By Sam Otti
Like a firebomb, fury exploded on social media following the N30,000 prize given to Yusuf Ololade Faidat, the 2016 Best Graduating Student of the University of Ilorin (Unilorin). A chorus of protest rang out, as people from different parts of the country described the reward as a beautiful nonsense, when compared with millions of naira given to winners of various vanity fairs.
Yusuf, from the College of Health Sciences, clinched 19 academic prizes to emerge the best graduating student for the 2016 session. For her efforts, she won N20,000 awarded each session by the Senate to the student adjudged to be the best in each faculty. She also got another prize of N10,000, awarded by the Senate to the best student in each department.
Yusuf smiled home with coveted prizes for the best student in the Departments of Behavioural Sciences, Pathology, Community Medicine, Paediatrics and Child Health, Medicine, Ophthalmology, Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Surgery. In fact, she won 10 out of the 12 endowed prizes and scholarships.
Yusuf attributed her success to divine help and perseverance in her studies. Her determination to succeed kept her focused on her studies, where she read studiously for four hours every day.
“As a woman you can become whatever you want to be once you are persistent, irrespective of number of men around you. I read for about four hours every day,” she said.
Few minutes after the university radio, Unilorin 89.3FM, published Yusuf’s story on its website, several commentators, in their posts, blasted the university and the federal government for offering such a miserable reward for scholarly excellence.
Reacting to the post, Aderonke Showie wondered why Nigeria does not encourage academic excellence. “Can you imagine N20,000 for clinching 19 awards? When are we going to start encouraging academic excellence? Project nonsense will give cars and millions of naira for singing other peoples song.”
Another respondent, Oluwa Viktor Chuks Isibor, described the N30,000 cash prize as sad and urged Yusuf not to be discouraged by the poor reward.
“It’s just so sad Nigerians don’t know how to encourage someone educationally! I was expecting like N5m and above for her excellence! What I’m seeing is just 20k, 10k”.
In her reaction, Moreni KG wrote: “When we were growing up they used to tell us that education is the key to success. Now we have that key only to find out that Nigerian government has changed the padlock”.
Similar reaction came from Dexter Jimmy Isaiah, who wondered why multinational companies spend millions of naira in sponsoring ‘noise makers’ when the education systems need a lot of restructuring.
Fatima Bassey blasted the authorities for the poor package, saying, “Oh! What debased society we find ourselves. If she were to be some bleached, whitewash naked shameless impostor, she would have been celebrated. No wonder, our young people no longer study”.
Another respondent, Wilson Chibuike Onoh, said the government has misplaced the priority placed on education. “If she were smoking weed, drinking whisky or jumping up and down in the name of music or getting naked in the name of fashion or some beauty pageantry, I am sure she would have been given an SUV, made an Ambassador or PA by her governor or some multimillion companies and sent abroad with huge sums of wads.”
John Ogbonnaya argued that Nigeria does not encourage anyone. According to him, Yusuf would have been celebrated for her excellent performance if she had travelled to the US or Canada.
Toluwashe Temmy Ayanda said no beauty pageant would accept such a ridiculous reward. “Just imagine, only N30,000 for these ground breaking, laudable achievements. No wonder, many young person dream of either singing or going into the world of make-belief with possible endorsement that comes with it without any contribution to the nation’s development. No beauty pageant winner will be offered this annoying meagre stipend as a reward. So much for the future of this nation!”
However, a more considerate reaction came from Olajubu Oluwatayo, who argued that the academic prizes were endowed by individuals to identify with excellence, and must not be seen as cash gift to the winners.