BY BOLUWAJI OBAHOPO, LOKOJA
From helping his mother fry and hawk bean cake (akara) at the age of five, to learning how to cut palm fronds for elderly women, axing of wood for sale, and engaging in newspaper selling, the Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Prince Matthew Kolawole, had a dose of difficult early life. If not for providence and resolute determination, it would have been difficult to pull himself out of the shackles of poverty and become a successful person in life. But working hard, believing in himself and confessing himself to riches changed the narrative of his life.
Born on May 5, 1965 and raised in Kabba, the headquarters of Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area of Kogi State, growing up for Matthew Kolawole was rough and challenging. He hustled along with his mother, who had a Herculean task taking care of him and his sibling. He had to assist her by hawking bean cake and also learning how to cut palm fronds which he got paid for. Years after, things got worse, he was at the verge of withdrawing from school. He had to join axing of wood and selling newspapers to sponsor his education. He became a breadwinner at a tender age and sponsored himself through secondary school.
Despite being brilliant, he couldn’t continue his education immediately after leaving secondary school. “People laughed at me, some children questioned and mocked me on their way to school. They laughed at me for engaging in those menial jobs”, he recalled. If not for his wife who, while they were dating, encouraged him to further beyond secondary schools and even supported him with some stipend, tertiary education would have remained an illusion.
Born nearly 53 years ago to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Otitonaiye Kolawole of blessed memory in Gbeleko, Egbeda Ward, Kabba District in Kabba/Bunu Local Government Area of Kogi State, north central Nigeria, Kolawole started his primary education at Ayede-Bunu in 1973 and completed at Aye – Gbede in 1978 before he proceeded to Baptist Secondary Commercial School Iyah-Gbedde in 1987 to obtain his Senior Secondary School Certificate. He later gained admission to study business administration at Kwara State Polytechnic where he had his National Diploma (ND) in 1993, Higher National Diploma (HND) in 1995 and Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in 2004. He did national service in Abuja in 1999 and went straight into business.
Immediately after his NYSC, being somebody who is determined to make it in life and as a sports man and event manager, Kolawole organized a National Tennis Tournament in honour of some prominent personalities among whom are former First Lady, Mrs Stella Obasanjo, and Mrs Titi Atiku Abubakar. This gave him fame and money as a young man.
He also operated a travelling agency while consulting for private organizations, trade unions and government agencies including the National Assembly.
For those who have a normal stroll at school, it took an average of 17 years to complete primary, secondary and tertiary education. But not for Kolawole, who spent 30 years to acquire his own.
But fast forward to 2015, Kolawole had become a family man, a holder of degrees and an entrepreneur with chains of businesses in the hospitality sector. He’s also one of the strong pillars of his community. He dedicated himself vehemently to community development services.
Kolawole vied to represent his constituency in Kogi State House of Assembly three times before he was elected. Once, he was prevailed upon to step down his ambition by political leaders in the area which he did. Representing Kabba/Bunu State constituency, he was first elected by his colleagues as Majority Leader of the House of Assembly, but the resignation of the former Speaker, Umar Imam, in August last year, paved way for him to be elected Speaker.
The Speaker’s numerous contributions to the education development of his area, aside other functions, have earned him endorsement by his constituents to contest for another term come 2019. He’s the first person in the history of the constituency to enjoy such endorsement.
Little wonder that Kolawole’s Education Support Scheme is one of the reasons cited by traditional rulers, opinion moulders, youths and elders of the community who were at hand for the event for the endorsement. The event saw over 350 students across the constituency including non-indigenes benefiting from the N4.5million Education Support Scheme.
Speaking at the occasion, Kolawole commended the people of the constituency for the opportunity given him to serve, urging them to continue to support and remain committed to the administration of the state led by Governor Yahaya Bello.
According to him, it is a vow between himself and God to consistently support the people especially in the area of education considering his love for education and the challenges he went through before he could be educated. He said he was not born with the silver spoon, hence he resorted to menial jobs to raise money for his education while growing up, noting that his parents were not privileged to be rich but he was determined to make it in life.
The Speaker enjoined youths to take their education serious as they are the leaders of today and no longer of tomorrow, stressing that he did not allow the challenges of growing up to weigh him down in pursuing his education. “I left primary school in 1978 but could not continue to secondary school due to lack of resources. When my classmates in primary school left secondary school in 1983, I was only able to complete my own in 1987. I loved education even when the means was not available, and despite my predicaments then, I emerged the overall best student in Oyi local government area in the 1978 session”, he said.
“Going through my résumé shows that it took me 20 solid years before I could complete my secondary education and another 10 years before I could get a degree. Altogether, I spent 30 years to acquire primary, secondary and tertiary education. I’m giving you my background for people to know why I love education. Because I couldn’t afford school fees, I stayed four years after primary school, hawking before I could enter secondary school. I spent 10 years in secondary school before I could enter tertiary institution and another 10 years for my first degree because I had to fend for myself in school. It took me 30 years to complete my primary, secondary and tertiary education.
“I understand the plight of parents at this time considering the economic realities in the country and I have decided to support students as they return to school. The gesture is in line with my promises during electioneering campaigns to re-position the education sector in the area, and my concerted effort designed to support the youths in their academic pursuit. This Educational Support Scheme is aside the regular scholarship scheme that has over 500 beneficiaries across Okunland. It will not stop the annual inter-school competition where winners will also enjoy scholarship. If I don’t support education God will not forgive me. The importance of education cannot be over-emphasized because it is the foundation upon which the future of our youths is built. Our students deserve a solid footing in life no matter the path they desire to tow which makes it imperative to pay particular attention to their education.
Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba are also beneficiaries
For those who have no means to enjoy western education, they, however, benefited from the Speaker’s benevolence in vocational training. Penultimate week, the Speaker enrolled 100 in a computer class and over 200 into the well-equipped vocational training centre in Kabba.
“The beneficiaries of this initiative are carefully selected from all the wards and include non-indigenes from within and outside the state such as Ebiras, Igalas, Hausas, Igbos and Yorubas resident in the constituency as is the case with other programs I have executed. It is my aim to assist the beneficiaries of this initiative get appropriate training and be proficient in vocations of their choice. The skills covered by this initiative include tailoring, barbing, hair dressing, shoe making, computer operation, electrical installation, catering/confectionery, aluminum fabrication, satellite installation and bead stringing”, Kolawole said at the occasion.
He eulogised the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) for their technical support and cooperation that made the initiative a reality, gave kudos to Kabba Development Union (KDU) for availing the facilities in the centre for the training, and promised to support each beneficiary with N2, 000 monthly for transport. “I want to assure the constituents of Kabba/Bunu of my determination and commitment not to rest on my oars in initiating and executing more programs that will positively impact on your lives”, the Speaker added.