Conversation with “Incorruptible” Lecturer who Resigned – Part 2
“He’s literally dropping his dead-weights in 2017 and entering 2018 liberated, with his chin up and available for much greater things….”
That was the submission of Mrs Edang Yolanda Ekpo Bassey, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Cross River University of Technology, when she read Anthony Bissong Attah’s letter of resignation as a lecturer in Cross River College of Education, Akamkpa.
Judging from the contents of that letter, Mrs Ekpo Bassey was simply saying that Mr Attah is starting 2018 with more zeal than how he started 2017. I agree with her, based on my conversation with him.
We published the Part 1 of that engaging conversation on 2nd January, 2018.
Please read a continuation of that conversation:
How was the academic atmosphere at Cross River State College of Education, Akamkpa, when you got employed there as a lecturer?
When I got to the College of Education, Akamkpa, I knew that I was going to encounter a fight. I am aware of the academic environment there because I lived in that campus. My uncle lectures there. I was operating from there to the University of Calabar, during my undergraduate years.
When I got employed there, I was not disappointed because the rot I anticipated was very clear. But we had a Provost who, at that time, was thorough, to a far extent. That was Professor Owan Enoh. He gave a strong fight against corrupt practices by lecturers. Unfortunately, things started changing when he left. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the current management of that college became the worst.
In my judgment, I would be very fair with the Acting Provost of the College. Before he attained that position, he was seen as a very disciplined person. We stayed in the same quarters when I was living there as a student of University of Calabar (UNICAL).
He was mean and straight forward. At a point, he was seen as wicked by people who considered his actions as extreme. That is how some students also say that I am a wicked lecturer.
When he was appointed as Acting Provost, I considered his personality as not being thick enough to control that college. He has a very weak demeanor in terms of leadership. From that prism, I didn’t take him seriously. But I was relieved by the fact that he was going to act briefly as Provost for only six months.
Statutorily, it is expected that within those six months, the Governing Council would do the needful by advertising for that position and ensuring that they have a substantive Provost for the College. I understand that that process was deliberately delayed with the connivance of what I call the unholy trinity.
The Commissioner of Education had a role to play. The Chairman of the Governing Council also had a role to play, just like the Provost. They all tried to downplay the process of succession so that he can continue as Provost. He is retiring next year. Therefore, he is not qualified to contest as Provost.
To qualify as Provost, you need to have a five-year tenure. He never had up to two years when he became the Acting Provost. They are just trying to accommodate him in that capacity until he retires. That makes him very weak in taking critical decisions that would cleanse the school. As a result of that, a lot of things have been swept under the carpet and taken the college several years back.
For instance, supervision of exams is terrible. During Professor Owan Enoh’s time, everybody was on their feet during exams. You must ensure that nothing scandalous happens.
I recall that a Head of Department of Social Studies was asked to embark on compulsory retirement because he was awarding grades in exchange for money. He was caught red-handed, when he collected ‘marked money’ from someone that was sent to him. He fell for a bait that was thrown at him. So, there were checks in the system at that time. I enjoyed that time because everybody was conscious and very careful.
Unfortunately, that isn’t happening anymore. This time around, I recall that in two of my courses, last semester and this semester, I saw a student that had ‘A’ the previous year, coming to rewrite for someone else. A lecturer asked me to allow the student. I shouted terribly and shunned the lecturer publicly. I don’t want to mention the lecturer’s name here. My colleagues had to even beg him. They told him that he should have informed me beforehand.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, in my final year course last session, I had 21 Carry-Over students. But as I speak with you, we have finished our final year exams but nobody came to rewrite the course. They have cleared themselves.
I believe that there is a network of corruption between the Directorate of Academic Planning (DAP), and the Heads of Departments cum Exam Officers. They relate. This thing has continued for the past more than one year. Yet, there is nothing, absolutely nothing is being done officially to redress it.
What steps did you take to redress such things or draw the college authority’s attention to them?
When I see people commenting on my Facebook timeline that fighting corruption is an internal affair, I laugh. That is suicide, especially when it has to do with even people from your department and people from your community. There are some battles that you would win. But you won’t be able to manage the peace that accompanies the victory.
So, it is not that easy. I approached them and told them that I don’t like it. Eventually, it got to the extent that whenever I am around, they don’t discuss such rubbish around me. They try to do such things very covertly. I can’t be everywhere. Don’t forget that I was employed there as a Lecturer, not as a watchdog or policeman.
The general idea is ‘mind your business’. But I have raised my personal standards to a level that nobody interferes with anything that I am doing. We have the other side of the story where immediately you administer exams, you see extra appeals coming from your colleagues, coming from friends, coming from even people in positions of authority asking you to pass students that you know are not qualified to pass. I know how to handle such cases. I quickly delete such messages on my phone because I know that none of such persons would prosecute me for refusing to attend to their appeals. For me, if the students pass, they pass. If they fail, they fail. That’s all!
Why did you publish your letter of resignation in the social media?
The issue of what I did is very subjective because to a far extent, I want to mind my business. To a far extent, I don’t want to directly indict anybody. This is part of the reason why I did not just resign. I had to publish my resignation. This is meant to draw the attention of the entire world to the rot there.
I published the letter so that awareness can be created to the extent that government can review certain policies to correct what is happening there. The essence of making this letter public is not to paint a negative name for the college. It is to draw government’s attention to what is happening there.
What do you recommend to other institutions where such anomalies may be happening?
For me, I have resolved to set up an NGO that would go to campuses to enlighten the students. The students themselves are the ones that are helping to promote corrupt practices. They are aiding and abetting exams malpractice. They come with money to tempt lecturers to help them. Most of the time, it is done by very unserious students. Such students are everywhere.
I am asking that there should be a state of emergency on education: The anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari should be seriously beamed on tertiary institutions. That war should go beyond controlling the mismanagement of statutory allocations to tertiary institutions. They should look at intellectual fraud and exam malpractice among students. They should check those who are aiding and abetting it. Instant dismissal should greet any culprit, whether staff or student. I call on the government to really throw serious light on that area.
Higher institutions are supposed to be hospitals for people to get intellectual revival. But they have become mortuaries for those who are intellectually dwarf to be killed and buried. My major concern is that the children we train would eventually take charge of our own children. We have to start crying out publicly so that the system can be put under intense check.
What is your message to your students?
I have been inundated with calls. Not less than six students have wept on the phone while talking with me. A few others have met me and made their remarks. Incidentally, my resignation has been premeditated. I recall reading the Bible to my students on the last day of my lecture. I read 1 Samuel 12, verse 3.
In that reading, I told them just like Prophet Samuel said that, ‘Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded?’ I put it to them that ‘If there is any student that I have defrauded by one naira, come to my office and I would pay you double.’ I told them that that was my last lecture with them and that I have made up my mind to resign from the college as soon as I submit their results.
Some of them wept that very day. I am humbled to say that I am adjudged as their best lecturer. Some of them have asked me who would now bring them up. I feel for such students. Probably, why I had to endure for this long is because of them. But I encouraged them because I can still mentor people.
I keep telling people that I resigned but I didn’t retire. I may not go into academics, but I would still assist and groom especially the young in different ways. I encourage them to become more proactive. I am even encouraged because in the department, we have two new lecturers.
After interacting with those new lecturers for about six months, I repose a high level of confidence in them. I easily weigh their capacities. I can imagine the level of passion they have. Those ones are going to effectively replace me. I believe that at anytime they need me, I am very much available to attend to them. I even like teaching pro bono.
Please watch out for the concluding Part 3 of that conversation.
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