Looking at a king’s mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast” is one of the famous proverbs the late literary giant, Chinua Achebe, used in his award-winning novel, Things Fall Apart.
The maxim suggests that usually when one is admiring the success of an accomplished man, there is the temptation to think that he never experienced any difficulties or hard times in life.
The story of 19-year-old Uzoamaka Daniella, the 2014 best graduating student of the Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, underscores this adage.
The Public Administration first class graduate obtained a Cumulative Grade Point Average 4.86 out of 5.00 to emerge as the school valedictorian. With this accomplishment, she received the academic, leadership, community and spiritual awards during the university’s 12th convocation held on June 1, 2014.
Some of the honours she received are the President’s Award, Senior Vice-President Prize, the Dean, Business School Award and the Academic Programme award in Public Administration.
Looking at her academic record at the university, one would think that her road to success was tiled with gold through and through or that she was never associated with any manner of scholarly disappointment. This view is, however, far from reality.
In fact, before the harvest of scholastic successes, the youngster had witnessed some rough edges of academic frustration. Particularly, at her primary and secondary school levels, she was not just an average pupil, she also experienced unpleasant academic moments. For instance, she wrote the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination conducted by the West African Examinations Council and the National Examinations Council four times.
She notes with a touch of simplicity in her voice, “I have a piece of information for you. Do you know that I wrote the SSCE on four different occasions? The first was the private candidate November/December WASSCE; then my WAEC, NECO and another Nov/Dec examination. I did these examinations then because I had problem with Mathematics.
“You see, I realised at an early stage in my academic pursuit that examination malpractice is not a road to success. The farthest I can remember engaging in any examination malpractice was in my Junior Secondary School 1 class. Further, during my WAEC preparation, I was encouraged by the words of my school principal, Mrs. Oloriade, that it is better to fail honourably than to cheat. These words helped me to keep tight to my integrity in my exams.”
But what spurred her to continue with her education in spite of this initial hiccup? The Orlu, Imo State-born native, who attended Wellspring College, Omole Phase Two, Ikeja, Lagos, linked it to her twin sister, Gabriella. According to the lass, the academic excellence her sister recorded in school was her huge source of inspiration.
“I attended Bernice and Dominican Nursery and Primary School, Oshodi, Lagos. I was not academically fantastic then, but I was responsible and mature. This resulted in my being made the school head girl. I was an average student in my Junior Secondary School class but as I went further into the senior class, I drew a lot of inspiration from the academic excellence of my twin sister, Gabriella. She made me to put in more efforts and I thus studied for more hours.”
Interestingly, Gabriella, who studied Industrial Chemistry at the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, also obtained a first class. Her convocation holds on June 27, 2014.
On the secret of her success in the university, Daniella notes that a challenge from one of her male colleagues on campus further propelled her to seek greater academic glory.
She adds, “A particular event occurred in my first year that kept me on my toes throughout my stay in the university. After the first semester result was released, a guy walked up to me and bluntly told me that I was not going to graduate with a first class. I was frightened at his response to my first year success. However, I was determined that the grade I had (4.6) then would be the very least I would ever have.”
Was her stay in the university all about books and nothing more? Was she unsociable? Not at all, she replies, “I had an active social life on campus. During my stay in school, I served in several offices that have added to my training and experience as a leader. I was the Vice-President of the Public Administration Students’ Association. I was a pioneer member of a voluntary club on campus (Trendz Club). This club has the aim of redefining the negative trends on campus and it helps to raise funds for the less-privileged students. I later served as the treasurer of the club. I was a member of the Redeemed Christian Fellowship, where I served as the treasurer. I was also a chorister on campus. In all, my experience in the university was demanding, challenging and exciting.”
Asked whether she would have obtained the same result in a public university, she again responds in the affirmative.
She notes with a whiff of excitement, “Most people believe that studying in a private university offers a smooth ride to success, but I would like to disabuse their minds in this regard because the same values of determination, luck and courage you need to survive in a public university are the same you will need to survive in any environment. Hence, I believe that I would not have performed any lesser if I had studied in a public university.”
Born on June 14, 1994, the third in a family of five says her philosophy of life borders on equality, purity and excellence. It is therefore not surprising that the valedictorian, who says she was largely influenced by her chemist mother, Tolulope, in her final year thesis wrote on “Millennium Development Goals and Poverty Eradication in Lagos State.”
“I find fulfilment in putting smiles on the faces of people I come across and impacting them in every positive way I can. In my final project, for instance, I was able to study poverty rate in Lagos State and in Nigeria. This also included studying its causes and effects on the larger society,” the young girl, who looks forward to further studies at the Harvard University Law School, United States, adds.
In spite of the fact that Babcock University is a private institution owned by a religious group, Seventh-day Adventist, she admits that there were social distractions on campus.
“There were lots of distractions for a young girl like me. These include going to parties, the temptation to have all the luxuries that other girls had and devoting time to movies instead of on my studies. However, there is a saying that ‘The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’. These words kept me on track and I never lost my way,” the young lady, who sees the former Vice-President of the World Bank and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as her role model, adds.
At the ceremony, of the 1, 544 students awarded first degrees, 44 of them obtained first class while 177 others passed out from the institution’s School of Postgraduate School. Fifty-nine of them obtained doctorate degrees.
While Chidimma Aham-Chiabuotu scored the highest CGPA with 4.88 in MPH Public Health, Godswill Anyasor obtained CGPA of 5.00 for his PhD in Biochemistry.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Kayode Makinde, urged the graduands, who he called the “Amethyst-graduating class”, to lead an exemplary life and to contribute to making the society a better place.
He said, “My dear children, today, you have earned your right to make an imprint on the world. Life will only be meaningful if you live to be a positive influence not on the number of things you own but in the number of lives you touch. Go on and make the future bright.” (Punch)
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