Istifanus Dung Gyang, a Senator at the Nigerian Parliament, recently shared his startling childhood experiences – the painful life of a poor rural orphan which could have kept him from attaining his current status.
A smart Christian boy in a remote town of Rawuru, located on the southeast of Jos, the capital of Plateau State, Gyang had a dream to transform the retched life of his family and community which had no electricity, good roads or schools.
But being born in a place where children like him are grounded by the inadequacies of an autocratic government, Gyang was stuck in a world of his own, with his brilliant dreams as his only assets.
His father passed when he was just 10. At the time, Gyang wanted to look good and be happy as his mates according to him, but could not afford food or clothing.
“I couldn’t get to be like others – I couldn’t get to enjoy myself like others,” said Gyang to a group of poor widows and students from his constituency on 6 December in Jos.
“I literally begged for handouts from my wealthy friends to survive,” he said.
“Due to the poverty and hardship I faced, my own classmates would send me to buy bread for them and I will run to do it so as to get a bite.
“There was a time I spent three days without food. I drank hot water for food because there was [hunger] war in my stomach,” Gyang recalled.
Gyang whose education started on scholarship, was nearly thrown out of school by a new military regime which abolished scholarships. But to stay ‘respected’ among his peers, he ‘gave’ himself to fervent studying.
“At the end of our course, I became the best all round student,” said Gyang, “I collected five best prizes and the overall best prize and all of the school stood up clapping for me. I said that’s the kind of respect I’ve been waiting for,” he said.
“As a result of what I passed through in my secondary School, what I decided was to figure out a way to be respected among my peers. I want to be like them but I can’t be like them. What will make all these my friends that are flamboyant to bow and respect me? So I decided to give myself to reading,” Gyang added.
Gyang advised mothers to have faith in their children and support them to grow. “If God could raise me when my father died and my mother became widow, then it means he can raise your children to become leaders,” he said, while cautioning youths against vices that could terminate their dreams.
The Senator announced a N6million ($14,563USD) educational grant to 600 indigent students and another N6million business grant to 300 poor widows. “This is to encourage and support them to rise above their present challenges,” he said.
“I know the hardship many students are facing due to lack of adequate support. Especially those that come from less privileged families. I know in Nigeria especially in Plateau State today. What government gives as scholarship to students is N5000. And I remember the Vice President last two years distributed N10,000 each to some women as business grant. Today we are doubling what the government is giving,” he said.
A widow, Mrs. Rukayya Jibril who confirmed receiving the grant minutes after the announcement described Gyang as a saviour. “I lack words to thank you,” she said, noting the fund will boost her existing business. A student, Bulus Dalyop who also received the educational grant appreciated the Senator’s “magnanimity”.
What the Senator has done is noble, said a former Nigerian Minister, Sarah Ochepe. “I liken it to what the Bible regards as true religion which has to do with caring for the widows and orphans,” she said to newsmen.
“The number of widows and orphans is increasing by the day due to armed attacks in our villages and for the Senator to do this,” said Ochepe.