FEATURE ARTICLE

Temple Chima UbochiThursday, October 25, 2007
ubochit@yahoo.com
Bonn, Germany

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A PASSIONATE APPEAL TO THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF EDUCATION
PLEASE INVESTIGATE WHAT IS GOING ON AT UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR, IF NEED BE, SEE THAT JUSTICE IS DONE

Consolation indiscreetly pressed upon us, when we are suffering undue affliction, only serves to increase our pain, and to render our grief more poignant. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)

In law a man is guilty when he violates the rights of others. In ethics he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so. (Immanuel Kant)

The possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason. (Immanuel Kant)

Knowledge without justice ought to be called cunning rather than wisdom. (Plato)

feel honoured whenever Nigerians request that I put up an article about an issue or another on their behalves. This is not the first time I got such request. It shows that people are appreciating my little effort. Whenever I am being asked to help through writing, I will not hesitate to do so as long as I have sufficient facts at hand. Afterall, that will be my little contribution towards making Nigeria a better place. Feel free to ask for help, if there is something bogging your mind down that you want the public to know about. It is a rare privilege I will always cherish.


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I don’t give in to the idea of telling an aggrieved person to keep quiet when his or her rights are being trampled upon. Telling him or her to console him or herself with the fact that one day help will come out of the blue. That is fatalistic resignation and rubbish. I don’t buy that crap. For anything in life, when you don’t ask, you don’t get. Period!

Earlier this week, I received this mail:

“Dear Temple Chima Ubochi,

It will be a great service to the Ibos if you can use your excellent write up to alert Nigerians on the discriminatory attitude going on at university of Calabar these present days. The vice Chancellor Prof Bassey O. Asuquo has turned Calabar University into his personal business and is asking the Ibos why they left universities at their places to come to school at Calabar, A lot of Ibo students have been denied of their results without reasons. Please if you know the authorities that can investigate what is happening, do all you can to save our people before more harm is done. Thanks for all your contributions to the honor of our Ibo people. May God bless you and your family amen?

C .u. Amalaha”

I replied him thus: Chris. Thanks for your mail and for requesting that I help you put up something against the discrimination at UNICAL. I am honoured by your request. But, before I can do anything, I need all the facts in order to know exactly what the problem(s) is. Please furnish me with all you know about this issue, then I will decide if it is worth writing something about. Looking forward hearing from you again. Have a nice morning.

Chris replied me thus:

“I have a lot of thanks for you for replying my Email and promising to write on the discrimination at Unical. You see I live in Sweden but have a lot of people schooling at Calabar, I have been calling them, and finding out that all the results of the Ibo speaking people have been misplaced or cancelled, and many of them have been paying through their noses to get their results fixed but the Vice Chancellor is blaming them for leaving the schools at Imo, Abia or Enugu States to come to Unical. I did PGD with them and it took me paying a lot to get my transcripts posted. I called one of the directors handling distance education , a Yoruba man, who even confirmed that Calabar people is discriminating now at Calabar University by collecting money for every little thing required from them. Please let us help our people with a write up to the authorities so that they will know that Calabar people don’t want Ibos to come to school at Unical. I promise you that if I get more facts I will write to you. God bless you my big brother.

Chris”

The story above tells it all. Although I am not in Calabar and don’t have the other side of the story, but, I am a bit convinced that Nigeria being what it is, these allegations are very plausible. That’s why I am appealing to the Honourable Minister of Education, Dr. Aja Nwachukwu, to use his good offices in investigating these issues raised and when found to be true, then justice must be done and those that perpetrated the treacherous and heinous acts punished severely. Nigeria can´t continue going on like that whereby every body breaks the law or norms with impunity. Nigeria belongs to all and all should be made to feel at home in it and anybody preventing others from taking equal part in what is for all or discriminating against any Nigerian in any form should be made to pay a big price so as to serve as a deterrent to future would-be offenders.

One thing is clear, this supposedly infringement on citizens rights might not be peculiar to University of Calabar alone, something in me tells me that such shameful attitude is also obtainable in most of the federal and states universities dotting the Nigerian landscape, be they situated in the northern, southern, eastern or western parts of the country. While I speak against what is happening at Calabar, the same goes for other universities in Nigeria, no matter where they might be situated.

