Ogbuji Vera graduated from Ajayi Crowther University with a first class, having scored 4.70 CGPA from the Department of Biochemistry in the 2014/2015 academic session. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she talks about her experiences as an undergraduate
It is not uncommon for students to do strange things in order to make first class. Did you do any such thing?
The weirdest thing I did was in my third year when I had to go for examination without having a bath. Usually, I started reading at the beginning of the semester; draw a timetable, identify the materials I would need during the semester and plan ahead. But that particular course was very tough. In fact, we had new materials given to us about a week to the exam, so there were many things to read. I didn’t read throughout the night but I couldn’t sleep well because the exam was on my mind, so I was waking up at intervals until I stood from bed in the morning. You could hardly do enough in that course, so every minute counted. It was as if the time I would spend in the bathroom would be a waste and it would affect me, so, I had to forget it. I got to the hall very late and on seeing my face, my lecturer asked if I had a problem, given my bulging eyes because I couldn’t sleep well. But I didn’t care. All that mattered to me at that time was my exam. I finished the exam and ran back home. When the result was released, I had A. You can only imagine how happy I was. And that taught me a lot of things.
What were the things you learnt from that experience?
It further showed me that hard work truly pays. I had to adopt a slogan; work and pray, because I found that when I transferred the same energy to other courses and I involved God, things became easier for me. When I was in primary school, I was usually between 10th and 15th position and my entrance examination result into secondary school was very bad. But it was that bad result that spurred me into action when I got to secondary school. I began scoring A, right from my first year, and I won the outstanding student award every year in my six years in secondary school. Thus, when I took the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, it was very easy for me and I scored 250 in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Hard work is key for any student who desires success. I hated the fact that I once failed and I didn’t want a repeat of that, so I took my academics seriously.
Did you set a specific target when you gained admission to the university?
Yes, I planned from inception that I would want to have 5.00 CGPA. I tried my best but it didn’t work. I made 5.0 GPA in my first semester in first year, and I wasn’t surprised because I worked hard and prayed well too. But when I started having B’s, I felt bad because I knew that anything below A would affect that 5.00 target. Then, seeing B’s in some courses made me cry, but I had to move on. At a point, my level adviser asked me if I really wanted to graduate with a first class, given some of my scores. Although, I felt bad I didn’t make a 5.00 CGPA to emerge as the valedictorian, I’m still grateful to God, more so that I started having first class since my first year. There were times my roommates made jest of me because I would be awake as early as 4am to read. It is one thing to have a plan and it is another thing to be committed to it. I worked hard and I was the only one who had first class in my department. It didn’t come easy though. That is why sometimes when I hear people say it is easier to have first class in private universities than in public universities, I chuckle. Even though I can’t speak for other private universities, as for mine, your first class is definitely a product of your hard work.
With the high expectation you had, how would you have felt if you didn’t have a first class?
I wouldn’t have attended my convocation because I would have been very depressed. I told myself that since I could not get medicine, then I should make a first class in Biochemistry, which is like an integral part of medicine.
So, you settled for Biochemistry when you didn’t get medicine?
Yes, medicine was my preferred course and that cost me two years because I kept trying to get admission but I couldn’t. I also considered travelling but it didn’t work out. My parents wanted me to attend a private university and we were not satisfied with the private universities that offer medicine in Nigeria, so I opted for a course that is akin to medicine; Biochemistry. God knows best. I have no regret because I learnt a lot. Initially, I saw it as an abstract course coupled with some things I had heard about it, but over time, it made much sense. I learnt many things about the human system, like the pivotal role enzymes play in the body, and other body parts like kidney, brain, reproductive system and liver, to mention a few. By the time I was in second year, I had lost interest in medicine. Rather, I enjoyed pharmacology and food biochemistry and I had developed so much interest in food technology and drug production. I also had a lovely experience during my industrial training in a pharmaceutical company, all of which made the course very attractive.
What did you do differently?
I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary, other than putting in so much effort into my work. I knew what worked best for me and I took advantage of it. For example, I wasn’t one to read at night, so I made the best use of daytime, as early as 4am. I studied every day and I didn’t have to wait until exams before I started reading. I read my lecture notes alongside my textbooks. I think all those gave me an edge. I didn’t really use the library because I bought my own textbooks and I had roommates who had like minds, even though I had a reading room in my hostel whenever I wanted to avoid disturbance from friends. So I always studied in the hostel. Sometimes I wished I was involved in the student government, but I never did because it stood as a threat to my goal of having first class.
What did you do in your free time?
Usually, I would stay in my room or go to my friend’s room for a chit-chat or to see movies. I have never been an outgoing person, so the options available to me were limited. Sometimes, I could read motivational and Christian books, but not novels.
What were the memorable moments you had?
Those were the times I spent in the laboratory with my colleagues when we were doing our project. Sometimes, we would be there till about 9pm or more, working on our specimen. We would go for lunch one after the other. Those were interesting times, and expectedly it could be tiring when you don’t get the expected result from an experiment but we encouraged ourselves and we went through it together. Overall, it was a good time.
Were there times your parents rewarded your performance?
Yes, they did. And, my convocation was like no other in my family. Parents are always ready to do as you please anytime you make them proud, so I told them how I wanted the ceremony to go and they obliged me without complaints. My siblings also gave their full support. I was the best graduate in my department, and that made it more colourful. For students who desire excellence, I believe a lot depends on them, because most of the time, we are a product of our decisions. And when a student does not have a goal, he is comfortable with whatever he gets. Even when he keeps getting C, he might not see anything wrong with it. So, having a plan from the start is key.
What have you been doing since you left school and what are your immediate plans?
I’m presently undergoing the National Youth Service Corps programme. I want to further my education, be an entrepreneur in the food industry sometime later and take my teenage sensitisation programme to a greater height. Before I went to the NYSC orientation camp, I ran a sensitisation programme for teenagers in some secondary schools. It was to enlighten them on the need to avoid premarital sex and academic sluggishness. I’m still doing the sensitisation and it’s my little way of giving back to the society.
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