In Nigeria, some states are designated as educationally disadvantaged. Some others are advantaged. You will understand this better when you tune in to the frequency of the Federal Government Colleges otherwise called Unity Schools. There, all you hear are echoes of discrimination and disunity.
If your children are unlucky to come from Anambra State, for instance, they are among the endangered species in Nigeria. They must score at least 139 out of a total of 300 marks to be able to gain admission into any of the over 100 Unity Schools. Also, while Imo State has about 138 as the cut-off mark, Kebbi State has 9 marks for males and 20 for females. And while Lagos has 133 marks, Zamfara has 4 marks for males and 2 for females. The least 10 cut-off marks are all northern states. This is so because in the configuration of Nigeria’s strange quota system, northern children are seen as educationally disadvantaged.
Most southern parents struggle to send their children to school. They understand the value of education. They pay heavily in private schools to see that their children get the best. Those who don’t have the resources to send their children to private schools rely on government schools. But the Federal Government of Nigeria officially kills their desire to give their children the best.
Last Thursday, an online news platform, Sahara Reporters, published a landmark ruling of a Federal High Court in Lagos on this discriminatory policy. A human rights lawyer and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, had sued the Federal Government and the Minister of Education for the discriminatory cut-off marks. He argued that the decision violated Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits administrative or executive actions by the government that discriminate against Nigerians on grounds of ethnicity, gender, religion and place of origin. In the ruling, Justice John Tsoho ordered uniform cut-off mark for all candidates seeking admission into Unity Schools and declared the state-based admission inequality unconstitutional.
It is not certain if this judgment, as reported by Sahara Reporters, is new. What is obvious is that since 2014, when the same Justice Tsoho gave a similar ruling, this discriminatory practice has persisted. Why the Federal Ministry of Education has not complied with this order leaves much to be desired.
The policy has also continued despite probes by the National Assembly. The House of Representatives, for instance, ordered its evaluation in 2013. Then, the House, in a motion sponsored by Hon. Victor Ogene, said it would promote mediocrity and undermine hard work and excellence. In 2018, the same House of Representatives, in a motion sponsored by Hon. Randolph Brown, ordered a similar probe. These have not yielded any fruit.
Granted, a dull child deserves to go to school. But, does it have to be to the detriment of a brilliant child? It goes against the grain of natural justice. That brilliant child will never forgive his country for discriminating against him. The word ‘patriotism’ will never exist in his dictionary.
Of course, I know we have the Federal Character principle in our constitution. That principle stipulates that government should institute measures to ensure balance in apportioning dividends of democracy among the diverse people of Nigeria.
The question remains, why do we implement this Federal Character principle haphazardly? The Zamfara child who scores 2 marks will most likely come out and get job first before his Anambra counterpart. He is likely to get rapid promotion ahead of most others if he is in any Federal Government establishment. This is not only unfair and unjust, it is evil. Progress eludes any society which thrives on this type of injustice. Any group which sacrifices merit and competence on the altar of quota system will never have happy and patriotic members.
It is stuff like this that brought about agitations for self-determination in some parts of Nigeria. In the South-West, agitators for Oduduwa Republic are growing by the day. In the Niger Delta, we have the Niger Delta Avengers and sundry others. In the South-East, we have groups like Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Rather than seek amicable ways of pacifying aggrieved groups and righting the wrongs in our society, our successive governments find it convenient to maintain the status quo. Rather than build special schools to take care of pupils who cannot compete effectively with their more brainy colleagues, they relish in throwing away bright students, some of who could have been our Henry Ford or Thomas Edison today. And rather than telling ourselves the home truth to heal the wounds of discrimination and marginalization, we play double standard thinking we are playing smart.
The other day, President Muhammadu Buhari urged Western allies to designate IPOB as a terrorist organization. But he conveniently forgets to also designate the Fulani herdsmen, adjudged the fourth terrorist organization in the world, as terrorists in his own country. In his skewed appointments, especially in security circles, he forgets to give equal opportunities to major component parts of Nigeria. Our old national anthem says, “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
Have we ever stood in brotherhood? Have we ever lived happily together in this inconvenient marriage? There is anger everywhere. Yet, the powers that be pretend that all is well. A major section of the country is left out of the political power loop. Yet we move on as if nothing is amiss.
