How the Sex-For-Marks Phenomenon Damages Nigeria, By ‘Tope Fasua
…if students are not allowed to study in an atmosphere devoid of fear, their productivity will be subpar… If students are unable to express themselves because lecturers are harsh, mean, fraudulent, lecherous, manipulating and self-seeking, predatory, wicked, and uncaring, then where will innovations come from? Through this process, the lecturers will promote those who are undeserving, elevate the mediocre and frustrate brilliant students.
The ongoing revelations about sex-for-marks in our universities would have generated a lot of dust and been overtaken by another scandal by next week. In Nigeria, it is one week, one scandal, as we know.
The focus, so far, has been on the morality of the despicable acts on the part of lecturers, in whose hands we have entrusted our children. There is also a healthy dose of firepower from the feminist angle, with high-profile people like Bisi Fayemi (first lady of Ekiti State, who I have had cause to worry about her seeming dislike for men in her writings), and Ibim Semenitari (former managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC), among others, revealing that they were sexually harassed in university. The stories are a myriad. All quite saddening. The focus is presently on Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu of the University of Lagos (Unilag; who we hear tried to commit suicide), but there are hundreds, probably thousands of villains within the Nigerian academia. It is important to say that these guys are a big dragback to Nigeria’s development, in case they don’t know. This scandal again shows that we need to always look inward and consider the long-term implications of our actions and inactions. Nigerian lecturers would have been blaming government for not being upright to its duties, but with what we have seen these past few days, the actions of many of them are more than appalling. It is evident that our academia has not lived up to bill and is therefore really undeserving of those salary increases they always crave so much. In fact, the academia needs exorcism. More on that later.
As the scandal blew open, something different happened this time. More revelations came from everywhere. People who had left school started outing lecturers who they said were leeches. In one of such, a certain Dr. Bolodeoku of the same Unilag was said by one Wale Gates on Twitter as having accused one of his students in an open lecture of infecting him with a sexually transmitted disease. Gates said Unilag did nothing about it and that on another occasion when the university invited him to face a panel, he blackmailed them with knowledge of the predatory exploits of those who sat in judgement in his case. They dropped the case like a bad habit. This same man was accused by someone else on the same twitter thread of having sworn to have sex with a married student, whose husband came to school to beg him and offer money. He was said to have refused and insisted on the sex! When I posted some of the screenshots on my Facebook page, a personal friend who graduated in the early 1990s called to tell me that he had to walk into the man’s office to threaten him before he handed off his cousin in the same university. A certain Adeyeye Olorunfemi, a 400 Level student of Unilag and student leader was expelled in 2016 for complaining of – among other things – the sexual exploitation of students. His case needs to be urgently reviewed with this revelation. We must not forget him because he is a guy. We must also not forget all boys who are financially exploited too. I pushed the envelop on my Facebook page and wondered if gay lecturers could exploit students too, and Oh My God! There were a number of affirmations that that was presently going on in a number of universities around the country.
Many stories have made the rounds. Whole departments have been accused by people who passed through them. Stories of victimisation, extortion, the ruining of lives, deliberate failure of women because of refusal to ‘deal’, bribery with bags of rice, shawarma etc, even homosexual predation abound. Vice chancellors and DVCs have been indicted for being leeches. It has been revealed that the academia in Nigeria does little else but indulge in illicit sex. An epidemic of sex addiction has since gripped our academia and they threw caution to the wind. What may have started subtly and cautiously soon became free-for-all, a status symbol, and bragging rights in our country where bad habits take roots quickly. I recall sitting behind a professor whose accent and name (as he spoke on phone) showed he was from Edo State, at the Abuja airport sometime back as we waited to be called to board an international flight, and he called at least seven women – some married by the conversation they had – and was trying to lure them to come and meet him abroad. From what I heard as I sat listening in silent disgust, they were all his students. From what I have read in the last few days, almost none of our professors is clean. A respectable professor who does not coerce his students for sex would be an exception in today’s Nigeria. It is because of this that those who are caught in the act are hung to dry – for their bad luck, not because the system sees their act as bad – and many who have been tried within the university setting and found guilty, have moved on to other universities. In fact a number of guys in Nigeria’s federal legislature today were said to have been laid off due to sex scandals in the universities in which they once taught! Evil reigns in our land. We reward evil, and punish virtue in this country.
