I will never forget the look Gamaliel Onosode gave me when I greeted him as I sat in the first class of an ADC flight in the mid 90s. He gave me that look of "seriously?", shook his head and walked to his seat which was way back inside the economy sitting section of the plane. Not even a careless VRENDO to my respectfully presented "MINGWE". Migwe, mingwo, degwo, mehigwe... Are all variations of greetings accorded elders in URHOBO land. I even know some non URHOBOs that demand it as a way of clearing the air of who is older. If you don't believe me, any day any Warri boy, who is of the URHOBO extraction meets DEDE MABIAKU, who is a Warri boy of the ITSEKIRI lineage, I dare you to greet him good afternoon bros. Trust me, the Core i7 konk will bring you to the vernacular path quickly.
On arrival in Abuja, I waited to see Gamaliel Onosede, for further breakdown of that look. I was afraid I might have done a wrong that he got wind of. I geared up for it and submitted another MIIIIIIIINGWE OSE (Father). I dragged the mingwe for full effect. Still no VRENDO. He just smiled and said something to the effect that he did not know that my money was so much now that I now flew first class. And added that some of the "poor" people who sat in economy could actually afford to charter the plane to Abuja and back and that just because "rich" people like me sat in first class did not mean we (us the "rich") are better off.
Can you imagine? So I feared I had done something wrong. Little did I know it was worse. Lesson learnt. I managed to explain that the ticket was bought by COCA COLA NIGERIA (if my memory serves me right) for their world cup tour. He said that's not bad, but that i should try not to let people make me do what I normally will not do always, ok? I said yes sir. And from nowhere he said VRENDO. I didn't even say mingwe. So my greetings had been left hanging deliberately. Hmmm.
If you have read any of my write ups, you would by now know that much as there was a lesson to learnt in all of the above, it's all a foundation for where my thoughts will be taking this particular write up. So shine your eyes.
The hidden lessons from the encounter with Gamaliel Onosode on that flight were that not all who fly first class can afford it. Like me back then. This also explains why you see people who after leaving government appointment revert to flying economy. It's a humbling experience anytime I see such people. And if the ex official had airs when in office, I always remind them that there are still seats in the first class cabin. MSCHEEEEW!
Second lesson, sitting in economy in a 1 hour or less flight, does not reduce your financial standing. In fact, you would have saved some money. I remember a summer holiday of 2009, when a friend said he asked his 3 kids if they wanted to fly business class or economy to the Uk. The 15 year old daughter and his last son of 12 years insisted they MUST fly business class. But his 15 year old son opted for economy. Whether it was right to fly children at that age is not the purpose of this piece.
When it was time for shopping, the 2 tush business class flying children got £800 and £500 respectively and the economy passenger got £1500. Trust me, none of them kids have flown anything but economy since then.
Same logic applies to certificates issued to students as a proof of educational qualification. Not all who have first class can "afford" it. Can their intelligence cash a cheque that their certificate writes? Like me, on that ADC flight. Was the first class paid for? Did having a first class certificate make you a better person? Or more intelligent? What does your first class prove? What is the use having a certificate that is more educated than you are? Would you let a doctor who did not pass his medical exams treat you or when in the jaws of death, agree to a doctor you (a lecturer) knew failed but you passed all the same operate on you? Even though I hear it's not possible for any doctor to pass if he is not qualified. So where are all the quacks coming from?
I see a certificate or any qualification for that matter, as an "appearance" or a front that may open doors for you. What you do after the door is opened is up to you. That is when what you learnt come to play. Intelligence is a mix between knowledge, common sense, experience, skills and more. It always hurts a part of me, a part that would be vulgar to mention, when I hear a story of people who sit for an exam for some other person to pass. Isn't that like drug counterfeiting? Would you let your children be treated with the fake drugs you make? Did we not hear of the fake drug lord who was arrested during Prof Dora Akiyunli's NAFDAC days... refusing fake drugs when he took ill in detention?
When a practicing lawyer, who should know, (at least they call themselves LEARNED FELLOWS) decides to sit a bar qualification exam for a lawyer to be, that just unlearns them on all levels. And trust me, it would not be a new thing. I am beginning to suspect all these lawyers with disjointed, bruised and menstrating sentences that bleed into our ears. Some just fling over fed and malnourished tenses here and there, leaving us to say learned my foot! Now we know how some of them passed. While they were at a bar drinking someone was sitting their bar exam.
The sad irony is that, these same lawyers may become employers of labour and have to interview applicants. They will now have the temerity to question people who genuinely had a pass or third class. Bombastic element!
In the light of all going on, I don't even know what is more worrisome. Whether it is the fact that some people see nothing wrong in having people take professional exams for others or that they fail to see how such acts can directly affect the general regard for any such profession.
I have said it before that we have gradually come to a point in our nation where mediocrity of absolute lack of knowledge is considered acceptable even in careers that mean life or death.
I cry my beloved country.