When Professors Plagiarise

Yesterday, I was visited by my best mate from university. He had gist, so we had a great time reminiscing, catching up and pretending guys don’t gossip. He also had news. One of our old university teachers, then a PhD, has been made a professor.

There was silence.

The silence was followed by anger – from my friend. A lot of anger. He was angry, not because his longtime romantic interest in this professor’s daughter ultimately came to nothing, but because he wasn’t sure if finding a way to disgrace this professorial fraud was enough punishment for the intellectual crimes we know he is guilty of. He wasn’t sure how far he should go to knock this man down.

My friend, like me, is passionate about education, and equally depressed at the direction Nigeria’s education system is headed. His father graduated first class in mathematics, and his lifelong dream has been to teach in a university, and this professor we were discussing was the worst example of who a man of letters should be.

Money for grades, harassment and sexual exploitation by Nigeria’s university teachers have long since become a staple (and the man we were discussing should have got a second PhD on those subject matters), so that is not what we were fuming at. We’re not numb, but we would better allow the police deal with crimes. Academic fraud however, is a very different kettle of fish.

In our second year in university, we were ‘mandated’ to buy a book written by the good doctor who also happened to be running for Head of Department, so it was a no brainer that buying this book was key to even getting an evaluation for exam papers. So we all bought the book. There couldn’t be much harm in that, right? Except a few of us had bought this fantastic book by an American professor, which was the holy grail for an entire course year, and it turns our huge patches of this book had managed to lift themselves wholesale, smack onto the book ‘authored’ by our dear Dr. At least 70% of the book’s core were from our ‘holy grail’.

At that time, we fumed, but we were powerless students, so we stayed silent. It also happened that the same man published a few more books, which by some weird coincidence, managed to bear word-for-word resemblance to works by foreign authors.

Time flies. But last night, I could not imagine how hundreds of peers in the Nigerian academic community, especially those in those sacred professorial committees, would manage to not have caught this man for the wholesale fraud he had published for years, and made him a professor! It brings one to a painful realisation that this man, for the next decade or more, is going to be paid to teach university students on nothing more than fraudulent, empty publishing records, which by the way, forms a big part of the professorial qualification process. I’m not going to delve into the authenticity, or qualification of those panels.

So this morning, I’m thinking if it wouldn’t be a wise idea to purchase 100 copies of that American text I owned in second year, along with 100 copies of my professor’s book, review and stick notes to them, and mail them to the university senate, the Academic Staff Union of Universities and also publish the review in a national daily. What do I gain – maybe nothing more than potentially losing a man his job, but it would feel good to have one fraud thrown out of our university system.

But then, maybe, nothing would happen. He’s a Nigerian professor after all.


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