Saturday, July 13, 2013

University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the Certificate Forger: What is to be done?

Sometime in April, the Federal Government of Nigeria made appointments to the governing councils of federally-owned universities--basically the country's top tier universities, including my alma mater, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). Such appointments, like ambassadorial ones, are often used by whoever sits in Aso Rock to pay back allies, patrons, and to build political alliances. Which is fine, as far as the messy business of democracy goes. But there is one appointment that stands out for its odiousness and brazen disrespect for the academic enterprise. And that is the appointment to the governing council of UNN of a man who in 1999 was forced to resign as the speaker of the Nigerian house of representatives for lying and certificate forgery.

You see, a prominent news magazine, The News, had accused this fellow of false age declaration and, most pertinently, of falsely claiming that he had a college degree from a Canadian University. According to the magazine, after due investigation, it found that the Speaker never enrolled in the said university. In a now famous cover story, the magazine had a large photo of this man's face, hedged by the caption: "The Face of a Liar." The federal government probed, and found him guilty. In the end, the man, tearing up, owned up to his fraudulent action, begged the nation for forgiveness, and resigned.

It is this same man that had committed what amounted to academic fraud that has now been appointed to the governing body of my routinely abused alma mater. Like General Abacha who appointed a character called Umaru Gomwalk--known for his incredible disdain for academic standards, as Sole Administrator of UNN in the mid 1990s, President Jonathan now sees no problem asking this disgraced fraud to come help run my alma mater. This is so very distressing.

Many decent minded folks--including the UNN Alumni Association--have spoken against this travesty, but as usual, the Jonathan administration cannot understand the clamor against this apparently simple act of rehabilitation of man who, the President's spokesman Ruben Abati reminds us, was pardoned by a previous administration! In other words, since he received presidential pardon, the present administration sees nothing wrong with asking this disgraced certificate forger to sit on the board of Nigeria's first independent university whose motto is "To Restore the Dignity of Man." But why use the university To Rehab a Disgraced Man?

The Presidential Spokesman, true to form, defended the appointment but  he also challenged anyone offended by the appointment to act. According to him, President Jonathan  "can still go back on any of the appointments if there was a protest from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or from the concerned university.

So here are my questions: Is it that President Jonathan has not heard all the protests that have trailed this stupid appointment? And, what about the teachers and students at the UNN? Have they taken any position on this matter? Have they conveyed to the government their outrage over this unfortunate matter. Why can't they take up Ruben Abati's challenge and register their unequivocal rejection of the disgraced former Speaker?

I just cannot get this image of a certificate forger in the Governing Council chamber of the UNN or of any university, and something ought to be done to remedy this.