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Thoughts On Resisting The Injustice Called 'Federal Character' By Sesugh Akume

August 13, 2020

Or is this unfair system kept firmly in place because even with poor performance, the same people end up getting all the jobs? How can a country hope to stand when its foundation is laid on the cornerstone of injustice?

Many people are incensed at the injustice whereby a boy in Yobe who scores 2 in the National Common Entrance can be deemed to have passed, whereas, a girl in the very same state has to score 27, or else she would have failed. In this very same exam, a child (boy or girl) in Anambra who scores 138 is deemed to have failed. None of this is new, as many are aware this has been going on for decades and/or have experienced it. For how long shall this and such practices continue?

The constitution, it was, that first created this crisis. In section 14(3) it states:

'The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria, and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states, or from few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies.'


In the Third Schedule Articles 7—9 it creates the Federal Character Commission and vests it with responsibilities to ensure the above.

However, of the 17 (or so) service chiefs and heads of security agencies in the country under Muhammadu Buhari, all but 2 are northern Muslims, ie they are all from one part of the country, are all Muslims, and all speak Hausa as their language of everyday conversation, except the chief of defence staff, and the chief of naval staff. This is so much conformity to the above-cited sections!

Of the 479 enrolled officers of the state security service (SSS) on 5 May 2017, Katsina alone, where Buhari is from, had 51 officers, Kano 25, Lagos 7, Akwa Ibom 5. The North-West where Buhari is from had a total 165 that is more than their colleagues from the entire southern Nigeria put together which had a total of 143 officers. Followed by the northeast which had 100. Yet, we practice the federal character.

To challenge the practice of lowering the standards for others to be qualified by force, I think interested and willing patriots can get the courts to make a pronouncement against it by suing the Federal Ministry of Education. The judgment, if favourable, will apply everywhere else.

Attach the 2020 pass marks guidelines released by the ministry as an exhibit and put them on notice to provide the guidelines they released to prove the lopsided standards. Questions can be raised for the courts to determine, for instance: whether by understanding its proper construction and true meaning, section 14(3) of the constitution intends that unqualified persons be given equal opportunity with qualified persons in the spirit of the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity? Let the courts answer this so that we can stop the pretence once and for all. The answer is either yes or no.

Another question for the courts to answer is whether examination grading, and standards in the country should be subjective or objective? How can someone score 10 and be deemed to have passed an exam and someone who scored 120 is deemed to have failed, in the very same exam? Based on what? And other relevant questions. Then prayers can be made for what we want the court to declare and to order.


The fraud called 'educationally disadvantaged states', catchment area, etc

The 'Cobra Effect' describes a situation whereby an attempted solution to a problem, in the end, makes the problem worse, as a type of unintended consequence. During the British rule in India, to curb the increasing number of cobras, the government gave a reward for every dead one tendered. Soon afterwards, others began farming cobras and tendering dead ones for the bounty. After all, nobody asked where, how, and under what circumstance the cobra was killed. The government realised this and stopped the policy. But at this point what would the farmers do with the cobras? It was an extra cost to keep and feed them so they released them back into the society. In the end, there were more cobras than the number that was when the government brought up the measure to reduce them.

Lowering standards for people to qualify by force rather rewards and encourages laziness, and noncommitment. Rigging a system to favour some, giving them undue advantage over others, instead, makes them lazy and entitled. It incentivises poor performance. There is no drive to achieve and improve. It does not bring out the best in them. If I am rewarded for failing an exam, why should I strive to pass? If I am entitled to an admission simply by virtue of where I'm from, why should I work harder? There is no incentive to improve. In the end everybody loses. That is why most states categorised as educationally less developed enjoy being there, as against working hard to exit such categorisation. Fair competition is what breeds productivity. It is competition that brings out the best in us.

Or is this unfair system kept firmly in place because even with poor performance, the same people end up getting all the jobs? How can a country hope to stand when its foundation is laid on the cornerstone of injustice?

Who is/are the patriot(s) who will take this matter up and forever end this travesty? Or shall we all complain and move on with our lives?

Sesugh Akume, a public policy analyst writes from Abuja. He tweets @sesugh_Akume, and is reached via [email protected]