What will be the opinion of a reasonable bystander?

Finally, here in UI, Jaw War was for the first time streamed live on Instagram; thereby enabling people from various walks have a taste of what it looks like. In fact, this substantiated what it is we call public speaking in UI, as many individuals outside the institution could express how marvelled they are at the hugeness of the audience and the quality of the speakers. Yes! Jaw War is getting bigger, but can we really say it is getting better?

My Lords, the reason for the above question is not farfetched. It is true that Jaw War features many intellectual and interesting speakers, but how correspondingly intellectual and capable are the Judges we employ? There is no doubt that people would always contend the result of debates when the scale of justice refuses to favour them, when the sword of justice strikes them out of the winners’ list. However, it is not out of place to say that people only murmur when there is something to hear.

In doing justice, the outcome is immaterial, no matter how right it may appear, if the process is not one filled to brim with the substance of fairness. In past times and now, Jaw War has had Judges and Chief Judges who are presumed to be sentimentally attached to one hall or faculty because of the affiliation they had or still have with such halls or faculties. It has featured Judges with natural conflict of interest with the debate topic. To top all, it seems to these irregularities, nonchalance has been added. Case in point is the first leg of the first round, wherein the Chief Judge of the day, on one hand, happens to be a nursing mother, and an Executive in one of the participating halls. On the other hand, another Judge was reportedly caught chatting on his phone by quite a number of people. My Lords, it is just a mere application of common sense that nothing could be more important to a nursing mother than her baby. Also, if judging is quite important, a Judge should not be found chatting. Now, if this is the quality of Judges on our panel, what then do we leave a reasonable bystander to say about the judgment of such panel, if not to fault it?

This claim was, however, substantiated the following day when results were announced, as not many people argued the validity of the day’s result. Unlike the previous day when the score differences were eye soring, reasonable arguments could still be tendered for the controversial ones of the Faculties’ round. For example, the results of the war between Faculty of Agriculture and The Social Sciences; as the score difference was just about a point, which could have germinated from the issue of dressing, time management or one of those petty things people ignore. However, while we may say that the second day was quite better than the first, the fact that two of the three Judges of the day were former UI law students in a debate which Faculty of Law participated also makes the process questionable.

Regardless of whether the eventual score line is the aggregate of three Judges, a bad Judgement from one Judge is a bad Judgement from the panel. Every round we have had so far has been faulted with certain issues from the Judges’ end. While the third day of the competition could also be regarded as good, the news of a speaker from Sultan Bello Hall being scored, by a Judge, a total of 9 out of 30 for the content of his speech is questionable. Haba, even an unprepared speaker cannot score such. My Lords, it is not the fault of a speaker to have an accent, whether good or bad, it is an expected quality of a Judge to possess the listening ability.

My Lords, if Jaw War is not to lose relevance in this intellectual comity, it becomes paramount that extreme care be taken in the selection of Judges. A Judge should not be directly connected to any of those they are judging, so as to guarantee impartiality in the face of a reasonable bystander; and if possible, Judges themselves should have training sessions.

Speakers invest sleepless nights, stab classes, ditch other activities, all in the name of Jaw War. It is wrong if a Judge can’t give a corresponding response. Even Judges would be Judged.


“Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain” – Henry Ford

Your Honour, I feel highly esteemed to make another appearance before this honourable Court. After just two rounds of clashes, this year’s Jaw War has lived up to its billing. In it there have been talking points. Last year’s finalists are out. Female halls are showing they can hold their own against all odds. Unofficially though, and on a lighter note too, Chinese is becoming the second lingual of the competition. And to cap it all, the dose of wits from all speakers plus the jibes hurled by the trailer jam crew, have made the talking points even more.

But of these talking points, none has been more resonating than the results as decided by the Judges. While some have faulted and heaped blames on these Honourable Judges for their loses, I have chosen to be guided by throwing their argument to one corner.

First, the Judges so far have been men of repute. They are men whose repute has no comma talk more of question mark. Not this alone, they also are pundits with the wherewithal of public speaking. Please, they are no pushovers. Clearly, the Yoruba would always tell us that agba lotoro lo; oba loteyin erin fon – only a pundit can lit the light of wit.

Come to think of it, whose Judgement is more credible? That of the audience? Or that of the Judges who had been handpicked from the best the school has? As for me, I choose not to trust the judgement of the audience. Theirs is a judgement that is usually clad with sentiment, bias and one-sided view. Therefore, no matter what might be said, the fact remains that the Judges’ judgement, to a reasonable extent, holds more water than the audience’s judgement. You know why? Because of the objectivity tendencies of the Judges. After all, no matter how good a fan is or what he thinks, the referee’s calls are still adjudged most superior.

Certainly, part of the claim was that the Judges hardly concentrated on speakers while delivering their speeches. It was even said that the Judges scored some speakers randomly. Some even took it farther by accusing our honourable Judges of lack of honour and not being able. How ridiculous! However, one thing is also clear: the large chunk – if not the whole source – of distraction in the auditorium came from the audience. In truth, no matter the shaolin stunt or acrobatic twist we use in throwing a hand fan in the air, it would never land on its side. Hence, the audience would always be blamed for the distraction with whatever lens we view the results.

For the sake of objectivity, the organisers have done well in ensuring not one person decides who wins a day’s matchups. Your Honour, what am I saying in essence? What I’m saying is that the Judges that decided the arguments in this competition are not one, not two. But three. Three Judges. Your Honour, that’s massive! They all cannot get it wrong at the same time. The matchups between Faculties of Agriculture and Forestry and The Social Sciences and Alexandra Brown and Sultan Bello Halls of Residence are the pick of the bunch. They raised the most dusts. One thing that was established in these matchups is that arguments, contents, logic, structure and organisation win debates. Not punchlines, not crowd influence, not ‘hmm’, not humour. All these was clarified with the judgement of our Judges on the night. And shall we because of popular demand remand critical criteria?

To lay my case to bed, let us be reminded of the wit often told to us by the Ashanti people of Ghana: if you are too smart to pay the doctor, you had better be too smart to get ill. If the audience or whoever is too smart to trust the Judges, they had better assume the front seat to score their speakers. After all, the Expressions Debate had the audience as the Judges. For the aggrieved Halls and Faculties, I would advise they grab a bottle Ice-cold Long Throat Pepsi Bottle. That way, their burning fury would be smothered.

CONCLUSION: This column is about you; it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the Judge in this courtroom. You can vote for the scribe whose argument you adJudge better by using the poll option below.
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Did Jaw War Judges get it wrong?