University of Calabar, although sited in Calabar is a federal university and every Nigerian has the right to be there. University of Calabar has its catchment areas for admission and that is fair and concessional enough. Even, I suspect that its catchment areas include some Igbo states, if I am not mistaken, so the vice-chancellor has no right to discriminate against the Igbo students or to ask them why they left the universities in Igbo land for that in Calabar. About sixty to seventy percent of the students’ population of that university are from Cross River and Akwa Ibom States and the rest from all other states of Nigeria. Why the discrimination? The University, like every other federal universities, is being funded with our commonwealth, the staff are being paid with our money, so there is no basis to make it a tribal university.

Nigerians are studying all over the world. Nigerians are in South African, Ghanaian, American, Asian, European universities and are not being discriminated against the way some universities in Nigeria are doing against some Nigerians because they are from other ethnic groups or states. If Nigerians abroad are discriminated against for whatever reason, we condemn and fight against that, it will be a sin for a Nigerian to discriminate against a Nigerian. The Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar erred beyond a pardonable margin, if, he asked Igbo Students why they left universities in the east for University of Calabar. He has no right to discriminate against Igbo or Yoruba or Hausa students because they are all Nigerians and that university belongs to Nigeria and all her citizens. Afterall, the Igbo students in question saw the universities in the south-east before choosing University of Calabar and should be allowed to go on with their academic pursuits. It will be the same thing if the people of Aba, Owerri, Onitsha, Asaba, Benin, Ore, Abeokuta ask the people of Cross River State not to ply through the roads in those towns to Lagos, rather, that they should build a fly over from Calabar to Lagos for them to use whenever they are travelling to Lagos. It is all stupid.

Here I rest my case for the Honourable Minister of Education: The ball is now in his (Minister) court. He should know what to do.

Let me continue my conversation with other Nigerians: In pretense, all Nigerians are equal before the law and no Nigerian should be discriminated against based on his or her ethnicity, religion, sex and opinion. But, this is easier said than done as the opposite is usually the case. The worst of it all is that people that are supposed to know better are the worst culprits. People who through their education and experience that are supposed to know better are the ones pulling Nigeria and its developmental progress backward through their attitudes and behaviours. I have no regret in saying that one of the most nagging problems Nigeria has is created by the educated class. They failed woefully. Without the ruling and educated elites, Nigeria would have been different and better off and Nigerians would have seen each other as brothers and sisters the more, with little or no ethnic acrimony, hegemony or strife. The so called ruling and educated elites are the ones poisoning the landscape with ethnic hatred and manipulation.

How can we explain that YarÁdua being the first graduate president is turning out to be worse than the illiterates’ rulers before him, because, of his indecisiveness?

How can we explain the attitude of Michael Aondoakaa, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice with his ineptitude tendencies and incompetence? The AGF, based on his age and when he got his Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title, is of new generation, but is behaving like somebody who didn’t see the four walls of a law school.

How do we explain that despite the fact that the Finance Minister has PhD in economics from London School of Economics, he doesn’t know his right from his left in financial matters?

How can we explain the behaviours of some of the judges who grant questionable injunctions to the corrupt ex-governors who looted their states treasuries dry?

How do we explain the corrupt tendencies of some of the ex-governors like Chimaroke Nnamani, Peter Odili, Achike Udenwa etc that are all well-educated, but, behaved while in office, like those in Motor Parks by not delivering selfless service to their people?

How do we explain the attitude of Patricia Etteh who as the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives is supposed to be a paragon of excellence and epitome of transparency like Dora Akunyili, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili and many other women, but, chooses to be worse than the men before her?

How do we explain the attitudes of the Archbishops, bishops, Imams, Sheiks, pastors etc. who take ill-gotten wealth from members of their congregations and reward them with all kinds of honours and respects, even when they know that such wealth were made through questionable means like shedding of bloods?

How do we explain the attitudes of some traditional rulers who as custodians of cultures and mores have debased the sanctity of the sacred institution by awarding chieftaincy titles and honours to men of questionable integrity, people that might be pen or armed robbers and cheaters?

How would you explain the attitudes of the educated elite who behave so awkward and do things the illiterates in our society might frown at? How do we explain the political tussles going on in our universities for the vice-chancellorship, professorship or deanship positions, where the educated men and women even employ diabolical and fetish means in order to outwit the other?

