Allow me to introduce Professor Tony Eyang, a distinguished individual known for his calm demeanor, erudition, and eloquence. Professor Eyang, a man with a striking black beard and an Afro-style, hails from the picturesque town of Obudu and holds the prestigious position of Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Calabar. A casual conversation with him reveals his exceptional intellect and eloquence, akin to the legendary Professor Wole Soyinka. However, it is noteworthy that both these individuals have garnered attention for making unconventional and objectionable statements on politics, especially when considering events in the national political landscape and occurrences at the University of Calabar.

Professor Tony, responsible for the welfare of approximately 40,000 students hailing from various parts of the country, including international students, has, in an unexpected turn of events, become a sort of tribal chieftain and guardian of political exclusion based on ethnicity. Notably, his office directly oversees the organization of student elections, a responsibility he executes by appointing representatives to oversee candidate screenings and election supervision. Most of these elections take place in an open pavilion located not far from his office.

Upon his assumption of office, non-indigenous students aspiring to certain positions, which Professor Tony Eyang and other tribalists consider off-limits, often find themselves either disqualified on flimsy grounds or subjected to mischievous rigging attempts. The Dental students at the University of Calabar, under the umbrella of the Calabar University Dental Students’ Association, have faced the brunt of this tribal prejudice perpetuated by the Dean of Students’ Affairs.

This account sheds light on the unethical exercise of power, abusive conduct, arbitrary use of authority, and official corruption by one of the university’s highest-ranking officials. One may ponder why an individual holding such a prestigious position would seek involvement in matters as trivial as Faculty Elections to wield disproportionate influence over students.

Two years ago, the Faculty of Dentistry held elections for new leaders, marked by a hotly contested presidential race featuring a non-indigene and an indigene. The Dean of Students’ Affairs received reports and complaints regarding perceived mistreatment and election rigging plans but assured concerned students that such malpractices would not occur. However, students from Obudu and Cross River State at large confidently asserted that they had the Dean’s support, and the election outcome was predetermined.

On the day of the election, the voting took place just outside the Dean’s office. Students were screened and provided with ballot papers. It soon became evident that the principle of “one man, one vote” only applied to individuals outside the Dean’s protective sphere, as some students were in possession of three or four ballot papers, which they used to vote multiple times for their preferred candidates. Following the vote tally, a Cross Riverian candidate was declared the winner, but the blatant electoral fraud in an academic institution was unmistakable. Video evidence was submitted, and it was clear that the number of votes cast far exceeded the number of registered voters. One might expect that the simplest solution would be to examine and recount the ballot papers, revealing the rigging by the candidate with an excess of votes or, at the very least, to nullify the election and conduct a fresh one. The Dean of Students’ Affairs received numerous petitions but dismissed them, repeatedly emphasizing that the candidate in question was non-Cross Riverian. The students’ demands were straightforward: conduct a recount or examine the ballot papers, as they were in the possession of the Students’ Affairs Division. The Dean, however, acted as judge, jury, and executioner, inserting himself into the process and leaving students with no choice but to accept the situation.

In 2023, history seemed poised to repeat itself as the presidential election in the same faculty featured both a Cross Riverian and a non-indigene. This time, however, they appeared to have learned from the past. Instead of repeating the previous electoral fraud under close scrutiny, they disqualified one candidate on any grounds, whether justifiable or not. An electoral committee was formed, and just before the sale of nomination forms, the Students’ Union Government High Court issued an injunction against the participation of the non-indigene candidate. The grounds for this judicial decision were never disclosed to the accused, even to this day. Students sought redress from the Dean of Students’ Affairs, who brought in meddlesome interlopers, the very individuals responsible for openly perverting justice: Mr. Favour Iheanacho (Immediate Past Chief Judge) and Mr. David Ogoke (Chairman of the Malabor Bar Association, the Students’ Bar). These two had positioned themselves as orchestrators of the current judiciary and had the exclusive authority to summarily present arguments and issue judgments in favor of their preferred candidate, even going so far as to sign the judgments with identical signatures. Lawyers and students from the Faculty of Law had since called for disciplinary action against those responsible for such judgments, as they were considered an embarrassment to the legal profession. In his office, the Dean of Students’ Affairs declared that this unfavorable judgment from the court would be adhered to, and unless it was overturned, the non-indigene would not be permitted to run. This would prove to be a decision he would later regret, having listened to boastful and divisive rhetoric and promises to deliver judgments favoring the Dean’s interests. The injunction eventually expired without any legal action, rendering the judgment null and void. Everyone was prepared for the elections, with the only challenge being the prevention of electoral fraud.

However, unbeknownst to many, the Dean of Students’ Affairs and his loyal tribal warlords had one last trick up their sleeves. On the eve of the election, in the dead of night, the security unit posted a list of cleared candidates, conspicuously excluding the non-indigene presidential aspirant on the grounds of academic results. Calls were made to the Dean, who staunchly asserted that the decision would stand. It was later revealed that this exclusion followed yet another baseless and frivolous petition, this time from another tribal warlord named Miss Triumphant Akobi. She continued to exploit her familial connection with the Chief Judge of the Students’ High Court to pervert justice. However, the case was a non-starter, at least to the reasonable observer. The electoral guidelines of the Calabar University Dental Students’ Association clearly outlined the eligibility criteria for candidates, and only one aspirant met all the requirements—the non-indigene. A review of attendance records unmistakably showed that the Cross Riverian candidate should rightfully be disqualified for not meeting the attendance criteria for congresses. However, to avoid further polarization and upheaval, no petitions were filed by the opposing side. All that was requested was a free, fair, and credible election—a plea that was dismissed as too ambitious or revolutionary for tribal warlords in a federal academic institution.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of an eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.” As concerned students, we are merely seeking assistance in addressing a troubling precedent where all students are not treated equitably and justly. We earnestly pray for swift justice. In the words of one of America’s founders, George Washington, “We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition.” We hope that Professor Tony