Dr. Patrick

Juliana Francis

When Mr. Umar, from Katsina State, applied as a security guard to the former Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Dr. Solomon Arase’s house in Edo State, he never bargained that his life and those of his children would change for the better.

At that time, Arase was a commissioner of Police, and when his wife heard that Umar’s 15 years old daughter was heading back to Katsina State to get married to her betrothal, they were nonplussed.

The couple could not comprehend child marriage, but they also understood the importance of culture to different people in a diversified country like Nigeria.

Arase’s wife felt they could do something about the situation. After ruminating on the issue, she called the girl’s betrothal and told him that they could not stop him from marrying the teenager, but they would be grateful if he would allow them to sponsor the girl through school before her marriage.

The young man accepted, and through the Mercy Igbe Arase Foundation, the girl was enrolled in a boarding school. Today, she is in her final year at a university, studying Economics.

The Mercy Igbe Arase Foundation was founded by Solomon in memory of his mom and her desire to assist the less privileged to be educated.

Since the inception of the foundation, at least over 50 students have benefited, and some have decided to share how the foundation made them achieve their dreams and shaped their future.

Dr. Patrick Ifijeh is one of the beneficiaries, he described himself as, “one of the pioneer beneficiaries of the foundation.”

He recalled that it happened 10 years ago, when he saw an advertorial on his school faculty board, calling for an application. He and some other students decided to apply.

Ifijeh said: “After a rigorous screening exercise, I was among the selected few. I have benefited from the foundation a lot. The foundation came when we needed it the most because at that time tuition fees had become so high in our school. Many of us, who were from humble homes, needed money to pay school fees and textbooks. We were grateful and will remain grateful to Dr. Solomon Arase. For those of us who have benefited from it; we are looking at a way to start giving back to society. The foundation made our dreams come true.”

Ifijeh said that life had taught him that there was always room for service to humanity, which was what the foundation represented to him and other beneficiaries.

He added: “What we learned is that Mercy and her son Solomon love education so much. Other well-to-do Nigerians should key into this kind of venture, to help the downtrodden. Instead of going into vices like stealing, cybercrime, youths can explore these sorts of foundations, and they may just be lucky.”

Another person who benefited from the foundation is Dr. Uangbaoje Cyril Ailemen. He said: “We are so grateful to the foundation, and we are hoping to move the foundation from where it is right now, to a global stage. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if not for the foundation. Dr. Solomon Arase was like a father to every one of us, and he guided our paths in academics. My message to the younger generation is that as much as money is good, as much as yahoo brings in quick money and flashy things, life is not all about money. I am a doctor by training, and I have seen a lot of things that have made me humble. There is more to life than yahoo and cultism, moreover, cultism brings short life.”

Dr. Adeyemi Gift, also a beneficiary, remembered hearing about the foundation from a student that had benefited from it. The student urged her to apply, and she did.

“I applied and my GPA was checked, and I merited it. The GPA they needed was between 4.5 and more, but I can’t exactly recall now. I am grateful to the founder, Dr. Arase for his benevolence and his love for education. He is part of our dreams, and the money has gone a long way to help many of us. I know that he is also reaching out and touching the lives of students in secondary schools and polytechnics, not just universities. God will bless him.”

Another beneficiary is Ibrahim Umar. His father is an employee of Solomon, working as his security guard. It was Ibrahim’s elder sister that was rescued from child marriage and is now in her final year at a university, studying Economics.

Ibrahim said: “I shall remain grateful to Dr. Arase because he was the person that took it upon himself to unroll my brother and I, in secondary school. Back then we were not going to school. He is also paying our schools and my sister’s fees at the university.”

Surprisingly also is the testimony of a commissioner of Police, Mr. Idowu Owohunwa, who admitted having benefited from the largess of Solomon Arase, leading to him, his wife, and children going to the UK to study.

He added: “I can say it anywhere; my family and I wouldn’t be where we are today without a Dr. Solomon Arase. How did it happen? In 2007 he pushed me into Chevening Scholarship and recommended me. We were about a thousand plus that applied nationwide and I learned that it was shortlisted only to 100 and eventually only 24 persons were selected, and I was one of them. Some weeks before my leaving for the UK, with no means to do so, Arase gave me money and processed my family’s visa, and we went to the UK. That singular act has changed the fortune of my family. All my children studied there, and my wife rose to become a Ph.D. holder and they are now citizens over there. Dr. Arase sees beyond today.”

The secretary of the Mercy Igbe Arase Foundation, Mr. Joseph Igein, explained that the foundation came into existence in 2012 when it was registered with CAC and since then, it has received many recipients and has over 50 beneficiaries.

He added: “At least 25 are graduates already and if not for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, another eight would have graduated this year. In all, we have 25 students still in school. We have three categories for applicants: the degree holder, the polytechnic, and NCE graduates. The Polytechnic and NCE graduates are new innovations and we extended it to them because it was becoming increasingly difficult to get universities to meet up with our criteria. The process is that we distribute adverts to two local government areas. We distribute adverts, posters, and fliers to churches and mosques. And if people can meet up with the required GPA, they fill out their forms and then they go through the selections process, and their applications must be endorsed by their heads of departments so that we are sure that the applicant is a valid student and then we get to the screening stage, and if the student merits it, it is given. The initiator of this foundation, Arase, is a very hospitable person and he decided to set up the foundation because of his love for education. He did it in memory of his mother, Mercy Igbe Arase, who happened to be a seasoned educator and a schoolteacher.”

Asked about his message to Nigerian youth, Igein replied: “My message to the teaming youth, who have the notion that education does not pay, is that it’s not true! Once someone is educated, it’s for life! And there’s more to life than money. Education gives people peace of mind and confidence, unlike when a person goes into cyber fraud; the person finds it difficult to go into the larger society to interract because he or she still has some inadequacies. Nigerian youths should not give up, irrespective of bad governance. They should embrace education because it will guide them through the paths of life. Education brings confidence and when people have confidence, the sky is their limit.”

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