Dr Olabode Ojoniyi is a lecturer in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, Osun State University. In 2016, he was suspended and later sacked for alleged involvement in a sex-for-mark scandal.
After the incident in 2016, the National Industrial Court in Ibadan acquitted him of the charges.
In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, he speaks about the sex-for-mark scandal, his advice for students, among others.
In late 2016, you were accused of sex-for-mark infractions by your university. How did the scandal start?
You see, the story of results manipulation actually started with aggrieved students in 2015, and not 2016. Students who could not pay for their grades to be altered who then felt cheated by the ‘favoured crooks’ reported the case. They were the ones who reported the case of results manipulation by another lecturer to the then Ag. Dean. It was the Ag. Dean who first told me of it.
My first reaction was that it was not possible. And, my reasons were very simple: the raw results were always kept with the Head of Department. After they were computed, they would be vetted in Osogbo by a professor who often would check against the raw results. So, expectedly, any reasonable person would not attempt to alter such results on the computer. But, what that lecturer was doing was reprinting new raw results, forging the signatures of the lecturers on them and replacing the originals in the HOD’s office with the ‘Oluwole versions.’
Unfortunately for that lecturer, when I was the examination officer, for security reasons, I usually kept private copies of the original results that had been approved by the Departmental Board. My private copies were the copies with which the ‘Oluwole’ copies of that lecturer were exposed and that was my sin.
When the university deemed you guilty of the act and suspended you for six months and later terminated your appointment, what did you do to prove your innocence before heading to the court?
You can only say somebody is guilty after he has been investigated and tried. I was not being investigated for results manipulation or for sex for marks. The management and the sympathisers of that lecturer were actually negotiating with me to step down my evidences against that lecturer. When I refused, that was when they resorted to blackmailing and defaming my character openly in 2016.
However, as a member of the panel that investigated the allegation of results manipulations and as a former Examination Officer, I went ahead to provide water-tight proofs of results manipulation against that lecturer. I presented the evidences before them in black and white. But, when on September 8, 2015, they were able to obtain a video of myself and a lady who they had sent after me, they started threatening that they would upload the video to the internet and use it to claim that I was the one changing results for sexual gratification.
Of course, I became mad and vowed to go to jail with nobody knowing the truth of the case than to negotiate with them. So, I was never investigated for anything, I was blackmailed and my character was defamed.
How did your wife, family and friends handle the news of the alleged scandal and the termination of your appointment?
Differently, by how and what they knew me to be. Those who knew me did not even wait to hear my story before they started to defend me. My wife is the closest person to me. She knows I am uncompromising when it comes to truth and justice. And, fortunately for me, I had told her about the hotel visit even before I knew there was any video to blackmail me. She knows I am always open.
Of course, some friends walked away thinking I was finished. In fact, one told others who remained resolute with me that “I had become an ex-anointed like Saul.”
You are a pastor. How did the scandal affect your ministry and faith?
You see, the ministry is the property of God through Jesus Christ. It is not my property. Aside a family that left the church, the family of the one who said I had become an ex-anointed, every other families and students remained.
The university management through, their Fact-Finding Committee, had equally appealed to the Christian Faith sentiment that I should do everything to cover the scandal. I told them that was not what I knew about the Faith. The faith says confess your sins; it did not say cover it up. So, I chose to be open and that was what has kept us.
Since the termination of your appointment, what have you been doing and how have you been faring?
I have continued with my research. I have published more academic papers in journals and books, locally and internationally more than before the termination! In fact, one of my papers was published by the same Uniosun. I have gone on another Postdoctoral Fellowship to UG, University of Ghana, Legon. I won a national award for playwriting by the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists, the SONTA/Olu-Obafemi award for playwriting in 2017. And, of course, I have continued to preach the Word of God as a missionary across different countries.
Recently, the National Industrial Court in Ibadan acquitted you of the charges, and ordered the university to reinstate you and pay you your salaries and arrears for all those months you were on suspension and for the years your appointment was terminated. How does this make you feel?
It has given me a sense of justice I have always sought.
Do you think the university will appeal the court judgment? If yes, are you ready for the appeal?
Before I was dismissed, I was ready to fight. That was the reason I did not negotiate with them. I am ready to go with them to the Supreme Court. All for justice.
Now you have been reinstated by the court, how do you think your students, department and the university would welcome you?
A lot of them have been calling me to express their joy to see me back in the school. Of course, some may not be happy. But, they cannot openly express their sadness.
What three major challenges in your department would you like the university management to address as you are about to resume work?
There is a serious need to continue to maintain the sanctity of the degrees we give to students. Academics must face the business of academics. And, of course, every form of victimisation of junior colleagues and students should stop.
Do you have anything to say about your ‘enemies’?
I have forgiven them. Yes, it was (is) not easy to forgive them. But, it is what I have chosen to do. They should seek forgiveness from God.
In what ways do you think sex-for-mark in Nigerian tertiary institutions could be properly addressed or managed?
The is a question of the integrity of the people we appoint to teach in the university and that of the students themselves.
What is your advice for students as regard sexual activities for academic gains and other related matters?
Weak students are the ones who often seek to use sex to gain favour. Students should sit down with their academics and resist any lecturer who demands for sex to pass them.
ASUU is currently on strike. What do you think could be done to bring a lasting solution to the strike?
Government and stakeholders’ sincerity to build the university system in Nigeria to compete with other universities all over the world.
Thank you so much for reading this article, we really do appreciate. We hope you loved it, if you did, please share this page with your friends via the share buttons below. Sharing is caring.