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UI Best Graduating Student Explains How He Made 7.0 CGPA

Nkemelu Daniel attained an extraordinary feat at the University of Ibadan recently when he graduated with 7.00/7.00 CGPA from the Department of Computer Science to emerge as the overall best in the 2016/2017 academic session. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, he talks about his success

We learnt you grew up in Ajegunle, an area in Lagos that is largely seen as a slum but with the history of producing great minds. What fond memories of growing up there do you still have?

Growing up in Ajegunle was fun. We lived and schooled with people from different parts of the country. It was enough to teach any child about tolerance and respect for other cultures. The place was always busy, so as a child, you had to adapt to the fast pace with which things took place. It was mentally stimulating.

Would you say growing up in that area (considered as a ghetto) influenced you in any way?

Yes, it did. There are some valuable lessons you learn from the street that would go a long way to help you if you are smart. You would learn not to depend on anyone but to be your brother’s keeper, to fight for yourself, you would learn about aspirations and how anybody can make it, you would learn to stand up for what is right, to envy no one, to celebrate when others are celebrating whether you know them or not and if you get hurt or injured, life goes on. You would also see vices and a bit of violence, it helps you know what is wrong and decide what you want to be.

Several things influence students’ choice of course in the higher institution. What informed your choice of Computer Science?

I got the idea during my fifth year in secondary school; I had always wanted to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering. I visited a friend, Samson Ayinla, and they had this machine (desktop computer) in their house that caught my interest. That was my first time of seeing a computer, so I asked him to help me turn it on when his brothers left the house. (Laughs…). We eventually did and I operated it seamlessly. It was love at first sight. I went home, I couldn’t get my mind off it but since I knew my dad couldn’t afford to buy one at the time, I bought a cardboard paper, drew the keys of the keyboard on it and typed on my imaginary computer. Immediately I left secondary school, I took up a job at 16 and saved money to buy my first computer. On filling my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination form, I had no second choice.

When you entered the university, did you make any decision towards what you wanted to achieve or you simply took one day at a time?

When I gained admission, I consulted lots of people. My seniors were always willing to help. I asked questions, got study materials, sought direction and like the primary school marching song, ‘Good Better Best, I would never rest, until my Good was Better, and my Better Best’, I kept striving until my good work came out as the best.

You had a record 7.00 CGPA. Did you particularly set out to have it or it just happened by luck?

My initial intention as a ‘fresher’ was to do well and hopefully have a first class. However, after the first session, I started having loftier dreams. In the end, I was able to achieve it. Admission into the University of Ibadan is highly competitive; you don’t get in and attempt to ride on luck. You will be lucky to graduate. So, it wasn’t easy to have first class. It required consistency, persistence and excellence, which is a God-given ability.

So, what did you do differently to have that result, because some could think you were always reading?

I was just like every other student. However, I tried to teach as many people as time permitted me to and I also didn’t limit my knowledge to what was taught in class or what we were exposed to. A deeper understanding required broader research, reading related works and comparing them. As regards how much I read, I couldn’t have read throughout. If you only read academic books in school, the purpose of university education would have been defeated. My reading pattern was really dynamic. I had no fixed limit. Sometimes, I could spend days programming or organising events and not open my books. Other times, I would read for an hour before I slept, and I had good sleep, as much as I could get. Sometimes, I spent a huge part of my weekend at the library, but most of the time, when I had to read, I read in my hostel. However, I wanted to be successful all-round, so there was a lot of trade-offs and I think I was more sociable than academic. And when people heard my grade, they had the notion of a bookworm and geeky individual, but they ended up being surprised when they got to know I was politically active; I managed student leaders who emerged victorious at the polls, I organised a successful faculty election and led many successful committees, and I’m fun to be with. Meanwhile, apart from school work, I read lots of foreign and local tech reviews and reports. I also kept up with the progress and success of Nigerians doing great things in technology at places like Andela and CCHub so I often visited the relevant blogs and read other relevant articles on social media.

