The Mmesoma in all of us

Ogunsakin Mustapha
8 Min Read

By Ayodele Ale

This is a true-life story: A man claimed he was celebrating his 60th birthday. The celebration was a loud one. He was a director in a state ministry and all his co-directors and bigwigs were there. In the presence of the guests, the immediate younger sister (who was over sixty years old) arrived with the birthday card and said sarcastically in their native dialect, “Oga mori juo” (My senior brother, so, I am older than you). The ‘celebrant retorted, “Go and announce on radio,” Everybody present burst into laughter. Of course, they knew he was much older than the age he was celebrating. But it did not prevent them from joining him to celebrate his false age. He had obviously doctored his age and falsified his records to have some extra-years in the ministry. Majority of the civil servants in Nigeria have doctored their ages to beat the retirement date. As a matter of fact, if a civil servant tells you his official age, just help him or her to add extra five to seven years to it.

I once went for recruitment into one of the paramilitary arms. One of those aspiring to join the force came with his certificates and curriculum vitae. The smart recruiters asked candidates to also come with their primary school certificates. They discovered the disparities between the age that the candidate was claiming and the year that he completed his primary school leaving certificate. It was so obvious. By the time they made the deductions, they asked him, “So you completed Secondary school at the age of nine years”? They got him right.

A Major General of the Nigerian Army, (now retired) once joked, “The bone knows when it was born”. Other military friends will also joke that the military age is different from the actual age. From other ranks to those joining the officer’s cadre, it is, most times, falsification galore. They understood that they have to lie about their age from inception as your age automatically screens you out at a point when promotion is being considered in the military, whether in the Army, Navy or Air Force. I learnt of a man seeking recruitment into the military. By the time the recruiters looked at his facial appearance and matched it with the age presented, they knew that an obvious age falsification had happened. But the head of the recruiting officers joked, “You have demonstrated that you need this job badly, and for this, I will hire you.” Case closed. Interestingly, they all have ‘age declarations’; to back up their false claims.

The son of a former president of the country once granted a media interview, poo-pooing the age being claimed by his father. Even when the father is being celebrated every year across the country during the supposed ‘birthday’, the son told the journalist that his father was telling lies concerning his age as many of the people prostrating and kowtowing for him in their village celebrate older ages. But he needed it to achieve his ambition.

The athletes are not left behind. Those claiming to be under 20 or less could pass for grandpa or grandma.

What of the politicians? The birth certificates, age declarations and states of origin they parade are falsified and doctored. But they are desperate to win, and even falsify their academic certificates to achieve this.

If you know the states of origin being claimed by some officers in the military, police, federal ministry and parastatals, you will be ashamed for Nigeria. To beat the limitations of the quota system, you will see someone from Kano or Bauchi who has never stepped beyond the shores of his state, claiming to have hailed from Ekiti or Ondo. Ask them to echo, ‘toro’ (a kind of old currency), then trouble starts. Ask them the meaning of ‘jebete gbomo lee lowo,” then, you are in for a shocker.

Go to the officers of immigration and customs services with the correct papers to obtain your National Passport and other traveling documents, you will wait forever if you are processing it on your own. But pay the officials, all sorts of documents and states of origin will ‘surface’ and within a short time, your passport and documents will come out.

Marriages are started on a false note by those intending to travel out of the country. You can hire a wife or a husband. If you need an ‘arumoje (fake) father and mother at the marriage registry, it is as simple as A.B.C. The fake fathers and mothers are already dressed for the occasion. Just pay your bill, you will have fake witnesses to endorse your marriage certificates. A man can even dress up as a woman, and vice-versa to suit your purpose and earn his pay for the day.

When you approach court premises, especially in Lagos, you will see hordes of affidavit forgers parading themselves at the gates, duping unsuspecting individuals and delivering fake papers.

I once worked in an office in Lagos, where a certificate of death was made available for the living, on purpose.

For those in need of hot certificates, Oluwole area of Lagos is alive. You can become an architect, lawyer, medical doctor or a PhD holder within a twinkle of an eye.

Hardly does a day pass without reports of corruption in our national dailies. And it runs to million. Somebody somewhere, falsifying records to loot state funds and corner the commonwealth to appease his or her greed. Some years back at the JAMB office, a female account clerk claimed that a mystery snake sneaked into the safe and swallowed N36 million, being money from the purchases of scratch cards from JAMB state offices and other designated centres. Shortly after, a strange monkey also carted away N70 million from a senator’s farm house!

Now, the coming generation are proving to be ‘smarter’ and building on the false foundation laid by their forebears.

As the Holy Book puts it in Isaiah 1:4 ‘Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.’

If the truth comes to limelight, many of the people blaming Mmesoma will bury their heads in shame.

There is therefore the need for national rebirth, and the rehabilitation of the poor girl.

Ayodele Ale is a journalist and lawyer

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