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I never slept without reading what I was taught daily – Babalola, Private Varsity BGS with 5.00 CGPA

Benjamin Babalola, 22, had a perfect score of 5.00 CGPA at the Mountain Top University, Ogun State, to emerge as the overall best student of the institution in the 2018/2019 academic session. He tells TUNDE AJAJA what motivated him as an undergraduate

What fond memories of your growing up do you still have?

Among many other things, I remember seeing my dad dressed in a smart way and leaving for work. I loved the way he looked and I envisioned myself also in a shirt and tie around my neck, adorned with a nice suit and a nice hair-cut someday.

At that time, what profession did you envision?

My dream profession was to become a medical doctor.

When you applied for medicine at the University of Lagos, do you know why you were denied admission?

I was admitted into the University of Lagos Foundation Programme for Medicine and Surgery in 2015. After the final examination, I wasn’t admitted into the Medicine and Surgery programme. Even though I had the requisite point (16/16; 5.0/5.0 CGPA) for admission into the 200-level Direct Entry programme, I was offered Physiology, which I wasn’t ready to settle for. That year, quite a number of candidates scored a perfect point for direct entry into Medicine but UNILAG could not admit all of us alongside those coming in through the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Due to the competitive nature of the programme, some were shortlisted and others were offered different courses while some were advised to re-apply the following year.

Why did you leave UNILAG for Mountain Top University?

I’m someone who believes strongly in the Christian faith. Anytime I hear from God, I have no other option but to obey. I was offered Physiology at UNILAG, and it wasn’t like I didn’t want to attend the school, but I had a series of revelation before and during that time that were connected with my study at the Mountain Top University. So, I had to follow God’s leading that time when things seemed difficult. Looking back now, I see that God had a perfect reason for that.

Did you eventually settle for Biochemistry being a course close to Medicine?

I understood later that my passion for medicine was on the basis of understanding chemical mechanisms responsible for diseases and abnormalities, which I looked forward to proffering solutions to. I recall clearly that after my JUPEB A-levels exams when I thought I would resume at the College of Medicine in UNILAG, I found myself reading Biochemistry and Anatomy textbooks. I found Biochemistry more interesting and I covered quite a number of literature compared to Anatomy. I was also attracted by the understanding that Biochemistry is vast and without the knowledge of it, there will be nothing known as medical diagnosis and treatment; also that successful translation of biochemical research is what engenders advancement in the field of Medicine.

Would you still like to study Medicine?

Yes, preferably, an MD/PhD degree.

Given how much you’ve loved Biochemistry, was 5.0/5.0 CGPA your target score?

It was targeted and backed mainly by hard work. Before I gained admission into Mountain Top University, I had similarly exceptional results at the University of Lagos Foundation Programme. I felt if I could make a perfect score under the JUPEB tensed atmosphere, then nothing would stop me from repeating the feat in my degree programme. The same year I concluded my programme at the University of Lagos, Ayodele Dada Daniel, graduated with a perfect score of 5.0/5.0 in Psychology. He really inspired me and I made up my mind that I must attain same feat.

Was it easy or difficult?

I will not say it was easy, yet, it was not difficult. It was challenging as it required a lot of dedication, discipline, focus, consistency and sacrifice. So, I had minimal time for fun and sleep and I had to guard against distractions. Paying attention to the smallest details and knowing what each lecturer wanted was important to me.

Were there things you did differently from others to make the perfect score?

Honestly, I don’t know because if it’s about attending classes regularly, doing assignments well, seeking information beyond the four walls of the classroom and avoiding distractions as much as possible, other first-class students did the same. However, the factor of connecting with God daily concerning my desire must have given me an edge. But in addition to God’s grace, I would also tie that success to dedication, discipline, diligence, focus, consistency and hard work. For example, I never slept a day without studying what I was taught in class. I started studying before tests or examinations were even announced and I ensured I studied all my lecture notes weekly.

On the average, how many hours did you devote to your studies daily?

On the average, I studied for over eight hours and slept for about three hours daily. When I resumed at Mountain Top University as a Direct Entry student, I really maximised the use of the library and the e-library but over time, that reduced. I recall a time when one of the library attendants told me in my final year that I no longer took my academics seriously because I was no longer frequent at the library, whereas I only needed more time to attend to my research project and other things.

You said you took the UTME thrice. Were you almost discouraged then, especially seeing your mates getting admission?

I was not discouraged. However, the word of God, determination and encouragement from my parents helped a lot that period.

Some students study by teaching others while some go to secluded places to read. What worked for you?

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Both worked for me. I discovered that the more I taught others, the easier it became for me to recall things. While studying in solitary places like my room, the library or some classrooms was really helpful anytime I needed to avoid distractions.

What were your most memorable moments?

