For the first time in the history of Covenant University, a student of the institution graduated with the perfect score – 5.00 CGPA. Motunrayo Ajia, 21, from the Department of Petroleum Engineering made it happen in the 2018/2019 academic session. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she speaks on that achievement and the things that made it possible
It’s the first time Covenant University would produce a graduate with 5.00 CGPA, did you plan from the outset to achieve that?
I would say no. What I wanted was a first-class grade. Interestingly, my friend used to pray for a 5.00 CGPA and I used to think that if I did, I might be asking for too much. But, when I had 5.00 GPA in my first semester, I was extremely surprised – more like when you put in your best and you simply hope for the best – and of course, I was happy. However, I would admit that when my brother’s friend, Victor Ubong, who had only one ‘B’ throughout his stay in school told me his story, I was inspired to surpass that. From that first semester, I kept scoring 5.00 GPA and after my first four semesters, he said someday that I could be the best graduating student if I continued with that performance. When he said it, I knew it was possible and at that point, it became my target and I simply worked towards it. I thank God it became a reality. The number of calls and messages I have received has been overwhelming. I will like to use this platform to say thank you to everyone.
Since you started with the perfect score, meaning that you had ‘A’ in all your courses, did it make the subsequent semesters easier?
It wasn’t so easy, especially when I started getting the grade back to back; the pressure was much and I thought I was going to slip from that perfect score, but thank God I didn’t.
Were there times you almost gave up due to the pressure?
Yes, of course. There were times like that but my parents, siblings and friends were always there. In fact, during my final year, I cried to my friends a couple of times due to the enormous pressure but they encouraged me not to give up.
How would you have felt if you didn’t finish with 5.00 CGPA or emerge as the overall best in your set?
Oh! I would have been sad. I had come so far for me to lose that reward. I mean, having perfect results back to back, only to drop in the final semester? That would have been sad and I thank God it didn’t happen.
Some people would assume that you must have spent all your free time reading to have that kind of result, was that the case?
(Laughs) I understand some people tend to assume that, but I simply tried to read in my free time. So, it wasn’t all the time. I saw movies too and there were times that all I wanted was to have casual conversations with my friends; I wasn’t the type who loved to go out, so I would rather stay in my room and enjoy the comfort of my bed. I think it would also interest you to know that I didn’t have a defined reading schedule. If I didn’t understand what was taught in class, I would read it as soon as I could and I wouldn’t give up until I understood it very well. When I felt like lazying around, my friend, Onas, was there to encourage me to continue reading. And once I felt tired, I would sleep. It was as simple as that. I love to have my deserved rest. So, I read well and I slept well. I believe it’s good to have a balance. I remember that in my second year, my roommate wrote a prayer request to have grace like me, seeing that I spent quality time in the library and still slept well.
Were there things you would have loved to do that you could not do because of your studies?
I think I would have loved to do more voluntary work and go for more programmes and conferences, but I couldn’t, not really due to my studies but because of the school factor.
Have you always wanted to be an engineer?
No, I wanted to be in the medical field. Specifically, for a long time, I wanted to be a paediatrician. I have the natural drive to help people but I couldn’t go for any course in that line because I realised I couldn’t bear to see people in so much pain. So, I had to go for something else, and that was where the attraction for petroleum engineering stemmed from. I could have considered biochemistry because I have always loved biology and chemistry, but I was quite sure I would get this course, especially as there is no medicine in CU yet. It was really the only other course I felt at home with, and I believe being in that field will avail me the funds to help people, especially children.
I saw on your LinkedIn page that you were an intern at Exxon Mobil, Addax and Shippers Council. What kind of experience did you have in all those companies?
