With a CGPA of 4.59, Morenikeji Oloye graduated with a first class degree from the Department of Accounting, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, the 23-year-old explains why she started taking the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria qualification exams right from her second year.
Looking back, are you happy with the choice you made when choosing Accounting?
I’ve enjoyed the journey to this point, and I look forward to more exciting and fulfilling opportunities that the profession offers. My parents told me I decided to be an accountant from a tender age. I really cannot figure out what influenced my choice back then or what attracted me to the course, but so far, it is not a bad choice. Accounting is life! It keeps you in check; it keeps you disciplined and responsible. It is the backbone of any organisation. The fact that an accountant is an indispensable resource to an entity further deepens my love for the profession. An average accountant is smart and bold. In addition, accounting has a clear career path, and it offers diverse career opportunities. So, I love the choice I made. I usually tease my friends that God called me to be an accountant, and really, He did. I chose Accounting in my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination form, and I thank God I made the merit list.
Is it true you need to love mathematics to excel in Accounting?
I think the notion is true to a reasonable extent. I have always loved mathematics and anything that has to do with calculations. In fact, it was my best subject in secondary school. But then, we have accountants that never really liked mathematics in school and they are doing very well in the field.
How was your first year in school?
I was a ‘JJC’, as we call it. I was a novice and almost believed everything. I tried to fit into the system by attending all tutorials and group discussions because older colleagues put fear in my mind and made it look like I would fail and even have an extra year if I did not attend tutorials. In a way, I think it helped. I also strived to make the best out of my time by maintaining a to-do list. Most of the things I did were ‘programmed’ especially in first semester. I remember OAU welcomed us with a strike on our matriculation day and I cried. I was also very selective and mindful of the friends I had. It is normal for your family and relatives to advise you not to join bad gang and to know the kind of company to keep. So, it influenced my choice of friends in a way.
Did that make it easy for you to have first class?
Sincerely, it was not in my plan to have first class although my parents constantly sang it into my ears to attain that feat. I just wanted to come out in flying colours and make everyone proud. I was very diligent in my studies, no doubt; I did not intentionally miss any lecture. But the goal was just to graduate with a formidable second class upper grade because I considered first class honours as a feat meant for only a set of ‘special’ students. When I had 4.20 GPA in the first semester in my first year, I decided to maintain it. By the end of the second semester in my second year, I had 4.45 CGPA. I can remember vividly a conversation with my mother, which changed my thoughts and ignited a fresh zeal for success in me. She encouraged me to put in my best, and that the highly esteemed first class honours would be just a few grade points away. She said that was her wish for her baby. I tapped into her faith in me, and now, the rest is history.
Apparently, that was when you started having first class?
Yes, after the conversation with my mum – first semester of my third year. That conversation was key. When I was in primary school, I was just above average. In my junior secondary school, I was a little above average, and I participated in the Cowbell Mathematics competition for the junior category. However, in senior secondary school, there was a rapid change in my academic performance. I had competent teachers who moulded me into the lady I am today. Passing my O’level exams was not too difficult for me as I made all my papers and I had a score of 270 in my UTME. I was the overall best graduating student (2010) and I represented the school in various competitions. So, that conversation took me a step higher.
How many of you made first class in your class?
We were 18 out of a class of about 350 students that graduated.
Was there any strategy you deployed that worked for you?
I always wrote down the grades I wanted in the courses for the semester in my diary, and frankly, most of the time, the variations in the actual and expected results were slim. This part of the Holy Bible – Habakkuk 2:2 was and is still my guiding principle. I set smart goals for myself and I devoted my time and other resources to achieving them. I also made it a ritual to attempt at least one past question before the end of the day. Each semester, I got past questions for all my courses and made sure I solved or got solutions to almost all of them from more knowledgeable classmates or senior colleagues before examinations or at most, before the end of the lecture-free week. I had fun in my own way, but I had my priorities. I embraced challenges and saw them as a necessary evil for an important good. Ultimately, I owe my success to God, my parents and the kind of company I kept. Also, I will say self-motivation, doggedness and believing that I can achieve almost anything helped.
You started your ICAN exams while you were still an undergraduate, what informed such a smart move?
