International Journal of English
Literature and Culture
Vol. 2(2), pp. 6
Corruption among academics: An example of Akachi-Adimora Ezeigbo’s
OLANIYAN, SOLOMON OLUSAYO
English, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. E-mail:
It is unfortunate to note that citadels
of learning from where decorum and morality ought to diffuse to the
larger society have been deleteriously affected by the seemingly
insurmountable challenge of corruption. Oftentimes, politicians and
political leaders are castigated for high-rate of corruption by
academics, whereas, the so-called castigators themselves are not
exonerated from this social malady. It is, therefore, the case of
the pot calling the kettle black. Instead of choosing to be a
different kettle of fish, academics have joined the enemy of the
people in compounding their already unbearable pains.
Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Trafficked has been examined mostly from gender
perspective, while the other major issue of corruption has not been
adequately dealt with. It is against the foregoing, therefore, that
this paper investigates corrupt practices among academics as
depicted in Trafficked. The paper is aimed at exploring the
epidemics of corruption among academics. Postcolonial theory is
adopted, while the examined text is subject to critical textual
analysis. It is observed that Adimora-Ezeigbo diagnoses the effect
of corruption in academia as it affects students, the nation and
education system. Taking of bribery, making and selling of
not-well-researched hand-outs, molestation and maltreatment of
students form parts of the corrupt practices as portrayed in the
Keywords: Corruption, academics, education sector,
Contemporary African literature has
enthusiastically dwelt so much on issues relating to human
condition, history and political landscape of the cultural milieu in
which those literary works are set. Hence, the social commitment of
the contemporary African artists (writers) cannot be overstressed.
This synchronises with Achebe’s (1975) position that artists live
and move and have their being in society, and create their works for
the good of the society.
Breyten Breytenbach (2007:166) describes a writer and sums up his
social responsibilities in the following words:
…he is the questioner and the implacable critic of the mores and
attitudes and myths of his society…he is also the exponent of the
aspirations of his people. In the poor and colonized countries (like
Nigeria) the writer plays a more visible role: faced with acute
social and economic iniquities he is called upon to articulate the
dreams and the demands of his people…And from this flows the
impossibility of the writer ever fitting in completely with any
orthodoxy. Sooner or later he is going to be in discord with the
Therefore, it is not possible for a responsible writer not to write
in the interest of the cultural milieu. In the opinion of Terry
Eagleton (1977), a writer does not need to foist his own political
views on his work because, if he reveals the real and potential
forces objectively at work in a situation, he is already in that
sense partisan. Partisanship is inherent in reality itself; it
emerges in a method of treating social reality rather than in a
subjective attitude towards it. In other words, writers should
objectively present issues as they relate to society without being
Many people involved in education systems – from the uppermost
echelons right down to the school level – are confronted by corrupt
practices at some stage. The phenomenon is not new; yet until a
decade ago research rarely focused on it. There may be several
explanations for this. First of all, the issue of corruption emerged
only recently on the international agenda with the adoption of the
OECD’s 1999 Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public
Officials in International Business Transactions and the adoption of
the 2003 United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). In
addition to this, those involved in the education sector have been
reluctant to tackle the issue of corruption – perhaps because they
fear that this might tarnish the image of the sector and therefore,
reduce the resources allocated to it (Muriel Poisson, 2010).
Inability to tackle and nip corruption in the bud has led to its
torrential growth in education sector, especially among academics.
Corruption occurs at all levels in universities.
Contrary to the Eurocentric belief that the blacks are the most
corrupt, there is nowhere corrupt practices are not being
perpetrated nowadays. In a study jointly carried-out by Jacques
Hallak and Muriel Poisson (2007)in Georgia (USA), they observe that
widespread misconduct affects university examinations, the
conferring of academic credentials, the procurement of goods and
services, and the licensing and accreditation of institutions. More
so, it is now accepted that academic fraud and corrupt practices
involve a variety of stakeholders, including examination candidates,
teachers, faculty members, supervisors, officials and employees of
examination authorities, in addition to managers of courses,
programmes, institutions and universities. Entities in charge of
quality assurance and accreditation are also susceptible to corrupt
practices, which is even more worrisome. Within this context, and
given the complexity and diversity of the trends described above, it
is extremely difficult to produce a comprehensive list of all
opportunities for academic fraud (Hallak and Poisson 2007). All
these unwholesome practices have made the erstwhile corruption-free
academic world lose its serenity and respect.
Omotola (2007) unmistakably maintains that corruption is one of the
most topical issues in the discourses of the deepening crisis and
contradictions of post-independence Nigeria. The level of attention
devoted to itmay not only be due to its rapid and unprecedented
expansion to all facet of human endeavour and its menacing
consequences, but also because of the seeming fecklessness of
successive attempts at combating it. Like an unchecked inferno, this
social challenge has spread to virtually every sphere of the polity.
