Professor Mary Lar is the wife of the pioneer National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the late Chief Solomon Daushep Lar. Lar who retired from the University of Jos is also a former Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Netherlands. In this interview with MUSA PAM in Jos, where she celebrated her 86th birthday, Mrs Lar said her late husband fought for the unity and peace of Nigeria, and would be unhappy with Nigerian leaders today.
What is your assessment of the current political situation in Nigeria compared with the past?
I know you have knowledge of history and would know that in those days, people who were chosen as leaders were concerned about their citizens. They tried to keep the promises they made to people. So I don’t think it is the same as during my husband’s time. What Baba Lar did was to carry everybody along, whether you were Yoruba, Igbo or whatever. He had people as commissioners who were not of Plateau State. He brought in every single Nigerian. I don’t know what is happening now because Baba fought for the unity, peace and love of this country. My husband was a true Nigerian who had the fear of God, fought for the unity of Nigeria and he embraced all that came his way. If my husband should return to life now he would be sad with the situation in the country today. Nigeria abandoned what is right and keeps doing the wrong things; we are all created in the image of God, our religion and ethnicity will led us to nowhere if we don’t live in love with one another. My husband’s political slogan was emancipation, liberating people from poverty, provision of education and he ran an inclusive government bringing about every all groups together. If Baba is alive today, he would not be happy to see what is happening in Nigeria. The segregation… and he would not be happy to see that the government is not inclusive.
You pioneered nomadic education in Nigeria. What informed your decision to start such a programme?
Well it all started when my husband was the governor of Plateau State, we had great concern. So, we thought about making the government inclusive for citizens, where everyone could be involved. It was our desire for them to feel the impact of government and, one by one, my husband was involving every single ethnic group in the state, including in the area of appointments. We discovered that there are about 50 ethnic groups in Plateau State and it was not easy to rule and please everyone, but he tried as much as possible to involve them in government. So, one day, he was going home from the office and met some children in the rain. He felt bad about that. He stopped and said to them, ‘I will plan something for you because you all are supposed to be in school but look at how you are busy rearing cattle in this rain.’ When he returned home, he discussed that with me and we came up with the idea of nomadic education. Luckily, I was a lecturer at the university at the time and we were able to develop a curriculum for nomadic education. I have spent so many years training people about nomadic education and some of them became doctors, lawyers. In our hospitals here in Plateau State some of them are veterinary doctors, some are in administration and are doing very well.
You have been a teacher throughout your life, and looking at the happenings in the educational sector what do think needs to be done to address the challenges?
I have being a teacher all my adult life and I’m not happy with what is going on in the education sector. I’m very sad as mother that our education sector is collapsing due to insecurity; why are they kidnapping children? Well, I have said that we all know what is wrong. You look at one obvious thing, you spent all efforts to train our young ones and at the end of it there is nothing to show. No job, nothing and people turn into something else. In our days, as soon as you finished schooling, a job was waiting for you. In the university, even before I finished about three different institutions had come requesting me to work with them but I said no… However, nowadays you can see our children just running around, they will get every degree under the sun, they will even get PhD but nothing to do. What is wrong? Is it the education system? Because that education system should be able to teach them something as children that they work and live with but that is not happening. People have been made to feel it is white collar jobs that they need as an educated people. I think something is wrong with the lives of our young ones either in the curriculum or the system because somebody will get degree, masters and PhD which is good but if it did not teach you something, I think that is the most pathetic part.
You talk about your passion for education but as it is now there seems to be an onslaught on education; criminals, bandits make people afraid to take their children to school. What does this portend for the future of the nation?
Secondly, in 2019 there was a report that about 19million children from ages 14-15 were out of school. What is your take on this? This is very, very sad. As a mother and someone that has seen better things seeing this happening is saddening and it needs urgent solution. As I said things would go wrong when people neglect to do good things and turn to wrong thing. There is no amount of cohesion, checks to put our security in order, and most of us choose to neglect God who created us by doing the wrong things. This is unfortunate. During COVID-19 pandemic I had nothing to do, so I started reading my Bible to where I am now. I am in Psalms now because my eyes do not allow me to read more, and when I saw the history of Kings of Israel, I said ‘do we ever have books in our country?’ There should be history of events that each government had done so that successive governments will see what happened and avoid making mistakes, but we continue making mistakes and that is the thing I cannot understand! Because we are here for a purpose and if we don’t do things right we are answerable to God because he is the one that created us.
