Had twin sisters, Taiwo and Kehinde Babaagba, been born before the coming of the Scottish missionary, Mary Slessor, in the 19th century, they were very likely to have been killed at infancy. Reason: they would have been associated with ill omen and sacrificed to the gods.
Little wonder, the submissions of a visitor and an educationist, Dr. Ekanem Etuk, on the sidelines of the Redeemer’s University convocation, where the twins shone brilliantly like stars, aptly captured the place of Slessor in Nigerian history.
Etuk said, “Thank God for science and civilisation that came to Africa. Without this opportunity for advancement, the twin sisters of the Babaagba family of Mopa, Kogi State, would have been forgotten in history some 20 years ago. They would have been tagged mysterious children and killed immediately after birth.
“Perhaps their parents would have been ostracised or killed for allegedly desecrating their community. Their own offence would have been that they gave birth to twins.”
But, thanks to social advancement, the two girls have today become a special gift to humanity. At the RUN convocation ceremony last Thursday, the 20-year-old twins did not only bag First Class each, one of them, Kehinde, emerged the overall best graduating student with a 4.96 Cumulative Grade Point Average in Computer Science. Her sister, Taiwo, obtained a First Class in Economics, scoring 4.57 CGPA.
With just four points off the five CGPA, it was therefore not surprising that Kehinde, the second best graduating student in the history of the eight-year-old university, received nine of the 27 convocation prizes. The Visitor, Vice Chancellor, College, Dean and the University Family Forum prizes were among the awards she won. There were 519 graduands in all.
As she walked to the podium on each occasion to receive her awards, electrifying shouts of victory rent the Youth Centre, the venue of the convocation. There was giggling and words of astonishment. In fact, many guests at the event wondered how she could have learned so much to be that outstanding at her age.
The Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Debo Adeyewa, also affirmed Kehinde’s exceptional academic prowess, describing her as a potential Nobel Laureate.
Apart from the twins, 12 other female graduands were among the 20 who bagged First Class degrees that the university produced for the 2013 academic session.
According to the Vice Chancellor, the womenfolk are taking academic pursuits to loftier heights.
He adds, “The ladies have bounced back to claim what looks like their reserved territory. The best graduating student this year is a very strong representative of the girls. Miss Kehinde Babaagba in the Computer Science programme with a CGPA of 4.96 has brought back the trophy to the womenfolk. The university gladly offers full scholarship for her postgraduate programme as a worthy royal ambassador and a potential Nobel Laureate.”
However, for the twins, who also won the Redeemer’s University Women Association prize, an honour for the best-behaved female student, the success did not come without a price. Particularly for Kehinde, there were good and trying moments in the attainment of the accomplishment.
She says, “Of course, there were challenges. In my first year, for example, there was the challenge of adjusting to university life and the liberties it had to offer. There was also the need to strike a balance between academics, spiritual life and social activities, avoiding time wasters. “Above all, I tried to work on my relationship with God as He is the backbone of every good success. I also focused on what was important and tried as much as possible to subject myself to spiritual, parental and academic guidance. And I worked hard too.”
The twins, who had their secondary education at the Thomas Adewumi International College, Oko, Kwara State, say their four-year stay at RUN was not all about reading, though. According to Kehinde, she did not miss out in social circles.
She adds, “It depends on your definition of social life. If, by social life, you mean associating with people, I did that pretty much. I also was involved in other activities outside my studies like singing, and debating. I had a number of male friends, but with no strings attached.”
Providing an insight into how she excelled, Taiwo, who sees the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as her role model notes, “I did not have a fixed time for reading. What I did most was that I paid a lot of attention and asked many questions in class. Again, anything I did not understand, I would always seek clarification from my lecturers and friends.”
For the twins, who prefer the academic environment to any other place, music also has a role in their life.
“We like the academia and we look forward to going into the world of learning, teaching and research. We also have a flair for music. So we hope to delve into gospel music,” Kehinde declares.
Reacting to an insinuation that it would have been difficult for her to obtain First Class in a public university, Kehinde says, “I can compete with anybody in any school. What makes one successful is not necessarily the school that one attended, but one’s commitment to hard work. Again, with God on one’s side, one will always stand tall.”
Their parents, Richard and Nike, dressed in sky blue lace attire and with joyous astonishment written on their faces, were full of praises for their daughters. According to Richard, a Metallurgical Engineering graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the twins always have a passion for academic excellence.
The engineer, who wanted the twins to study Engineering and Medicine, says he eventually left them to pursue the courses they desired.
The Babaagbas, whose four children are all girls, say that circumstance alone threw up its own challenges in their life.
Richard says, “With four girls, there was this natural pressure from family members who wanted us to have more children in order to have some boys. So far, I have no regret as the girls are putting me in the spotlight.
“My first daughter, Anna, who is 23 years, obtained a Second Class Upper Division from this same university. Today, she is an accountant. The last of the girls, Sharon, passed her Senior Secondary Certificate Examination in flying colours.”
Meanwhile, the VC, Prof. Adeyewa, says the university is more than committed to producing talented and innovative individuals.
Adeyewa, who described the 519 graduands as “great ambassadors”, says the university has equipped them with the knowledge to solve the country’s challenges.
According to him, they will do the nation proud and add value to any organisation where they work.
He adds, “They are made up of talented, innovative, obedient, passionate and godly individuals. The outstanding signals they have displayed have made them a special breed of great ambassadors.
“More important, we believe that an appreciable number of them will become self-employed, a precursor to being employers of labour rather than job seekers.”
Adeyewa, however, challenges them to use the training from the university to transform the country and the world at large.
The university Chancellor, Tekena Tamuno, an emeritus professor, also urges them to be worthy instruments of change.
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