Chukwuemeka Ike’s Expo ’77 unearths an examination malpractice syndicate with its intricate web woven across Nigeria. It is a ground-breaking detective novel which depicts the banality of malpractice in the late ’70s — a set case and precursor of what to expect in years to come.
Originally published in 1980, the novel is set in an era that witnessed a paradigm shift in societal moral values — honesty, sincerity, diligence and contentment were supplanted by corruption, deceit, laziness and greed. Expo ’77 exposes the extent to which the debasement of the Nigerian social institution and discard of societal moral values affected the educational system.
Like every ill in this society, examination malpractice is becoming commonplace. Students indulge in it. Parents encourage it. Teachers and examination officials aid and abet it.
Sadly enough, examination malpractice is justified like it is today. This is primarily on the grounds that everyone in this country cheat: “people in power, top civil servants, contractors, judges, soldiers, policemen, pastors”. This begs the question: “Who doesn’t cheat?”
Consequently, it is argued that, because of the currency of cheating, “children . . . who have not been weaned from their mothers’ breast” should not be punished for examination malpractice which when compared to the ubiquitous criminal cheating in high places is nothing.
Dr Buka, the Acting Registrar of the National Examinations Board (NEB) finds himself on a hot seat. NEB is alleged of compromising the examination. There were allegations of live paper leakages and several other exam irregularities. NEB is severely criticised for the several irregularities and Dr Buka, as the Acting Registrar, is at the end of the criticisms.
Dr Buka’s efforts to ensure a leakage-free exam year is threatened by several untraceable anonymous letters bemoaning malpractice and paper leakage. His eighteen months of trying to set things right seem to cascade before his eyes. If he could ensure a full year without leakage of examination papers, he would land himself the substantive post of the Registrar of NEB. What’s more?
NEB Board contracts Mora’s detective outfit, Tuntu and Company, to investigate the case of examination leakage. Dr Buka feels the investigation will yield no result as he has put in place several security measures to foil the leakage of live examination papers. He however gives the investigation his blessings.
Mora, a very intelligent detective and ex-policeman delves into the case almost immediately. His journeys to several schools in different parts of the country seem to yield result. He follows the lead which takes him to the unlikeliest of places, a missionary training school. When his investigation seem to reach its dead end, a glimmer of hope appears and, he and his team unravel the mystery. His journey round Nigeria is significant in that it opens the eyes of the readers to several criminalities surging in schools all in the name of doing well in examination.
The novel signals a shift in social values. Mora, his contemporaries and older generation alien to examination malpractice are quite surprised at rifely examination malpractice which the younger generation like Jibril, Comfort, Stella, Bunmi and others indulge in. The novel also indicates the beginning of a period in the country’s history when examination malpractice became a common practice.
Expo ’77 notes the culpability of everyone in the society towards the normalising of malpractice. The 1980 novel also dwells on such issue as lust, post-civil war effect, the corruption of the religion institution inter alia.
Expo ’77 has not lost its relevance ever since it was written. Examination malpractice which is its thematic concern is now a hydra-headed monster embraced hypocritically by the young and the old, students and teachers, parents and children, education officials, etc. And while this anomaly continues to be this way, the book will continue to stay relevant.
Dr Buka and Professor Chukwuemeka Ike: The Semblance
A good glance at these two will reveal a lot of things. Buka is Ike’s character. The both are academicians. And then just like Buka is the Acting Registrar of NEB, Chukwuemeka Ike was also the Registrar of WAEC just about the same period. And as for paper leakages, here is a newspaper extract that does justice to that in respect of Ike:
One can easily conclude that Buka is not just a creation of Ike but also his split image in respect of some shared characteristics.
Memorable Qoutes from Expo ’77
(1) We are beginning to discover in the pubic area of the young goat what did not exist in that of the mother.
(2) Who doesn’t cheat?
(3) An emaciated child cannot be expected to regain his lost weight as soon as it washes his hands at the end of a meal, no matter how nutritious.
(4) A dog haunted by death loses its sense of smell. (A Proverb)
(5) Desperate maladies call for desperate cures . . ., we cannot continue waiting for that elusive date when the society will be transformed.