By Osita Chidoka
Miss Mmesoma Ejikeme took her 2023 JAMB at my foundation’s Computer-Based Testing (CBT) Center at Obosi. I got calls from worried friends about Nmesoma’s result, which had Thomas Chidoka Center as her examination centre. I allayed their worries that the result issue had nothing to do with the examination centre.
I observed two significant red flags when I saw her result online. First, since 2021, the JAMB portal stopped referring to our center as Thomas Chidoka Center for Human Development. The correct name on the JAMB portal and the Main Examination Slip is Nkemefuna Foundation (Thomas Chidoka Center for Human Development). Due to the difference in our CAC registration details, JAMB insisted we change to Nkemefuna Foundation with Thomas Chidoka in a bracket as an identifier. We implemented the name change in 2021. As is to be expected, the Main Examination Slip bore the core name, Nkemefuna Foundation (Thomas Chidoka Centre), but the result she presented had just Thomas Chidoka Centre without the prefix, Nkemefuna Foundation. This error raised my suspicion about the genuineness of the presented result.
The second red flag was the result template. A cursory review of some of those who took the last examination at our center showed a different result slip template with the candidate’s passport picture, JAMB watermarks, and no mention of the name of the examination centre. I gave the young Mmesoma the benefit of the doubt and waited to see if she would explain how she got the result, which is obviously not the approved JAMB result template used in 2023. Without that explanation, I knew it was a fake result.
Our Centre has been involved with the JAMB CBT examination since 2016, and I have come to trust the integrity of the JAMB online examination platform. As Corps Marshal in 2011, I used JAMB to conduct the FRSC recruitment exercise that is still adjudged a high-water mark in public sector recruitment. Those recruited through that process wear their uniform with pride and continue to deliver value to the organisation to this day.
For me, the real issue in this saga is the general level of distrust in our national institutions. The social media frenzy and denigration of JAMB, together with the ethnic slant on a simple issue with clear and verifiable resolution methods, is symptomatic of a deeper malaise. This distrust deepened in the last eight years with a horrifying descent of almost every issue to our national fault lines. The ethnicisation of the Mmesoma issue is sad and disappointing.
I doff my hat for JAMB. The institution came out and vigorously defended its integrity vigorously. It shared the USSD communication between Mmesoma’s phone and the JAMB servers and availed the corresponding timestamps.
Mr. Fabian Benjamin, the JAMB spokesperson, did a yeoman’s job in explaining how their system works and the security of their result portal. He even asked any interested parties to get in touch with Airtel, the network provider of Mmesoma’s phone. Their transparency was compelling and disarming.
The JAMB Registrar, Professor Oloyede, issued statements based on facts and defended the integrity of a foremost Nigerian institution whose failure would have had a catastrophic effect on Nigeria’s educational and CBT systems. I was impressed. JAMB’s reaction and responsiveness should be a minimum benchmark for government agencies. Our universities should write case studies of this saga so other institutions can learn how to navigate social media and information management in the face of unrelenting attacks.
JAMB’s response is an example to follow. If INEC leadership has any sense of shame and any shred of integrity, they should save President Tinubu from a needless legitimacy question by behaving like JAMB. They should step forward and explain what technical glitch they had on election day that marred the upload of form EC8As from polling units nationwide. They should share the interaction between the BVAS sim cards and their servers with the public. They should share the audit report of their servers during the failed upload. When Dominion, an election system company in the United States, was defamed by FOX TV, they went to court to defend the integrity of their system, and the court awarded them $700M. Maintaining the integrity of elections is fundamental to democracy.
INEC, as a public-funded institution, should share with the citizens all forms EC8Bs collated at the 8,809 wards, the EC8Cs collated at the 774 LGAs, and EC8Ds collated at the 36 States. They should fully upload all the EC8As on IREV using the original copies submitted by the Presiding officers. This request cannot be asking for too much from an institution led by a professor who spent $650.57 million (N303.17 billion) to conduct the 2023 election.
Like JAMB, INEC must be accountable to the people of Nigeria. It should step forward and restore the integrity and sanctity of elections in Nigeria and remove the cloud of illegitimacy surrounding the election of President Tinubu. No matter its decision, the courts cannot remove the national disappointment, odium, and massive distrust of INEC’s election infrastructure.
Mmesoma should come clean and explain how she got that result and who led her down that path. If she does that, I will lend my voice to beg JAMB to note her age and show more leniency. A child her age deserves a second chance after she shows remorse and demonstrates that she has learnt the value of integrity.