There is no longer a grey area for corruption; even the usually
venerated religious institution has been dragged into the messy mud
Mu’Azu Babangida Aliyu (2008:10-11) argues against the usual
criticism of the political class as being the only one culpable when
talking about corruption. He declares that:
“…when we talk of corruption in our polity, we would be unfair to
ascribe it only as a phenomenon of the political class or the town,
for we are all living witnesses to all of corrupt and immoral acts
taking place in the gown, from extortion, admission racketeering,
sexual abuse, examination malpractices to cultism, jealousy and
unhealthy rivalry often perpetuated by highly placed members of the
academia. Other forms include absenteeism, intellectual laziness and
lack of concentration on research”.
As a matter of fact, Aliyu (2008), in the foregoing, adequately
enumerates various acts of corruption ravaging the nation’s citadels
of learning. Although the political class is known for its notoriety
in corruption, the academia has joined in this cancerous social
Nigerian writers clinically attend to their nation’s
socio-politico-economic illness though through textual diagnosis.
This further establishes writers’ social commitment to the plight of
Ayo Kehinde (2005:338) submits that:
“The modern (Nigerian) novel is an attempt to confront reality in a
period of change, an effort to foreground the disagreement among
writers on the old side and those pleading for the new. This gives
rise to definite experimentation with content and form. The modern
novel has a tone of disillusionment; it is signified by the
post-world war philosophy of existentialism which is marked by
alienation, despair, cruelty, absurdity, urban terrorism, crime,
pain, dissonance, espionage, poverty, dislocation, disintegration,
famine, frustration, anarchy, atheism, misogyny, misanthropy,
betrayal, nihilism and all forms of anomie”.
Kehinde (2005) is therefore, of the opinion that, if there is
anything special in the modern novel, it is the fact that it is
fraught with the issue of pains. It dwells on the social disorder,
injustice and human failures and frailties.
Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo is one of Nigeria’s most illustrious writers
and role models. Her first work of fiction for young readers, The
Buried Treasure, was published by Heinemann of UK in 1992. Since
then, she has been making significant and incomparable contribution
to literature by writing novels, short stories, and children’s
books. But long before these feats, she was appointed as a lecturer
in 1981 at the University of Lagos and became a Professor of English
in 1999. She was declared one of the two winners in the NLNG Prize
for Literature for her children’s novel My Cousin Sammy in 2007.
Another novel, House of Symbols, won four medals. Two of her books
were short listed for the ANA Prize this year, one of which (Heart
Songs) won the Cadbury Prize for Poetry. On top of all that, she is
one of the most visible gender and feminist writers, theorists and
critics in Nigeria today. Published in 2008, Trafficked is
preoccupied with the issue of human trafficking. However, this paper
attempts to examine the inadequately researched issue of corruption
which is prevalent in the novel (http://www.akachiezeigbo.org,
METHODOLOGY AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
At its birth, postcolonial theory was introduced as reactionary
movement to challenge colonial perceptions, practices and discourses
on the colonised subject. One of the foremost proponents of the
theory, Bhabha (1992) opines that postcolonial criticism bears
witness to the uneven and unequal forces of cultural representation
involved in the contest for political and social authority within
the modern world order. Lately, however, postcolonial critics’
attention has shifted from attacking external forces to looking
inward. This is because the enemy within proves more dangerous than
erstwhile external forces (colonialists). Fanon (1963) examines a
deep chasm between the people in the countryside and the national
bourgeoisie in the urban areas whose members ﬁll the former colonial
bureaucracies and enjoy the fruits of Western-style corruption.
Postcolonial theory addresses various oddities, such as corruption,
in postcolonial society. The selected text is subject to critical
textual analysis in order to bring to the fore instances of
corruption among the academics in the novel.
Diagnosis of Corruption among Academics in Trafficked
Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Nigerian society is one in which bribery,
corruption, misappropriation of public funds, graft, nepotism, power
drunkenness and criminal disregard for the wishes and aspirations of
the struggling masses are firmly rooted without being properly
checked and controlled.
As a University don, Adimora-Ezeigbo is not unaware of the high-rate
corruption and moral decadence in academics, especially, among the
lecturers. It is ironical that those who are supposed to instigate
and institute positive changes in the society have joined the
enemies of the people in the game of corruption and (s)exploitation.
The novelist, through the story of Ofomata, a man to whom Nneoma,
the heroine of the narrative, is betrothed before her sudden
disappearance from Ihite-Agu, establishes the theme of corruption in
academia. Ofomata has deserted his father’s lucrative palm-oil mill
and palm kernel cracking industries in Ihite-Agu in order to pursue
a degree in Estate Management at the Lagos University of Science and
Technology. He is, however, faced with challenges beyond his
control. He approaches Dr. Rafiu Komolafe to submit an assignment.
