OPINION: Mairo Mustapha: 71 cheers to a cheerful daughter of Ilorin. By Abubakar Imam
Since I took writing on Ilorin Emirate and most especially the celebration of its eminent sons and daughters upon myself through periodic pieces on their milestones, the genre and the author have received various forms of attention and criticism. While a few of my compatriots erroneously believed that it is an attempt at securing one favour or the other,some others see it as "a pure waste of precious time". It is,however,a pleasure to acknowledge that many accomplished personalities from different divides regard it for what it is;an attempt at telling the rest of the world that the people of Ilorin Emirate also have those who are truly distinguished.
What particularly keeps the genre going is its appreciation by distinguished elders of our community who often took time to salute the effort and the obvious reasons behind it. Several outstanding men and women of Ilorin Emirate have appreciated the efforts through commendations as they believed that it was an avenue for members of the "Soroke" generations to know more about those who did what and for what purposes in the past for "the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain".Those who attended the pre-conference interactive session between the ex- National Presidents of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and members of the current National Executive Council of the Union, which held on Wednesday, December 23,2020 at the Union's Secretariat and the working session of the 55th annual National Conference of the Union at the headquarters of the Ilorin West Local Government Council on Saturday, December 26,2020 would agree with me that the enterprise is not an effort in futility going by the positive comments it attracted from the Danmadani of Ilorin and a technocrat per excellence, Alhaji Shehu AbdulGafar,OON(b. 1939) and the tireless "Cultural Engineer" and author of the popular "Ilorin: The Journey So far",Alhaji L. A. K. Jimoh(b. 1940).I hope that one day I would have the opportunity of explaining why I decided to make writing on Ilorin and its people a pastime.
It is because of the above that this piece is dedicated to the celebration of Alhaja Mairo Eyitayo Mustapha on her 71st birthday anniversary. This birthday girl is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished daughters of Ilorin Emirate who made her name in sports and broadcasting and who deserves being emulated by the younger generations of our womenfolk for several reasons.
Alhaja Mustapha, a seasoned broadcaster, foremost athlete,soccer enthusiast and distinguished community leader, was born to the popular Onimago family of Kudimo Street in the city of Ilorin on December 28,1949.Her father was that renowned police officer, Alhaji Jinadu Onimago,a contemporary to the 2nd indigenous Inspector- General of Police, Alhaji Kam Salem. Her father was one of the security aides to the first and only Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,Alhaji(Sir)Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa(1912-1966).
Young Mairo, just like other Ilorin children of her age, studied the Holy Quran,the Muslim holy book,in preparation for a life of piety in the services of Allah and humanity. As soon as she attained the age of 8 in 1957,she was enrolled as a pupil of the famous St. Anne's Primary School,Kakuri,Kaduna,from where she received her First School Leaving Certificate in 1963.
For her post-primary education, she was trained at the Queen of Apostles College,also in Kakuri, Kaduna,from 1963 to 1967.It was at that missionary school that she received her West African School Certificate in flying colours.
In order to broaden her journalistic skills and worldview as well as equipped herself with the qualification she would require to attain the pinnacle of her career, this renowned broadcaster enrolled for, pursued and earned the Bachelor's of Science degree in Social Science from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She was trained at the famous institution of higher learning between 1972 and 1975.
This illustrious daughter of Ilorin Emirate started her glorious career in broadcasting as a Duty Continuity Announcer at the erstwhile Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN), kaduna, in 1969.She was at the once nationally reputable media outfit,where her journalistic talents were harnessed and sharpened for three years,which accounted for her eventual emergence as a lioness of the broadcast industry.
In 1972,Alhaja Mustapha transferred her services to the public service of Kwara State. She joined the State Ministry of Information and Home Affairs as an Information Officer. It was pure patriotism that pushed her to come down to her state of origin so that she could join hands with others to build the State.
In 1979,she was redeployed from the Kwara State Ministry of Information and Home Affairs to the Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation, otherwise called Radio Kwara,which she joined as a Senior Producer. She became the Head of the Programme Unit of the Corporation in 1980.In 1982,she was elevated to the rank of the Principal Producer and to the status of Controller of Programmes in 1985.
This distinguished lady served as the General Manager of Radio Kwara,Ilorin, between 1999 and 2000.In view of her fascinating leadership and outstanding professionalism,Alhaja Mustapha was appointed as the Director-General of Radio and Kwara Television Services in the year 2000 by the administration of the late Admiral Muhammad Alabi Lawal,MBA,mni(1946-2006),who served as the Executive Governor of Kwara State between 1999 and 2003.Alhaja Mustapha competently held the office till the year 2003.Her sterling performances at Radio Kwara had encouraged the then Kwara State Government to put the State Television under the same management so that the two stations could be given adequate management in order to ensure that the essence of their establishment were realised without necessarily raising the cost of doing so.
In 2006,Alhaja Mustapha joined the National Orientation Agency(NOA)as the Chief Programme Officer. She served in that capacity till 2009 when she gloriously bowed out of the public service upon her attainment of the age of 60.
While in active service, Alhaja Mustapha took advantage of many opportunities to improve her professional and technical capacities. She attended no fewer than 10 high-level training courses in journalism and management at home and abroad. Those trainings, no doubt, broaden her professional wherewithal and administrative dexterity to the extent that she was never found wanting throughout her glorious career at the Federal, Regional and State levels.
This amiable woman has been a foundation Board Member and Chairperson of the Programme Committee of the popular Sobi 101.9 FM,Ilorin, since its establishment.The impact of her deep training and profound professional backgrounds is reflecting adequately on the high quality programmes with which the station has been dominating the broadcast media space of Kwara State since its establishment by his stepson, Mallam Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha(b. 1969).
Alhaja Mustapha was, in her younger days , a great sportswoman with national and international reputations. She, in fact, represented Nigeria at several international sporting fiesta. She wore the nation's colour at the 1968 Olympics hosted by Mexico. She had earlier done Nigeria quite proud at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica in 1966.Her glowing sporting talents brought her the fraternity of the first and only Premier of the erstwhile Northern Region,Sir Ahmadu Bello,GCON (1909-1966).Aside those international representations,this veteran broadcaster also participated in many National Universities Games while she was undergoing her degree programme at which she won so many laurels for the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Alhaja Mustapha has secured a special place for herself in the annals of her community, state and nation. She was the first female athlete who represented Nigeria at international fiesta. She is also one of the first set of female indigenes of Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State who took-up broadcasting and indeed journalism as a career. Alhaja Mustapha is also the first and only female who served as the substantive General Manager of the Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation and as the Director-General of the Radio and Kwara State Television Services,Ilorin.
The numerous selfless services of this illustrious daughter of Ilorin Emirate towards the progress and development of humanity have not gone unrewarded. She is a proud recipient of so many honours and awards from several communities and agencies in recognition of her distinguished contributions to community and national development over the years.
Alhaja Mustapha is happily married. Her husband is that distinguished elder statesman,third National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and Wali of Ilorin, Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha(b. 1930),who also served as the Honourable Commissioner for Finance in the first democratically elected government of Kwara State. The marriage is blessed with many children who are doing very well at home and abroad.
On behalf of the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union(IEDPU),Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi,I sincerely felicitate with this glamorous daughter of Ilorin Emirate on her birthday as I wish her many more years of sound health and qualitative services to Allah and humanity.
Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.