Published On: Wed, Aug 30th, 2017

JAMB and an ignorant Nigeria

Nigeria, as a country, no longer inspires confidence in its future. Although, political issues seem to grab most of the attention – this is not mistaken and out of place, since politics often trumps everything else – however, we may be treading on a more dangerous and slippery ground that politics would never be able to resolve. Former Ghanaian President, Osagyiefo Kwame Nkrumah, once declared: Give me political independence and all other things shall be added unto it, a parody of the famous biblical quota by Jesus. Well, experience since the exuberant statement has disproved his assertion.
Politics is important in society because it determines the allocation of resources. But when a society is so politicized that virtually everything is determined politically, then, it is a recipe for disaster, because political decisions are generally irrational, subjective and compromised, which appears to be the situation in Nigeria. When politics is allowed unfettered access into decisions that are ordinarily scientific, objective and technical in nature, the future of society is seriously at risk.
This seems to be the case with last week’s release of JAMB’s cut off points for the UMTE examination into the universities and Polytechnics in the country. The statement set the cut off point for universities at 120 points and Polytechnics at 100 down from the previous 180 and 150 points respectively over possible 400 marks. Without much controversy, and given the political agenda of this government, the presence of politics in this decision is evident. But, it is a political decision that has implications beyond politics.
A cut off mark of 120 over 400 is a percentage of 30 over 100 as a pass mark in an exam. Nigeria is setting a new standard in intelligence measurement in the world, because there is no other place where 30 percent constitutes a pass. In a world where knowledge and expertise is being highly priced, Nigeria is voting for an ignorant future. This is in pursuit of political agenda to satisfy the interest of a part of the country that by its own socio-cultural preferences is not interested in the future yet electing to tether every other part to its boot-string.
Since inception, this government has not hidden its northernisation policy and the appointment of Ishaq Oloyede, a professor of Islamic Studies, who succeeded Dr. Adegbite as the Secretary General of Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, as JAMB Registrar, should have been seen as an indication of its intentions. Setting the cut off point at 120 is a clear signal that the government represented by both the ministry of education, NUC and JAMB all headed by northerners and Moslems – the so-called stakeholders who made the decision as alluded to by JAMB – wants mass admission of northern students into the universities irrespective of performance.
Recall that a few weeks ago Nigerian Christians had to battle a nefarious agenda of the ministry of education to imposed Islamic Studies on non Moslems while practically expunging Christian Religious studies from the curriculum. No society can ever progress if it is perpetually set against itself in a game of wits and domination. There may be nothing wrong in getting as many northern candidates as are available into the universities but this should not be done at the expense of merit, collective interest and the future of the entire society.
Carrying its political agenda into the education sector is simply a death sentence on the future prosperity of this country. In all its political appointments, this government has displayed remarkable indifference and insensitivity to the interests and feelings of other parts of the country. Well, that could still be tolerated given the fact that it is the privilege of the president to appoint those he deems fit. But to extend to education where some resemblance of merit and performance is required is unconscionable.
Admittedly, the north has been hard put filling their admission quota in universities outside the region, which may be widening the in-balance in students’ intake. There is already a subdued outcry over the injustice inherent in the admission policy where students with almost excellent scores are denied entry to allow for less qualified candidates because of their states’ quota. However, the present policy is inexcusable and a complete abandonment of reason and equity in the country.
Our political leaders are vexed by the rising agitations and discontent in the country and wondering what went wrong. Here is the simple answer: The post civil war generation of Nigerians, particularly from the south are losing faith in the integrity and impartiality of the Nigerian state to protect and advance their interest. So the clarion calls for restructuring is a result of the increasing frustration of these groups of Nigerians with the discriminatory role being played by the government at their expense.
No society in history has become anything of substance without promoting merit and performance. In ancient Greek, Babylon and Roman empires, great care was taken to seek out excellent and outstanding individuals to be specially groomed for leadership. In the Bible, Daniel and the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshack and AbedNego were selected by Nebuchadnezzar to be trained based on their intelligent to be among his wise men.
In the Republic, Plato outlined how an ideal and progressive society should be organized and this has influenced most western civilizations since the Athenian society. Intelligence and training are critical and indispensable elements to social progress and societies that discount them become eventually hewers of wood and drawers of water. The most relevant postulation in the Republic to modern society is the fact that societies do not develop on the basis of group performance, as we have continued to do in Nigeria.
Rather, it is gifted individuals across the different spectrum of society who come together, each bringing his/her gift to bear on the collective. Our emphasis on group performance based on ethnic, geographic such as state, or cultural, like religion neglects the contributions of individuals and inhibits the emergence of the best in society. When an individual is discriminated against on the basis of extraneously mundane consideration, that individual can never give his/her best to that society. It is injustice to both the individual and the society.
In the Knowledge society, Peter Drucker posits that knowledge, not resources, will be the determining factor in the development of future societies and it begins now with the quality of education and training being given to or acquired by individuals. Those who continue to wallow in entitlement mentality and mediocrity will have themselves to blame in the future as they would not be able to compete in the new society. Today Nigeria is down the ladder of development on account of resources; tomorrow it will remain undeveloped because of ignorance and knowledge deficiency. This is already evident in the dominance of ICT in today’s global economy.
Nigeria has not been a consistent group performer in any aspect of life because the individuals who constitute the group or collective are not of the same or similar capacity as different standards are employed in their selection. Nigerians have only and always excelled as individuals, which is sufficient proof of the wrongheadedness of our development policies of focusing on groups.
In the educational world today, Nigerian universities and certificates are ridiculed and shunned worldwide because of its indeterminate standards and quality. With the current step taken by JAMB a great future for the nation can only be an illusion. The only comforting fact are the private universities, which though exclusive in nature as a result of high fees, may still insist, like Afe Babalola University, on certain minimum standard of merit.

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