On , a lawyer wrote to the management of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, apologising on behalf of Ogechi Okoroafor, a graduating student of the institution.
A day earlier, Miss Okoroafor posted a video on social media in which she attributed her graduation to God and her private parts. The video received immediate condemnation from Nigerians, who are largely moralists, at least publicly. It doesn’t matter what people do in their homes, but there are certain acts, discussions, and topics that are traditionally impermissible in Nigeria. One of them is discussing illicit sexual indulgences, especially when coming from a woman. Call it evidence of Nigeria’s patriarchal disposition and you’ll be right, but men sometimes wear these things as badges of accomplishment, but this society frowns at women who boast about what they did under the sheet. It is near abominable.
So, the institution, justifiably scandalised by the viral video, issued a statement, promising to investigate the matter and mete out sanctions on the lady if found guilty.
A letter by this lawyer, Ikechukwu Nwaopara, apologised and explained that the lady suffered a slip of the tongue while trying to acknowledge God and her father. He sought a fair hearing for his client during the institution’s investigation and offered to represent.
But as the investigation goes on, it is important to deconstruct this event that has brought the institution and its graduates to sudden public attention.
Arguments are going on about whether the lawyer’s explanation is an afterthought or not. But this point is neither here nor there. What is important is that the young lady made a video that attracted attention and brought the polytechnic into a negative focus. If this was a slip of tongue, how did she not realise and correct the error? Whatever, the damage has been done. And Ogechi Okoroafor would have to pay for her misjudgment and drag along some accomplices.
For instance, many Nigerians, including a politician and former alumni of the institution, asked the school to punish the graduating student. And that is okay. It should, all things being equal, to deter others from going the same route.
Given our society’s tendency to ignore the already ravaging leprosy in favour of just emerging symptoms of ringworm, however, the big question would be: Deterrent for what? If investigations reveal that the young lady had indulged in sex for grades, would punishing her deter others from engaging in the act, or from speaking about the act?
There are the two issues we need consider about this video. The first is the likelihood of the incident of sex for grades, while the second is the audacity to own up to this act of compromise. So, in punishing the girl, which one of these two do we hope to deter others from?
For the first point, sex for grades is a phenomenon across the world, as illegal and anti-social as it is. Societies where law and order prevail, and people are conscious of the rights of others, have tackled evil better than others. Even Nigeria has prosecuted and the courts have sentenced some university lecturers for sexual harassment and victimisation of students. Overall, this is a global problem that will probably exist for as long as men and women exist. Human beings have power over one another, and there are lazy students and predatory teachers who are susceptible to compromises. That is the way it is.
The second thing is to question what motivates a grown woman to attribute her achievement to this unconventional strategy. People engage in many illegal practices to accomplish targets, but the boldness to not just confess, but to boast about such things is another level of temerity and daredevilry. Now, lawyers and Miss Okoroafor claim that this was an error. But even if we choose to accept this latest position, the video still agitates the mind about certain things in Nigeria.
The first of these is about the quality of education that students receive in Nigeria. First off, administrators and planners in the Nigerian educational sector must realise that tertiary education is not for every Nigerian child.
Some children in the country are not endowed with the capacity to attend, thrive, and become useful by attending formal tertiary institutions. And when we force such students into these institutions, they will do anything and everything possible to circumvent the system, graduate, and become a nuisance to society.
So, what is the alternative? The country must take the question of vocational and other less formal ways of educating people with less flair for academics. Leaders of the country should establish and fund institutions where citizens can gain certifications, which may even be equivalent or foundational to degrees. This will reduce the stress on many students who attend polytechnics and universities because of societal pressure.
The video under discussion also shows that higher education in Nigeria puts people under a lot of stress! From the joy on her face and words like “this Nekede stress ends today… it can only be God o…,” in this video, the tedium of acquiring a tertiary education in Nigeria is clear.
For many students of higher institutions in Nigeria, these facilities are places of burden rather than learning. Right from the quality of teaching, which has fallen because most people become lecturers because they have nothing else to do, to the facilities, curriculum, and methods of instruction, much is left to be desired about tertiary education in Nigeria. They pay little or no attention to the intellectual development of the students, and the country churns out thousands of unemployable graduates yearly.
The third is the growing craze for popularity among Nigerians. Since this video went viral on , people have postulated various possibilities. One of the most astounding is the chance that the lady in this video may have made this claim just to ‘trend!’ This means that it is possible for a lady who has not even been in bed with a single lecturer to make a video with such claims and post it just to attract attention to herself and gain social media followership.
And as weird as this sounds, there have been such instances. Just yesterday, a friend reminded me of a 2019 scandal involving a certain Blessing Okoro, who is now an Instagram sensation.
This lady recorded a video in which she claimed to own a house that didn’t belong to her. She was busted and disgraced, but then she gained attention and is a celebrity advising more honest Nigerians about their lives! So, the question is, to what extent would people crave attention and cheap popularity?
Finally, Nigerians must understand that we are throwing public morality to the dogs. Until recently, people engaged in and kept their untoward practices private. By that, they saved the public from obscenity and preserved their own public faces.
But this is fast becoming history. People wake up one day, jump on their social media accounts, and promote things that detract from the health of society. Prostitution, the abuse of drugs, the obscene display of wealth, and even illegal ways of acquiring such wealth find their way into the public space without checks. This is misleading many young people into devising ways to quick wealth into a crime den where no one is safe. But more than that, it tells of a worrisome future where neither personal integrity nor collective dignity would matter.