BARbaric Grading System

Olanrewaju Adesola Onadeko Esq, DG Nigerian Law School

Olanrewaju Adesola Onadeko Esq, DG Nigerian Law School

First of all, there wasn’t a 71% fail rate at the last Bar Finals. The Council of Legal Education has provided a comprehensive breakdown of the results here. The truth is closer to a 50/50 split. Given that this rumoured fail rate was what led to the outcry and a call from several corners for the grading system at the Nigerian Law School to be reviewed, perhaps that should simply be the end of the matter.

 

However, as a corollary to the argument that high failure rates warrant a review of the system (or perhaps in conflation of the issues), there have also been arguments against the grading system that is supposedly used for the Nigerian Bar exams. I am tempted to call the system an urban legend because you won’t find it written anywhere. However, several tutors at the various law school campuses over the years have explained that a student’s final grade is usually the lowest score in any of the 6 exams written to qualify. In simpler terms, if the student is graded a 1st Class in 5 papers but scores a Pass in the 6th, the School will award him a Pass degree certificate. Allegedly. But we will assume that is the case for the purpose of this discussion.

 

Many have argued that this system is unfair, including my learned friend Orji Uka, here. I disagree, for the reasons that follow.

 

The sum of most of the disagreement seems to be that the system is unfair because it is unfair. How can it be fair to grade a student on the basis of his worst paper? Others have gone on to say that an average grading system is more reflective of the student’s ability, and that no other jurisdiction appears to grade law school students the Nigeria does. Mr. Uka’s article also echoes the sentiment that the exams put way too much pressure on students, with many not replicating the good grades they got at university (I dispute that, by the way).

 

Well, boo frickin’ hoo!

 

My take is that it’s a professional exam, for a profession in which people’s lives and futures are in your hands, where competence is the difference between a conviction for murder and one for unlawful homicide. I’d rather view the grading system as a quality assurance method for employers, separating the cream of the cream from the rest. If the system truly exists, then everyone who’s ever gotten a first class certificate at the Law School deserves immense respect. I also had a boss, Senior Advocate, who used to admonish “you’re only as good as your last mistake”. The real world is unforgiving and mistakes can be costly.

 

Secondly, again assuming the system exists, I don’t understand how a system that has been defined by a body of professionals and applied uniformly to the vast majority of the professional body can be unfair. Who is it unfair to? All law students past and present, those who passed and otherwise? At any rate, everyone learns about the grading system very early into the session, most even before the session resumes. You knew what you were signing up for.

 

Thirdly, the Council of Legal Education publishes a compendium of past questions and model answers. This is the most legal “expo” in the world!!! I bet very few of the foreign jurisdictions we’re comparing ourselves to do this. Furthermore, a large majority of the questions are repeated year on year. If you start with the compendium early enough, attend your classes and take notes, it should take sickness or personal tragedy to throw you completely off your game.

 

Fourthly, I do not think that the system disrupts university results to any degree of significance. I am fairly confident that most that leave the Law School with a first class were awarded either a first or a 2:1 at university. There are also some 2:2 university graduates that earn a 2:1 at Law School. However, very few 2:2s if any go on to earn firsts at Law School. I would say, from the evidence from my set and those immediately preceding and following, that people generally maintain their university standards at the Law School.

 

Fifth, the truth is that many get to the Law School and either lose their way, or think that university methods will work for them one last time. At university, there is the fallback of continuous assessment to rely on – and your exam would only count for 60% of your final grade. So, many could afford to leave studying until the month before exams. Anyone who tries this at the Law School is destined to fail. The work is more voluminous at the latter and the exams are stacked 6 days in a row. You simply cannot afford to leave serious studying till late, trysts at Amudolak Hotel notwithstanding. *Bwari Campus people know what I’m talking about.*

 

Finally, as long as we’re having a conversation, we might also want to talk about the standard of [legal] education in Nigeria. The reason why lawyers used to be called “The Law” with reverence , was because lawyers were renowned for speaking and writing proper English all the time, being widely read and knowledgeable, possessing impeccable manners and noble carriage, they were discreet and generally being better than allayou… (apologies to DavidO).

 

This is clearly no longer the case. When I was at the Law School, the civil procedure lecturer told how they had also included grammar in the marking scheme for the previous year, but had to ditch it because of it’s impact on pass rates. I would later find out that she was not exaggerating. Letters come in from the law offices of the more boisterous senior lawyers, and you simply wonder. I see many of my colleagues on social media trading barbs and descending into roforofo with other people online. These are all not good enough.

 

To conclude, I do not think a year of an unusually high failure rate should warrant revamping the whole system. I think the students should look inwards and urge anyone who is convinced they could not have failed to recall their scripts. If you go back to the statistics released by the Council of Legal Education, I think the fact that the bulk of the failures came from those taking either one paper or the entire exam again, supports my point of view.