What are the implications of this scandal?
The essence of academia must change in Nigeria; we must see productivity, we must see our children inventing and innovating stuff and taking control of their own future. We cannot afford to keep churning out damaged goods, cowed graduates who also know next to nothing.
1. It shows that little genuine learning actually takes place in Nigeria’s higher institutions, as lecturers now see their jobs as a joke, or at best as a platform to get between the legs of their innocent students – or collect money from the boys. Well, I admit that some students are the villains. Some don’t want to learn anything but the ultimate responsibility belongs to the lecturers.
2. From 1 above, it is evident that we need to saddle our higher institutions with even more duties than they presently have, given that those higher institutions retain the singular ability to transform this nation for greater developmental exploits because that is where the base of our most productive youth reside. If the energies of the students and lecturers were rechanneled, magic could happen. I have suggested in the past that students be allowed to start getting involved in real developmental projects that impact society, and not after they graduate. This is how both students and lecturers will transform Nigeria and also earn extra pay.
3. This problem really became commonplace in southern Nigerian universities. I wrote once about my visit to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and how bold the students were, in comparison to students in the south, who I believe have been cowed through fear by their lecturers and have therefore turned to cultism en masse. ABU does have her fair share of sex scandals today and Daily Trust recently carried the news of the sack of about 19 staff for sexual indiscretions. But this problem remains an industry in the south of Nigeria, with Unilag being one of the worst places, perhaps, due to the Lagos pressure for money and the hard life. Who knows? This north-south dichotomy is important, so that these lecturers will know and see their contribution to the backwardness of the region that some of them will claim they love.
4. Flowing from 3 above is that fact that if students are not allowed to study in an atmosphere devoid of fear, their productivity will be subpar. This is where the meat of my writeup lies. Fear has no place in the world of intellectualism. I saw a clip on WhatsApp that our secondary school students in Business Studies have to go around looking for old typewriters for their examinations because that is what the curriculum says they must use in the year 2019. Add that to the fact that our children – especially in public universities – study in fear and you will see how these lecturers are mortgaging the future of Nigeria. If students are unable to express themselves because lecturers are harsh, mean, fraudulent, lecherous, manipulating and self-seeking, predatory, wicked, and uncaring, then where will innovations come from? Through this process, the lecturers will promote those who are undeserving, elevate the mediocre and frustrate brilliant students. Does that not tell a story?
5. I attended a ‘village university’ for my B.Sc. That is the then Ondo State University, now Ekiti State University. In those days, it certainly wasn’t the norm for lecturers to harass students. Of course, personalities differ; some lecturers are mean and others easy-going. But we didn’t feel under unnecessary pressure most of the time. None of the lecturers demanded money for marks, as far as I know, in my department. In fact, we were so free with our lecturers, we saw our examination scores before we left after each semester. Today I believe things have changed at EKSU (like everything degenerates in Nigeria anyway, unfortunately), to the extent that someone revealed on twitter how one lecturer shouted to another in EKSU: ‘Omo melo lo ti do l’ogba yi to n pe rae ni senior lecturer?’, interpreted as ‘How many girls have you had sex with on this campus to justify your rank as a senior lecturer’. This means that the sexual harassment of girls have become bragging rights today at EKSU. But it was shock to my system when I went for an MBA at Unilag in 1996/7 and found that lecturers had zero respect for their students. They screamed at us. They failed people willingly. One even asked the Class Rep to tell us he needed N5,000 each from 20 students who will obtain A’s in his exams. The results of first semester year one, were not available until second semester year two! That was when students found out they had carry overs in the first semester of the first year. An examination they could have retaken in the normal course of events therefore became an extra year for them. I felt so violated and oppressed. I left.
