Office, high and low, cultural, judicial, religious, political or traditional imposes certain standards of conduct on the incumbent. When the specific conduct becoming of a particular position is negated, questions are, perforce, asked in serious societies. Thus, if a competent board of investigators incontrovertibly adjudges a university vice chancellor to have obtained a doctorate degree by the sleight of plagiarism, his position automatically becomes untenable.
My late mother, Gwamniru!, bless her soul. She used to tell us, her children, during discussions on placing a finger on the truth of any circumstance or situation, that a man accused of suffering from hydrocele or elephantiasis of the scrotum had his job neatly cut out. If his scrotal sac wasn’t a mighty calabash filled with fluid of indeterminate composition, he enthusiastically stepped into the market place, abruptly shed his clothes, and danced in a number of directions, thereby convincing ora na eze, or ira ni igala, or the mighty and the lowly – in short, all comers – that his accusers were disreputable scoundrels.
Of course, the people, whose voice was the voice of God, would never deny the evidence of their own eyes, to wit that the man allegedly accursed with the deadweight of pumpkins in a difficult portion of the human anatomy was, in fact, free of any such encumbrance. No one, except the deranged or those previously afflicted by a touch of fencham – characters never to be taken seriously – would ever again charge that, between his thighs, was an outsized, water-laden keg, the sort that impeded movement, and made the unsurpassed joys of strolling such a nightmarish contemplation.
Thus, if you accused Chuks Iloegbunam of owning no university degree; if you swore that all that grammar he purports to blow on newspaper pages was gathered listening attentively to white men and women during his decade-long sojourn in the United Kingdom, or assiduously garnered by reading innumerable thrillers of the James Hardley Chase vintage, he would have, a straight and direct path to refutation. Chuks Iloegbunam would readily produce his degree certificate, signed in 1980 by the then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ife (now, Obafemi Awolowo University) Professor Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, and two others – the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the University Registrar. If rats, blasted vermin, had eaten up his certificate, or fire’s incendiary flames had reduced it to ashes, he would drive for less than three hours from Lagos to Ile-Ife, and get the revered institution’s authorities to give word that he had, indeed, earned a degree there.
If, instead of taking this easy and rational course of action, Chuks Iloegbunam chose rather the labyrinthine and prohibitively expensive option of hiring a dozen or more advocates, attorneys, barristers, lawyers and solicitors, to bring down the courthouse with a torrent of polysyllabic casuistry and sophistry that is bereft of the tiniest particle of evidence, to the effect that he has a B. A. (or a Begin Again), he would, of course, cause the raising of a million eyebrows. He would lead people into thinking that work was no longer being carried out on the appointed site. He would incite people, his detractors and supporters alike, into the avoidable temptation of thinking or believing that he was no more than a butterfly pretending to be a bird. The entire development would leave him somewhat like dirty linen indecorously spread on a clothesline next to a busy thoroughfare. The surprised, the alarmed and the outraged may then have no alternative than to consider the viability of posing that kind of question found in Blackie na Joseph, a 1960s folksong by the inimitable crooner Okonkwo Asaa, alias Seven Seven: “Is this your residence that we have entered, or is it some other person’s residence that we have entered?” So asked the village belle, Blackie, upon venturing into would-be lover Joseph’s house, only to find the place filthy and disordered!
But we must allow Chuks Iloegbunam to mind his business, strictly, while we revert to good old pronouns. The cynosure of all eyes should not dab their face in charcoal. So the saying goes. That’s the counsel the country refuses to countenance. Office, high and low, cultural, judicial, religious, political or traditional imposes certain standards of conduct on the incumbent. When the specific conduct becoming of a particular position is negated, questions are, perforce, asked in serious societies. Thus, if a competent board of investigators incontrovertibly adjudges a university vice chancellor to have obtained a doctorate degree by the sleight of plagiarism, his position automatically becomes untenable. If the official chaperon of female contingents to sports festivals were discovered to be a controller of pimps, prostitutes and porn pubs, their position would, in serious societies, be automatically determined.
Is Nigeria a serious society? Or is it a society of anything goes? If the entry qualification for university education is 200 points, in whose service is it to have admission floodgates opened to candidates that scored less than 30 points each? If, according to the Electoral Act, someone less than 30 years, say, may not be elected to a gubernatorial position, what point would be made if governors got elected everywhere who were still in their teens? If such fakeries and forgeries came to light, what should be done? Should judicial officers employ adjournments, injunctions and technicalities to blunt the edges of legal enquiry? Should they subvert justice because there are people who happened on society complete with two heads apiece, rather than the one head that is normal for Homo sapiens?
When President Yar’Adua was virtually clinically dead, and after he was smuggled back into the country from some Saudi Arabian hospital, the country was completely kept in the dark. When he finally died, the matter was raised in Parliament, to determine those who had led the country down the garden path of deceit, the unpatriotic that had taken the people for a rude ride that created an ominously dangerous power vacuum. But the matter was never debated because loud voices erupted that screamed the imperative of allowing the dead to rest in peace! People abused national trust. But they were neither identified nor sanctioned because the dead had to rest in perfect peace.
Similarly, it was said that laws existed prohibiting the ownership of foreign bank accounts by public servants. One former Finance Minister was found to have kept a tidy sum in a London bank. When the matter came to light, he defended himself by claiming to have kept the bank account since his student days. And the matter ended there because he was pronounced to have provided a robust and convincing defence. Does it not all say that Nigeria is a country torn down the middle into the halves of those entitled to carry on regardless and others doomed to bits and pieces of thralldom and unimportance?
The important jets off to distant lands at public expense, to get treated for the flimsiest of illnesses, including chills and the inability to readily imbibe. The insignificant are shot dead for non-violent demonstration or, in the event of escaping with bullet wounds, are forcefully removed from hospital beds and liquidated. In Nigeria of 2016! Conceit aside, a society like this is not marching to democratic rhythm. It is dawdling. It is wobbling. The lament: elephantiasis of the scrotum impedes its progress, stultifies its development.