Before Dr. Komolafe could collect the assignment from Ofomata, he
asks him “can you get me some tyres for my Volvo? I need at least
two” (32). However, before Dr. Komolafe allows Ofomata to come in to
his office, he has to keep him waiting for hours. This is an example
of how some academics treat their students as though they are
animals. At another instance, Dr. Komolafe also asks Ofomata to get
him a jerry can of fuel as though he is his employer. Although
Ofomata would have retorted, he is afraid of being failed by the
lecturer because he takes him(Ofomata) two courses. Therefore,
non-compliance with his request means that he risks his chances of
passing Komolafe’s courses.
Politics of alienation ravages virtually every nook and cranny of
the nation. It is not an unknown fact that those students who do not
have long legs would find it very difficult to get accommodation on
campus. Meanwhile, lecturers’ children and wards get bed space even
though they would not stay in the hostel. As Ofomata sits down
forlornly, his heart ruminates over irregularities that have crept
into the academic world:
Why should lecturers’ children whose families lived on campus be
given accommodation in the hostels, thus depriving needy students of
bed spaces? (33).
This victim of academic corruption and indiscipline is not given
official accommodation; he has to buy a bed space at an exorbitant
price from a final year student, who has been allocated the bed
space but does not need it since his father is a professor. Indigent
students are maltreated as though they do not have the moral right
to be educated. This is as a result of the laxity in instilling
moral and humanity in the up-coming generation. Politics of
man-know-man has become the order of the day even in the nation’s
citadels of learning.
In addition, one Mr. Ogamba asks for a loan of fifty thousand naira
(N50,000.00) from Ofomata though Ofomata is never sure if he would
ever pay the money back. As a matter of fact, academics seem to have
lost their sense of reasoning as they prey on their students whose
pains and burdens they are supposed to cushion.
Moreover, students are compelled to buy sheets of paper stapled
together in the name of hand-outs. Some of the books sold to
students are shoddily produced and lack substance as they are not
well-researched. Unfortunately, the students have no choice; they
either buy the papers or choose to fail the courses. Ofomata is
affected by the gamut of crises in the country.
Academics are not alone in the perpetration of corrupt practices on
campus; it is far more common among non-academic staff.
Non-academics devise means of looting and duping unsuspecting
students. Ofomata recalls a night when some night-partying students
disturb everyone in the hostel through noise. According to Ofomata:
“Was the porter deaf? Why hadn’t he gone to stop the noise? Perhaps
the boys had bribed him with money. It was not only lecturers that
milked students. People in administration did it too. One of the
secretaries had recently been accused of collecting illegal fees
from students” (103).
He is surprised that the porter on duty ought to have challenged the
disturbing students. When he looks for him, he could not find him in
the porter’s lodge, he later finds him in a corner busy drinking
beer. Students are usually compelled to pay unauthorised fees
without any receipt to show for it by non-teaching staff. Without
mincing words, all these actions have destroyed the image of
academic world. Lamenting over the effect of corruption in Nigeria,
Achebe (1983:58) declares that corruption “has passed the alarming
and entered the fatal stage; and Nigeria will die if we keep
pretending that she is only slightly indisposed”.
The concept of “African Time” is a serious challenge in the society
today. Punctuality has become a thing of the past as people
perennially get late to places of appointment. This is the case of
the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ojo Johnson, who comes late to the
senate meeting and walks in without any sense of shame or
remorsefulness. According to the narrator:
“I’m sorry for being late,” he said cheerfully, nothing in his face
to show he was contrite. It looked as if the apology was meant to
‘fulfill all righteousness’, as the saying went on campus (141).
This social realist writer uses the VC to represent members of the
high echelon in institution of learning who have lost their senses
of morality and respect. It can be said that the erosion of
immorality now flows from the gown to the town whereas it should be
the other way round. University should be the centre of morality
where young minds and future leaders are properly baked.
Unless proactive steps are taken to curb all these unspeakable (in)actions
among the academics, the larger society is not safe. In the
narrative under examination, certain measures are employed to check
excesses of the academics. Following several petitions against bad
eggs among the academics, school authority sets up a committee to
investigate allegations against Dr. Komolafe and Dr. Pepple.
