JUST IN: Mmesoma-JAMB saga, quota system in unity schools and certificate forgery by Nigerian leaders

The actual UTME score attained by Mmesoma Joy Ejikeme, in 2023 is 249, not 362. There is little point in continuing to argue otherwise, as Mmesoma herself has allegedly confessed to manipulating her result. In response, a panel established by the Anambra State government has recommended some form of “therapy” for her, although the specifics of this recommendation remain unclear.

It should be noted that Mmesoma has been branded a forger and banned by JAMB from taking UTME exams for a period of three years. While these are the current circumstances, this matter warrants further examination and analysis….CONTINUE READING

Mmesoma resides in a country where the interim government’s leadership lacks legitimate and recognised educational qualifications at any level, both domestically and internationally. At least Mmesoma possesses an official UTME 2023 score of 249, along with several A grades in WASC. In a country where the educational qualifications of the former president were in doubt until the end of his tenure, and where several governors currently face allegations of possessing forged certificates in election tribunals across the nation, forgery has become ingrained within the country’s leadership. These instances, including Salisu Buhari’s infamous Toronto certificate saga in 1999, inadvertently serve as educational models for Nigerian students—models of certificate forgery. Essentially, Mmesoma resides in a country where forgery pervades from top to bottom.

Now, let us consider this issue from a different perspective.

During the 2021/22 academic year, a student from Anambra State—Mmesoma’s home state—had to put in 34.75 times more effort than a student from Zamfara State to gain admission into a unity school. Similarly, a student from Anambra had to work 69.5 times harder than a student from Yobe, 46.33 times harder than a student from Taraba, and 15.44 times harder than a student from Sokoto State to secure admission into a unity school in the same year. In fact, a student from Yobe State only needed to score two marks to enter a unity school, while a student from Anambra needed 139 points to achieve the same. The significant disparity in cut-off marks is astounding.

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Let me present some additional crucial statistics.

According to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), approximately 3,135 candidates who scored 300 and above out of a possible 400 marks in the UTME exams conducted in 2018, 2019, and 2020 were unable to secure admission into any university in the country. Although JAMB attributed this trend to various factors such as O-Level subject combinations, poor UTME screening scores, non-admission of offers, duplicated applications, absence from post-UTME screenings, and other mistakes, the truth remains that the quota system restricts many highly qualified candidates from the South from pursuing higher education (Afeez Bolaji- University World News, 2022).

Now, let me pose a question: Do the aforementioned references to current and past incidents of certificate forgery, as well as the quota system, justify Mmesoma’s mistake? The answer is no. However, they serve as a reminder that students like Mmesoma, hailing from Southern Nigeria, face immense pressure and become victims of an imbalanced quota system that disadvantages them, often necessitating efforts that are 64 times greater than those required by some students from the North to gain admission to institutions of higher education.

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Is it possible to survive in Nigeria without engaging in criminal activities, whether in high or low circles? The resounding answer is no. The truth is that innocent Nigerians often resort to telling white lies to survive daily. This phenomenon permeates work, business, politics, and the judiciary. Sometimes, the truth slips through the cracks. Take, for instance, the Bulkachua incident. Nigeria is burdened with forgery, fraud, and dishonesty, primarily due to an inherently flawed constitution and historically imposed unworkable organic solidarity.

If Mmesoma’s mistake is to be seen as an indicator of criminality in Nigeria, then 99.99% of Nigerians and 100% of its leaders, both at home and abroad, would be considered criminals. Nearly everyone has lied about their age, certificates, CVs, and immigration status. Presently, a former Nigerian senator is serving more than 9 years in a British prison for misrepresenting the status of a prospective organ donor for his daughter. As I write this article, most Nigerians roam free simply because they have not been caught.

Even the previous Buhari administration operated on a formula of lies, forgery, fraud, and nepotism, aptly captured by the equation (97(5)%), which seems to have persisted beyond his regime. Mmesoma, therefore, finds herself competing with candidates who need to score only 50 points or below to secure a place in a Nigerian university.

She contends with influential politicians who merely have to write letters to university administrators to secure admission for their preferred candidates. Mmesoma is also competing with corrupt university administrators who display favouritism towards candidates from specific ethnic and religious groups, as highlighted in an article by Farooq Kperogi. Professor Kperogi recounts an incident where a candidate was compelled to forge a name resembling one associated with a particular ethnic group in an attempt to secure admission to a Nigerian university.

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However, let us be clear: None of these factors serves as a justification for forgery. Nonetheless, they compel us to reevaluate an admission system that is susceptible to abuse and manipulation. They remind us that students like Mmesoma consistently face the burden of securing extra marks through their intellectual prowess, while others can secure admission into institutions of higher education simply by presenting themselves in UTME examination halls. Thus, the Mmesoma incident prompts us to question the national admission policies. While Mmesoma’s mistake can never excuse criminal behaviour, it does serve as a wake-up call for educational reforms.

Young students like Mmesoma are not merely victims of an unjust quota system; they also fall prey to an admission system that has been weaponised by Buhari’s nepotistic formula, represented by (97(5)%. This formula further exacerbates the challenges they face in pursuing their educational aspirations. Mmesoma is not a perpetrator; she is a victim, and until this issue is addressed, any punishment will be in vain.

Austin Aneke (PhD), who runs an eponymous consultancy firm, writes from Salford, UK….CONTINUE READING