Yes, I was an intern at Shippers Council because I had some free time, so I decided to use it to learn new things, and thankfully I was able to learn some administrative skills. The summer break in my third year was when I was at Addax and that was my first real industry experience. I worked at the drilling department and I was overjoyed because I learnt so much from everyone, especially my supervisor, Mr Ugo. I was at Exxon Mobil for my internship. It had always been my dream to work there, so you could easily imagine the joy I had when I got a call from them. I worked in the Asset unit and it was a great experience. I learnt so much. They got me involved in a lot of things such that I felt like I was becoming an employee there (laughs). It was truly amazing. The team was very friendly and I appreciate them, including my mentor, Mr Tomi, and my supervisor, Mr Wale. I had my seat right in front of my manager so that also kept me on my toes. You know how it feels when you sit in front of your boss (laughs).
Some people say there are variations between what they were taught in school and what they experience on the field, was that the case for you too?
No, not variations; the industry experience offers a better grasp of things. The practical experience helps you to understand things better. It’s like you have been learning in bits and pieces and the industry experience is the glue that gives you the full picture. That’s the way I would describe it. However, I believe we can do better than what we’re doing now. Imagine a situation where some students still learn to code in FORTRAN in this modern day when we have Python and other languages.
There are many professionals in the oil industry, including geologists, geophysicists, mining engineers, chemical engineers, industrial chemists, etc., what is the work of the petroleum engineer, for the benefit of students who may want to consider it?
Petroleum engineering deals with the exploration and production of hydrocarbons; crude oil and gas. We work in the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry. Also, the petroleum engineer can be a drilling engineer, production engineer or a reservoir engineer. We have lots of options as we took a wide range of courses and we covered a lot of topics
What part of your course did you enjoy the most?
Reservoir engineering, due mainly to how well the lecturer, Mr Mosobalaje, taught us. He left us wanting more after each class.
Given your sterling performance all through, were there times your parents rewarded you for good performance?
Yes, I got gifts from them from time to time. Anytime they could afford to give me something, they did. They are proud of me and they are the best people I know.
What were your most memorable moments in school?
The saddest moment I had would be the death of my friend. It affected me; I was in shock for a while. On the other hand, I had many happy moments, including the day of my convocation.
Overall, what would you say was responsible for your excellence?
God’s favour, good genes (laughs), a great support system, hard work and commitment. I think it is worthy of note that we are all different and everyone has their time to shine. My advice to students is ‘bide your time to know yourself; your journey can begin early or late, but it is still valid. It is still a journey. Enjoy the process while you figure out who you are. As I said, we are not all the same.
Some people would even think you are a genius.
A genius? No, I’m not (laughs). I believe I assimilate quickly and I rest well, in addition to the points I mentioned above. For example, at my leisure, I could see movies or just play with my friends. While at home, I spent my free time with my family, maybe going on vacation or reading novels. I believe one needs to live a balanced life, and not read all the time.
What are the other interests you have?
Voluntary work with kids and now I like learning about machines and tourism.
Where would you like to work?
I would like to work with the best minds; I don’t want to limit myself but the likes of Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell have caught my eyes. I would like to remain close to the energy industry for a while but I have also taken some interest in Machine learning and Data Science. So, like many people, I would like to work in Google; don’t bother to ask me how (laughs). I want to get to the top in whatever industry I’m in but I also feel I will be fulfilled if I am actively part of an NGO helping women and children. I believe in equal rights and in Nigeria, that is something we are still battling. And I want to say hello to STER, WARIF and other beautiful foundations that are impacting lives positively.
Some people feel being in a relationship in school could be a distraction. Did you have any or did you see it as a distraction?
I am currently in a relationship that started in my third year. I don’t think it’s a distraction if your partner understands you and supports your dream. It’s rather a driver, to be honest. We both support each other, nothing toxic, no tearing down.
You mentioned that the counsel of your mother helped, could you expatiate on that?
My mother is always quick to remind me of who I am. I have always scored an ‘A’ since my primary school days because she would always remind you of who you are. ‘A star’, she would always call me. She is so hard-working and she is an inspiration to everyone around her. My dad is equally supportive and he believes in rewarding good deeds and giving words of encouragement. He’s a genius and so that trait runs in the family.
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