Mariam Busari won the Spelling Competition in 2007 and acted as a One Day Governor in the last year of the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Now a qualified Lawyer, Mariam took The Gazelle News.com’s crew back to her experience before, during and after the memorable competition, an initiative of the New Era Foundation founded by former First Lady of Lagos State, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, OON, particularly, her experience during her ‘reign’.
What motivated you into participating in the Spelling Bee competition?
Participating in the Spelling Bee Competition, an initiative of Her Excellency, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu under her New Era Foundation, was a dream come true.
The Spelling Bee competition is a highly regarded and popular contest amongst students and was even an envy of those in private schools. I hoped to one day participate in the contest having followed it religiously over the years after watching the First One Day Governor emerge on TV in 2001.
When did you have the impression that you will win? Was it during the Zonal competition or at the state level?
I prepared for the competition for about 12months, while I was in SSS 2. The competition inspired me to read so many books and dictionaries in search of new words to add to my list of vocabularies and even made me closer to God, because I prayed hard to emerge the winner in the contest. Therefore, I knew I had the chance at winning, because like they say, when opportunity meets preparation, success is almost impossible. So I was very ready for the state level from the zonal stage.
When the competition starts, were you afraid of your rivals?
I wasn’t so afraid. I was quite focused on the goal and prayed for ease, from my observation I noticed stage fright really affected a lot of participants, so I tried not to fidget and responded to the questions as calmly as possible.
When you eventually won, what was your immediate reaction?
I was ecstatic, overwhelmed, truly humbled and grateful for the opportunity. It was a keenly contested competition with several rounds. So to have emerged overall winner meant a lot to me.
What major memories can you relive of your tenure as a One-Day Governor?
My itinerary started from school because I was writing my WAEC Examination. It was such a spectacle for the Governor’s entourage to pick me up from my school, straight to the Round House. Her Excellency insisted that I write my exams, nonetheless that it was Yoruba (which I almost readily gave up, so I could wake up in the State House, which was the usual practice). That incident, really inspired a lot of students in my school, it was an unprecedented occurrence.
After which I attended the State Executive Council meeting alongside my ‘cabinet members’. I equally paid a working visit to the Office of the state Head of Service, state Ministry of Youths and Sports, state Ministry of Education, state Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. I took a road tour of Lagos and in Asiwaju’s style, stopped by to interact with the people in the community and even supported a petty trader with cash donation. My day ended with a dinner with the First Lady at the State House.
After your tenure, and you gained admission into the University, were you treated as a celebrity on campus?
Not at all. Although the competition made many people galvanize towards me, as a past One Day Governor but it didn’t give me any preferential treatment. Rather, I was pressured to excel in school and also took up leadership positions and represented the school at various competitions. What is more significant to me now is to continue to build on the experience that shaped me 15years ago and to reinvest the gestures through mentoring children, young adults and youth engagement. I equally take up alot of volunteering, as a way of giving back to the community and moving it forward.
In what ways have you benefitted from your tenure as a One Day Governor?
I have benefitted immensely well. First, from the exposure to a leadership role at a young age and understanding the dynamics of public service as verifiable tool to contribute meaningfully well to society. This gave me so much confidence to launch my career as a lawyer.
I have worked for about a decade now, both in corporate practice and now in the public sector. It has been so much to behold.
Also, as part of the pecks of the competition, I got the chance to travel to two countries on an Educational Exchange programme to Finland and Sweden, which was an eye-opening experience for me. I was exposed to mentoring and guidance by the then First Lady, Her Excellency, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu who opened her doors to all past winners, encouraging and supporting us through academic and personal life successes.
This really stood out for me, as an exemplary mentorship for which I remain eternally grateful for, as not too many competitions have that embedded in them. I remain indelibly grateful to Mummy Senator Oluremi Tinubu for her vision of the Spelling Bee, tenacity and the discipline with which she nurtured us, despite her status.
She mentored us to be independent and selfless in all our dealings. These have greatly helped sharpened me and so many others who passed her through her tutelage.
Everytime spent with the Tinubus was truly inspirational and life changing. Don’t get me wrong, Her Excellency, doesn’t just give us a pat in the back on the contrary, she is a gentle disciplinarian, a caring mother, a great teacher and philanthropist par excellence. I pray the Almighty continues to uphold and preserve their Excellencies, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Oluremi Tinubu OON and their children for the good that they continue to sow in the lives of many and that their aspirations for a greater Nigeria comes to fruition.
What challenges have being the One Day Governor brought to you?
It’s hard to say I faced any challenge by being One Day Governor, rather I’d say it has pushed me to succeed and strive for excellence in all I do. The feeling that you are now a subject of scrutiny and public pressure has always put me on my toes, not only to be a good ambassador of the initiative but also, to inspire the young ones by succeeding. It made me realize success is achievable regardless of one’s background and socio-economic challenges.
What particular memory still stick in your mind as a One Day Governor?
It would have to be getting to interact with the then Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who under my one day reign acted as a ‘Visitor to the State’ (me) although he graciously vacated his seat.
He took his time to listen to the giant strides of ‘my administration’ in health, education, infrastructure, environment amongst others, after which he commended my brilliance and quick grasp of the activities of government. It was a truly surreal moment for a 16year old student, looking back, the experience more than inspires me to even do more and aspire to contribute to these sectors in my little way considering the significance impacts they have on children, women and the less privileged.
Your message for students.
Stay focused, there is always reward for hard work, consistency and diligence. Push yourself beyond limits, acquire as many skills as you can, particularly digital skills or handiwork. Volunteer, intern and gain experience in diverse areas. Imbibe the culture of selflessness, diligence and honesty. Have mentors and people that you seek true guidance from.
Good grades are important in the labour market, therefore take your academics seriously. Remember, money flows in the direction of value. Making sacrifices truly pays, do not follow just the money, hurriedly gotten wealth doesn’t last, spend your time on the most important things, such as self-development.