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Mmesoma, JAMB and the metaphor of a Nigerian scandal

Once, when I was still known as just Abubakar Adam, my name at birth, I happened to get into JSS One with a boy who…

Once, when I was still known as just Abubakar Adam, my name at birth, I happened to get into JSS One with a boy who had the exact same name and surname as me. Like me, he was tall and lanky, only taller and lankier. And he was blessed with ears that would rival Dumbo, the elephant, and an IQ that connotes the name, not the character. To differentiate, our classmates gave him the nickname Abu Kunnuwa. After all, by their attributes, ye shall know them.

In JSS Two, our test scripts for English Language came back and when the teacher called out Abubakar Adam, Kunnuwa got to the script first and, with his friends, retreated to a corner where a boisterous cheer went up. Abu Kunnuwa had apparently scored 10/10 in English Language! A rare occurrence indeed. It did not add up at all and everyone wondered how that was possible. As soon as the teacher called the second of our names, I stepped forward and accepted the script and at once saw that it was not mine. I would recognise my handwriting you would think. And I was shocked by the big zero the teacher had drawn with ears to match in bright red ink.

I quickly made my way to the corner where people were pouring over the script that was supposed to belong to my namesake. 

 “Give me my script,” I barked.

Meekly, he handed it over and only explained that he thought it was his. 

“Don’t you know your handwriting?” I shot at him. I gave him his and walked away to my desk. The class quietened for a while before people realised what had happened. That my namesake had taken a script that did not belong to him and was celebrating it as if it were his.

Sometimes I wonder about my namesake. I don’t know what has become of him, but I know that he has had a lasting impact on me because, on account of that incident and subsequent others, I was compelled to add a third name, just to avoid such drama, and to vow not to give my children all too common names.

The recent scandal that unfolded around the name of Mmesoma Ejikeme reminded me of that incident in which someone would take a result that did not belong to them and cause an uproar over it as if it were theirs all along.

That Mmesoma has already admitted her true score, of 249, after all the drama and uproar is no longer news. That Nigerians disgraced themselves and betrayed their sentiments in their defence of her action and claims, and also in their attacks on her, should now stick out to us like a sore thumb; one we should look at constantly and bow our heads in shame over. But I expect some will still argue the merit of that virulent defence of her.

As with everything in this country, in this instance a young woman scamming a country, accepting a N3 million scholarship she did not deserve based on her JAMB result, has shown up yet again the ethnic bias of Nigerians. To insinuate that she was being called out by JAMB for falsifying a result using an App freely available on Google Play Store, (as the investigation by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism revealed) was because of her tribe and were ready to die on that is disingenuous, subversive, dangerous and damaging for the ethnic warriors who made that claim and for the country as a whole.

Now that evidence by JAMB, investigations by FIJ and the candidate’s own admission have shown the truth of what happened and how she came about her dubious result, would those who used tribalism as a defence bury their shame, acknowledge hers and their wrong and stop this shenanigan of bringing tribe into issues that have nothing to do with it? Perhaps not.

What Innoson Motors did in offering her a scholarship was a noble gesture that should be commended. Hardworking, indigent students should be encouraged with such generosity to help them achieve their dreams. What Innoson failed to do was basic due diligence that would have shown the result for what it was, a forgery. 

But one can understand the eagerness with which Innoson acted, considering that the businessman said he was excited by the thought of a student from a public school earning such a score. This in itself is a sad commentary on the state of public education in the country where a majority of students and pupils have now abandoned the ruins that public schools have become to enrol in the ruins and shacks that private schools have become, except in the instances of standard, expensive school.

That was what did not escape the keen eyes of Dr Ngozi Chumah-Ude, the Anambra State Commissioner of Education and a writer in her own right. Her desire to celebrate the success of an exceptional student, or one who was supposed to be, and her common sense to ask to see the result, which she instantly recognised as fishy, led her to call JAMB to verify the result. Or if another account were to be believed, that Mmesoma had reached out to her because she believes JAMB should recognise her as the person with the highest score in the country and this led to her unravelling.

That gesture alone by the commissioner saved Innoson their N3 million, and revealed the truth that another student from the same state, 16-year-old Kamsiyochukwu Nkechinyere who scored 360 had the highest score in the country this year. 

She is the true victim of Mmesoma’s shady dealings and would have persisted in the darkness if not for that one phone call from Madam Commissioner. Or maybe not. Even now, all the focus has been on Mmesoma, not Nkechi. In any case, the truth would have emerged somehow.

The other victim that no one seems to be acknowledging is Asimiyu Mariam Omobolanle who, two years after she sat for the exam, is being dragged into public light because some App developer had used her QR code with her result as a template for an App used to forge results “for fun.” Because when FIJ, used the same app to replicate what Mmesoma probably did, it returned with the same QR Code. And this App was supposed to be for fun. I guess she is not laughing about it, neither is Mmesoma whose result has been invalidated and who has been duly banned from sitting for the matric exam for three years. 

Overall, this scandal has been a good and proper reflection of Nigeria as a country; our propensity to jump to conclusions and the fiery defence of dubious dealings and dealers based on sentiments rather than reason, our lack of due diligence, our penchant for drama and our persistent reliance on committees. In keeping with this tradition, the Anambra State Government had set up an eight-person committee comprising six professors to investigate the forgery allegation. Why that is necessary when a simple document verification by relevant authorities and agencies is beyond me. But this is Nigeria, where we make a grand show of killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer when a fly whisk would do. 

Perhaps JAMB did something similar when it promptly invited the DSS to investigate the matter. A whole secret police that should be concerned with crimes of a “military” nature, as the enabling act establishing it suggests, to investigate a matter that the regular police should handle!

However, what is most worrying, is why a 19-year-old young woman, who we should count on to be among the leaders of tomorrow, would go to this length to falsify results, and remain dogged about it when she should know better. If she was conned into this by a dubious third party, that party should of course be arrested and prosecuted.

We can’t afford to build a culture of fakery into our future today. We are already overstocked in that department. In any case, I hope the lessons from this fiasco prove useful to all relevant parties.

 

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