22-year-old Abijo Oreoluwa graduated with first class from the Department of Business Administration, Babcock University, Ogun State. She had 4.55 CGPA in the 2015/2016 academic session. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she shares her success story
Did you take Business Administration as a choice?
Yes, it was by choice. People asked me why not accounting or economics because to them, business administration sounds basic. But truth is that I won’t study a course that I won’t enjoy. No course is easy; it’s hard work, dedication and commitment that yield excellent results. People tend to be successful in the things they are passionate about. The only way to overcome pitfalls is by being passionate about what one does. I wanted the course and I got it. The course is interesting and widely applicable and that is why many people, regardless of their discipline, go for Master of Business Administration degree. And what does it entail? Business administration focuses on business management and prepares you to work in the world of commerce, which consists of areas like operations, logistics, marketing, economics, human resources and management. A degree in business administration gives the holder a strong academic base and a solid skill set for a career in business or management.
Was there anything about your growing up that influenced your likeness for the course?
My dream as a child was to become a doctor, and it was almost everybody’s dream at that time. As I grew older, I realised I didn’t like science subjects let alone going to the laboratory for practicals. And then I realised at that young age that I enjoyed calculation and writing essays. In secondary school, my favourite subjects were commerce, book-keeping and economics. I had to pick between business administration and economics, and that was a last-minute decision. So, I knew what I was going into and that was why I enjoyed it. When I was admitted to study Business Administration, I also had an offer of admission at the University of Lagos but I just wanted to experience life in a private university having attended a federal secondary school; Queens’ College.
But some students who attend private universities usually complain about the lack of freedom and the other reservations they think adults should enjoy. Didn’t you miss any of that?
Well, I missed the freedom, but I knew it was just for a short period and it wasn’t going to last forever. Some people say we didn’t have the freedom to cook for ourselves; that was actually an advantage. We didn’t have to worry ourselves thinking about what to prepare, because food was served in the cafeteria and so we had more time for our academics. I want to imagine that the thought of what to cook and the time it would take to prepare it would take some time and I know it can be tiring as well. So, when you invest that much time into studying, you must have gained something. And during holidays, I spent most of my time working in organisations. The summer holiday in Babcock was a long one, so I always made use of it productively. Since I started my degree in Babcock, I worked three months every summer holiday, and that was very helpful.
Given its practicality and some of the reasons you’ve mentioned, one would think it would be easy to have first class in the course. Was it?
I won’t say it was easy. You really have to work hard to achieve it. There were loads of work to do, several assignments, plus case studies we had to work on, all of which was time-consuming. Without studying extensively, having a first class would have been impossible. Four of us, all females, graduated with first class. We encouraged one another. During tests and exams, we would always come together to revise and rub minds on difficult subjects. Sometimes, we stayed overnight to study together. So, hard work played a role.
When did you start having first class?
I started having first class in my third year. I almost thought it would be impossible but I was determined. I didn’t enjoy the subjects I took in my 100 level and I wasn’t so focused then, but I started enjoying classes when I was in 200 level and 300 level and my grades kept improving as I was moved to higher levels. I remained focused, worked harder and moved with friends who motivated me. I planned having a first-class, but it was not a do or die; I simply kept it in mind that it was possible. Moving with good friends is very important and I also had roommates who graduated with first class and that motivated me. I also gained a lot while teaching people what I knew and I’m glad I was of help to people. Some of my friends even advised me to start teaching. Students should never give up because failure is not an option. We can achieve anything; we just have to keep pushing. Interestingly, everybody has hurdles and things to overcome in life but it is how we handle those issues that would distinguish us.
Did you have some challenges you had to contend with?
I lost my mum in my first year in the university. It was just like two months after resumption. So I was emotionally down sometimes but I decided the challenge was going to make me stronger than I was before. I also learnt that success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next. But I was also lucky because I had a good family that supported me.
What are your aspirations?
To join the Women in Management, Business and Public Service, known as WIMBIZ, which is a Nigerian non-profit organisation helping to educate and challenge women to maximise their potential and rise up to the work/life challenges they will face. Meanwhile, I would like to work in one of the top consulting firms. Management consultants help businesses improve their performance and grow by solving problems and finding new and better ways of doing things. The consulting sector attracts top-quality graduates with creative and innovative thinking.
Some students still believe that first-class students are people who read all the time. Could you tell us about your reading pattern?
I enjoyed reading in a quiet environment and I read every day, even if it was for one hour. Students should know that it is not until they have free six hours to read; those 30 minutes or one hour help as well. Of course, it was not easy reading every day, but I tried to use the free periods I had wisely. During exam, I always spent my whole day in the library. It was my second home during the period of examination because I would carry all my books there in the morning and return to the hostel in the evening. Nothing good comes easy. I also liked to read in advance because I found that procrastination is one of the reasons people fail. I created my personal reading timetable at the beginning of every semester and I used it as a guide. I also made sure I had good rest.
How did you use your free time?
To be successful in life, I believe you have to network and interact with people; older and younger. I enjoy interacting with people, but some days I think I also enjoyed staying on my own. I enjoyed social gatherings and I made sure I had fun in school and attended almost all events which took place on campus such as shows, dinner, awards night etc. There are other extra-curricular activities one could learn from aside reading. I also enjoyed listening to music and going to the stadium to watch football.
Were there things you did that others didn’t do that could have affected their performance?
I discovered that some students spend most of their time watching movies. I thank God I wasn’t a lover of movies. I also made sure I never missed lectures especially courses that involved calculation. During exams, I was not the first to leave the exam hall because I would use the extra time to cross-check my work thoroughly. I was a very fast writer and always attentive in class. I also made sure I understood the topics taught and I always asked questions if I wasn’t clear. I also had secluded places I read; it was very necessary to avoid distraction. I would leave my hostel in the morning and go to the last floor of the library to read or a classroom that most people would regard as ‘very far’. That helped and I enjoyed reading under the tree because of the fresh air. Also, in my third year, I joined a prayer group in the hostel and that helped a lot.
Given the level of unemployment in Nigeria, does that make you uncomfortable or you have your own plans?
The country’s unemployment rate has risen from 12.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year to 13.3 per cent as of the end of the second quarter. The problem of unemployment in Nigeria cannot be totally resolved but it can be reduced. Even with the level of unemployment in Nigeria, I know people still get good jobs based on merit. Employers need excellent candidates, meaning you have to distinguish yourself from the crowd, which can either be by attaining a professional qualification, having your master’s or even learning a foreign language.
Would you trace your performance to your previous schools?
I was an average student in primary school and I didn’t receive awards. My educational performance improved when I started boarding school in Queens’ College. I met a lot of brilliant people and I had to work really hard. So, I passed the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination in one sitting.
It’s just few months ago since you graduated, what has kept you busy since then?
I have been working since I left school. I have started searching for various employment opportunities I would consider after the National Youth Service Corps programme. It is not too early to start applying for jobs. Also, I’m about starting a professional course. And that is one thing I would have loved to do while I was in school. I think students should take advantage of that.
Would you want to be a business person or you prefer to be a career person?
I would like to focus on my profession and achieve success. Hopefully, I’ll gain experience during the process and learn from people with diverse background. It is however necessary to start early enough. I might also consider starting my own business later.
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