By Sunday Ani
History was made on Thursday, September 1, 2016, when three girls emerged first, second and third winners of the 13th Mike Okonkwo Annual Essay Competition for Nigerian Secondary Schools, beating all their male counterparts, who participated in the programme.
It was a moment of deep reflection for the male students in Nigeria. Out of the top seven contestants in the competition, girls took the first five positions, consigning their male counterparts to the sixth and seventh positions, respectively. It was a clear vindication of the argument among the womenfolk that what a man can do, a woman can also do and even better.
According to the Chief Examiner of the essay competition, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo of the University of Lagos, the contestants went through two rounds in the competition. The topic for the first round was titled, “The State of the Nation: Redefining Our Values.” Prof. Ezeigbo stated that it was from there that the best seven out of all the contestants were carefully selected for the second round, which topic was, “Adopting and Practising Tolerance as a Core Value in Nigeria.”
Surprisingly, for the first time since the competition started, a female student, Fadilah Saliu Ahmed, all the way from Zamani College Kaduna, Northwest Nigeria, clinched the first position after both rounds, beating all the male students that took part in the competition. She scored 75 percent in the first round and repeated the same score in the second round, held at the headquarters of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) in Lagos.
The girls did not stop at the first position as they went ahead to totally humiliate their male counterparts by occupying second, third and up to the fifth positions, leaving the boys to make do with the sixth and seventh positions.
For emerging the winner, Miss Ahmed was rewarded with a cash prize of N100, 000 in cheque, a plaque and a laptop, while her school also got three complete sets of computers.
The second position went to Adebayo Barakat, who scored 70 percent in the first round and 74 percent in the second round. Miss Barakat came from Roshallom International School in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. She also got a cash prize of N75, 000 in cheque and a plaque, while her school went home with two complete sets of computers.
The third position was clinched by Wuruola Adeoye, who scored 73 percent in the first round and 68 percent in the second round. Miss Adeoye, who came from Fountain Height Secondary School, Lagos, smiled home with a cash prize of N50, 000 and a plaque, while her school also danced away with a complete set of computer.
The winners were presented to the audience who attended the 17th Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture. The presentation of winners of the essay competition and their prizes was the second leg of the annual lecture, which coincidentally had its theme as the title of the first round of the essay competition – “The State of the Nation: Redefining Our Values.”
In her speech, Prof. Ezeigbo congratulated the first prize winner, Miss Ahmed, whom she said wrote with tact, as well as her fellow competitors, whom she also tasked their parents to pay particular attention to their education as they had something great to offer.
She said: “We congratulate the first prize winner, Miss Saliu-Ahmed. She writes with tact and makes significant points in a natural and effortless way. She and her fellow competitors need to be encouraged to hone the critical writing skills they have shown in this competition.”
She equally expressed gratitude to Bishop Mike Okonkwo and the organisers of the programme for giving her the opportunity to play a role in identifying the young women as people with special talents.
The high point of the event was the cutting of birth cake by Bishop Okonkwo, who coincidentally celebrated his 71st birthday on the same day.