Tell us about yourself
My name is Chijioke Ukomadu, and I am a graduate of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. My friends call me CJ. I grew up and live in Abuja, but I’m originally from Abia State. I will be turning 22 in July.
I think of myself as purpose-driven, steadfast, and focused. I enjoy reading, cooking, and making new friends. I also enjoy learning new things, because I find it interesting to be faced with a totally new fact or idea which I didn’t know before.
What is your educational background?
I recently graduated from Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, where I received a degree in Law (LL.B). Prior to that, I had schooled in Abuja, where I received my West African Secondary School Certificate. I must say, when it comes to education, I have always been a go-getter; I have always had an interest in striving for new knowledge, and in being the very best version of myself I can be. I am a naturally curious person, and this curiosity has helped me thrive academically.
You graduated with a first class, in addition to other laudable achievements, how does that make you feel?
I feel so many things as a result of my great results, but I think the best word to capture my emotions is ‘gratitude’. I am quite grateful to God, for my achievements and for those yet to come. He guides my steps and I will continue to give thanks to Him for His grace.
I also feel excited about what the future holds for me. A lot is usually expected from First Class graduates and I am excited for myself and the circles in which I will work, because I am certain that having good grades is only the beginning of my achievements.
Did you deliberately set out to graduate with a first class from the onset?
This might come as a surprise to many, but at first, I actually didn’t set out to graduate with a First Class. I know for sure that many persons come into the university and declare in their hearts from the first day that they want to graduate with nothing less than a First Class. I wasn’t in that category.
To be honest, I did not even start out so well. My first GPA was quite average at best. I resumed really late and at that point, I simply didn’t want any carry-overs.
Things changed in my second year when my results came out and I realized it was actually possible to make a First Class, so I pursued it, and here we are.
Who or what motivated you the most in school and why?
Motivation comes in different forms. For me, one of my strongest sources of motivation was my father. He believed in my capacity from the start, and knew I was ‘First Class material’ even when I only wanted to graduate at the same time with my mates. He always encouraged me to do better and to strive for more.
With such strong support, it is difficult not to be motivated to do well. Of course, my sweet mother and my siblings also played a large role. I have a brother who equally graduated with a First Class (in Economics), and he is such an inspiration to me because even though he is younger than I am, he motivated me with his consistency, and I appreciate him.
My friends were also really motivating to me. I don’t think I can ask for better friends than I have right now. The motivation came from so many different angles; it was hard not to wake up every morning with a sense of purpose.
What factor would you say contributed to your success?
The most important factor was definitely my intention to succeed. As they would say, though, in a different context, the heart wants what it wants. Having a clear intention to succeed goes a long way in the story of anyone who becomes successful. I was intentional about succeeding, so I worked towards it.
I also had an enabling environment to succeed. I have a very supportive family, wonderful friends, and great mentors, all of who contributed so much to my success. A person will always find it easier to succeed when those around him try to make it possible, and for this, I don’t take anyone who has contributed to my success for granted.
What was your social life like and how would you say it influenced your performance?
My social life was awesome for most of my time in school, and even outside school. I don’t always have my nose to a book. I love socializing and meeting new people, so my social life was as vibrant as it could be. I always love a good party, and I cherish fun moments, because those are the moments we remember more often.
Having a social life brings about a balance in life. If I was buried in a book 24/7, then I would have no friends and no real memories. Also, I believe a great social life helped me cool down and relax when the academics became stressful.
Apart from the good grades you amassed, what life skills did you acquire in school?
I acquired networking skills. I think it’s very important to spread your wings as far as you can, and what better way to do this than by creating a valuable network with people. Having good grades will get you into new spaces, but having the ability to network will definitely make your job easier.
I also acquired inter-personal skills such as communication skills, and the ability to be tolerant to others. This is the 21st Century, and we must learn to be tolerant of one another’s beliefs.
One of the most important skills I acquired is the skill of leadership. While in school, I served in many leadership capacities, including being the President of ABUAD’s Law Students Society. It was a privilege serving as a student-leader, and even though it had its challenges, I learned so much from the experience.
What are your career goals? How will your academic achievements help you achieve these goals?
My career goals are simple but massive; I plan on becoming a globally recognised lawyer. I have always had a passion for the Law, and I have a goal to become a lawyer who is part of a space that provides valuable solutions across the globe. It is always amazing to see lawyers who drive change, not only in their home countries but in other nations.
I also have plans of becoming a leader. A lot of people look away from leadership positions in Nigeria because of the bad name it has been given by those who have been in power. I, on the other hand, view it differently. Anyone who wants to make a lasting difference in this country must look toward governance because bad leadership has been the bane of Nigeria.
What do you think are the loopholes in the Nigerian education system responsible for the churning out of half-baked graduates from our tertiary institutions annually?
I could write a book on this topic, but I’ll keep it brief for the sake of the interview.
The Nigerian system of education is marred with so many loopholes, many of which have been left unaddressed for years and have festered. First of all, the system is not very student-friendly. I hate to compare, but in other climes, the educational system works to make sure students have what they need to succeed; the Nigerian educational system makes very little effort at this.
The issue of strikes in public universities is also something we cannot ignore. Students stay seven years in school studying a four years course, out of no fault of theirs, but because the staff embark on endless strikes. Surely, many people who are made to suffer such dragging in the name of education will come out ‘half-baked’ as you call it.
I think it is important that our curriculum be updated to meet up with current advancement in educational standards in comparison with our international counterparts. Also, we need to inculcate more practicality into our syllabus and the entire learning system.
Most importantly, there is a need to ensure that students are provided with conducive learning environment that aids their learning process. The welfare of learners should be paramount and necessary structures need to be put in place to achieve this.
What solutions would you proffer to the aforementioned challenges?
The Nigerian government must become more intentional about improving the system. Last year, the country allocated a measly sum of 5 Billion Naira to education (about 5.6% of the budget). No country with so little regard for education will succeed. We must all hold the government accountable for the improvement of our educational system.
Also, the universities must do what they can to create a more enabling environment, a student-friendly environment, if you will.
What advice would you give to other students, especially first year students, to make them scale through the hurdles you experienced to emerge successful?
Well, my first and most important advice would be to take it easy and have some fun in school. Those who wish to graduate with stellar grades must know that the earlier you start making good grades, the better for you, and the easier it is to maintain it. Start early, but also have fun.
I say have fun because your mental health is just as important as having good grades, if not even more important. It would be a terrible thing to get depressed because you are chasing a first-class. Do what you can, but also never underestimate your abilities.
Grow a good network.
Making friends is important, and you should try to make friends irrespective of class difference, gender, race, religion, or any other differences. Always be willing to serve, and be willing to give.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Chijioke
Thank you very much for having me, I appreciate it.
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