 

Plateful of Odd

 

 

In 2012, I started the most oddball thing ever – I started taking pictures of vanity plates and posting them in an album on Facebook. It started pretty randomly but I knew I wasn’t totally nuts when people not only commented on the pictures but sent me a couple of the more interesting ones they had come across as well.

Here’s the collection to date. Picture quality varies depending on the phone, the windscreen and how stable the car was at the time. Hope you enjoy. Seemed apt to share on Lagos State’s #NoHornDay.

14424_10152246260265061_1640988683_n 19183_10152446419940061_1250678331_n 163426_10150349164905061_5372801_n 163945_10150353803255061_3943654_n 165641_10150360252350061_605348_n 166802_10150349157945061_1851029_n 167193_10150353984935061_71760_n 167994_10150384049580061_6570285_n 180825_10150381393375061_144500_n 183596_10150420098265061_857793_n 183779_10150420098795061_1239840_n 184610_10150420098655061_3278258_n 188564_10150420097750061_2878802_n 190003_10150420098430061_2067376_n 190149_10150420097195061_2687654_n 190674_10150420097955061_7126854_n 198080_10150420097640061_1874821_n 206871_10150554548650061_5648786_n 207453_10150554548170061_4780864_n 207509_10150554546905061_4546448_n 207852_10150554546535061_5608502_n Bz_-yORIgAAjmIe.jpg-large208386_10150554547470061_1306549_n 208736_10150554549075061_7941186_n 217190_10150554550305061_504181_n 221685_10150554553040061_1368738_n 224107_10150556782015061_5628632_n 270469_10152246262485061_1426004274_n 297709_10150934691155061_854066307_n 300326_10150813543960061_1118927358_n 302952_10150788398925061_6133482_n 317107_10150806405185061_246745844_n 319694_10150936526495061_914679676_n 379108_10150946739020061_904706327_n 425183_10151357761655061_1721452379_n 480969_10152294105155061_651940504_n 486262_10152253664320061_1193122444_n 559483_10153499011690061_1282304564_n 599197_10152246346050061_1154725183_n 1380648_10153499018130061_1145553040_n 1393698_10153499009870061_713619982_n 1396042_10153499016815061_1034531588_n 1451537_10153593986110061_1423558473_n 1452306_10153499015980061_1931052051_n 1463035_10153499017400061_1671092000_n 1466124_10153499013260061_998495476_n 1796601_10153894149280061_2115375433_n 1797950_10154704655095061_8092707928085191939_n 10253856_10154186143520061_2334113748046928077_n 10310620_10154200487230061_6624420687971387841_n 10672243_10154697234310061_5870700106772308141_n 10702169_10154756605545061_6791914685027988625_n

 

 

GUEST POST: Kayode Adegbola (@KayodeA) – Do Commissioners Really Need to Resign Before Contesting Gubers?

With a view to resolving the issue of whether there is any legal requirement for Commissioners to resign their position before they can contest for the offices of Governor of a Nigerian State, I conducted a review of The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Constitution”); The Electoral Act 2010, as amended (“Electoral Act”), as well as additional documents which include but are not limited to the constitutions of the major Nigerian Political Parties – People’s Democratic Party (“PDP”) and All Progressives Congress (“APC”).

 

The Constitution provides the following as requirements for a person to be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State[1]:

 

  1. Citizenship of Nigeria by birth;
  2. Attainment of the age of thirty-five years;
  3. Membership of a political party and sponsorship by that political party; and
  4. Education up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

 

In addition, the Constitution confers the following freedom on all persons:

 

Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.[2]

 

This freedom as stated above may be restricted by “any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons[3]”.

 

However, and quite importantly, according to the Constitution, no person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if “being a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State, he has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from the employment at least thirty days to the date of the election”[4]. In addition, the Interpretation, Citation and Commencement Section of the Constitution defines “public service of a State” as follows[5]:

 

“public service of a State’ means the service of the State in any capacity in respect of the Government of the State (emphasis mine) and includes service as:

(a) Clerk or other staff of the House of Assembly;

(b) member of staff of the High Court, the Sharia court of Appeal, the Customary Court of Appeal; or other courts established for a State by this Constitution or by a Law of a House of Assembly;

(c) member or staff of any commission or authority established for the State by this Constitution or by a Law of a House of Assembly;

(d) staff of any local government council;

(e) staff of any statutory corporation established by a Law of a House of Assembly;

(f) staff of any educational institution established or financed principally by a government of a State; and

(g) staff of any company or enterprise in which the government of a State or its agency holds controlling shares or interest;

It is not clear whether in drafting the Constitution, a Commissioner was envisaged to fall within the purview of being a member of “public service of a State”, however the sentence “the service of the State in any capacity in respect of the Government of the State” could be read to mean so.

