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Celebrating excellence

By Gambo Dori

IN a week that witnessed many unsavoury happenings, particularly in the surroundings of the National Assembly, one piece of gladdening news was that of the Borno boy who topped the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination ,UTME. The boy, Galadima Israel Zakari, emerged the best student with a score of 364 among the over 1.6million students who sat for the 2018 exam nation-wide, that is annually arranged by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, as a prerequisite for entry into all the Nigerian universities. Coming from Borno State, a place blighted in the last many years by Boko Haram insurgency, it was truly a cause for celebration.

Readers would be aware that in the north-east where Borno State lies at the extreme northern-most end, the Boko Haram terrorists, whose primary grouse was against western education, had been running a scorched-earth, pillaging, campaign against schools in the statesince 2009. The schools were always their first targets, to burn and kill the children, and if there were girls carry them away as trophies. The sordid activities of the terrorists had continued to drag the name of Borno in both the national and international media as a place of war and suicide bombers. Hardly a few days passes without a report or two, on the nefarious activities of the terrorists raiding a community or a suicide bomber creating mayhem in a mosque which is now their favourite target.

I am therefore not surprised that the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, decided to celebrate Galadima’s feat in a robust manner. It was reported that the Governor received Galadima and his mother, Jummai, in the council chambers of the Government House where he proclaimed him, ‘King of Jamb’.He extolled the achievements of the boy whom he said had proved to the world that the people of Borno are ‘not known for Boko Haram conflict alone but also in academic and scholarly excellence’.

The Governor praised the boy’s effort and said,’I am fixating on his achievement because it has also put me particularly in the spotlight. An orphan raised by a single mother, a son of Boko Haram ravaged Borno who triumphed against all odds. He has proven to the world that where there is a will there is a way. He has proven to us that adversity should not lock us down. Adversity should bring the best out of people. We have to identify with this young man. We have to identify with the boy and his family. This the fundamental reason why we have invited the Zakaris so that we can all come together and celebrate this young man who is a symbol of excellence, resilience against all odds so that young men from Borno can be inspired’.

The Governor then showered him with gifts and extended a scholarship award to him to be spent in the university of his choice. He continued,’I am in the last lap of my time in office as a governor, so I want to pay the full scholarship for five years even though who ever that would succeed us will sustain whatever commitment we have made, but I felt that when opportunity beckons like this one should utilise it optimally. So to keep the mind of his mother at rest, we are going to pay the full package of his scholarship now.The full scholarship for five years includes the cost of books, cost of living in the campus, and all other related expenses. While we are giving you the offer letter today, the Commissioner for Higher Education will hand over to you a cheque of N5 million which covers all that will be needed till graduation. And I want you, the mother, to make the payment upfront so that this would not be affected by any kind of inflation’.

It is a fairy tale come true for the boy who had to surmount plenty of difficulties to get to this Olympian height. Earlier Jummai, the mother of the prodigy had related to the Governor that she raised the boy along with his two siblings as a single parent in Lagos. The father who was a Major in the Nigerian Army died in 2004 leaving her with the three children. It was a struggle for the mother eking out a living in Lagos and seeing the children through schools. Apparently her herculean efforts have started paying off.

More celebration of excellence

I  GUESS  there would be more celebrations among the circle of friends of Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma who has recently been elevated to the rank of Professor by the Nasarawa University, Keffi. Barclays has just finished his two very eventful tenures as Chief Executive of the National Institute of Cultural Orientation, NICO. Actually, that is where I ran into him in 2010 when I was briefly posted to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation. The Ministry had quite a handful of agencies but even then one could see that the NICO chief executive stood out not only as a brilliant academic but one who was passionate about what he was doing. The Institute he headed was probably the busiest agency of the Ministry, with one event or the other every passing week.

It was only when I came to be acquainted with his background that I realised that he must have come to NICO very well-groomed for job. Besides his Degrees in theatre arts he had ample opportunity to practice when he joined Rivers State Television where he wrote, acted in, and directed many plays on the stage and on TV. He went to lecture in the Department of Theatre Arts in the University of Port Harcourt where his talents flourished. He combined teaching and writingas well as producing plays. He even ventured to pioneer a community theatre programme in Bayelsa.In due course his talents were spotted and at the turn of the millennium he was appointed the ExecutiveDirector of the Bayelsa State Council of Arts and Culture (BSAC).His tenure of nine years at the BSAC was certainly eventful as he was said to have contributed immensely to its development. He led the State Troupe to perform in many states of the federation and also out to China, United Kingdom, France, and Algeria.

He brought the same passionate energy into NICO when he was appointed its Chief Executive by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2009. He took the Institute to new dizzying heights when he went after ideals that synchronised with the national needs of the moment. One of such was the campaign for the promotion of the Nigerian Dress Culture which he personally spearheaded and used every occasion to remind us to dress in our indigenous garbs. He presented NICO’s memo to the National Council of Culture and Tourism which I recall held in Calabar in 2010 seeking the approval of the government to declare Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as Dress Nigeria Days to boost our identity as a people as well as revive our moribund textile industry.

I was pleasantly surprised that this government gave a listening ear and approved the prayer last year. I could imagine Barclays’ joys when he received the letter that read thus: “The Federal Executive Council(FEC) at its meeting of Wednesday 1st February 2017 has approved Mondays and Wednesdays of every week as Made-in-Nigeria Dress Days as partof measures to uplift the nation’s culture and promote Made-in-Nigeria textile products.”It was a crowning moment of many years of persistent advocacy. So when you walk into a public office – government ministries, agencies, banks, – and find all the staff attired in Nigerian dresses on Mondays and Wednesdays, this is part of the narrative.

Barclays remains probably the busiest playwright around Abuja having many of his plays staged in the universities as well as the French and Korean Cultural Centres. I guess with this elevation we shall see more.

Congratulations Professor.

 


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