It was moment of celebration at the council chambers of the Borno State government house when the governor, Kashim Shettima, hosted an indigene, Israel Zakari, who emerged the best candidate at the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exams.
Israel and his mother, Jummai Zakari, were ushered into the council chambers where the governor offered a seat to the young man he called ”King of JAMB”.
Israel scored 364 marks to emerge the best.
Mr Shettima said his attention was drawn to Israel’s achievement by a friend of the boy’s family via a text message.
He said he immediately directed the person to contact the Zakari’s and invited them to visit him in his office in Maiduguri.
According to him, the young man who also did well in his WAEC is an ‘Albert Einstein’ of his time.
He said Israel’s performance has proven to the world that the people of Borno State are ”not known for the Boko Haram conflict alone; but also in academic and scholarly excellence”.
“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 will, there is a way; he has proven to us that adversity should not lock us down; adversity should bring out the best in people. We have to identify with this young man; we have to identify with the boy and his family, fundamentally for two reasons; we must avoid the tyranny of the majority. I am a Kanuri man and a Muslim; this young man, is a Bura-man and a Christian – but above all he is a son of Borno. We must at all times have the generosity of courage and magnanimity to be inclusive.
“I am an advocate of inclusivity, I am an advocate of tolerance and accommodation. This is the fundamental reason we 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 any young man from Borno can be inspired.
“Incidentally the young man has secured an admission into Covenant University and the Borno State Government would want to take full responsibility for his full scholarship. I am in the last lap of my time in office as a governor, so I want to pay the full five years scholarship for him; even though who ever that would succeed 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 five years scholarship include 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 you a cheque of N5 million naira which covers all that he needs to study electrical engineering at the Covenant University till graduation.
“And I want you the mother to make the payment upfront so that this will not be affected by any kind of inflation.
“If not because it is a little bit late, I won’t mind taking him to Harvard or Oxford to pursue his degree; but we will still not lose hope in exploring those opportunities.”
In a voice drenched with emotion, Mrs Zakari thanked the governor and the government of Borno State.
“We are honored and I am honored and so lucky for this kind of benevolence,” she said.
“I did not expect this. We are so thankful and we can’t be happier. What you have just done today is a testimony to the fact that you have keen interest in the capacity development of the young people of Borno people. When you invited us we did not believe this will happen, but you have exceeded our expectation.
“I am product of what Borno State did to me 18 years ago. My parents didn’t have the capacity to fund my education to a federal government college, but the Borno State government did it. And here I am still benefiting from the state today. I am grateful.
“After my graduation, I got admission to study Agricultural Economics at the University of Maiduguri where I graduated with Second class Upper (2.1) in 1999 after which I moved to Lagos to join my husband who was a military man, who unfortunately passed on as a Major and left me with three children of which Israel is the second child.
“And since 2004 up till date, I have been fending for the children as a single mother. This scholarship given to Israel is a big burden that has been lifted off my shoulders, now I am going to be paying school fees for only two children.
“I want to encourage of Borno State to believe in themselves and to know that every average northerner is intelligent. I believe we have the likes of Israel in Borno State; and with what the Borno State governor has done, every other child will be encouraged to work hard and achieve even greater success.”
A quiet and unassuming Israel said he did not envisage coming out as the best candidate in the 2018 JAMB exams.
He said he simply read his books and prepared himself for the examination.
“Honestly I did not read for the exams to emerge the best, but to pass my exams,” he said.
“But when I was mentioned as the best, I simply thanked God even though it surprised me,” he said.
On the scholarship, Israel said he was grateful to the government and his teachers.
“The governor beat my expectation when I set out to come here to meet him. I am really grateful for his kindness,” he said.
He also had a message for other youth.
“I just want them to read their books well, work smart, not hard. They should know that they are not the victims of their circumstance but it is individual decisions that make you who you are.”