 

The Electoral Act makes no stipulations with regard to the subject of this opinion, and neither do the constitutions of the PDP and the APC. The APC Constitution only requires a candidate for Governorship to satisfy the requirements for elections under the Constitution[6], however I am aware that it is conventional for political parties to release guidelines that may require candidates to resign any public office ahead of primary elections.

 

In my considered view, there is no law in Nigeria which expressly states that a Commissioner must resign from his office in order to contest for the office of Governor of a State; however, if at all, in consideration of the provision of Section 318 (1) as mentioned above, such resignation will not be required until thirty (30) days before the Governorship Election.

 

So, for any Commissioner who is currently in service in any State in Nigeria and seeking to run for Governorship of the State (as is quite common), it remains safe to not resign until at least 30 days before the next Governorship Election scheduled for 28th February 2015. However, I am aware that State Governors often either sack or require Commissioners in their Cabinets to resign their positions in order to prevent the distraction of campaigning as against their service to the State.

 

NOTE: This blog post does not constitute legal advice, but rather is an opinion of the writer on the state of the law regarding the topic. For specific advice, please contact your lawyer.

Follow Kayode Adegbola on Twitter: @kayodea

 

ENDNOTES -

[1] Section 177

[2] Section 40

[3] Section 45

[4] Section 182(1)(g)

[5] Section 318(1)

[6] Article 20(2)(ii)(b)

Copyright Protection: The Exceptions

One of the benefits of recent events bordering on blogging and plagiarism is that everyone got a crash course on intellectual property and copyright. Most know now that you need the author’s permission to use literary, musical and artistic works, as well as films, sound recordings and broadcasts. This is a good thing. Intellectual property law however is more shades of grey than columns of black and white. The slight concern (for me) is that this is mostly being bandied as an absolute rule and that any unauthorised use whatsoever is immediately plagiarism or copyright infringement. This is not the case – absolute monopolies of use are not created. The reason for this is rooted in the [jurisprudential] basis for copyright protection.

 

Copyright, does not exist solely for the benefit of the content creator and most countries generally declare a justification for their system of copyright protection. For example, in the world’s first ever copyright legislation, the English Statute of Anne, it was stated that the purpose was to “encourage learning”. Similarly, the American Constitution states that the purpose of copyright is “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

 

Copyright protection exists more therefore in the interests of the public good than the interests of the private individual. The competing need to balance economic benefits to rights holders and the public interest of users of the protected works is the reason that there are circumstances in which the works may be used without authorization.

 

One of the easier exceptions to exclusivity is that copyright protection does not last forever. See here for a breakdown of copyright duration.

 

 

Secondly, some laws provided a list of activities that will not be caught by usual copyright restrictions. One if Fair Dealing, which is discussed below, but several others listed in the Nigerian Act include the following:

  • reproducing the work by way of parody, pastiche or caricature (e.g. BuniTV’s Drunk in Love);
  • reproducing and distributing copies of an artistic work permanently situated in a place where it can be viewed by the public;
  • inclusion in a collection of literary or musical work which includes not more than two excerpts from the work, if the collection bears a statement that it is for educational use and includes an acknowledgement of the title and authorship of the work;
  • incidentally including an artistic work in a film or broadcast

 

 

The final exception or limitation for this piece is Fair Use. Under the Nigerian Copyright Act, the concept is referred to as “Fair Dealing” and is described as follows:

 

“The right conferred in Section 6… does not include the right to control (a) the doing of any of the acts mentioned in the said Section 6 by way of fair dealing for purposes of research, private use, criticism or review or the reporting of current events, subject to the condition that if the use is public, it shall be accompanied by an acknowledgement of the title of the work and its authorship except where the work is incidentally included in a broadcast.”

 

In other words, as long as I refer to the title of your work and acknowledge your authorship, I can use snippets of it in a subsequent work doing any of the highlighted activities in the preceding paragraph.

 

In America, there’s a slightly more robust test for determining Fair Use. See the excerpt below from the Copyright Clearance Centre’s website:

 

“Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act lists four factors to help judges determine, and therefore to help you predict, when content usage may be considered “fair use.”

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. If a particular usage is intended to help you or your organization to derive financial or other business-related benefits from the copyright material, then that is probably not fair use.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work. Use of a purely factual work is more likely to be considered fair use than use of someone’s creative work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright protected work as a whole. There are no set page counts or percentages that define the boundaries of fair use. Courts exercise common-sense judgment about whether what is being used is too much of — or so important to — the original overall work as to be beyond the scope of fair use.
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyright protected work. This factor looks at whether the nature of the use competes with or diminishes the potential market for the form of use that the copyright holder is already employing, or can reasonably be expected soon to employ, in order to make money for itself through licensing.

 

What does this mean for blogging? It means you need permission to use photos still under copyright. It means you can use excerpts (a few paragraphs – depending on the total length of the essay) from other people’s work in your own without asking their permission first, as long as you acknowledge the original work by title and author. As for tweets, because it is a requirement of eligibility for copyright that “sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character”, very few would be eligible for protection and the great majority can be used without the handle owner’s permission. It’s always nicer to ask, though.

