Opeoluwa Fasoro emerged as the best graduate of Redeemers University in the 2015/2016 academic session, with a 4.97 CGPA from Microbiology Department. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, he talks about his success and life as an undergraduate
How would you describe this feat of being the overall best in your set?
It is absolutely indescribable, but I will try to capture my thoughts in a few words; it is a long awaited moment that has finally seen the light of today.
What would you attribute this success to?
God made it possible, coupled with hard work and my growing up. I have parents who are loving and Godly; they brought us up in the way of the Lord from a very young age. They taught us to set goals for ourselves. My mum was the leader of the prayer department in our local church at a time, thus, we were introduced to the solution to man’s problems early enough, and that is prayer. My dad also sacrificed a lot to ensure that we had the best of education. Then, if we asked my dad for a gadget or any other kind of luxury item, we might get a ‘no’ but when we asked him to get us a book, he would go out of his way to get it for us. He is a good man. I also remember that at the end of each year, they would take us for what we called ‘family retreat’ at a location (a hotel or guest house) for a few days. They would then teach us about the power of vision, planning, goal setting, being focused, and of course, prayers. They practically forced us to write down our vision and goals and made us to prepare a dream board for the coming year. Each one of us would be asked to make presentations so as to be accountable to one another. This helped us to prepare for each year and gave us some focus and direction to follow. They showed us the right way and allowed us to choose which path we wanted to follow in line with what we were passionate about. So, these helped greatly. They are a gift to us.
Does it mean you have always had such excellent performance?
I can’t say much about my performance in nursery school, but in primary school, I was an average student. Interestingly, on my graduation from primary school, my class teacher, while rating my performance, said I was on the fence and about to fall off, which meant that I was just average and sometimes below average. However, when I got into secondary school, I encountered Jesus Christ in SS2 and surrendered my life to Him. From that point, I waved failure goodbye. So, in my exams subsequently, my faith in God emboldened me to put in my best, knowing that the yoke of failure was broken completely in my life.
Given your belief, does it mean you saw this coming when you gained admission into the university?
Somehow, I saw it coming. Before I saw my first result, simply through faith in God, I began to see myself as a potential first class graduate. My first year CGPA was 4.98, in my second year I dropped to 4.93, my CGPA in my third year climbed to 4.95 and then finally I graduated with a CGPA of 4.97 to the glory of God. By following Jesus, I learnt from Him the lifestyle of a first class student. At my point of entry into Redeemer’s University four years ago, I asked God a question, “If Jesus Christ were to be a student of your own university, what would be His CGPA?” Of course, the answer was a 5.0! That was what initiated my plans to succeed. My desire to reveal Christ and to be a worthy example to the glory of God brought the idea of being the best and thank God it happened. It didn’t come easy; there were days I went to the examination hall without bathing and there were some nights I didn’t sleep. In fact, most nights in my final year were spent on my chair. That was the place of playing my part by working very hard, and then, when God is in a situation, things will eventually go on smoothly.
To have 4.97 meant that you would have had ‘A’s in most semesters. Could you tell us about it?
Throughout my stay in RUN, God helped me to achieve this. I had ‘B’ in a one-unit course in my first year and ‘C’ in a two-unit course in my second year. Both courses were general studies courses. These were the only courses I did not score ‘A’. Notably, there were many challenges and the most prominent was combining my academic activities with my pursuit of God. Some days, I had to attend several church programmes while I hadn’t read for a test or an assignment. At the beginning, getting that balance was quite difficult, but God helped me.
Were there times you almost gave up on that target to have first class and be the best?
Yes, especially in my second year when my course was changed from Applied Biology and Genetics to Microbiology. I almost gave up but God gave me grace.
Would you have felt bad if you didn’t have first class?
Sincerely, I wouldn’t have bothered much because I believe that the three-digit number we call CGPA is not enough to completely describe a student’s potential. Who you are is beyond a mere number, once you know who God says you are.
Were there people who saw you as too serious with your academics?
Yes, many saw me as anti social, including my parents.
Were you always going to the library?
Interestingly, I rarely stayed in the library for long because I often dozed off there. It was always embarrassing dozing while others were reading, so I preferred borrowing the needed books. Most of my books were also in the pdf format so I would read them from my laptop.
Did you have time for social activities?
