Information and culture minister Lai Mohammed has recalled how academic prowess, rather than religion or ethnicity, served as the criterion for admission into federal unity schools during his days as a student.
Mr Mohammed made the comments on Saturday in Abuja at a book presentation and 75th birthday celebration of Dr Bamigboye Ogunbiyi.
Mr Ogunbiyi is a renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist from Ilofa, Kwara State who married retired Supreme Court justice Clara Ogunbiyi, who hails from Borno.
Messrs Ogunbiyi and Mohammed are both Alumni of Federal Government College, Keffi, though the former is the senior.
“From the book, we learnt that the celebrant attended Federal Government College (FGC), Keffi and that is why I am not surprised he ended up marrying Justice Clara from Borno.
“In Keffi, we were taught at a very young age that this country is one and the same and that religion, ethnicity and social status do not matter but rather one’s academic prowess,’’ he said.
Mr Mohammed stressed that in his time, only the very best from the 13 Provinces in the North made it to the college and not by any other consideration.
Unlike Mr Mohammed’s acclaimed experience, admission criteria for federal unity schools have been varied to favour weak students in the North.
Admission criteria, nowadays, are often lowered for northern candidates “to encourage northern students to embrace education.”
While the cut off mark for students who sought admission into federal schools in the 2020/2021 was put at an average of 140 points, some students from students in certain northern states were admitted with a cut off of as low as 4 points.
Speaking on the inter-tribal marriage of the celebrant, the minister said the foundation for national unity had been built a long time ago by the nation’s forefathers and what the people needed to do was to sustain it.
Mr Mohammed however noted that some elements in the country were exacerbating ethnic and religious differences to tear the country apart for their selfish reasons.
The minister said the things that unite the country were more and significant than those things that the divisive elements were escalating for disunity.
He implored Nigerians to emulate and revive the ‘Keffi spirit de-emphasising ethnicity, religion and social status and co-exist as Nigerians.’’
Mr Mohammed noted that the school was a leveller where children of peasants mixed freely with the children of the rich, adding that Christian students fasted along with those of them who were Muslims during the Ramadan.