 

The Chronicles of Chill – Episode IV: (Me)Linda Gate(s)

After the seasons of the Throne of Ekitilopia and the Tword of Prophet TRappatoni, came a festival of peace in the land of Twilistia and Social Mediana. Brother cleaved unto brother, sister unto sister and many a-brother did verily entereth into the DMs and setteth P with the sisters.

 

In this time of peace, the Chief Priestess of Gossipotamia made it known unto all the men and women of Social Mediana, that once had her plea gone unto her father and twice he had heard her word and yea, had he now finally acquiesced to her desire to take for herself a new chariot. And her name was Melinda the Second. And her new chariot was a Roving Ranger of the finest Valyrian steel. And Melinda said she dipped into her vast coffers and gave Cosmas the Chariot Seller a mere 24 million shekels for the chariot. And it was a beautiful chariot to behold.

 

Melinda was a great Chief Priestess of Gossipotamia, probably the greatest the people of Social Mediana had ever seen. And she was also a chronicler of the sayings and doings of the people of Celebritine. And daily, hordes and throngs of people from Social Mediana, Gossipotamia and beyond came to worship at her temple and read her chronicles.

 

But a word was said against Melinda. First it was in a mild whisper from Nathan the scribe, that she had taken his engraving and put it on display at her temple. And neither did she seek his consent nor obtain his blessing. And the whisper grew into a rumbling that many of the ornaments in Melinda’s temple were taken from others and that her prophecies and chronicles were not hers. But the Chief Priestess scoffed at the suggestions.

 

Finally, shortly after the arrival of her 24 million shekel Valyrian Steel Roving Ranger Chariot, an obscure man appeared unto the people of Twilistia and Social Mediana and bellowed that Melinda had also taken his engraving, claiming it as hers.

 

This man, Aydeeveedov, appeared to be a chronicler himself of the demise of the Haramites in North Easteros, and his wrath was incurred against the Chief Priestess of Gossipotamia and her temple. And lo, waving his staff in Twislistia Square, did he proclaim:

 

“Priestess Melinda, if ye will not peaceably yield to me my engraving of the conquest of the Haramites, and if ye will not desist from this mendacious path, then takest thou notice and knowest thou, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will call upon the High god Googlam, and he will answer by fire. And your temple will become a memory. Yea, shall no engraving or chronicle rest upon another.”

 

And Melinda was silent. But her silence was the calm before the storm because the people of the land heard the cry of Aydeeveedov, and joined their cry unto his and lo, THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT AN IOTA OF CHILL IN THE LAND!

 

For 5 days and 5 nights, over the feast of Eid, did the Twilistines and Social Medianites make pontification and supplication to the Chief Priestess. And there arose from absolutely nowhere an army of Pharisees deeply versed and intensely steeped, it seemed, in the ways of Googlam and engraving theft.

 

Repent Melinda, said many, for the kingdom of Googlam is at hand.

 

Away, said others. The hands of the Chief Priestess are no dirtier than the hands of other temple custodians.

 

Be gone, said yet others, and remove the envy of the Chief Priestess Melinda from your hearts. Knowest thou not that she is the first Priestess of Gossipotamia to acquire a Valyrian Steel Ranging Rover of 24 million shekels??!!??

 

Then the spirit of the Tword came upon Melinda and she spake. Not of remorse, repentance or restitution, but of the folly and jealousness of Aydeeveedov and his followers. And there was even more unchill.

 

And at this time, the Prophetess, the scandal and the furore came to be known as Melinda Gates. But this part of the revelation was obscure, so rely on it at your own peril.

 

And lo, Melinda had a sister, Lauratidyn, who was full of fury and yea, did Lauratidyn speak fire unto Ayedeeveedov and High Priest Nobblatum of the temple of Nobs. And Lauratidyn descended on Chxta of Greece, for having dined with Melinda and asking Melinda to send some worshippers to his own temple, before he became of fame.

 

And there was unchill, the likes of which had never ever been seen.

 

And then the unchill began to wane and diminish, until worshippers approached the Temple of Melinda in Gossipotamia and beheld the magnificence of its vanishment.

 

The words of Aydeeveedov had come to pass, for Googlam had heard his supplication. But Aydeeveedov merely unlooked. And the spirit of the demon schadenfreude swept through Social Mediana and Twilistia, as many were filled with glee.

 

And a final word of prophecy came from Chief Priestess Melinda – I will be back.

National Honours (Laid Bare)

Today’s national newspapers, especially ThisDay, were quite bulky. When my copy was brought to me, I thought, judging from its thickness, that it was probably another political titan’s birthday or their daughter’s wedding celebration, and the minions were falling over themselves giving praise. I was wrong however. The several extra pages (which were indeed congratulatory messages) were to convey felicitations to various recipients of this year’s Presidential National Honours; men and women who are being honoured for “distinguished public service.”

