Mediocrity and the Nigerian State

The Nigerian factor has yet again struck a blow. Its weapon of choice this time may not have been an AK 47 but it was no less fatal. I write this piece with a deep sense of disappointment and indignation at wonder at the level to of mediocrity which we as a Nation have sunk into . For a country that professes fairness, equity and justice (especially since the return of democracy), we live our lives every day in defiance to these sacred virtues.
About a month ago, a close friend of mine was invited to an interview at the National Assembly Clinic in Abuja. Although given only a two-day notice, he traveled over 500 kilometers from Benin City on our tempestuous roads to make the appointment. To begin with, this interview should have been conducted more than a month before it was eventually scheduled but the organizers delayed it to wait for some “special” candidates who had not yet left University! (Yes, they were that special). Apparently the chances of this friend of mine was sliming by the second. If the umpire of an exam had to wait for some chosen people, what hope was there for him? An examination in which less than thirty candidates were supposed to write was now open to almost a hundred people.  This did not deter him however; it was after all a fair playing field.  Or so he thought.
And so, like Caesar, he came to the Abuja, he saw, and finally conquered the exam. Another friend of ours who worked in the clinic called me up to congratulate me on the success of my friend. She said he was selected based on merit and federal character. He was the best candidate from the South-South zone and would no doubt be selected but she warned me not to tell him yet until it was made official (I didn’t know why she told me this until later).  I am not one to keep secrets, let alone good secrets so I called him jubilantly. We joked over the phone about how smart he was and he promised to “wash” it. I even had a percentage of his first salary!
After waiting for another two weeks or so, I was shocked to find out that, the “successful” candidates had already resumed work. I with my friend wondered whether a different exam had been conducted where he was no longer the best from the South-South.
To begin with, out of the almost hundred that sat for the interview conducted, only 18 candidates got the job. Of this 18, just 5 were selected based on merit. If only 27.7 percent of candidates were selected for their high performance in the exam, by what criteria did the other 72.3 percent (13 candidates) qualify from? Why would any other criteria supersede merit with federal character notwithstanding? Even if a candidate must come from Sokoto, Borno, or Imo, these candidates have to chosen because of their performances and not just because of where they come from. That way, the umpire would have satisfied the law and would been seen to be equitable.
The truth was that his name had most likely been substituted by someone who had a letter of recommendation bearing “honorable”. He did not have a lobbyist, or a fancy complimentary card. In short, he was nobody.  The “some-bodies” had been selected before the exam.  
What if we didn’t know he had been successful earlier on? He would have thought the competition was too stiff and probably spent more money he didn’t have buying books on how to pass interviews. Can you imagine how many places this manner of injustice goes on every day? Ever wonder why the level of unemployment never seems to decrease even with the amount of vacancies been advertised in national daily’s? And yet every day, we wonder why we have less qualified doctors in hospitals, inept teachers in schools, and civil servants who can’t write official letters.  
My friend is back to the  labor market. He sent me a very disturbing text message saying this, “I guess the onus is on us to be somebody-this should not happen to our kids. I couldn’t find a congruent answer that would be both empathetic and yet justify his position, but I told him that I can only hope that one day in this country; we would not have to call in any favors for our children.  A prefer a country where their performances would be enough.

© 2010 Ewoigbokhan Otaigbe Itua 

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