How Connection Has Eroded The Place Of Merit In Nigeria

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In Nigeria today, the word ‘connection’ seems to be the family term for nepotism, favouritism, godfatherism and a less suspicious term for corruption.

Every aspect of Nigerian life is affected by this term.

  • Who do you know?
  • Who is your father?
  • Which family do you come from?
  • What sort of influence does your family wield politically?
  • Who are in your circle? and the list is endless.

The answer to these questions, no matter how you tend to look at it, determines how far one goes or how much one achieves in this country.

Information Nigeria had a chat with Lanre Ogundipe(not real name), a commercial bus driver who plies between Agege and Ojuelegba, Lagos state. In the state, it is against its traffic law to drive on a one-way road but Lanre says the rule doesn’t apply him.

“My brother na oga for Lastma (Lagos State Traffic Management Agency), you see those LASTMA boys for road, them not fit hold my motor, even if I beat traffic light or drive one a one-way road,” he said boastfully.

And if he’s held by an official, he says all it takes is just one phone call and “them go let me go sharp sharp”, with a hint of pride on his face.

Connection may not have completely taken the place of merit, but more often than not, merit has had to take the back seat while connection thrives.

There have been instances where people who truly deserve admission slots in various Nigerian tertiary institutions were replaced with those who wielded the most connection.

In the end, those with high scores who meet the institution’s cut-off marks are shoved aside for the children and relatives of the Vice-Chancellors, Deans of Faculty, Registrars, Seniors lecturers, Rectors, Bursars and politicians in the state.

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Quincy Balogun, a graduate of one of the Nigerian Universities, also narrated how he was unable to secure admission in his first two trials, after scoring 233 and 256 respectively and also acing the post UME(now UTME) in 2010 and 2011 respectively because he didn’t know anyone who would help him influence his admission.

He said, “ but a friend of mine who scored just 201 got admitted into the school, because his mother is a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts.”

“ I was only able to get admission in 2013 because my dad had to pull all his strings regardless of the fact that my Jamb and postUTME scores were high”, he said.

There are also instances where job positions are kept for children and relatives of those in the position of recruitment, while those who have no connection but meritoriously deserve the position are left to continue the struggle of job hunting.

Connection can be said to thrive more in government institutions. From recruitments to something as basic as getting a file signed, some government officials will drag an ordinary citizen without any connection through hell but would jump into action as soon as one with the right connection shows up at the door.

There have also been instances where people have been told to get a referral letter from a particular senator of their constituency in order to be eligible to apply for a job position.

Even government hospitals are not left out of the connection craze. Patients with connection are quickly attended to but those without any connection are made to wait almost endlessly to see a doctor.

Connection has ruined many things in Nigeria, but sadly there doesn’t seem to be hope in sight.

Somebody once said on social media, when corruption favours a person, they call it connection.

Information Nigeria had a chat with some Nigerians about how having connection has helped them get something done and the stories will enlighten you.

We also spoke with those who have lost something major because they didn’t have the proper connection to push it through.

Is connection harmless?

Connection just like that social media user said, is simply a beautiful tool to wield when it favours one, and people never hardly stop for a minute to wonder what the consequence of their actions could cause.

Many Nigerians must have heard narratives of people who committed heinous crimes and should be languishing in jail but because they have the proper connection, they have had their names substituted with that of other people. The innocent person languishes in jail while they walk away scot-free, enjoying freedom at another person’s detriment.

What of those who have had others die in their stead after committing a horrible crime – they walk away, evading the punishment of their actions while another man is sold to face the capital punishment for a crime he knows nothing of.

The man with connection will never be able to understand the pain of the person who would have to endure the excruciating pain of his freedom and life snatched away from him for another man’s wrong.

The VIP or rich neighbour who uses security operatives to harass and coerce others into doing his biddings, because he has the connection, will never understand what it feels like to be treated like a dog because you’re poor and have no one to speak for you.

Onu Chimuache told Information Nigeria that “someone hit my car from behind and claimed she was right without saying sorry because she was with a security escort,” with the hurt still very visible in his eyes.

The man who recruits his ‘brother’ for a job he has no intelligence or mental capacity for, will never understand the weight of hazard his brother’s misfit will cause the ordinary man.

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) official who verifies a substandard drug and puts a NAFDAC number on it because his ‘person’ produced it, will never understand the pain of someone who loses a loved one because they purchased such counterfeit product.

We interviewed some Nigerians who have benefited from “connection”, and their responses were quite revealing.

Aremu Omobolanle told us of how she used ‘connection’ to jump a long queue during the 2014 Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) voters registration.

“During the 2014 registration form voters card, there was this corps member asking me out. So when I went to register, I skipped a long queue and was quickly registered while everyone on the queue started shouting.”

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Abdurahmom Bola, an undergraduate said “The day I was captured by environmental sanitation enforcement officers. They took us to a customary court where I met my dad’s friend.” According to him, he was immediately released after his dad’s friend made a quick call.”

We also spoke with a few people who have in one way the other being at the receiving end of ” connection”.

Austin Emezie said, “every Nigerian without a godfather or someone to mediate on his/her behalf has experienced this in one agency of the other especially jobs.”

“I don’t want to talk about mine but God had his reason and it turned out to be a blessing. I for dey smell rod for Metele or Konduga now”.

Uwaghiaren Oziegbe, who didn’t go into details told us she lost a job opportunity with the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC). ” After that, I stopped applying for government jobs, very painful.”

Another person, Chris Onwudiww said: “ I have seen many people lose something major because of lack of connection.

He said he too had lost the chance to get justice because he didn’t have the connection.

At the police station, he says, “Police said they wouldn’t register my case because I didn’t have money. Secondly, I’m Igbo and my case was against a Yoruba person, in a Yoruba dominated police station. I would have called a big person or a connected person and the order would have been given and the case would have been registered and followed up. ”

There are too many instances of injustices suffered because one has no connection or at the hands of those who wield the proper connection.