I know that’s what they’re being honoured for, because that’s what the National Honours Act (see here) prescribes for inscription on the obverse side of the honours medal.

It’s probably going to be useless information, but here’s some more information the National Honours Act provides:

  • There are 2 Orders of Dignity – Order of the Federal Republic and Order of the Niger.
  • Each order comprises four ranks, namely – Grand Commander, Commander, Officer and Member

It seems the Order of the Federal Republic is the more distinguished one, because the Act places a lower limit on the maximum number of persons that can be appointed to its ranks in a calendar year. The maximum number of people that can be conferred with the different categories of honours each year are as follows:

  • GCFR – 2; GCON -10
  • CFR -20; CON -30
  • OFR – 50; OON – 100
  • MFR and MON have a maximum of 100 recipients each.

To be eligible for an award, the recipient must be a citizen of Nigeria. However, non-citizens can be honorary holders (not sure I get the distinction, or why it’s necessary then, but that’s what it says). The Act appears to be silent on whether or not honours can be conferred posthumously, but, to borrow the words of Brutus, Dr. Doyin Okupe is an honourable man. So it is possible that an amendment has since been passed and the copy of the Act that I consulted is dated.

A person is appointed to a rank when (s)he receives the insignia for the rank and an instrument (i.e. a document, letter, etc) signed by the President, sealed with the public seal of the Federation, conferring the rank. The President is however allowed to direct conferment on a person in any manner he feels is expedient.

When a person is promoted, (s)he is no longer entitled to hold [or use the insignia of] the lower rank. The government may request that insignia of the previous rank be returned upon promotion.

The President also has the power to deprive of rank anyone who has behaved in a manner not consistent with the dignity of the rank. I was unable to find any record of this power having ever been used.

And that’s it. Congratulations to this year’s recipients, deserving or otherwise.

Music and Lyrics

music

Music has always been a time-stamp for me. Most songs that bubble to the surface of my consciousness remind me of very specific places and times. Panam Percy Paul’s Bring Down Your Glory reminds me of the most devout time of my life, in secondary school. When I hear Diana Ross’s Touch Me In the Morning, or Do You Know Where You’re Going To, I see my mum a much younger lady in my mind’s eye. I hear Dynasty’s Holiday or Midnight Star’s No Parking on The Dance Floor, and I see my dad, who’s pushing 70 now, busting moves. Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane was the soundtrack to my NYSC. Missing You, the Puff Daddy tribute to the Notorious BIG puts me firmly in Kuti Hall, UI, when you would hear at least five different rooms blasting different portions of the song at any one time. Michael Buble’s Home reminds me of my bittersweet time as a perpetually broke masters’ degree student in Southampton. And so on.

Perhaps the way I consume music has also contributed to the time-stamping factor. I want to hear the layering of the instruments and vocals and hear how the producer changed the beat at the hook or the bridge. Most of all, however, I want to hear each and every single lyric and try to figure out what was going through the composer’s mind when he wrote the song. Since we got Google, rather than merely looking for the words, I also search for the background to the songs, and you’d be surprised how much history you might come across in that endeavour.

For instance, if you research the song Layla, made popular by Eric Clapton, you will find that it was inspired by his love for Pattie Boyd, who at the time he met her was married to George Harrison of the Beatles. Boyd would later divorce Harrison and subsequently marry Clapton, although the latter union did not last either. Boyd is also said to have inspired another of Clapton’s critically acclaimed hits, Wonderful Tonight. More surprising though, was the fact that she did not really return Clapton’s love, reportedly leading him into the spiral of acute drug and alcohol addiction. With some other songs, like Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis, you find that the composer was so spaced out of his mind during writing, he had no idea what the song was about.

And, contrary to what the preface might suggest, older local music also held its allure. Kris Okotie (now Reverend), Felix Liberty, Harry Mosco, Majek Fashek, Sunny Okosuns, all wrote enduring songs. Music was an art, that required dedication, nurture, time and talent.

Advances in technology have democratised everything however. And, armed with nothing more than the same laptop on which I’m publishing this piece to an international audience, anyone can make and publish music much more easily today. It is not certain whether this dilution in production requirementsalso led to the dilution in song writing but Nigerian music is in a song-writing crisis. Of course, it wasn’t always so.

After Nelson Mandela was freed and conscious music died in Nigeria, we all just trudged along for a while. Blackky, Alex O and Alex Zitto flew the flag for a while, Emphasis’s Which One You Dey? and Junior & Pretty’s Monica probably set the tone for indigenous rap around that time. Eedris AbdulKareem of The Remedies then took “rap” to the twilight zone but redemption, for me, came in the persons of Styl Plus. Personally, I don’t believe the story of today’s music in Nigeria can be told without mentioning the absolute game-changers that Styl Plus were. We once again had real lyrics, unprecedented vocal harmony and cutting edge music production. Their Olufunmi remix featuring Da Capo was without doubt the reset button for Nigerian hip-hop and rap.

