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Melaye messing around in academic gown today with other senators

Dino Melaye’s ABU exploits have nothing on Papa Ray

The did he or did he not graduate from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria story swirling around Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West has caused much hilarity among many Nigerians. After one website claimed that Melaye had not graduated with a degree in Geography as he claimed, a Senate committee summoned the Vice Chancellor who insisted that the senator had graduated in 2000. But the story has refused to be killed off as counter-claims have been made that Melaye’s name was not on the graduating list for that year.

Melaye also posted a video taunting his “enemies” as the issue kicked up a storm on social media.

He is apparently singing that suffering will be the lot of those who are not on his level, but have the nerve to step up to him.

As an ABU alumnus, my opinion on the issue has been sought on several forums. Melaye was after my time at university, but this story brought back memories of another loud, brash and empty vessel that passed through the same hallowed institution with question marks over his alleged graduation.

We called him “Papa Ray” and his story was the stuff of legend. Back in the day, admission into ABU was usually via what they would call “Sixth Form” in the UK or “High School” in 1960s and 1970s Nigeria. It was the School of Basic Studies (SBS) where you were prepared for the Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB) exam. This was like an A Level equivalent.

Papa Ray arrived at Zaria with the rest of us, managed to secure a room at Ribadu Hall like every other male SBS student, but without the administrative formality of actually securing admission into SBS. He attended classes with us and instead registered for the GCE A Level exams unlike the rest of us who would take the IJMB. The curriculum was similar. Three passes at GCE A Level should have been enough to secure him admission to study for a degree, but he failed. However, he was not a guy that was deterred by niceties such as admission requirements.

He tried to be admitted for a degree programme and after five lists of admitted students were published with his name not on any, he wangled to get himself registered at the Political Science department, despite no record of him at the university’s admissions office. He then took six courses in his first year. You needed to pass all six to proceed to the next year. Failing one to three courses meant you re-took the exam in September during the “long vacation” – aka “September Conference”. Failing four courses meant you had to repeat the year. Papa Ray failed all six and was kicked out of the department even though he shouldn’t have been there in the first place!

But he proceeded to the second year regardless. He continued along this path until his final year. Those of us that knew him and his situation suspect his loud mouth got him in trouble. As he sat for one of the papers in his final year exam, security guards came in and dragged him out of the hall. Most people thought he would never be seen again. But they underestimated Papa Ray.

I saw him again hanging around the corridors of Suleiman Hall just before I had graduated and left. Next time I saw him was at NYSC Orientation Camp in Awgu, then in Anambra State. I was like, “this guy is amazing”. You needed your degree certificate to get on the NYSC programme and here was a guy that shouldn’t have even been a student at the camp!

After orientation I never heard or saw him again. When civilian rule returned in 1999, I kept thinking that it wouldn’t surprise me if Papa Ray became a top politrickster – he had all the necessary tools and “qualifications”! The word is that he ended up in the Nigerian Customs Service. Customs officers would give politricksters a run for their money in the crookedness stakes. Papa Ray would be a perfect fit.

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