Ayo Iseyemi graduated from the University of Lagos in 2014/2015 with a CGPA of 4.59. The Economics graduate tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo how she was able to graduate with a first class degree
You must have been highly excited when you made a first class or did you feel it was not a big deal?
I have an undying passion for excellence. I had been on a first class grade point average since my first year in University of Lagos. However, there were a lot of challenges that tested my persistence and when I finally graduated with a first class degree, I felt like I had won the crown. I felt like an Olympic marathon runner who won the race. So yes, I was highly excited.
Was it luck that you made a first class or did you work towards it?
If there is such a thing as luck, then it would be as Oprah Winfrey defined it – a preparation meeting opportunity. According to her, if you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky. I believe success is never accidental; it’s always on purpose, even if it comes unexpectedly. It had to be the result of an action we took of which we may have been oblivious to the magnitude of the prospects at the time. I was determined to be excellent from the very start so there was a lot of hard work towards achieving this.
Most fresh students don’t even know what ‘first class’ means when they get into 100 Level, were you one of such people?
Well… yes, I had no idea as a fresher what first class meant. All I wanted was to ace all my papers and to get nothing less than a B grade, at worst. I have this compulsive desire to do my best in whatever task I am given, from washing dishes to passing an exam. So as a fresher, I aimed for the very best, whatever that was called in the university. They say aim for the moon, and even if you miss, you will land among the stars.
Did you also have good grades when you were in secondary school? How was your WASSCE result like?
Yes, I had a very strong academic foundation. Right from elementary through secondary school, I had the most dedicated teachers and the most competitive classmates. I attended Federal Government Girls College in Akure, Ondo State. I was always coming first in my class. I had the best Senior Secondary School Certificate result, and I was also the best graduating student in my set.
Could you tell us why you decided to study Economics?
Yes. Right from my secondary school, Economics had always been my favourite subject. This is because I realised that all our lives, we run up against the brutal truth of economics – as a voter, a wage earner, a business person. Economic forces influence the world we live in and without the proper understanding of economics, the dice are loaded against us. It was imperative for me to have a deep knowledge of it so as to make better, sound decisions about life and the society I live in.
What is your course all about?
The study of economics arose as a result of the problem of scarcity accompanied by the unlimited wants of humans. The question is then how do we distribute efficiently scarce economic resources among different people? It has to do with notions of positive thinking that deals with questions of facts, resolved by reference to analysis and empirical evidence and normative thinking that deals with questions of equity and fairness, resolved by political debate and decisions. It is not an exact science due to the fact that it is not static. It incorporates fields of psychology, arts, philosophy, sociology, accounting, mathematics and science.
Some might feel Economics is one of the easy social science courses, do you feel same way?
Well, there is no ‘easy’ course. They all have their challenges. Studying Economics requires in-depth knowledge of mathematical principles and its various economic applications to real life situations. It requires you to make calculated estimates and projections and decisions based on available data. World economies are becoming a lot dynamic; it requires innovative, novel thinking on the part of the economist. Hence, I wouldn’t pass off the course as easy. In the giant puzzle of disciplines, I think economics has carved a niche for itself.
Was it so easy to make a first class?
I will not say it was easy because nothing worthwhile and sustainable comes easy. I had God, the right motivation, my passion for excellence and a strong academic background. With all that in place, starting off on a first class was a lot less difficult. I would say, setting my priorities right, determination in the face of setbacks and tough situations and most importantly having a close relationship with God made it seem effortless and easy on the outside.
Were you among the ‘triangle’ students who just go from hostel to class to library and back to hostel?
After my first year, I became more of a triangle student, meaning I only moved from hostel to lecture room to church, not library. I seldom visited the library.
How was your social life in school?
Well, I had a bit of a social life in school. I attended shows and went on a few dates. All work and no play make Jane a dull girl. However, there was a limit to it. I was mainly funded by two scholarships, the UNILAG endowment scholarship fund and ACORN scholarship fund that required me to maintain a first class CGPA every session so I had no choice but to be very meticulous with my time. Nevertheless, I believe in rewarding yourself after working hard. I am a – work hard- play hard, kind of person.
Did you have friends who tried to encourage you to party and socialise more?
There was this slogan I saw in Moremi hall in my first day in UNILAG and it said “no cross no crown”. That stuck with me all through my four years in the university. As a UNILAG female student and a fresher, there’s this expectation or fictional pressure that comes with being a ‘UNILAG babe’ and I remember telling myself, I was never going to fit in. But of course, I met and moved with like minds, they made it easier to focus on my goal. There were parties to go to, shows, and enough activities to distract you. I had friends from diverse social circles; I never really belonged to a particular circle. I always managed to distinguish myself and I think my friends were aware and they understood that.
What do you do at the moment?
I concluded my National Youth Service Programme in April this year. I love creative writing, so apart from writing freelance for websites, blogs and magazines and learning how to play the guitar, I’m currently looking for productive job opportunities.
So where do you hope to work?
I would love to work in advertising. I have a passion for creativity. I believe working in advertising will give me the platform to express my creativity and originality combined with the management aspect of it where I can also confidently showcase my expertise.
Was there a time you felt you might not make first class?
Yes. I suffered a setback in my third year. That was when I had my lowest grade point average. I had a 4.4 cumulative grade point average. A lot of unfortunate events occurred that challenged my faith in myself and in God. I had to deal with overcoming doubts and setbacks; I had to choose faith over fear. My decision was all or nothing. I gave it my all every day, because my thinking was that way, even if things didn’t turn out as expected, there would be no regrets. And as it turned out, that worked for me.
What kind of challenges did you have?
I stayed on campus throughout my four years in the university and I had to deal with the distractions that came with being in a typical hostel environment. I had a group of unique roommates in my third year. There were days when there would be no food, no money for textbooks, so I had to borrow textbooks from those who had. I had to go without some basic material things to invest in my education. I didn’t come from a wealthy family so I couldn’t afford to live a luxurious life in school in a way that would have made my goal easier to achieve. These challenges, however, strengthened my endurance and determination to succeed.
What was your most memorable experience in school?
There was always a memorable experience every year in school and that was in my first year, when the Project Fame crew came to perform in UNILAG as part of their tour. That was the singer, Chidinma’s set. They performed at the main auditorium, there were other celebrities in attendance too and I and my friend from Mass Communication department sneaked backstage and pretended to be interviewers. I had never hung out with so many celebrities in my life. It was exciting.
Another memorable event was when I attended Impact Your World youth initiative programme in my second year. That strengthened my resolve for leadership and impact. In my third year, when I was part of the team that launched the expedition 1.0, a youth symposium aimed at building leadership and career skills in Nigeria’s youth. It felt great to be a part of something that meaningful.
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