I’d like to say the rest is history, with all the international superstars we now have but the lyrics lover in me says no. If we had charts in Nigeria today, I don’t think very many songs would be top 10 for more than 2 weeks. The very generic sound of most songs, poor production, similarity in lyrics and gimmickry all make for a very short-term hits market. And, at the end of the day, it seems most artists want to make a hit rather than good music. Now, I’m not naïve enough to think that music should not pay its creators but hit music here is frequently not very good music, and I think this is why most songs have a 2-week top 10 shelf-life or perhaps even less.

The music mostly doesn’t even sound great unless one is intoxicated either by the ambience of a crowd or the infusion of alcohol and I would argue that it isn’t distinctive enough to stamp anyone’s time or memories. Too many artistes are either asking the girl to “whine am down low” or “follow me go” or just stringing words together in unnatural sequences.

I have argued before that this sort of music isn’t the type that will pay artistes into their old age. Music doesn’t always have to make sense but it should sound original and artistes cannot be releasing albums where 7 of 12 tracks sound alike, or 4 tracks out of 11 sound lie you’re recycling your old hits.

Or perhaps the reality is that age brings with it a growing disconnect from the music of the day. I remember my dad not getting the point of expletive-laden rap, with its monotonous basslines, but you try throwing on a few Biggie and Tupac joints at a wedding reception or stag do today and see what happens.

Let’s encourage artists to pay more attention and devote more effort to writing, and let’s support those who make the effort by buying their music. If the legend that is 2face Idibia could finally give in and include a Go-Down-Low line in Go, the opening track to his latest album, I would suggest it’s because we did not reward him enough for Only Me, Rainbow and all the other lyric-laden smash hits on his previous one. There’s no greater incentive than putting our money where our mouths are.

Where will your kids be on September 22?

“If Ebola hits schools” my friend said, “this country will die. Will children stop playing with each other, or parents stop hugging their children?”

 

My friend is not a doctor, so the medical accuracy in her assertion may not be 100%, but she is a parent who has decided that her daughter will not be going back to school on the 22nd of September. And she is not the only one. Many other parents have expressed concern at the government’s hurry (or caving under pressure from private school proprietors) to bring back resumption of school by 3 weeks. This is especially puzzling, coming at a time when the WHO has raised the alarm that the window for containing the virus across is West Africa is closing, and the number of confirmed cases across the country recently rising to 19.

 

When Mr. Index Case, Patrick Sawyer, came over from Liberia with his deadly cargo about 50 days ago, the consensus amongst parents was that it was a most fortunate, almost divinely ordained thing that schools we’re already on vacation at the time. The government deserves every commendation too, that we’re discussing only 19 and not the several hundreds of cases that have been confirmed in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, we are clearly not yet in the clear.

 

The Nigerian Medical Association, from whom the government really ought to be taking guidance on this issue, has rejected the September 22 resumption date. Hear them –

 

“We are not happy with this decision on the resumption of schools. Schools should be shut till the last suspected case or patient is certified free of the virus… We can shift the resumption date till next year or in the next three months if that is the time it will take. Government should have enough time to follow the standard procedure for containing   the virus. Parents have no reason to be in a hurry because if Ebola should enter any school, it will assume another dimension. Children cannot survive isolation like adults.”

 

You can see that my friend was not too far off in her assessment if the NMA agrees with her. The Lagos State House of Representatives has also indicated that it will review the proposed resumption date. Instructively, that last-referenced piece describes how “private school owners had vehemently opposed the [October 13] resumption date, compelling the Federal Ministry of Education to bring forward the date for schools to reopen to September 22, after a meeting with stakeholders in the sector.”

 

One can see how the disruption is unfavourable to private school owners. They need to continue to pay their staff full salaries, but most parents were unlikely to agree to pay a full term’s fees for only a half-term’s tuition, going by the previous October 13th date. There is also the prospect of losing out on projected income completely if schools are shut indefinitely as the NMA has recommended. Furthermore, one branch of the national association of private school owners has suggested that if tertiary institutions, churches and mosques, etc., were not closed, then there is no reason for primary and secondary schools to stay shut. 

 

However, kids cannot be trusted with their own hygiene and with 2 school-going children of my own, I have come to know a thing or two about in-school cross-infections. During term time, there’s always a cough or cold going around. My kids have been home for 3 months or so and have been sniffle-free the entire time. When you remember again that a lot of these schools also run daycare services, and that babies are constantly drooling, barfing and pooping, you kind of want to be really sure that there’s no chance of the virus embedding itself in all those bodily discharges. 