If it’s about relating with others, I was quite social in the sense that I had Christian brethren with whom we shared the mutual love of Christ and fellowshipped together. I was however careful not to engage in social activities that would distract me and soil my testimony.
What was your typical day like as an undergraduate?
Usually, I used to start my day by 5am with my morning devotion. I spent at least one hour in God’s presence. I would then leave for lectures and other activities. I tried to read for about two to three hours each day, aside from attending lectures. Later in the evening, I would have my evening devotion for about two hours, usually 5-7pm. This period became a consecrated time for me to be with God.
Some people feel being in a relationship is a distraction. Were you in any?
As a child of God, I made sure that my relationship with the opposite sex was guided by His word and not my feelings, by seeing every lady as my sister. I did not keep any ‘special’ one. I also discovered that teaching ladies one on one had the potential to distract one, so I taught everyone in general groups, avoiding any personal tutorials.
You chose Biology but graduated from Microbiology Department. How did it happen?
I actually chose Applied Biology and Genetics in my first year, but along the line, we were all merged with the Microbiology programme in my second year. My interest in biology began from JSS2 or JSS3 when I solved some questions from a past West African Senior School Certificate Examination paper and got six out of 10. Later on, I met a biology teacher in my school who literally poured biology into my soul. I became passionate about the subject and began to realise its role in helping man appreciate nature as the work of God’s hands. Therefore, it was just natural for me to pursue a passion that God had placed inside me. And the course microbiology turned out to be a good one. Without the knowledge of microbiology, an outbreak could have wiped out the entire human race from the face of the earth. My greatest fascination about the human system is the human genome. I’m particularly intrigued by how these tiny DNA molecules could code for most of the characteristics we see in humans. I see the genetic code as a way for the Creator to leave His signature on His creatures.
What was your reading pattern?
I always ensured my notes were complete so I could understand what I was taught. I also tried to see the interesting thing about each new topic. This was a way of encouraging myself to read them with a sincere desire and avoid cramming. Sadly, teaching in some Nigerian universities is mostly to test your head knowledge. However in RUN, discussions are encouraged between students and lecturers on interesting topics and potential discoveries. As a habit, I read mostly out of my syllabus when the exam was months away. And when exams were near, I would bury myself in my room for weeks reading for almost the whole day.
Were you also reading when you were on holiday?
I read biology because I have a passion for it. It was this passion that made me read during the holiday even when there were no upcoming examinations. Yes, I did a lot of reading during the holidays and also took some online courses from some of the top universities in the world to satisfy my thirst for knowledge in the field of Biology.
Some people feel that the idea of parents rewarding their children for good performance is not a good measure, while others feel otherwise. What was it like for you?
Occasionally they did, however, it was not part of our upbringing to try to achieve something because of a reward. This is why many students excel at the beginning of their academic career but later lose motivation; because there was a reward promised by their parents. My parents encouraged me irrespective of my performance.
What were your most memorable moments?
I had many happy moments in my life, but one that would be memorable was when I experienced the power of God in my life by qualifying for the final selection round of the National Biology Olympiad at Abuja which I won by His grace twice (2011 and 2012). I was eventually chosen as part of the team that represented Nigeria at the International Biology Olympiad, against all odds. One embarrassing moment was in my primary school when I stubbornly and wrongly argued with my class teacher about the definition of ‘matter.’ I insisted matter is when you ask someone, ‘what is the matter?’
Why do you think students fail?
There are several reasons but I would summarise it all by saying they lack knowledge of the key to success. Bible says in Hosea 4:6 that ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’. A student should also never forget the main reason for being in school, but pursue it diligently. A major obstacle to success especially in the university is lack of self control. As I followed Jesus Christ, I had to deny myself of some things and carry my cross. I discovered that it is the same lifestyle any student that wants to excel must have. I spent a lot of time with my books and I also invested time in prayer to ask for understanding. Students should put God first, seek Him with all their heart, and they will never lack any good thing in life, including academic success.
Are you troubled with the rate of unemployment in the country?
Yes I am deeply troubled, as many students will now be released to join the long list of those already waiting for employment. As for me, I have left the unknown future into the hands of a known God. So I believe all will be well.
Where would you like to work?
It would definitely have to be in a university or academic environment as a lecturer or as a researcher at a research institute. I want to be part of a team that will make a major discovery in treatment of diseases plaguing the world. However, I believe a graduate of microbiology should seek further areas of specialisation before looking for a job. This will open more job opportunities.
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