After I was awarded the DKO Foundation Scholarship, it really took some financial burden off my parents, and it was a thing of joy. In addition, seeing the results of some students I mentored was gladdening. There were some who made the perfect CGPA in some semesters and some moved from a second class upper to a first class. These were very exciting.

Could you speak more about the scholarship?

I spent three years as a Direct Entry student in the university. The DKO Scholarship catered for my penultimate and final year tuition fees. I was awarded this scholarship on the basis of character, leadership, finance, good recommendation, active involvement in church and extracurricular activities, future career goals and academic merit. Usually, students are subjected to tests and then those who qualify are interviewed. I was subjected to an interview before the final decision was made and I will say it was God’s grace all through.

Have you always been self-driven or were there  times your parents coerced you into studying hard?

Yes, there were times like that. When I was much younger, I was an average student. But my mother got me an after-school lesson teacher and my father would charge myself and my siblings on the importance of academic excellence. They ensured we read and advised us to follow in the footsteps of our elder sister who was the valedictorian in her school. My dad never took kindly to second position; he rewards excellence without delay. In my family, prizes were given annually to the best among us in terms of academic excellence, most morally improved, neatest, and the best with initiative. These motivated me exceedingly.

Would you have felt differently if you didn’t graduate with the perfect score, especially as you had it from the start?

Yes, to an extent, because it was something I aspired to achieve, coupled with the fact that quite a number of people, like my family members, some lecturers and students, had very high expectations of me and were so confident I would graduate with a perfect CGPA. That, I would say, put me on my toes. However, I know that as humans, we could desire something but only God makes things work. But if I didn’t make the perfect score, my praise to God would not have diminished in any way. I praise Him.

Were there people who encouraged you along the way?

Yes, my parents did by giving me certain principles of excellence; my siblings supported by reminding me that nothing is impossible while my lecturers and the DKO Foundation inspired me to strive to maintain excellence. In addition, my mentor, Dr Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, the General Overseer of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, has influenced so many decisions I have taken till date. He is a man of excellence. He graduated with a first class in Microbiology from the University of Lagos. As I mentioned earlier, Ayodele Dada also influenced me.

Were you involved in other school activities?

Yes, in my fourth year, I was the President of the Nigerian Association of Biochemistry Students,  Mountain Top University Chapter and we organised many programmes like medical outreach, which was supported by the university and the Biological Sciences department and that helped me to cultivate team spirit. I was also a member of the university’s Orchestra as the Clarinetist 1, and I functioned as a pianist at some point. Then we were required to interpret scored musical sheets. In addition, I had fun playing strategic games like chess. I also attended social gatherings like the university’s dinner, cocktail parties, departmental get-together and even birthday celebrations. At my leisure, I played chess, practiced my musical instruments, compose some classical or contemporary music and/or read my Bible.

Did you face any challenge in school?

Yes, piloting the affairs of NABS as a new association and ensuring its stability, all in my final year was not an easy task. Also, combining leadership, academics and social activities without lagging behind in any was a tough task and I learnt to be a good manager of resources, which paid off.

Some people believe that being in a relationship as an undergraduate is a distraction, what do you make of that belief?

To an extent, this is true. I once read that the majority of persons who came out top of their classes were not in relationships. I also realised that my mentors were people who were very careful not to get into any relationship, so I decided to follow their path. Dr D K Olukoya will always preach ‘purpose before partner’ and that was what I worked with. That notwithstanding, I had female friends but relationship wasn’t a consideration and I was intentional about it.

What are your aspirations?

I aspire to contribute significantly to the field of Biochemistry and I desire to impart knowledge extensively. For now, I aspire to work with a multinational as it has organised systems that aids self-development and the acquisition of certain life skills. However, in the long term, I intend establishing a world-class research-intensive organisation.

What do you think students should do differently to have excellent results?

They must develop the consciousness that there is nothing impossible to achieve and they must resolve to be focused. Students have to aim for more than what seems possible, only then can they achieve the impossible. Determination, diligence, proper time management, humility, proper study, discipline and prayer are essential ingredients of success generally, academic success inclusive. Meanwhile, I have what I call ‘The Eleven Ancient Wisdom Every Students Should Know’ and these include the fact that early and adequate preparation are key to the door of success; sleep and laziness are intelligent robbers of success and great achievements; success without the right procedure is like a tree without a root; the seed of success in a poorly cultivated mind will not grow; dishonesty is a recipe for academic embarrassment; never blame where you are coming from; rather, focus on where you are heading for. It also includes the fact that you are at a serious risk when you blame others for your failure, meaning you should work on yourself; the bigger the vision, the higher the hurdles; distractions on the road to success might land a person in the pit of failure; it is much better to have few quality relationships than poor quantity relationships; when preparation is done in silence, success is louder; and success comes with persistence, hard work and perseverance. Overall, never neglect having God as number one in the success journey.


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