Why Mustapha didn’t ask his parents for money | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News

[The Guardian Nigeria] Why Mustapha didn’t ask his parents for money | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha has said he did not ask his parents for money as a law undergraduate. He stated he paid his way through school because he acquired business skills as a student that enabled him to earn money. While recalling how he became an entrepreneur as a school boy the SGF said he joined other students to grow crops and then organise their sales.

Mr. Mustapha who spoke as a special guest during the Hong Economic Summit, which took place at his alma mater, Government Secondary School (GSS), Hong said that, “All through my university days, I had no need to ask my parents for money because I had become self-sufficient. By the time I was in Part 2 going to Part 3, I had already started work and earning money.”

With profound respect to Mr. Mustapha, his story is incomplete, as he did not reveal the fact that the Federal Government and the various State Governments took care of him and all Nigerian undergraduates at the material time. When Mr. Mustapha read law as an undergraduate at the Ahmadu Bello University (1976-1979) the defunct military government had cancelled the payment of tuition in all tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Hence, he did not pay tuition as an undergraduate. 

Many brilliant undergraduates were given scholarships by state governments, Federal Government and the Commonwealth of Nations. The Soviet Union, Cuba and other socialist countries gave full scholarships to hundreds of young Nigerians from poor homes. It is on record that at no cost to the Federal Government, the Soviet Union trained over 4,000 Nigerian metallurgists for the Ajaokuta Iron and Steel before the collapse of the project. 

Apart from not paying tuition, Mr. Mustapha and other undergraduates were paid bursary by state governments, which was sufficient to take care of campus accommodation and feeding. Even though he did not pay school fees he was also paid bursary when he attended the Nigeria Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos (1979-1980). 

In addition, undergraduates collected loans from the Federal Government under the Students Loan Decree of 1972. Even though, Mr. Mustapha and other graduates of his generation were fully employed upon their graduation, majority of them did not pay back the student loan. The Federal Government was later compelled to abolish the student loan as graduates joined the unemployment market in the 1980s due to gross mismanagement of the national economy and wanton corruption by the civilian and military wings of the ruling class. 

Education was further commercialised when the Ibrahim Babangida military junta imposed the IMF/World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme on the nation in 1986. It is curious to note that the members of the National Assembly who have just passed the Students Loan Bill are not aware of the Nigerian Education Bank Act promulgated in 1993 to make loans available to undergraduate and post graduate students to complete the degree programmes. 

The point that I am struggling to make is that Mr. Boss Mustapha did not ask his parents for money as a law student not because he had acquired business skills that enabled him to earn money. But because he did not pay tuition and was paid bursary by his state government to take care of his accommodation and feeding. Therefore, Mr. Mustapha and members of his generation who were given free education and who are currently running the affairs of the county owe it a duty to allow Nigerian citizens, particularly of poor background, to acquire university education at the expense of the Nigerian State.  Falana is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).