Thanks to Chukwuma Charles Soludo, the Anambra governor and his eight-man panel of egg heads, the dusts generated by the Mmesoma Joy Ejikeme affair have begun to settle. For a matter opportunistically framed by some as one between a David and Goliath – the 19-year-old Mmesoma versus the almighty Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), the supposed outcome must have been a disappointing anti-climax! Remember, we started off with a home video of an ‘injured victim’ in what was supposed to be another graphic illustration of institutional debility that has become commonplace. Recall the artfully contrived ‘innocence’ displayed in the video, complete with JAMB result displayed gleefully as ‘iron cast proof ’, later rounded up with the usual seductions into the sentimentality of a demand by the victim for ‘justice’! If yours truly considered the clip as bland, those unseen hands apparently injecting ‘stuff ’ backstage as if to make the story line believable would suffice to render it phoney! And that was a story that was supposed to be far more believable than that of JAMB; the institution on which millions of young Nigerians had invested their hopes of admissions into tertiary institution!
However, if that was the whole point about the video, what one saw oscillated from being a spectacle in self-mockery to one of fulsome disgrace! Of course, while the homegrown Netflix ran, the other side attraction – a committee of eight summarily empanelled by the Anambra State government to ‘get to the root of the matter’, would kick in! But that was a little after JAMB, now thoroughly perplexed, had been forced to go public. Of course, it disclaimed the socalled result; it let it be known that the format displayed by the young lady was last used in 2021; and as if to erase any still lingering doubts, it added that the QR code on the displayed ‘result’ actually bore the name of another candidate even as it invited Nigerians to undertake a scrutiny of its other details such as the date of birth and the name of the centre if only to establish who between JAMB and Mmesoma was lying.
And the background? The delinquent, had, after securing a N3 million scholarship package from INNOSON Motors, apparently gone on to press the Anambra State government for ‘recognition’. The latter in turn had, as one would expect, reverted to the examination body for confirmation only to be told that her claims were as dubious as her craving for unmerited recognition was execrable! Call it the classic – Nollywood stuff! In the opinion of some, JAMB shouldn’t have gone public, since, it had, already, asked the Department of State Security, DSS, to wade into the matter! To this category of critics, it was a case of killing a fly with a sledge-hammer – never mind that the ruthless sophistication of the young lady could only have stemmed from a crooked mind-set. Remember, the lady didn’t stop at merely appropriating what belonged to another candidate, she went the extra mile of creating supporting documents to corner the unearned advantage while at the same time rubbishing the work of JAMB.
Yes, I also read an account in which a group actually summed up the entire saga as merely an extension of the official conspiracy targeted at a section of the country – again, never mind that the individual actually deserving of the trophy – Ms. Precious Nkechi Umeh, with a score of 360 as against her sexed up figure of 362 also came from the same Anambra! So much for some Nigerians’ ‘love for the single story’ narration – apologies to Chinamanda Adichie – JAMB was supposed to be the one on trial! And so the story went on and on with only the more charitable of the critics calling for an independent, or better still, an international body to probe JAMB! For the others, if only for daring to mess up with a gifted daughter of the Southeast, nothing short of disbandment of JAMB would be satisfactory! Even our supposedly busy lower house, the House of Representatives wouldn’t be left out of the fray, going as far as to order its own probe. Yes, her big ‘Aunty’ Obiageli Ezekwesili – former minister of the republic – while weighing in, thought little of denying JAMB the benefit of the doubt! To her, nothing short of an impartial probe (whatever that means) would be acceptable. And all of these because a lone candidate out of nearly two million candidates in this year’s Universities Tertiary Matriculations Examinations (UTME) desired a trophy of which JAMB was neither a party nor a sponsor!
Yes, the Anambra State government cannot, in all fairness, be accused of doing nothing, (it was, after all, the state government that first notified JAMB of its intention to honour the girl following her claim of outstanding performance); but then, the idea of an eight-man panel to probe the controversies generated by Mmesoma’s claims would seem rather bizarre if not entirely odious considering that only JAMB has the final say not only on its processes but also the outcomes! And this was long after the body had spoken that the result was forged! Yes, this is Nigeria! Given that there must have been at least a dozen other candidates in the Anglican Girls Secondary School, Nnewi, Mmesoma’s school, couldn’t the state government have simply ordered the principal to conduct an internal check by comparing her result with those of other students?
Would this not have saved everyone the time and the ensuing embarrassment? Imagine the panel merely affirming what most reasonable and discerning Nigerians knew all along! Can we put this side by side with the intervention by Osita Chidoka, the former aviation minister, who incidentally owned the centre where Mmesoma took the exam, and who, after a routine check, had no trouble asking the girl to own up to the crime? Confession or not, one troubling revelation in the Mmesoma affair must be the duplicity and the rank hypocrisy of that cast ever so eager to play the bogeymen, the masters of equivocation for whom every single public issue must be treated as politics – read war – as contestation by any means imaginable!
For while the delinquency of the throng who, unable to live down the electoral routing of February 25 would latch to just any type of fuel to keep their fantasies aglow are barely tolerable; far less forgivable must be the antics of their closet allies and sympathisers rather conveniently packaged as defence of the public good, but which are for all intents and purposes, designed to undermine the confidence in our institutions. Those who fail to spot the pattern to the madness only need to study the all-our war unleashed on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, particularly its helmsman Mahmood Yakubu, in the aftermath of the February 25 presidential election.
And the charge? That his INEC couldn’t deliver on its promise to upload the results of the presidential elections in real time – the same results that parties’ agents had been handed hard copies at the polling units as stipulated by the law! For that, they wanted the entire process aborted with an interim contraption brought in to replace the elected government. Failing to achieve their devious plans, they have branded the exercise as irredeemable. As for the judiciary charged with adjudicating on the electoral process and its outcome; if these elements have not succeeded in undermining public confidence in the institution already, it is certainly not for lack of effort. Remember the spin about the Chief Justice, not only confined to a wheel chair but wearing a disguise while stealing into London under the cover of darkness to meet who! Guess those who think little of the hideous moral equivalences routinely thrown up at any time and at everything had better prepare for the long haul; for while their choice of JAMB as quarry may have tragically backfired, there seems to be no stopping the execrable mob as they seek to brand our dear country as the worst imaginable place on earth. I close. What remains for Mmesoma is a sequel to that video, complete with the apologies. That would be a good way to end the saga.
• Sanya Oni, is an Editorial Page Editor and Columnist at The Nation Newspaper.