By UbongAbasi Ise | Published On Monday 20 February, 2017
“Eneke the bird says that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching” – Chinua Achebe
Saturday 11th February 2017 opened with a pleasant morning. But dark cloud of anxiety and frustration descended heavily on the minds of some five thousand teachers whose appointment were brusquely invalidated by Udom Emmanuel’s government after tortuous recruitment processes. These affected teachers peopled the three venues set aside in Uyo for screening/revalidation exercise with their letters of appointment and various means of identification. They congregated in vast number at Aka Community School; Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Four Towns; and Uyo High School, amidst heavy security presence. The large turn-out at all the three centres made me wonder if five thousand number had been ballooned to accommodate more than ten thousand persons for the revalidation, or can I say validation in respect to the first-timers with their own appointment letters as disclosed by a source who did not want his name in print? That morning, the rumpus that rented the air, the grave faces worn by those aggrieved teachers accordingly summed up the fact that they certainly did not like what they were conditioned to go through once again. Perhaps their ravenous desire for teaching service had propelled them to the screening venue against their wish, and they had to cooperate in the forlorn hope that their appointment would be handed back to them. I had seen considerable number of women with heavy pregnancy including nursing mothers with crying babies competing their energy with freer ones, but not without kicking and cursing.
Teachers that turned up for rescreening should have expected that state government officials who disinclined to hand them appointment have also nurtured a clandestine agenda: they have interests to pursue, and aims to achieve. It is not inconceivable that Udom Emmanuel’s government would leave everything the same way after the revalidation thing. For sure, Udom’s five thousand teachers would never bear the same composition as Akpabio’s five thousand if only the figure would still stand at that – indeed, that is where the interest manifests.
What will powerful interests in Udom’s government stand to gain by engaging and paying those Akpabio’s government brought forth? Therefore, there must be a name to kill a dog: if their appointment were not faulty, they must definitely be unqualified or both. Then why not upturn the table and cancel everything? Afterall there is no gain keeping these Akpabio’s teachers.
Perhaps, Udom’s government did not expect any good resistance from the seemingly voiceless people. It never knew that twenty-two elements in the pack could push away the cloud of docility and stretch the state government beyond the limits. Since these persons learn how to take people to court, government would also show them how to change tactics by inviting them to revalidation track. They would write examination they would never pass. Those that found themselves in the rescreening examination hall that day came to testify how technical and convoluted the all-English language exams questions were, and therefore expressed doubt if anyone could possibly attempt all within the one hour and forty minutes grudgingly and mischievously allotted to have candidates drop sweats on their sheets.
Yes! They were entrapped. Would Udom’s government not hold evidence against them, that they were intellectually deficient given their poor performance in the examinations? It would blow the trumpet to the ends of the world to announce that these so-called teachers were largely unsuitable to teach Akwa Ibom children. If anybody doubts it, then their bad score are readily available as a possible proof.
Eneke the bird says that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching. That was what Chinua Achebe wrote in his Things Fall Apart.
But why did those teachers turn up massively when they supposedly should have known that their appointments were secured on the platform of merit coupled with the fact that the matter is in court? Or, did they lack confidence in the court as the last hope of a common man? Did they foresee powerful manipulation of justice by some powerful elements in government that are bent on denying them job no matter who the odds favour? Was that the reason they lost their defenses and considered no option other than paying obeisance to a call for another round of screening exercise after a nineteen-month old employment was unduly terminated with impunity?
In my interaction with two of the teachers who spoke in strict confidence at Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Four Towns, they maintained that theirs were merited appointments as they did nothing to gain advantage. Then, I bluntly asked them if at the end of the rescreening exercise they lose their appointment completely, what their reactions are likely to be? As the shocking imagination almost coalesced into naked reality and dawned on them, the first person fired back with a shudder, “God forbid.” The other simply said she would be lost. Quite astonishing – lost? That would be the last destination a trauma could drive someone to. I was then wondering how many scores amongst them would similarly get lost in a trauma stemming from deprivation of appointment they once had.
It is a matter of doubt if revalidation was ever conceived in goodwill. At the grounds of all the re-screening venues some of the teachers were seen roaming about with their appointment letters hoping to find their missing names on any of the master lists. From a source in the state civil service who spoke on condition of anonymity said some of those names that originally had appointment had been substituted for those put forward through slots manufactured by powerful interests in government. Those whose names were allegedly expunged from the authentic lists have to worry about barrage of indicting questions that would render their answers inconsequential.
Officials in Godswill Akpabio administration that involved in recruiting five thousand teachers were not from Mars, Pluto or Jupiter. Most of them are still holding key positions today in the State Government. Udom Emmanuel himself, as at the time, was a Secretary to the State Government. He must have played one role or the other as far as the teachers’ recruitment process was concerned; Maria Ikrok who was then serving as the Chairman of State Secondary Education Board (SSEB) is now at the helms of affairs in the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). If this woman had superintended over a flawed teachers’ recruitment at the time, then why is Udom Emmanuel’s still reposing confidence in her by still allowing her manage yet another key government parastatal in his administration? The then SSEB Secretary, Prince Akpan Solomon Akpan who signed the letters of appointment of over five thousands teachers during Akpabio’s tenure was to be found relevant in the State Technical Education Board (SSTB) under Udom Emmanuel government even after retirement. All these ravings about irregularities do not hold water unless the State government looks within its ranks and fish out the authors of flawed recruitment. Those found culpable deserve to bear the blunt too.
The disobliging silence of Senator Godswill Akpabio in this imbroglio is not helping. He should come out to tell Akwa Ibom people what they need to know about the recruitment carried out in his days at the Hilltop Mansion, and possibly exonerate his government from all these implications.
Yes! I am UbongAbasi Ise. For comment, send SMS to 08189914609