On the 28th of May, 2016, in the euphoria of the democracy day celebrations, something unusual happened at the Jolly Nyame stadium gymnasium, where the Executive Governor, His Excellency, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, resorted to, after a long day of inspecting projects in Zing Local Government Area as part of events to mark his one year in office.
According to the itinerary, there was supposed to be:
- A laptop lottery for Taraba State University students,
- Presentation of the Taraba State Strategic Development Plan,
- Presentation of the Revised Rescue Agenda and Dinner.
However, the departure of the Governor attracted lots of side attractions amidst heavy downpour.
Security personnel had a hectic time controlling the mammoth crowd that surrounded the Governor and his wife as they made to leave the venue. Among the crowd were a number of young men and women all adorned in blue collared T-shirts and face caps to match.
Initially, they were hailing the ‘captain of the rescue mission’, like the Jews did at Jesus’s triumphal entry, but when he left, it was a deja vu kind of a thing, like the same Jews who betrayed him and it seemed as if reality suddenly dawned on them! As this reporter made his way out of the hall, several of these people were cursing and threatening to unleash hell on whoever was responsible for their predicament.
As I observed a little more, I discovered they were students of the Taraba state University, who were suppose to participate in the laptop lottery of that day, which according to them did not hold.
‘We waited since morning without food only to end up without the laptops they promised. We will not agree. It is either they give us our N1000 or the laptop. I am a student and the money can help me to feed’, chorused one of the aggrieved students that night.
It was the issue of the money that prompted this reporter to probe deeper, as one of the students spoken to said they paid the one thousand naira to the student Affairs Division through their ethnic associations as payment for laptop but they ended up disappointed that nobody went home with laptop.
By their reaction on that night, one could conclude that either they were not well informed of what a lottery was all about or that they were simply disappointed that the event did not hold and nobody cared to address them on the reason for the failure of the event. However, further investigation by this reporter, revealed certain things concerning the controversial laptop lottery that has become the talk of the town.
One of the members of the Student’s Representative Assembly (SRA), who preferred anonymity for fear of being victimized, told this reporter that initially, various chairmen of Local Governments called to say laptops would be given to students to mark the democracy day and that N1000 would be paid by the beneficiaries.
He admitted that T-shirts and Face caps were provided which made them confused as they thought the N1000 was for the T-shirts and caps after all. He added that the Chief of Staff, Rebo Usman actually cleared the air that 300 laptops were available and that lottery would be done to select winners.
He further revealed that, the Student Affairs Division said 17 students would benefit which was not to be. Perhaps, the limited number of those to benefit might have also triggered the protest by the students.
Investigation by this reporter has it that 400 students paid the N1000 to participate in the lottery. But the students were still dissatisfied with the whole thing which made them to protest and ask for the refund of their money. The management of the event was rather poor and the conflict might have gained ground due to an information gap which made the students to lose confidence in the event.
Dealing with persons mostly in the prime of their youth needs tact and diplomacy as they can easily interpret the best of intentions in bad light. This may be the true reflection of what happened that day. This reporter spoke with the Taraba state Commissioner of Education, Johannes Jigem on the issue and he said ‘what they did was wrong’, referring to those who managed the lottery.
He said, ‘I want to tell you, they did not channel it through my office, saying they did it through the Ministry of Science and Technology and Student Affairs Division and they are now tarnishing the image of Taraba’.
Efforts to reach the Dean, Students Affairs of the Taraba state University was not successful as one of the staff in the office told me he was not in office and doubted his return till we went to press. Ultimately, this reporter learnt a new date was set for the event, but whether it held or would hold is an issue for another day.