It happens quite often that politicians in Nigeria behave and talk as if they have a monopoly of the art, daring even at times to attempt shutting others out of it. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) firmly debunked that erroneous belief in a communique issued at Orlu in September 2001 entitled: “The Threshold of A New Era In Nigeria”. There, the CBCN urged all the catholic faithful especially those with talent for the difficult but noble art of politics to get involved in it. The Church teaches that politics is for the common good, in which it finds its justification and significance and the source of its inherent legitimacy. Simply put, politics is just too serious a business to be left to politicians alone.
It is from this optic that I highly commend the recent regulatory action taken by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) on examination malpractices and the determination of the Oyo State Government to follow up on it. The State published a list of about 50 schools which it derecognized for involvement in examination malpractice during the West African School Certificate Examination for school candidates for the year 2022. It also summoned the proprietors of the schools to explain how their schools came to be indicted for examination malpractice and show how terminal classes students will be catered for during the period of the schools’ deregulation.
It is of special concern to me that the list of erring schools includes government, private, Christian, and Muslim entries alike.
The Oyo State government, according to The Tribune newspaper of November 30, 2022, announced plans to sanction the principals and even the parents of the delisted schools in accordance with its policy of zero tolerance for examination malpractices. Explaining this decision, the State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Barrister Abiodun Abdu Raheem clarified that while the affected schools will not be allowed to present candidates for WAEC for a period of 2 years, no student in the State will be prevented from writing the WASCE for the 2022/2023 academic session or in subsequent years. Both WAEC and the Oyo State Government deserve full support from every well-meaning organization and persons for these steps. The action of the Ministry and the sanctions imposed by the Oyo State government for the offence, in my mind, seem well measured and balanced. The sanctions showed enough seriousness from the government to regulate the society and showed adequate consideration for the students affected.
In truth, all well-meaning Nigerians should see the scourge of examination malpractice as one of the most dangerous cankerworms consuming the very roots of Nigerian civilization and moral fibre. Way too much lip service is paid by government to the sanitization of society on many issues. This is especially true for our country where good policies and laws abound but implementation and sanctions are scarce. Even the Federal government, at a one-day forum this month in Lagos, called on every individual, institution and government unite to fight examination malpractice in the country. The government admitted that the scourge had become a pandemic involving almost every segment of society and pledged its commitment to combat it. It is therefore a refreshing and hope-inducing surprise to see the authorities in Oyo State address a public offence so directly and firmly in these climes.
I find it however unfortunate that the opposition APC in Oyo State, through its publicity secretary, Olawale Sadare, has accused the Seyi Makinde government of wrongly blaming the principals and parents of the affected schools for the crime committed, asking it to exercise caution in the matter. According to the APC, to blame, are not the principals or the parents but what it called “leadership failure.” It then made further allegations about political and socio-economic failures which it believed the PDP government should rather be addressing.
The natural question to ask here is: In the entity called school, who, but the principals, proprietors and parents are the real leaders deserving to take responsibility on any issue? Must we politicize every issue, including the well-being and future of our children?
What is good and true ought not to be called by any other name than what it is. The APC offered no real alternative solution to the sanctioning of the erring schools and parents, and one is forced to really ask: Must politicians always seek political mileage by opposing one another on everything? Why not agree to address issues of common concern?
Anyone has the right to challenge the government on any issue where it may be found wanting but it is hard to see how sanctioning erring schools and their administration on an issue like examination malpractice can be faulted. My honest take is that the Seyi Makinde government deserves to be commended for the courage to take this action, given this current politically sensitive period.
Other politicians would probably rather play safe and watch things go worse in order not to lose favour and votes as elections close in. True leaders however must be known to take necessary and courageous actions regardless of the cost, for the sake of the common good. Politicians who prefer to court partisan popularity only invite the public to show that they know good from bad and will not be cheaply taken for granted. The common people must rebuke such leaders who really care little about the citizens or the future, and sanction them through the ballot box when election time comes.
The truth is that only a re-injection of moral values in our public and private life and especially in our educational institutions can restore sanity and glory to this brutalized and battered nation, Nigeria. The place and time to begin from is just about anywhere, at any time.