 

In the meantime, another infection has been confirmed in Lagos, with the situation in Rivers State seemingly still in a state of flux. A new case has also been reported at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife. So the virus is still very much with us and amongst us, and I’ve read that Nigeria also runs the risk of being seen an El Dorado of sorts by our siblings further west; that they’ll flock here to be nursed back to health or to be safe.

 

I’m for erring on the side of caution. I would rather schools were shut until January, if need be, for the assurance that our children will be safe. 

How Much Does a Bad Education Cost?

How Much?

How Much?

When I was in university, not so very long ago, LASU was in a tussle with UNIBEN and Ambrose Alli Univeristy, Ekpoma to be declared the paramount hotbed of secret cultism in Nigerian universities. It was always only a butchering or slaying and a riot away from closure. The school has been closed again in recent times, but the protests that led to the closure happened because the Lagos State government had attempted to increase annual fees from about N25,000 (about $150) to about N350,000 (about $2100). On the 7th of August 2014, the Governor of Lagos State, announced that there would no longer be an increase of any sort (previous suggestions of 60%, then 30% increases had also been rebuffed) and that the N25,000 fees would stand.

The Governor’s reversal was seen as a victory for people power, with various references again being made to the supposed lessons from the Ekiti elections and the consequences of elitist governance. The thrust of the arguments in support of modestly priced tertiary education is that the less privileged in society should not be priced out of education. Those in favour of increased fees argue that quality education is pricey and that a $600 dollar education (i.e. over a 4-year course) is not going to build a country of industrialists and reformers. And there would be some merit on both sides but I would side more with those who favour a realistic cost being attached to education. I would also agree that government should subsidise education but not up to tertiary.

Many people cite the Norwegian example in the argument for free education into post-graduate studies, even. After all, we are both endowed with vast mineral wealth. This is a false equivalence however, as Norway has only 5 million people against its proven crude deposits of 5,366,000,000 BBL, compared to Nigeria’s 170 million people against its proven deposits of 37,200,000,000 BBL (data here). Per capita, Norway is 5 times richer in oil than we are. And they don’t even spend the wealth the way we do, but that’s a story for another time. Let’s stick with education.

Everyday, when talking about Nigerian university graduates, recruiters churn out the words “half-baked”, “unemployable”, “incoherent”, etc, and there’s a reason for this. Many Nigerian graduates (they’re in the minority, let’s be honest) do not fall into these categories but I’m convinced it’s more to do with the schools they went to before university. People with decent primary and secondary education are more likely to be the outliers that will thrive in spite of the university they go to. It may sound elitist but (if you were not one yourself), you probably remember that classmate at uni (or three, or five or twenty), who struggled not only with grammar, but also with grasping every material concept your lecturers tried to teach. People who would throw a tantrum if they could not record the lecturer verbatim. People who had not learnt how to learn.

What evidence do I have in support of this theory? Well, if you speak to any of these “good” Nigerian graduates who, after being educated up to their first degrees in Nigeria, go abroad for graduate studies, the overwhelming majority of them will tell you that it was hard to adjust initially. You think you know how to research an issue properly, until you find out that what qualifies as research in the best of our universities here is nothing but rank plagiarism abroad. Very few of us that are trained in Nigeria understand that it is a very broad and far-reaching concept.

Plagiarism aside, how many university lecturers here tolerate dissenting views, even where those views are backed by verifiable facts/data? Chances are, if you do not regurgitate what your lecturer dictated to you or printed in the handout he forced you to buy, you won’t excel in his course. Rubbish, you say? Law school students doing the Bar Part I course (for foreign-trained lawyers) always complain about the learning methods at the law school. “Learning”, even in law school, is sitting through hours of note dictation. As we all know and have seen, note-dictation means you only need to find a diligent classmate with good handwriting, to photocopy his notes when it’s time to cram, 3 weeks before exams.

I went to a secondary school where we had a woodwork shop, with saws and drills and chisels and mallets and did all the experiments in the chemistry, biology and physics textbooks. ALL. It was a complete shock to my system during GCE (which I took after SSCE), that there were “Theory of Practical” exams for the sciences and that this was what the great majority of Nigerian secondary school students prepared for.

Jumping from N25,000 to N350,000 was something of a quantum leap, to be honest, but the penultimate proposal of 30% hikes in the fees was more than reasonable, in my opinion. If you are a parent and have young children that you are educating in private nursery and primary school, you are no doubt paying many multiples of N25,000 per term. I would argue that the effects on the child(ren) are evident – their vocabulary is expanding much faster than yours or your parents’ did, they’re dealing with much more advanced concepts than you were at their age and, in fact, the system of teaching is vastly changed from when you were a child yourself.

We need to move away from this “XYZ Governor enjoyed free education but wants to deprive today’s youth” argument, for many reasons. The first is that it is a lie. If you go back to our primary and secondary school literature books, the narratives showed villages putting money together to send children to school. Many people were the beneficiaries of some sort of grant or scholarship and had to drop out if things got tough back home.

