The big picture
In the last few weeks a lot of earthshaking stories in Nigeria have dominated both the social and the mainstream media. In terms of gravity, hilarity or the sheer evocative impact the story of Biafra, the quit notice, the billionaire kidnapper Evans and the unceasing war between the Presidency and the Senate have been the dominant and defining narratives of the last few months. So it is easy, even excusable, to ignore a little story, little by comparison, which has an enormous impact on our national life. It is the story of Dr. Seyi Adu, 36, a lecturer at the Ogun State College of Health Technology, Ilese Ijebu, Ogun State and a female student of the college, Mosunmola, aged 28 years.
Dr Adu, married with two children and Mosunmola, a spinster had sex in a hotel sometime in August 2016. Adu accused her of seducing him because she wanted a pass in the course he was teaching her. They had three sessions of sex that day, two of them with the rubber covering called condoms. Apparently, they ran short of condoms or they simply wanted to do it differently so they decided to do the last one “skin-to-skin” to borrow the girl’s crisp lingo.
From the pictures published in The Punch newspaper, the girl looks beautiful, or maybe she is just photogenic, tall and statuesque, like temptation personified. The man looks handsome too and well-educated. The girl thought she could use what she had to get what she wanted so as to be able to get on with her life with relative ease. She is said to be an orphan and if there were no parents around to provide a ladder for her to use in climbing life’s tree, she had to provide one, even if a rickety one, for herself. As both teacher and student were teaching and learning in a medical facility you would think they would have a firmer grip of the working of a woman’s biological clock than most other people. One teaches a science subject, the other learns it but it does appear that neither the teacher nor the student was ready to teach or learn the right lessons. Or they were simply overwhelmed by their individual desires.
The man was there to have sex with the girl and award marks to her undeservingly. The woman was there to have sex with the man and receive marks undeservingly. They may have acquired the desired fringe benefits but something went wrong. The girl got pregnant and the man got angry. A good man stepped into the middle of the melee to sort things out. Adu accused her of seducing him but that was not the issue. He got seduced because he allowed himself to be seduced. What was done behind locked doors in a little known hotel was being discussed in the market place. Adu agreed to pay her a monthly stipend of N5000 and N7000 for her ante-natal registration.
Then the girl later asked for N50, 000 for the purchase of baby items in readiness for the arrival of the little one. Adu reportedly said that the girl was trying to turn him into her cash cow. The story got messier and the Ogun State Commissioner of Health, Tunde Ipaye, decided to set up an investigation panel to find out the details of what transpired between them.
The Public Relations Officer of the College, Mr. Ayodele Alaga, did his best to put a brave foot forward and to see how he could shield the College from the scandal. He said the school had nothing to do with it. “We are talking about two adults who had a mutual agreement between them. There was not a case of rape, there was consent.” Great public relations baloney!
There is nothing wrong with an adult-boy-meets-an-adult girl story and their story has a happy or unhappy ending. Some people may frown at it because one of them is married and the escapade may bring sorrow to innocent persons as a result of the illicit sexual transaction. There are many such stories in Nigeria every week including a recent one involving a married, distinguished senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in which he allegedly had a tryst with two girls. He has said he doesn’t know why his private peccadilloe should be a matter for public consumption.
However, the College of Health Technology story is not just an issue of consenting adults. It is actually the issue of public morality, the issue of the relationship between lecturers who are surrogate parents to their students who are in their custody for the duration of their studies. It is also, and more importantly, the larger issue of sex for marks and marks for sex which have become a dominant scourge in many of our institutions of higher learning. Mr. Alaga’s failed to realise that the phenomenon of marks-for-sex is a crime and that the prevalence of the phenomenon may paint his College as a place where students can pass or fail examinations because of the granting to or withholding of sex from lecturers. In other words, sex can make the difference between a student becoming a graduate or not becoming one. This is a way of saying that a student need not necessarily be hardworking and or brilliant to earn a qualification.
If he or she has the wherewithal, in this case sex or money, he can get on in life. If he doesn’t have money to give for marks he can fail. Or if the girl is not interested in offering herself to the lecturer then her fate is sealed. These are human vices that can be found in many societies but the important thing is the society’s attitude to it. Mr. Alaga’s explanation is typical of the reactions of many Nigerian tertiary institutions to the menace. They think that by denying the occurrence of such episodes or by claiming that the lecturers involved are part time or adjunct lecturers they have saved their institutions from the dirt that comes with such scandals. That is wrong. No one expects any of the institutions to be omnipresent and omniscient enough to be able to fish out such defaulters. But society expects them not to cover up, or defend such happenings under any guise with sophistry and with such empty claims as an affair with two consenting adults. It also expects such deviants to be punished.
There are many reasons why certificates from many of our tertiary institutions are not widely respected by employers today. This marks for sex or marks for money phenomenon is one of them. The employers, based on their knowledge of what goes on in many Nigerian tertiary institutions, prefer graduates from foreign universities or graduates with first class degrees or with two or three degrees. This was not the case many years ago. Many parents today have found the way out. Those who have deep pockets send their children abroad even for advanced level qualifications. Those whose pockets are not too deep take the next best option and send their children to Ghana, Benin Republic or Togo. This is a sad commentary on the quality of our tertiary education today. Does this unscientific verdict which is commonly accepted about the quality of our education make the heads of these institutions happy? Are they happy to produce graduates that are not employed or that are unemployable or that are not even respected in the workplace because there is a question mark on the quality of the papers that they present for employment.
Our higher institutions may be honest enough to acknowledge that the scourge of sex or money for marks deserves their serious attention instead of pretending that it does not exist when they do discover any such cases they must take the bull by the horns, investigate it and mete out appropriate punishment for such unethical and criminal behaviour. That is the spelling of corruption. The institution that owns up to the existence of such deviant behaviour will obviously earn more public respect than the one that makes a vigorous but futile effort to deny its existence even when the public knows the truth.
The greater tragedy is that higher institutions are expected to set higher standards in learning and character for the rest of society. No one thinks that people in the ivory tower came from another planet, but to whom much is given much is also expected. If they do not lead the way in doing things properly who will? They must, at all times look at the big picture instead of making nit-picking arguments that do no one, including their institutions, any good.