…what beckons to the Nigerian academia is a total overhaul in thinking. Intellectualism cannot be deployed for oppression. Abroad they have gone far. They probably never passed through this curve because there was hardly a time when having a university degree became a life and death issue as it has become here – not because we know what to do with the degrees anyway.
6. The world moves on. I have seen reports of sexual harassment in U.K. universities and elsewhere but by all means, those ones cannot compare with jungle Nigeria. Apart from sexual harassment issues, developed countries are so developed because they respect intellectualism and respect their youth. I went to a far-from-ivy-league university in the U.K. for my Masters but I still know that they treated us with utmost respect. In my Ph.D programme at Walden University right now, the first thing you learn is the respect you have to show to your fellow students as you interact. I have been able to learn so much, given the right atmosphere.
What if a student likes or really falls in love with a lecturer? It could even be both ways. Look at Macron, for example; an extreme scenario. In the clip of Dr. Boniface that went viral, as well as that of Professor Gyampo in Ghana, I think what we have are the more subtle forms of this phenomenon in Nigeria. Whereas these guys could be seen as scapegoats, what beckons to the Nigerian academia is a total overhaul in thinking. Intellectualism cannot be deployed for oppression. Abroad they have gone far. They probably never passed through this curve because there was hardly a time when having a university degree became a life and death issue as it has become here – not because we know what to do with the degrees anyway. The Professor Akindele issue at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, whereby he insisted on five rounds of sex or five meetings for sex at the student’s expense is more like what happens regularly. That is the new standard. It is noteworthy that Boniface and Akindele are practicing pastors! The Bolodeokus of Unilag Economics Department were quite famous for preying on students – as alleged. Yet there are universities where such are rarities in this country. Lecturers have to know that their work is relatively easy, in comparison to what goes on in the outside world; in the private sector, for example, and that a new group of people are ready to invade the academia and do a better job because teaching and impartation should be done with love for knowledge. The essence of academia must change in Nigeria; we must see productivity, we must see our children inventing and innovating stuff and taking control of their own future. We cannot afford to keep churning out damaged goods, cowed graduates who also know next to nothing. I couldn’t even have been the type of writer I am today if my lecturers (Professor Ogunleye, Emeritus Professor McFabro Fabayo, Late Dr. Oba, Dr. Agbogu etc) had traumatised the hell out of me. I went to a village university, perhaps this was fate, for I had an admission to study Psychology in Unilag that year, 1987.
That said, it needs to be acknowledged that there are individual differences. Even in Walden there are lecturers who are stern and sometimes a bit mean. We can yet see that the system has buckled their extreme tendencies. In London Metropolitan University, Moorgate, I took on one female lecturer in 2005. She approached her class believing that everyone was stupid and we also did not understand what she was teaching. It was a quantitatives class. I knew I shouldn’t be cowed by quants. I passed her class in the C region (my lowest in that degree), but 80 per cent of the class failed. I saw colleagues weeping. Some who went to see her were marched out of her office. So, I took her on headlong; challenged my marks. She sent me on a wild goose chase with regards to the appeal process but I found a second opinion with my thesis supervisor, the good man Brian Eales. The lady will remember me for a while, for on graduation day, in spite of her and all, I was one of the three students that bagged a distinction. As I passed by her that day, she said ‘Tope, you’re quite a determined man!’ Never liked her. She looked like a character from Harry Porter. Gaunt… Pointed nose… You get. I looked at her and in my head what I said was ‘This one doesn’t know where one is coming from. If she knows the background of struggle, she will know I can’t be cowered’. I can’t even remember what I said. I politely brushed past.
A new paradigm beckons on Nigeria’s academia. You people are the hope of our salvation from extinction in case you don’t know. You cannot spend time required for serious business luring girls to some ‘cold room’ for slaughter. Grow up! Get serious!