JAMB Saga: The Mmesoma in all of us
By Elempe Dele
When the issue of Mmesoma Ejikeme and the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board, JAMB, controversy initially surfaced on social media concerning the results she was parading as her own, to which JAMB declared as fake, my mind raced to the concept of Danger of a Single Story.
Chimamanda Adichie, a notable author from Nigeria but based in the US in one Ted Talk said that stories matter, but that all too often in our lives we operate from the perspective of hearing and knowing a single story — about a person, a situation, or perhaps a conflict.
She posited and argued that we operate from the perspective of the single story unconsciously or consciously.
The risk of the single story, according to her, the one perspective, is that it can lead us to poor one-sided assumption, conclusions and decisions that may be incomplete, illogical, thoughtless and may lead to misunderstanding.
According to the author of Purple Hibiscus, one of her most popular books, ironically now read in Nigerian elementary schools, operating from the context of a single story can prevent us from a more complex, distinctive view of a situation.
In the talk, Adichie also argued about the connection between single stories and the impact of power in our lives. In any situation, who tells the story, how and when, can impact situations greatly. The way we make sense of situations leads to narratives that may be harmful if left uninvestigated. Power enables some of us to define individuals and situations from a particular prism without considerations for other perspectives. She added that single stories can have significant negative impact.
They can rob people of their dignity, and she emphasized how we are different rather than how we are similar. At the core of the talk was the encouragement and recognition of how much stories matter. And that by giving space to hear a multitude of stories we can help to empower and humanize others.
The talk impacted my life in no small measure. It has helped me not to be too quick or hasty to judging others based on the stories I hear about them. The talk also help to remind me of the importance of openness to others’ live’s experiences – good or bad.
Some of us were quick to judge JAMB because we saw Mmesoma as an innocent and harmless 19 year old girl. We judged JAMB just as we judge other failed institutions in Nigeria. We were quick to judge JAMB without hearing from the commission because some of us are already angry with INEC – we just easily transfered that aggression.
We have been so angry that we have since abandoned known norms of normal civilized, inquisitive and patient societies. We are now like dirty moral clerics who have sworn that they must clean the streets of the unclean. No, we are no longer like God in whose image we were made – that equalizing God, who deals ambidextrously.
Mmesoma is one of us, she is us, she is us all. We cynically manipulate unsuspecting victims. We are house maids who use her palpable intimacy with innocence to enter into the life of families. We are the pastor who in the name of God Almighty redeem the last penny in your coffer by offering you ticket to heaven and prosperity on earth.
We are the candidate who campaigns with our miseries yet heap more on heads like burning coals as soon as he is elected. We are the lecturer who takes all his lecture period talking about how bad politicians are and then must sleep with you before you can make good grades in her course. We are the tomotoe seller, the mechanic, the furniture, the vulcanizer, the carpenter, the permanent secretary, the civil servant, the lawyer, the journalist…with the final thought like death that we must cheat to make it.
Cheating is part of the menu in our restaurants and personalized catering agenda. Cheating and corruption are inextricably linked. While cheating is on everyone’s menu, corruption is a special preserve for the privileged. These are parts of our dignity, our essence.
These are rewards that come to us naturally. Corruption is a phase were cheating becomes possible to celebrate, as part of our dignity coming not from our labour but from criminal enterprise.
We all can recall how many elites came easily in the defence of Mmesoma, naming what she had done as an output and attribute of ingenuity.
Today, we can hardly concieve of any of us outside the membership of either a Cheat or Corrruption Club. We are parts of these socialized groups constantly inventing schemes to defraud anything that come our ways.
I personally feel for the travails Mmesoma had to go through, I hope she picks herself and get out of the trauma quickly. It is inevitable that I should take more than a passing interest in her contemporary challenge. Her’s is a horrowing cautionary story.