By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
I remember when I was in primary and secondary schools in those old good days. Our class teacher normally gave us homework or class test frequently on different subjects we have studied. The hardworking pupils or students, as the case may be, would like to score ten over ten or hundred percent. After submitting our scripts, we waited for the result. When the teacher finished marking, he or she distributed the marked scripts to each one. Some would be smiling for good performance while some would be angry for weak pass or woeful failure. Often the tests carried some marks for the term's examination.
A good teacher after marking the scripts does the correction for the good of all. This helps a lot so that one cannot fail the same questions again in future tests or examination. Each person writes down the corrections which the teacher takes time to go through again but without awarding any marks. By doing the correction and going through it from time to time, one learns. My people say that a stick does not choke a person in the eye twice.
In normal parlance, it is the teacher who corrects a pupil or a student. However, it can be otherwise. No one is above mistake. It happened that a certain Mathematics teacher wrote on the black board as he was teaching primary two pupils: 12 x 12 = 142. Some of the pupils copied it down exactly. But one of the pupils was observant and brilliant. She raised her hand, stood up and said, “Teacher, the answer is not correct. The correct answer is 144.” The teacher became furious and retorted, “How can a dog correct a lion? Are you not afraid? Who are you to correct your teacher? Common, come out here and kneel down!” As she was kneeling, the school headmaster suddenly came into the class for his routine inspection. What he saw written on the board was a mess. Out of respect, he called the teacher outside the classroom and said, “What you wrote on the black board is incorrect. 12 x 12 =144.
Remember that you are a teacher and not a deceiver. Please go and correct it immediately before you lead the pupils astray mathematically.” He did so shamefully. He also asked the kneeling pupil to go and sit down without apology. He lied to the pupils that he had an eye problem and therefore did not see what he wrote down well. The intelligent pupils laughed sarcastically. The teacher shouted, “Keep quiet! If I see your teeth again, I will give you 24 lashes of the cane.” There was absolute external silence everywhere. But the pupils were murmuring and laughing inside themselves. As the pupils were going home after school that day, the unintelligent class teacher was the subject of discussion. From that day, the pupils called him 12 x 12 = 142 behind his back.
I am coming out gradually. It is now in the news that the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) has changed name. Their new nomenclature is Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS). In other words, going to prison is no more punishment but correction. This means that the word prisoner has been abolished in Nigeria. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines Correction as “the act of changing something in order to make it right or better.” It can be done orally, written or by sign. What then can we call a person doing the correctional service? Some say he or she is the corrected. The warders involved in the correction are to be called the correctors. Thus if someone says, “I am going to correction” it means that he or she is going to prison.
There is so much to be corrected in the service. We begin with the warders and officers. They must treat the inmates with human dignity, because no condition is permanent. The corrector today can be the corrected tomorrow. Also the relief materials and food items brought to the correction office for the corrected (prisoners) should reach the destination. Often some of the officers and warders corner the items. The beneficiaries are helpless even if it is done in the daylight. Once upon a time, an evil woman brought a poisoned bag of rice for the corrected.
The warder on duty thanked her and promised to deliver it to the inmates. Immediately the evil woman left, the warder hijacked the bag of rice to his private apartment. He had a wife and three children. His wife opened the bag and measured 6 cups of the rice for family supper on that day. Hardly did they know that the evil woman poisoned the rice. The consequence started as soon as the family of five ate it that night. The warder, his wife and three children began to vomit and defecate seriously. Sympathizers rushed them to the nearest hospital.
The nurses on duty carried them one by one into the emergency ward. Before any help could come, the warder himself polluted the air extraordinarily and gave up the ghost. The doctors battled to save the lives of the wife and the three children. God being so kind they survived. Their survival was also attributed to their innocence. The rice-winner died due to his crime. The evil woman poisoned the rice while the evil warder diverted it to his private kitchen. The evil that men do lives with them nowadays. My people would say, “O metere buru.” So, the correction has to begin with the Correction Service officials. Some of them also divert money supposed to be used for the maintenance and running of the service centre (prison) into their private pockets.
On the other hand, the corrected (prisoners) should make good use of the correctional service to be of better behaviour within and outside the service walls. Some of the inmates commit greater crimes inside there. Some have been involved in rape, homosexuality, lesbianism, murder, theft, etc. Few years ago, I went to visit a relation in one of the prisons (now correctional centre). Behind the gate leading into the area occupied by the inmates, three of them accosted me. They made signs that they were very hungry. Hence they asked me for alms. I inserted my hand into my poor pocket and gave them N1,000 note to share. The first grabbed the money and started running away. The other two pursued him bumper to bumper.
Luckily, they caught him like a stubborn rat and brought him before me. I asked him to give me back the money. He lied that it was lost while he was being pursued. He was talking like a masquerade while saying so. I asked him to open his mouth. He refused. The other two angry inmates forced him to open it. The one thousand naira Note was squeezed and was lying at the floor of his mouth. It was taken out with a stick. I scolded him and gave it to the other two. He came into the prison because of theft and was still stealing there. His correctional service would be longer.
Some of our past and present leaders say that the unity of our country Nigeria is not negotiable. This idea should be corrected. In 1914, the different ethnic groups living around the river Niger were amalgamated into an entity called Nigeria without their consent. Today, problems have emanated among the ethnic groups and the centre could no longer hold. Therefore, those involved ought to sit down around a round table to point out those factors militating against their corporate existence and then negotiate the conditions for their continual living together as a country. They can even decide to go apart in peace and not in pieces.
Many things are tearing the country apart. These include insecurity arising from Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani bloody herdsmen, banditry, kidnapping for ransom or for ritual, armed robbery, poverty, marginalization, lopsided federal appointments, bad governance, electoral fraud, Ruga concept, corruption, and so on. Some are calling for Sovereign National Conference. Some call for the implementation of the 2014 confab. Presently, the wind of Revolution is blowing on the Nigerian political air space. The National Assembly seems to be sitting comfortably in their chambers while the country is boiling. If the lawmakers cannot discuss these anomalies and correct them, then there is urgent need for the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria to sit a round the table to deliberate over the anomalies and do the corrections before it is too late.