The second is that the annual N90 my mother paid to attend UI in the 70s was worth much more than the same N90 I was charged in the 90s. That sort of system is not sustainable. After all, that was when meals (via meal tickets/vouchers) cost 20kobo or something. The cheapest meal in my first year was around N50.

It is this free system that ensures that the best of our brains are lured away by more competitive salaries and opportunities to contribute to the body of knowledge. It is this free system that ensures that there has been no major scientific or engineering breakthrough (of the kind that can withstand the robust and rigorous scrutiny of international peers) in any of our universities. It is this free system that makes the Ghanaian educational system more attractive to Nigerian parents who can’t afford the US-Europe route. This same free everything is why we don’t have technicians and artisans with proper skills. We import tailors, bricklayers and masons from other countries in West Africa (where they pay for this skills training) if we want proper cuts or straight walls.

A 1300% rise in fees will always be hard to defend and was probably not wise, especially, as many have pointed out, in an election year. We have to ask ourselves however, why there are so many graduates who cannot find work years after NYSC. Why are there so many graduates who are forced to switch careers (often downwards) only a few years after graduation? Why do recruiters always lament a skills gap? Most importantly, with Vision 20 20:20 in mind, what are the world’s top economies doing differently from us? Have a look at the chart below, in connection with the World’s Top 100 universities, for 2013:

World's Top 100 Universities by Country Located

World’s Top 100 Universities by Country Located

Is it a coincidence that these are firmly amongst the world’s most developed countries? How many of them offer free or heavily subsidised tertiary education? Do we reasonably think that our way -the Nigerian way – is better?

We’ve reverted to the status quo ante on the fees and this probably means not much is going to change in the system. For what it’s worth, I believe that the entire benefit of free or subsidized education should be directed at basic education, to bring up our base literacy levels and learning aptitudes. Thereafter, fees for degrees need to be realistically priced, to upgrade facilities and attract the intellectual and administrative talent needed to transform our tertiary learning centres. If we look around us, the real cost of bad education is all too evident.

The Chronicles of Chill – Episode III: TRap’d.

After the throne of Ekitilopia was won and lost, a season of chill did come upon the Twillistines and the Social Medianites. Yode, son of Falasham had been declared the next ruler of the kingdom of Ekitilopia.

 

Lo, was there also a season of laughter, as Omishoram of Oshunlonica, highborn and of great wealth, had been seen engaging in the pretence of cavorting and revielling with the paupers of the land and eating their swill. Yea, did he descend from his golden chariot from the courts of Gejoshaphat, to ride on the commoners’ donkey.

 

Omishoram was of the House of Padipadia, same as Yode, and sought the favour of the Oshunlonicans in the manner of Yode, for his opponent, Arebshalom, the incumbent chief, was also skilled in the art of public lampoonery and yea, did they seek to outdo each other in turning the hearts of the Oshunlonicans.

 

In those days, there was a great prophet called TRappatoni from the island of TiPiHanna, in the province of Realittica. TRappatoni TRappatoni was known for his speech in Reallitica and had many a-people seat under his teaching.

 

It was his desire to also bring his teachings into Social Mediana and Twillista, such that the people might benefit in the same manner as the people of Reallitica. Full of the spirit, TRappatoni spake the tword unto the Twillistines and the Social Medianites. And at first the people welcomed him.

 

Twice did the tword go forth from TRappatoni.

 

The first tword was to the Men of Twillistia and Social Mediana and yea, was the prophetic utterance of the eternal secrets of husbandment come unto them. And yet was there still chill upon the land.

 

And lo, the second tword went forth, unto the Women of Social Mediana and Twillistia. And he spake unto them of wifery and all its appurtenances. But behold, there was a grumbling in the land, as the people objected to the Prophecies of TRappatoni.

 

Before long, many women and men of Twillistia spoke their understanding of the tword, against what TRappatoni spake, and suddenly, and with very little warning, there was an eruption of unchill.

 

Behold, again, there was no chill in the land, for chill was nowhere to be found. Not even with Jesse of Jessepotamia.

 

TRappatoni was unmoved by the grumbling and unchill of Twillistia, for his calling was to speak the tword unto the people, even unto the ends of Social Mediana.

 

And he suffered their indignation and endured impudence at the their hands. And yet, unrelenting, spake he the tword of matrimony unto them. And there was a chasm in the land as many sought to restore chill.

 

“Take what ye shall of the tword of TRappatoni”, they said, “and leave ye what ye find untenable. But speak ye no evil word against the prophet.”

 

But these were in the minority. For the people of Twillistia had grown weary of the tword of husbandment and wifery, first from Lekenus of Addlermantium and now of TRappatoni.

 

There was a great discontent pervading Social Mediana and lo, was there not a modicum of chill in the land.