How can we explain the rationale why our politics is deadly and dirty, in which campaigns are characterised by thuggery, maiming, killings and using of charms?

How do we explain the behaviours of our elected representatives recently at the House of representatives where the hell was let loose and where there was exchange of blows, pin falls, using of derogatory words and insults and the lose of a soul?

How can we explain that despite the facts that political parties have men and women that are well educated, but, have no clear cut philosophies and manifestoes as one can´t draw a line as the difference between the plethora of political parties in the political system?

The selfish and visionless bigots calling themselves the ruling class, some of them with schizophrenic tendencies are hypnotising the people with their ethnic hullabaloos and idiosyncrasies while seeing power as their exclusive reserves.

The Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar should not re-open old wounds through his indiscretions. The Igbos blamed the people of that area for being on the side of Nigeria during the civil war and for helping frustrate their wishes and aspirations of having a country of their own; due to the tribulations and marginalisation they suffered then and are still suffering uptill this day. The Igbos were aware that without the support of the people of that area and other southern minorities, Biafra would have succeeded. Igbos have forgiven them all and have moved on. But attitudes like this from the Vice Chancellor will mean that the war is not yet over and will only bring the pains of losing the war partly because of their support against them, back to the fore. Igbos don’t want that. Igbos don’t want to look backward for now, unless forced to. Igbos have invested too much into the entity called Nigeria to contemplate secession again, unless Nigerians agree to disagree by parting ways peacefully, but, that will never happen. We are one and will remain as that. Nigerians know that their destinies are tied together and will do everything to stay together, no matter the shortcomings for now, but, having said that, the necessary changes must be put in place so that everybody will have a sense of belong.

Even the state universities are worse in discrimination, because, they do it overtly while federal universities might do it covertly. The Osun State University and many other state universities are charging different fees from students from other states. That is unjust. The best thing should have been for the state universities to admit more of their state indigenes and fewer non state indigenes, but, charge everybody the same fees. The state universities in Europe and America do admit students from every state in their countries and do charge the citizens the same fees; only foreign students do pay different fees which is understandable. When things continue like this, the economic development of Nigeria and the unity of the country will all be a mirage.

It is beyond my imagination why Nigeria of today is more ethnic or parochial inclined than Nigeria of the 80s. It is incomprehensible why Nigerians of today are fanning the embers of ethnicity the more than Nigerians of 60s, 70s and 80s. I remember that one of my best friends at UNN was a Cameroonian who was not even discriminated against for not being a Nigerian, we were in the same fraternity (Grand Ivy League) and he rose to become once the head of the fraternity (Generalissimo). Far from that, my room mate at Akpabio Hall, Room 319 was a Yoruba from Ondo State by name Deji, we were like brothers and nobody, not to my knowledge, ever reminded him where he came from, because, it was uncalled for.

The only reason for the constant whipping of parochial sentiments now is that the corrupt ruling elite like to play on the people´s fears to cover up their failures in changing the people’s lives for the better. Parochial and ethnic sentiments are cover-up tactics for their lack of commitment towards the people´s welfare and their embezzlement and looting of funds meant for services to the people. They pass on the buck until it gets to the last man. The ruling elite fan the embers of ethnicity so that while the people are fighting each other to a standstill, they will be busy helping themselves with the commonwealth. The ruling elite that have nothing to offer to the people find it more convenient to play the ethnic cards as a smokescreen to their ineptness.

Unfortunately, the people fall hook, line and sinker for their pranks. I hope the people will soon realise the ruling elite’ antics! No matter how Nigeria evolved and the differences between its people, the things Nigerians have in common are more than those that separate them. Everybody should be emphasising the uniting factors rather than the divisive ones. Professor Bassey Asuquo should take note.

No matter how bleak things seem right now, after rain comes sunshine. The future holds better prospect for all. But at a price: Nigerians should unite and chase away the corrupt ruling elite that have been holding them down all along into political obscurity, inconsequentiality and oblivion. They have never been useful and helpful to the people and will never be. We should no more allow them to be operating, pretending that they are serving us while in reality; they are only protecting their interests and that of their class.

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