Go Back to School; Onilemarun counsels Soliu Mustapha

By Onilemarun AbdulKareem

I read an article by one Lara Ali. I must say that I agree with most of the writer’s submissions. Since Salihu Mustapha emerged on our political scene, I too have been asking similar questions about the real identity of the man. I have even asked those who are older than me and I even found those who grew up with him at one time or the other. My conclusion also is: there is something about this man.
Saliu Mustapha claimed to have been born in 1972. The reason he celebrated his 50th Birthday on 25th September. But we know that he finished at Command secondary school Kaduna in 1992, which would mean that he left secondary school at the age of 20. That’s quite unusual. But what’s even more unusual was that he did not enter Kaduna Polytechnic for his ND until 1999, at the age of 27, when most of his contemporaries would have finished their NYSC. So, one must wonder what he was doing for all of seven years since secondary school? Did it take him all of seven years to make the minimum entry requirements for Ordinary National Diploma? Even then, available records show that he did not complete the ND until 2003. Which means that he spent four years on a two-year ND program and still, he graduated with a PASS grade, which was more or less a ‘Let My People Go’ certificate.
Now, since 2003 that he finished the ND, at the age of 31, what has he been doing? What kind of person will hold an ND (Pass Grade) for all of 19 years and not even attempt a further education, even if part-time? More strangely, we are not even aware of any tangible occupation that would have made it difficult for him to go back to school and try to improve himself. The problem here is not just that this man is badly educated. It all points to some kind of mental laziness. When the Prophet of Islam (SAW) said we should seek knowledge even if as far as China, he knew why.
But we hear rumours that Salihu Mustapha claims to have a degree in Business Administration, but he is yet to produce the certificate. So, we are waiting. We would like to know the university that admitted him with an ND Pass or without the requisite O level qualification, which was the reason he ended up in Kaduna Polytechnic in the first place.
At times, some of his handlers would even argue that education does not matter. Like Senator Oloriegbe has told us, how would education not matter for someone who wants to go to the Senate. I read one nonsensical article recently by one Adedayo Osho, which he titled, “Governance Defy Oratory Prowess: The Salihu Mustapha Scenario.”
While Osho seeks to denigrate the importance of education and even the need for oratory skill in the Senate Chamber, he left his reader confused as to what edge anyone seeking a seat in parliament would have if he cannot intelligently join the debate on the floor and contribute to issues. How will a Senator who can’t sufficiently express himself function in at the plenaries or even in committee meetings? be able to persuade his colleagues to support the interest of his constituency. Unlike the Executive, the only real power of a Senator are his words. It’s probably not so much of a problem if Saliu Mustapha was contesting for Governor. We can question his other capacities but not really public speaking. But for Senate? No. You have to be able to speak and think on your feet.
But we understand their problem. It is like a man who ended up with an ugly wife. He must continue to proclaim that ‘Beauty is nothing but character is needed.’ But the Senate is an open parade. Your inner beauty or good intentions are not enough. You must show it and show it powerfully with the way you speak at plenaries and in committee meetings. Yes, education may not matter if you want to continue to throw money around. You don’t need any sense to do that. But for you to make sense of a 300-page document and defend the position of your constituency on such document, you need education. And that is the one thing our man does not have. Since he has picked up his party’s ticket for Senate, we have not heard him speak in public for one day, neither in Yoruba nor in English. If you cannot speak Yoruba, the language of the majority of the people you seek to represent, then how do you talk to them? If you don’t speak English effectively, the language of the Senate, then how do you speak for your people? You cannot get an aide to do that, can you?
Just today, a public engagement event tagged ‘The Great Debate’ was conveyed by the Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). Everyone had looked forward to hearing from Saliu Mustapha, at least for the first time since he secured the ticket of his party. But Turaki japa! He claimed to be busy with business abroad, although he had been notified about the debate well ahead of time. Already, most of the people who reacted to his absence expressed their disappointment, some even said they felt insulted by his lame excuse. Now, if anyone was ever in doubt, Saliu Mustapha has shown clearly with his absence at today’s debate that the only language he knows how to speak is the language of money, even though nothing is wrong with that if all he wants to do is wear his turbans, run his charity shows and hire people to speak for him. But the Senate? No. That is for people who are educated, who can think and who can talk and make a lot of sense based on experience, insight and knowledge. It is no coincidence that four of six people who have occupied that seat in the past are medical doctors, who are conversant with working extraordinarily long hours in life-and-death situations. If we can’t improve on this record, we certainly must not go for the worse. Agreed, the minimum eligibility criteria for Senate is WASC/SSCE. But if we must make progress, we must establish the difference between eligibility and suitability. Saliu Mustapha may be eligible, but he is certainly not suitable to represent us at the Senate.
Desperate to defend his paymaster’s lack of education, the Osho guy gave the example of another Senator who he claimed did not go to school too. What the hell is wrong with these guys? How can you be justifying your very bad, by arguing that other people are bad too? Besides, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (Yayi) who they now tout as a model for every ill-educated office seeker is a chartered accountant. He also had the added parliamentary experience as a former Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts. Those who now projects Saliu Mustapha as his equal should tell us where this Turaki has worked before.
Turaki may have missed out on the opportunities to go to school for different reasons. But it is never too late. He is still young. At 50, it is not too late. He should borrow a leaf from Ademola Adeleke who went back to school after losing the election. Saliu does not have more money than Adeleke. But Adeleke was made to realise that money was not enough. He listened and went back to school. He came back and contested again. This time, he won. There is a lesson there for our dear Turaki: go and get educated first.
Onilemarun writes from Ilorin.

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