How about your political journey with your late husband, late Chief Lar?
I think the political journey with Baba is very, very well. He was always busy with people and he equally told them that what my wife is doing as a teacher is very important because she is impacting lives. He appre – ciated what I was doing, helping others to become literate in nomadic education and bringing people, women together in unity from different parts of the country irrespective of religions, tribes and we all worked together and what a joy it was.
You were the first Lady of Plateau State and you have impacted so many lives. What are your experiences about the Nigerian you met and the Nigerian we are currently experiencing?
I am sure all of you know; the Nigeria of the past is not the same as we have now. There is so much hunger, so much suffering and one thing I can say is that truly Nigerians decided to abandon what is right and pick up what is wrong. People don’t care about what they do, so why won’t things go wrong? We need to understand why we are here on earth. We are all made in the image of God. All human beings are made by God and we know that. There is no human being made in the image of God who doesn’t know what is right and wrong. Even young children, if they see right things, know and so also if they see wrong things they know. We need to examine ourselves; are we doing the right things? Instead this one is blaming that one and that one blaming the next person, and nobody is doing the right thing! Truly speaking when I look at how things are going on right now in this country I shed tears because we are doing things recklessly as if we don’t know God, because if we know God we would learn to respect each other whether you’re rich or poor. So, all our religious practices will end in zero if we discriminate against other people.
How do you feel at 86 this year?
It is a joy seeing this p e r i o d and truly, Baba would b e very happy to see that we are doing well up to this moment. I am 86 and honestly God has always remained faithful to me right from my youthful age up till this time. I don’t know why but I still believe that He has a good reason for still keeping me alive. And I always seek to find out what He has for me. I can see what the Lord is doing in my life. The past 86 year have been very eventful years in which I have seen God’s power and how the power has been moving in the world and shaping my life for good. What God has been doing is so marvelous and wonderful. This has been part of my experience in the past 86 years. God, in His mighty power, has seen me through. As a child, I was not supposed to be educated because my parents did not believe in educating female children. They believed that somebody like me should just go ahead and get married but I was eager to go to school. They didn’t understand what it meant for a girl to be educated but I insisted. I had to get my uncles and aunties to prevail on my parents to allow me follow my dream. An uncle paid my school fees. In those days, finding work was not a problem. As soon as you finished your education, work was already waiting for you but nowadays, the situation is not the same. Even with PhD today, you have to suffer. Graduates of today do all sorts of menial jobs to eke out a living. As I grew into maturity, I was happy to marry the man I married. He was so nice and caring that he allowed me to pursue my education up to the peak. I went abroad to study. When I returned, I was to work in an office but I said no, this was not my passion; my interest then was in children. I wanted to impact the lives of people. They were disappointed that I didn’t want do administrative work. I disappointed them by going to classroom to teach. It wasn’t too long before I was made principal. To me, impacting lives was most important. After that, God saw me through till the end of my carrier. I got to the peak. I was full of joy because I, who was not supposed to be educated, became a professor of Education. The Lord is good. I don’t know how He took me through all those years. I worked as a teacher and later as an administrator. I want to say that the experience I had was truly great. It is expected that when you are doing well, some people might not be happy. Sometimes people prefer wrong things to right things. There are those that will accuse you for nothing. For instance, when those in authority thought that I had some knowledge of how to reach out to children, during the UBE programme, they thought that people like us who were trained should be part of it to train others, to be teachers. Then I was asked to present macro teaching on the television and somebody that we finished together saw this and went to the Ministry of Education to say that this woman, we finished together, is just interested in popularity. Some people are not just happy seeing you make progress. This is the life I have seen. I became a pensioner at the end of my career but when I was in my ‘60s, I was still active. So, I went back on contract and I continued to lecture at the University of Jos until I was nearly 70 before I finally retired. It was then I realised what pensioners are going through. I came to the conclusion that is it not better to cancel the idea of pension? For nine months now, I have not received any pension. When I asked them, some would say when we called for verification, you were not around. During those periods, I was outside the country for medical treatment and when I came back, nobody told me there was anything like that. I explained but still there was no sign of anything. I don’t know whether they will ever pay or not. I know of many that died for not being