories whenever need be.
Yes, we live in a time where they can be easily intimated that some of us know how incongruous what they want to come on us is to what came on their peers when they committed a worst crime. Those who know are always quick to remind the rest of us. They have been consistent in doing this that we are now peeled of every layer of nonchalance. And nothing else better supports them in this than the social media which permit immediate talk-back.
And this immediate talk-back have Nigerians never relented in using to expose the hypocrisy and fault lines in most policies initiated by our policy-makers. They have effectively used it to have their say even when they know they may not have their way. Like an active social media user known as Muadi made me to understand, he and his ilk simply relish the cathartic effect that flows from making those at the helms know that the followers aren’t fools. This, I also think, is worth the while.
They, the citizen journalists in the country, are always quick to throw up angles that a regular journo wouldn’t, either on account of the interests he represents or as a result of sheer laziness. So, we owe thanks to the social media for having afforded us a better lens with which to examine government’s deeds and a conga we can use in drumming our deductions to their ears.
Nothing better illustrates the foregoing than the Federal Executive Council’s approval of the amendment to an Act of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), part of which seeks to make culprits of examination malpractice liable to a five-year jail term or a fine of N200,000 or both.
Immediately the education minister announced this after their last meeting, internet surfers took to their past-time to pillory the Federal Government for approving such an act when it was yet to as mild as excoriate the Kenny Martins, Femi Otedolas and Farouk Lawans of this country. They sought to know the moral right a government that granted pardon to former Bayelsa governor, Dipreye Alamieyesigha have to make such an approval.
Many of them wondered the number of years felons like Bode George, Salisu Buhari and Tafa Balogun spent in custody on account of their crimes which were far worst, that made the Federal Government endorse a five-year time for youngsters who engage in examination malpractices. Others couldn’t just see the locus standi a government that overlooks crude oil thieves have, that qualifies it to intend visiting justice on juveniles or young adults who cheat in examinations.
As is to be expected, the report that expressed this news story stopped at just passing the information to the public as it was announced by the Minister of Education. But following the bare report were readers’ comments which substantially exposed the hypocrisy of the present and past governments. The comments indicted government for seeking to go after small fries while there are culpable big guns who have been left unscathed or were merely given a slap on the wrist for their abhorrent crimes.
I tell you, if you are only contented with reading a news story without bothering to read the appendages that are comments on the story, then are you missing out of the action. Most of the reactions are veritable eye- openers. I’m not passing over the fact that there are those who just articulate arrant nonsenses as comments. You will also find others who exploit the avenue to advertise their trade. Nonetheless, amidst the nonsenses are senses that one cannot but take seriously.
As I was saying before that digression, social media users who read the story could not help but post their comments apparently because of the pharisaism of government that was gleaned from the story. As at the time I came across it, there were already 28 comments and that was barely one hour after the story was posted. One of the comments I found so fascinating was posted by one Koko part of which reads, “…Let the government provide the minimum required enabling environment for students to study and pass at all levels, then they will have the moral justification for enacting law of five years jail term for those who cheat in exams.”
There goes another perspective to the same episode. While this angle projected by Koko is noteworthy, let’s focus on the popular opinion since Koko’s position is as clear as crystal. Let’s harp on the ones that denied our government the right to give such an approval for having not done much to appropriately punish other law breakers in the country. We have to anchor on this point of view for the cogent message it is passing across.
This message is that government’s duplicity, insincerity and selectivity in justice delivery is being kept track of by the citizenry. As lax as Nigerians are known to be, who would have believed they could still remember to bring Tafa Balogun into their analysis of this news. Or who would have thought they could still throw this presidency’s protection of a person who stole police pension money into their mix of the issue at hand.
Thus, government had better realised that Nigerians aren’t daft. If they were, they aren’t anymore. This consciousness of the citizenry have the potency of making them opt to act at cross purpose with the government. And when that becomes the case, lawlessness usually lurks around. Please, they had better not let us go the way of Egypt.
Something tell me the WAEC Act would be successfully executed in other West African countries that are bound by WAEC. This is because selective justice delivery isn’t as pronounced over there as it is in our country. As such, the people will have no qualms with the implementation of the Act for the Act on its own has great value. It implants in a country’s citizenry the culture of hard work and expels from them laziness which makes people want to cut corners.
If given teeth, the law would do our country a great good owing to the scourge of exam malpractice that has so eaten deep into our society. What else do you think is responsible for a ‘teacher’ not being able to read out the information contained in her certificate? Someone had chirped that five years time was too lenient a punishment if we want to banish exam malpractice from Nigeria. Yet the issue remains that given our leaders antecedents, should they be in a position to approve such a Act?
This, I think, is the major reason why those elected into leadership position should seek to do the right thing always. It explains why they need to be forthright in their actions and inactions. They should not govern in such a way that would render them hamstrung in doing certain things that needs to be done. That is one of the major burdens of leadership they must bear.
As we voice our varied views on the Federal Government’s domestication of the WAEC Act, let us be mindful not to dissipate energy and time on a cul-de-sac. For it is yet to be seen how the approval granted the Act would contain examination fraud that appears to have become a way of life in this country. Remember we have laws that address malpractices in examination, yet, they haven’t done much in torpedoing the menace.
Although the Federal Executive Council in this case had directed the Ministry of Justice to take further necessary action to ensure the Act is made functional, one would be pardoned for expressing doubts as to the level of success to be achieved at the end of the day. A visit to any external exam centres across the country when exams are holding removes the scales off one’s eyes as to what lies in store for the Act.
Let it not be that I’m presenting myself as one who does not see the evil in exam malpractice or a pervert that doesn’t want it exterminated from our shores. Verily, verily I want cheating in exams to be banished from here. It’s just that my pessimism is buoyed up by the fact that both we and our leaders are so malpractice-loving. As such, it remains to be seen how we would expunge same from our public examinations. But, that’s not to say I don’t believe in miracles.
Ugochukwu is a public affairs analyst. You can follow him on twitter via @ugsylvester