Was it all useless? Should I now regret that I made all that sacrifice and exercised so much discipline to be conformist to the standards required by the Nigerian educational system?
My close friends and family members know that there is hardly a man like me that was so tempted to quit school and apply quick fixes on a short cut mode.
I was to originally graduate in 1998 from Faculty of Law, University of Benin. For reasons of misguided activism and practice of religious nonsense, I couldn’t graduate until 2001, having been a victim of broken focus, a disease which still plagues many students who lacked guidance and were too young or immature to attend university. I was eventually issued the LLB certificate in 2003, five years after my original classmates had been called to the Nigerian Bar. Was I too discouraged to get to the end of my study and be issued a certificate ? Certainly not. That’s not really the point.
Interestingly, permit me to say that I wasn’t a dull teenager really. I had one of the best of public education in Bendel State. I attended Unity School Agbarho and Government College Ughelli. I was best graduating student among the first set of students in Government College Ughelli who wrote the WASSCE in 1990. I wrote JAMB and forgot about it until one afternoon the postman brought my admission letter while I was playing ball in the yard in my home town of Ughelli, Delta State. I was to later attend the university as a confused boy trying to find a handle on life. I paid a huge price with the passage of five whole years to get on track. In that period, I did many things, including applying to be a DJ at Independent Radio, Benin. I joined many groups in the university. I eventually formed one. On the extreme, I quit school twice and decided to write JAMB again to go and study Politics, Philosophy & Economics at OAU, Ife. Some how, I stayed back in Benin and I graduated. I have many reasons for recently referring to myself as _Man of Grace & Mercy- MGM._ I have two children, male and female. They are christened, Graceman and Mercy, respectively. God has really helped me! I tell people that life for me has just begun.
Now coming to NYSC, at the time I got my LLB certificate in 2003, Law School admissions had passed. So I opted for Youth Service. As at 2001 when I graduated, I was 29 years but in 2003 when I got my certificate, I had become 31 years and had passed the age of service and thought I should apply for exemption but I was informed that it was the age at graduation that determined the criteria for service.
So early in 2004 I was posted to serve in Nasarawa State. I went a day earlier to the beginning of then NYSC camp at a School near Government College Keffi. We were reprimanded strongly for coming early so we had to sleep in the cold, on the veranda of one of the buildings all through that night.
I met great people at the camp, including Yusuf Bako, a son of a former ADC to the President of Nigeria. He schooled in London but had come to rough it up with us in those strange conditions of living. He led parades and even performed Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make me Feel’ at the Social Night in camp. He was so full of zest.
I was posted to teach Government and Christian Religious Knowledge at Government Secondary School, Nyanya-Gbagyi. The locals were good people. They showed me a lot of respect. I gave everything I had to that job. I taught the students as if it was the last thing I had to do on earth. I didn’t know why.
It was 8 months into my service year in New Nyanya, Nasarawa State and I had just collected my monthly NYSC allowance. I whimsically decided to use a public pay phone to call my fellow comrade -at – arms, Kingsley Akpederin who was fortunate to be one of the first among us to have acquired a GSM phone from his book selling adventures in Northern Nigeria, in 2003. Akpederin informed me that Law School forms have been brought to Benin. From that phone booth, that afternoon, armed with N7,000 remainder of my N7,500 NYSC allowance, I took the last Big Joe bus to Benin.
The next day, many graduated students had gathered in front of the Dean’s office hoping to collect forms. Then appeared Emeka Chianu, then Acting Dean and now professor of law. I had a few encounters with him as a student. He looked across the waiting throng of form seekers and announced that the forms would be shared based on a lucky ballot. However, he said he was going to use his powers as dean to excuse one person from the ballot on special grounds. I recall his words, “Frank Tietie, stand here on the right hand side of Jesus Christ, here is your form. Now the ballot can begin!”