However, before now, Dr. Komolafe has already been under police
interrogation; he is arrested by the police for gross misconduct. An
influential student sets a trap for Komolafe which later catches
him. He demands fifty thousand naira from the student and threatens
to fail him should he refuse to bring the money. The student informs
his father who relays the matter to the police. As the student
offers him the money, the police are already around and catch him
Dr. Okehi cites other instance of indiscipline among academics,
especially male as they sexually harass female students.Ashaolu
(1986) posits that the socio-political situation in Africa today,
more than ever before, vindicates the apocalyptic vision of African
creative writers as projected through their characters. Considering
the present predicaments which have bedevilled the human race
recently, writers tend to exhibit despondency. They see the future
of humanity as one of destruction and extinction as long as
corruption and the divisive factors continue to take root and spread
unchecked. Meanwhile, it is in a view to redeeming the future that
writers make effort to explore various negative tendencies in
As the news of Komolafe’s arrest gets to Ofomata, he feels elated
because “at least it meant that one of his headaches had been
removed” (148). The situation here is unfortunate; lecturers are
supposed to be solution to students’ problem. Through corruption and
indiscipline, academics constitute headache to their students.
Enthralled by unchecked corrupt practices among academics, Edna,
Ofomata’s colleague, muses: “how wonderful it will be if the police
arrest all the corrupt staff at the university and if the students’
union is allowed to send representatives to senate. And if the
increase in accommodation fees is cancelled” (150).However, although
Edna’s suggested wishes sound good, it is not without impossibility.
Police is a major corrupt (para) military force in the nation today.
There have been various accusations against the Nigerian police for
taking bribery, instituting brutality and conniving with political
class to unleash terror and pains on the suffering masses. Thus, it
would be an aberration for this kind of police to have the
effrontery to arrest corrupt academics.
Therefore, before Nigerian police can go out and effectively
carryout their responsibility, they must look inward and remove the
plank out of their own eyes. The so-called students’ representatives
have become compromise through their collusion with the school
authority to institute anti-student policy on campus. Students’
union leaders only represent their own pockets; this equates them
with the politicians in the nation.
Furthermore, another instance of corruption noted among the
academics in Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Trafficked is the purchase of
promotion. The chairman of the Committee Investigating the
Allegation of Misconduct against Dr. Edmund Pepple, Professor Okalla,
gets his professorship not as a reward for industry and academic
excellence but a payment made by the government for spying on his
radical colleagues. This is rather common during military rule in
the country. Politicisation of promotion is one of the banes of
academic excellence in the nation’s education sector.
Following legal proceedings, Dr. Komolafe is eventually sentenced to
nine months imprisonment and his appointment is also terminated. In
the same vein, the committee on Dr. Pepple recommends his sack as a
strong reprimand for being a ‘pebble’ to the academic profession.
Though grievous, the punishments meted out on these corrupt
academics would go a long way in serving as a deterrent to other
academics that may be doing the same thing in secret.
Corruption at whatever level in human society can be prevented.
This, however, depends on good leadership in citadel of learning.
Aliyu (2008:9) laments the present situation of education sector:
Indeed, I truly believe that our major problem in this country is
the problem of leadership; that is, the lack of genuine, visionary
and committed leadership. My heart bleeds when I compare what our
educational system has become with what existed in the past, when I
recall that in our days some of us were paid to go to and to remain
in school, while others had their education paid for them by public
funds through the foresight and selflessness of our past political
heroes like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir
Ahmadu Bello, among others. Then our Certificates and students were
accepted and respected all over the world. Our Professors were
sought after by the most prestigious Universities the world over.
Alas, things are different today.
What Aliyu (2008) offers above is a rather sad history of the
glorious past. That was the time when political class and academics
strongly held on to their responsibility and united to secure a
virile future for the coming generation through the provision of an
enviable education. It is, however, disheartening that the same
class of people, who enjoyed good (free) education when the nation’s
education sector had not lost its glory, are responsible for killing
the sector today through corrupt practices and bad policies.
Osundare (2007:23) corroborates unfortunate high-rate moral and
intellectual decadence among the academics when laments the fact
that people now live on campus like ‘conquered people: conquered,
that is, by decay and decadence, by the warped values and chronic
anomies in the outside Nigerian society. Far from being the
trail-blazers we are expected to be, we have become blaze-trailers’.
The relevance of this fictionalisation of reality is that, authority
must take pragmatic measures in curbing this social malady which has
crept in to the academic sector. Adimora-Ezeigbo, through this
narrative, depicts unbridled widespread of corruption among the
academics. Through this literary surgery of her society, she seeks
immediate solution to the carnivorous challenge which forms the
nitty-gritty of this study. Considering the cautionary response of
Adimora-Ezeigbo to society-threatening challenge like corruption,
Nigerian writers have written much on human condition (Aduke Adebayo,
2010). They have been able to draw attention to the past of slavery,
feudalism and colonialism and the present which is characterised by
post-independence disillusionment, corruption, kidnapping, violence,
leadership ineptitude and poor condition. This paper, therefore,
emphasises the need for quick down-to-business steps towards
restoring normalcy to the academia. Since no writer write in vacuum,
Adimora-Ezeigbo must have been informed by the reality in her
milieu. However, the essence of writing about anomalies in human
society is to find lasting solution to such challenges. Writers are,
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