Look at the just concluded presidential primaries of the major political parties. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in contravention of its own constitution, elected a northerner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its presidential standard-bearer in the 2023 general election. In that same party, a northerner is the National Chairman. Every entreaty to maintain its zoning principle in the election of its presidential candidate fell on deaf ears.
In the All Progressives Congress (APC), the same thing happened. Yes, the ruling party elected a Southwesterner, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as its presidential candidate. But, as the former Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, wondered, where is the justice? Where is the South-East zone? Shouldn’t a serious nation desirous of standing on brotherhood stand by its rotation principle? Shouldn’t other aspirants from other zones be compelled to stand down for candidates from the South-East whose turn it is to produce the president of this country?
Nigeria fought vehemently to dismantle apartheid in South Africa. At some point, it was dubbed a front-line state. Yet, it has turned a blind eye to similar apartheid system in its territory. Double standard! Hypocrisy! We deceive ourselves thinking we are deceiving others.
That is why most citizens are not committed to the unity and progress of Nigeria. Most of our elected representatives are only concerned with what goes into their private pockets. The executives are mainly concerned with how much to steal from security votes. The lawmakers, sometimes, introduce bills that serve their selfish interests under the guise of serving public interests. Some judges dispense jaundiced judgment just to satisfy some interests.
We still have room for amendment. A sincere and charismatic leader would have galvanized the legislature to amend laws that are discriminatory and retrogressive. Alternatively, the leader could set the machinery in motion to restructure the country. Let each region develop according to its pace and let there be equal opportunity for all. Let’s see if 2023 will offer us genuine change.
Supreme Court’s naked dance
Casmir, it seems the era when justices of the Supreme Court were seen as demigods is now in the past. They are now turning or have already turned or will turn themselves into ‘objects of ridicule’ as they now wash their dirty linens in public at the expense of their ‘highly revered honour and public respect’. Oh, how are the mighty fallen! This is a sad reminder of the fact that the rich also cry over their welfare. More painful is the fact that, the maltreatment is ‘supposedly’ by one of their own – the CJN who has (dis)honourably resigned! The welfare of these ‘sulking justices’ ‘behaving like ‘cry, cry babies’ should be addressed by the relevant authorities for the sake of 2023 elections and thereafter.
-Mike, Mushin Lagos, +2348161114572
Dear Casy, the Judiciary, as the third arm of democratic government, is faced with nemesis that is administrative and political. Administratively, the Judiciary has been in the noose of asphyxiating pseudo-autonomy which leads her to kowtowing to the Executive arm for survival. And whenever she is headed by a stooge planted by the Executive, her level of pliancy nourishes the whims and caprices of the Executive, most of the time, if not all the time! The outcomes? (1) Frustration finds its way into the workforce; (2) Performance drops, and drastically too!; (3) Corruption cannot be overruled!; (4)Public perception deadens, leading to loss of confidence; (5) The combination of all of the above leads to what you termed, ‘naked dance’. Politically, the Onnoghen debacle is on what one American musical group titled ‘Second time around’. The difference is that, this time, instead of giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it, the Political Establishment decided to give the dog a ‘human name’, glossed over his alleged ‘sins’, as a reward for having acted as politically scripted so as to give way for another script towards achieving a set political target. Solution? Fervent prayer for Divine intervention and salvation, laced with PVC-driven mass- voting actions for the right person for retrieval of dear Nigeria from ‘Otapiapia’ and Sniper whose variants are now waiting in the ring to continue the decimation of the hapless masses of our country.
-Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.
Dear Casmir, the removal of Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad as CJN does not call for nightmare. It has come to bless. This is the man who equated grade level 05 to school certificate in 2019. I advise the judiciary to be careful so as to avert a synonym of #End SARS protest in 2023. Where there’s Justice there’s remedy.
-Cletus Frenchman Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
An lgbo adage says he or she who goes to the bush to fetch firewood with ants invites lizard into his or her home.
-Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +234 806 288 7535
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 4, 2022.