By Afolabi Aribigbola
In the last few days, Nigerians have had to contend with what seems like a drama between a Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board(JAMB)’s candidate, Ejikeme Joy Mmesoma and JAMB on the authenticity or otherwise of the candidate’s UTME result. Initially, Mmesoma claimed that she obtained a score of 362 to emerge the best candidate in the 2023 UTME. This was sharply disputed by JAMB, insisting that the candidate forged the results being paraded by her and that her score according to their records was 249. Unfortunately, a somewhat little issue or infraction that should ordinarily be handled by the Principal of the Secondary School attended by the candidate or at best the Anambra State Ministry of Education escalated into state, regional and national levels cascading into ethnic and sectional profiling .
The impasse attracted the attention of several Nigerians with many supporting Mmesoma and others supporting JAMB to the extent that the controversy attracted the attention of the National Assembly and the government of Anambra State. While the National Assembly set up a committee to investigate the dispute, the Anambra State government also set up a panel to unravel the controversy. Yes, such infractions that requires painstaking and expeditious resolution ought not to have been promoted into the level and dimension it reached. This pedestrian issue has attracted local and national attention to the extent that the National Assembly set a committee to investigate the impasse. Also, the Anambra state government in whose area of jurisdiction the candidate wrote the examination also set up a powerful committee comprising Professors and PhD holders to investigate a common infraction or error on a candidate’s results.
This is a sad commentary on the country’s development because instead of dissipating energy and resources on more fundamental socio-economic development, the country was busy dissipating energy on forgery of results that the Police Authority in her Local Government are capable of handling. Indeed, the speed and dexterity in which the National Assembly and the Anambra state took the case is surprising. This is a country in which responsible institutions and governments don’t attend to sensitive germane issues on time but quickly attended to a little issue affecting a secondary school student because of ethnicity and sectional connotation that has been introduced into it. One is not suggesting that it does not require urgent attention, but the speed and the kind of attention given to the issue is excessive. This is because other issues of concern were not given this kind of attention in the country,
As was revealed by the outcome of the state committee set up on the issue, we can commend JAMB for doing a good job on Mmesoma’s case. They did not only respond promptly to enquiry from the Ministry of Education of Anambra State on the authenticity of the claim of the student on a record time but inundated the public with correct and detail information about the results of the candidate and communication with the candidate. A rare occurrence in the country, where most institutions don’t respond to enquiries and often are not concerned about the plight of members of the society especially the poor majority that have no big man to intervene on their behalf. JAMB in a statement by its Head of Public Affairs and Press, Fabian Benjamin, withdrawn her 2023 UTME result and also barred her from sitting for the Board’s examination for the next three years before the outcome of the Committee set up by the Anambra state government that eventually indicted the candidate. The report revealed that Mmesoma admitted that she manipulated the fake results herself, using her phone. It went further that the candidate should apologise to JAMB among others.
The scenarios that played out revealed some interesting but regnant development that the Nigerian society should learn some essential lessons. In the first instance, it is sort of exposed the rot among the youths of Nigeria, the extent of degeneration of moral ethos in the country as well as the dangerous extent to which students can go in the pursuit of university education which some have argued is not meant for everyone but those that can cope. It is quite sad that a Secondary School student can conceive and execute the idea of forging JAMB results to gain undeserved advantage over her contemporaries, secure scholarships, recognition as well as gain university admission instead of working diligently for it. One wonders what she would be up to after this level. She may develop to hack her university website to change results and other criminal tendencies that several universities are contending with now. Also, the crisis shows that some government institutions and persons, given the right resources and atmosphere, can diligently accomplish their assignment as revealed by the handling of the current issue by JAMB and the government of Anambra state.
The nagging issue of result falsification by Mmesoma equally revealed the level of ethnic tension in the country in resolving issues including criminal one carried out by the candidate. Of course, many people have been insinuating that JAMB is punishing Anambra or people of Igbo extraction by coming out with truth and correct fact. Thank God the government of Anambra state rose to the occasion to unravel the true situation of the infraction by the student. The Proprietor of the centre where she wrote her UTME came out with incontrovertible fact about the issue that helped significantly in dousing the growing tension and ethnic profiling already associated with the inglorious or ignominious and detestable act of the candidate by right thinking people.
Notwithstanding the above, the banning of the candidate for three years was hasty on the part of JAMB without allowing the public to fully comprehend the issue. Of course, it is within their powers anyway to sanction erring candidates, but they ought to fully carry the public along in their actions in resolving the issue. Even if they are so sure of their records, the handling seemed to heat up the media space by hasty release of their decisions.
From the above, although the crisis has been partially resolved, there is the need to go beyond the issue of punishments to seek ways to redress the high level of moral degeneration among the youths and the desperation by which everyone wants university education whether they have the capacity or not which has been responsible for the widespread examination malpractices in the country. The youths of the country require reorientation to cherish hard work and merit as was the practice in the past. A situation where all Nigerians desire university education whether they have the ability or not will continue to instigate short cut and malpractices as in the case of Mmesoma.
The issue of ethnicity must be given the desired attention. That an infraction by a student from a particular area can lead to ethnic profiling is unacceptable and needed urgent attention if we are sincerely out to build a sustainable country. On suggestion in some quarters that the student should be pardoned despite her criminal actions, I do not think this is right and not a good path to tread at this critical time in Nigeria where there is humongous lawlessness and increased criminal activities. I think such suggestions were based on sentiments, the law should be allowed to take its course and if found culpable should be made to face the music to send a signal to several youths in her mode that there are punishments for criminal activities.