While I had travelled unannounced to Benin to collect the Law School form, my then landlord in Angwan Doka, New Nyanyan in Nasarawa State thought I was kidnapped, not having seen me in 3 days. GSM phones were not so common and neither he nor I had one. The worried old man went to inform the NYSC authorities at Karu Local Government secretariat that I had gone missing. The panic stricken NYSC Zonal Inspector, Mrs Okonofua, according to the Local NYSC inspector, Mr Ali Awak quickly informed the State Secretariat in Lafia. They in turn informed the National Headquarters in Abuja.
I eventually returned after a week. The then NYSC Director General, Brig. General Oki ordered the State secretariat to set up a disciplinary committee to try me for certain offences. I didn’t show up at the committee hearings. I was to later find out that I was ‘sentenced’ to do additional one year of service. Meaning I had to do NYSC afresh for another 11 months. Seriously, that was the punishment I got.
So in the middle of my original service year, 8 months after I left the Keffi NYSC camp in 2004, with a standing sentence to do youth service afresh, I had to leave for the Law School. I was eventually called to the Nigerian Bar in November 2005.
Then in 2006, I began to serve the sentence of one year of additional service as punishment for running away for one week during a service year- a sort of AWOL. My appeal to the NYSC to transfer my state of service from Nasarawa State to FCT was granted hence, I found myself in Abuja. When the service year ended in 2007, I decided to stay back to weather the storms of being alone in a strange land. I will never forget the help Andrew Korna, the Tiv and many others gave me. I am still here.
Now to think back at all that I have been through just to acquire certificates in conformity to law and to realise that there was an option open to others and may be me even, that all that was needed to be done was to pay some people and certificates whether or not thay are fake, would be issued. That really annoys me to my marrow right now.
So for the same certificate that I suffered so much to get, another fellow Nigerian gets a fake one of it, she is appointed as an Honourable Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the once highly revered Professor Sagay who taught me Law of Contract and International Law at University of Benin, is reported to say that it doesn’t matter. I will not take that seriously yet.
What I would take seriously is why it has taken more than seven days for a supposedly independent and impartial statutory agency like the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to investigate and take appropriate actions on the allegation of forgery of NYSC certificate that is leveled against Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the Honourable Minister of Finance?
So genuine certificates no longer matter? So we don’t care anymore as a country and government about ethics and the goals of acquiring genuine training and certification? And someone preaches nation building to me. Do we wonder why our socio-political life is abysmal? Only yesterday, I bemoaned the high degree of incorrect spoken and written English among senior government officials. They possess degrees and certificates without disciplined learning and we wonder why our public service and the quality of service to the people are comatose? We seem to have thrown away educational and certifying standards. Like I observed elsewhere, what we now only care about are in fact, money with power and, who controls it.
Do I now regret for going to school? Touts, militants, half educated people and corrupt politicians have the best of things and are leading over me contrary to the standards set by law. Whenever I protest against administrative illegality and injustice, some would say “leave him and his grammar.” Others would dare me and say “let him go to court”, believing I would be frustrated by judicial delays. I refuse to accept this seeming gargantuan status quo bedeviling our country. I will resist it with everything that I am. I have more than enough resources at my disposal as an ordinary individual to correct things within the sphere of my influence. I know what I am talking about. I don’t need to run for any political office. The knowledge that I have convinces me beyond doubt that it is possible. Only time.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not regret my sufferings to acquire my certificates I have in fact been shaped by them. I would therefore strive to give value to my experiences and learning by applying the motto of the great University of Benin, “Knowledge for Service”.
Therefore, as a citizen of Nigeria, I would issue a seven days notice to ICPC on Monday the 13th of August, 2018 that it should investigate, make public its report and take appropriate steps regarding the allegations of certificate forgery that have been levelled against Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, I cannot be grateful enough for the investigative journalism of Premium Times and other well meaning Nigerian newspapers who operate with such high standards of responsible journalism that uphold standards and hold government accountable to the people.
The people which include me must therefore demand appropriate action.
Lawyer & Executive Director,
Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER)