WHOEVER worked out the 2013/14 cut off marks for admission to federal government colleges is cutting off the North from developing its capacities. It is a practical indication of ordained backwardness for a part of Nigeria – it should not be allowed, for the dangers it portends for the whole country.
It is bad if some children from the South, more qualified than their compatriots from the North, are not admitted because they are too brilliant. It is worse that the children from the North are being treated as second class pupils, whose only right to places in schools is their origin.
According to Section 15 (2) of the Constitution, “National integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited”. The cut off marks are over the bars for discrimination. Some pupils would be admitted with two marks while their mates require 139 marks.
The discrimination hurts the North too. Students from the North are treated as second class: they are not. Leadership in the North has woefully failed to provide facilities that would encourage education; instead it wants to produce pupils who cannot be competitive.
This type of entitlement would enhance laziness on the part of the authorities and pupils. They would both think quota is a solution to a challenge that runs through culture, belief, social stratification and the North’s politics.
Proponents of this warped national integration model depend on Section 14 (3) of the Constitution. It states, “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria …thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies”.
Federal character, in appointments and employments, has been extended to admission to educational institutions. How would a two-mark pupil compete against those with 139 marks? Would quota system be extended to securing school certificate qualifications for the pupils?
We have pushed federal character to a national ethos. We execute it with patriotic zeal. Sessions of the National Assembly are halted to debate implementations of quota system, or federal character. None of these passionate Nigerians apply Section 14 (2b), “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Such hypocrisy is behind acceptance of discrimination as a national ethic.
The North needs help, but not one that cuts it off from the reality of a competitive Nigeria.