I owe that initiative to my mum. As a matter of fact, she practically begged me to register for the first stage of the exams. It was as though she could see something I wasn’t seeing then. After much persuasion, I agreed to register barely one month to the exams, and that was in my second year. I was to write four papers in Accounting Technician Scheme One and God helped me, I passed all of them. I was impressed with my performance, and that was what spurred me on to take the next stage, and the next, till I completed all the papers. Now, I am a chartered accountant and it’s like a backup into a world of possibilities. As a chartered accountant, I always have it at the back of my mind that the type of services I can render to any organisation is not one that will diminish. Thus, with such state of mind, I believe I cannot be idle or unemployed. And that qualification has helped, given the level of unemployment in Nigeria.
How easy was it to combine the ICAN exams with your school work?
It was taxing combining ICAN exams with my real school work because while preparing for ICAN exams, I had to read the study packs, some related Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ materials and some useful books online, and I never really had a holiday. I attended classes during the holidays and God helped me. The exam took a lot from me, in terms of time and other resources. However, I’m glad it eventually paid off.
Did you have time for social events at all?
I only attended the ones I felt were necessary. Sometimes, I love to be on my own. Regardless, I didn’t joke with God, fellowship, my books, lectures, the company I kept in school and I was always in touch with my family. I believe they all contributed to my achievements till date.
Given the number of materials you had to buy, were there times you sacrificed your personal allowance?
Yes, I used my savings to buy some books and materials. I was also very lucky because I was a beneficiary of two scholarships then.
What were the scholarships?
MTN Foundation Scholarship for Science and Technology Students and NNPC/Chevron scholarship.
Some people would think you must have read all the time to win the scholarships and make first class. What was it like?
On the average, I would say I read for like two to three hours. I made sure I answered a past question before sleeping each night. But during examinations, I read for close to eight hours at a stretch during lecture-free week, provided I had food and power supply. My belief is that success requires determination. I remember I once approached a junior colleague to explain a topic to me. I was taking the advanced course while the junior colleague was taking the basic one at that time. I was not too proud to ask for explanations in a topic I didn’t understand or seek for help where needed because really, no man is an island of knowledge.
Do you believe in having mentors?
I strongly believe in it although I didn’t have one in school. I only had role models and demigods that I adored from afar. However, I now understand life better and as a result; I have both mentors and role models. It is important to have a mentor because mentors have crossed the paths you are about to cross. They have gone through what you’re about to go through. So, you can learn from them and the mistakes they made. Who says you have to learn from only your mistakes?
How would you have felt if you didn’t make first class?
I would have been hurt. My final CGPA would have been really close, and I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.
What are your aspirations?
I have some aspirations that even scare me. But I believe if I put in my heart and give my best, I will definitely achieve them. Currently, I’m working towards taking Chartered Financial Analyst examinations and I would like to work in a professional firm of Chartered Accountants – in the audit or advisory division. I have interest in art too – I love to write and draw, but that will be on the side. When I was in school, apart from church activities and my studies, I was also involved in writing and editing articles for people. I helped some people to edit and proofread their project; I did a bit of calligraphy (on certificates).
Were there times your parents rewarded you for your performance?
Yes, and they still do that. My mother buys new wears and dad sometimes monetises his reward or we all celebrate over bottles of drinks and delicious meal.
What do you think students should be doing that they don’t do?
I think students fail because they do not prepare adequately for their exams; they lack motivation; they do not believe in themselves, and they do not set their priorities right. Other reasons may include laziness on their part, wrong association of friends, financial constraint, lack of access to useful educational materials, etc. However, as a student, you should set smart goals for yourself and ensure you work towards achieving them. Also, start preparing for your exams early enough and not when the exam timetable is released. Always associate with people that know better than you do. Don’t be too proud or ashamed to admit that you don’t know something; rather, seek help from those who do. Discover yourself and know what works best for you. Create time to understand your nature. Take for example; Morenikeji prefers reading in the morning to reading at night, and she has realised that she is more effective that way. Some other people might prefer reading at night till the following day, say 10pm till 3am, and it works for them. So basically, just know or gain a mastery of your strength, and identify your weakness. In addition, eat well, feed on what is right for your body and spirit, and maintain a healthy relationship with God.
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