Does your academic excellence date back to your early years or you got better in the university?

I have always been in the top two of all my classes since childhood. Passing my West African Senior School Certificate Examination and UTME didn’t come very easy. It was really a challenge for students who attended low-cost schools with incomprehensive syllabuses to pass O’Level exams; it was somehow not a level playing ground. I had to prepare extra hard and attend extra lessons. In the end, I made my WASSCE in one sitting, I passed UTME and Post-UTME twice but was admitted the second time. During that one year at home, I took up a diploma course in Computer Engineering from a Computer College and I got admission the following year.

You had ‘A’ in all your courses. What was your lowest score?

I once had 70 and that made me feel bad, but most of my scores were above 85.

You once wrote that you used to fall sick before every exam. What would you attribute that to?

Stress, most likely. There was a lot to do (both academics and extracurricular) with limited time. So, with constant work, I sometimes broke down. Preparing early enough in the semester helped me to pass the exams even if I was sick while writing.

Were there times you almost gave up on that dream to have 7.00 CGPA?

Yes, but I always reminded myself of my intention to make my family proud, my friends and the people I had taught in my eight years of teaching experience.

We learnt you won some awards in school. What were they?

I won several awards. I got about 18 last year. I was awarded as the Student of the Year by the University of Ibadan Students’ Union, Most Outstanding Student in Academic Excellence at the Fifteen Outstanding Persons Awards by Junior Chamber International, Most Outstanding Student, Sultan Bello Hall, Most Versatile Student and Student of the Year, Department of Computer Science, amongst others. And there were times I got several commendations from my lecturers.

Did you also enjoy any scholarship throughout?

I was an Etisalat Merit Scholar and got scholarship award from a group of amazing women called Women Connected By Purpose.

Some students make money from their computer skills even while in school. Did you do that too?

Yes, I did. I’m a full stack web developer. I built a number of software projects that fetched me money. I was careful though, so as not to override my primary aim of doing well in school. People tend to see programming as difficult and it could be hard at the beginning, but like any skill acquisition, it can be acquired with patience, practice and persistence.

Some aspects of computer science are now available as programmes in training centres, more so that what matters to employers is the ability to deliver. Don’t you think this could make some people look down on the course?

To build web and mobile applications, software-as-a-service products or work at a startup requires practical skills as are obtainable at training centres. However, a good understanding of Computer Science and its theoretical underpinnings can be very important in solving problems efficiently. There are lots of concepts taught in Computer Science programmes that you may not run into during coding practice. You learn about computer architecture, the principles behind software systems, study classic algorithms and complexities.. Many people incorrectly believe that career in computer science is all about programming. While it is true that most entry-level jobs after a Bachelor’s degree involve programming, most eventually graduate to other responsibilities such as research, design, coordination, testing, planning and management and so on.

You seem to have deep interest in technology. Would you have loved to meet the founder of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) when he visited Nigeria?

Of course, yes, but I was in Ibadan at that time. I’m certain we will meet in the future by God’s grace, so it’s not a problem.

Expectedly, your parents and siblings would be very happy about your success, what was it like when they heard the news?

They were very excited, they still are. I think that’s the most interesting part for me, people calling them to congratulate them. My mum danced. She was really happy. My dad is always talking about it. He could start up the topic about my adventure in UI five times in a day. We are members of The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries and members of our church are really excited and grateful to God for this success. I want to thank God for His grace upon the life of Pastor Lazarus Muoka, who has been a spiritual father to me and many others.

What can students do to have your kind of result?

Any student aspiring to have such should be willing to win daily. For instance, in a school like the University of Ibadan, all the mini-assignments, problem sets, practicals and lectures have value. Therefore your victory has to be interactive. I always say that people should define what success means to them and give it what it takes. Everyone may not end up as perfect CGPA holders but everyone can excel at something. Be it in leadership, programming, entrepreneurship, public speaking, academics, writing, entertainment, etc.

Source:PUNCH.

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