Bakre Oluwafemi popularly called jakre, the University of Lagos (UNILAG) best graduating student for the 2012/2013 session, finished from the department of electrical and electronics engineering with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.86. In this interview with Tolu George he talks about his experience in UNILAG and his prospects for the future amongst other interesting issues.
As the best graduating student for the 2012/2013 session. How do you feel?
There are two ways in which I can express my feelings. I am quite happy and elated on one hand, because I think it is a reward for all my hard work over 5 years, and I feel it is truly deserved because I paid my dues. On the other hand I feel ashamed in a way, because in the league of best graduating students my CGPA seem to be the lowest since my 5 years stay in this school.
Have you always been topping the class from your primary school days?
No, I think the turning point in my life started when I was in primary 5, from my nursery school up until primary 5, I was always between 2nd and 4th position, but from primary 5, God took charge of my life really, and from primary 5, I started taking first even through my secondary school days, I even graduated as the best in my secondary and won many awards including the Awokoya chemistry competition in 2008. When I got to the UNILAG, in my first year I was top of the class, but then I dropped to being the 3rd best until my 4th year, when I again became the best in my class.
When did you know that you were likely to graduate as the best student in UNILAG?
I had no idea, because I had three friends whose grade points were very close, there was just like a 0.01, 0.02 difference between our grade point, they didn’t know themselves, and I was the mutual friend among all of them. So graduating as the best student all boiled down to who got a 5.0 grade point in 500 level 2nd semester, and you would not believe it, we all had a 5.0 grade point which made the whole thing interesting. I have known Bolutife Awonaike, the best female graduating student for the 2012/2013 session since my 2nd year in this school, she finished with a 4.85 CGPA, Abdulhameed Lasisi my very close friend, who finished from civil engineering with a 4.85 CGPA also and Onagbola Kofo who was the best in the College of Medicine, she finished with a 4.84 CGPA.
What do you think made you achieve this feat?
Sleepless nights, that’s on the side though. I think I am a product of good advice and prayers. I also have a lot of mentors, and anyone that is above me, I always try and meet them to find out what I can gain from them, I always stuck to the good advice I got from some of my mentors. God has also been really good and kind to me. Let me share this experience with you, as funny as it may sound, there was a time when God postponed an exam, because I wasn’t ready for it. My sleepless nights also went a long way. I can proudly say that I don’t think anybody worked as hard as I did in my class and everybody knows, so it’s not about that guy was lucky, and all my classmates know that it’s an award that I truly deserve.
Who are your mentors you talked about?
Elijah Olawaye, the faculty president of engineering, two years ago. Babalola Adeniyi, the best student in electrical, four years ago. The best student in electrical last year Oyedele David, who finished with a 4.86 CGPA, Ogunsola Bolutife, Oluwatobi Adekanye who was really influential in my life and many others. They were serious and were always ready to help those that sought their advice; I was in contact with some of them even after they had graduated from school. They gave me wonderful advice which helped me make the difference, because it`s not about reading alone, you have to strategize too.
What motivates and inspires you?
For me the first thing really is to be able to make my parents proud, that’s what really pushes me, to be able to call my mum or dad and tell them I had 5 points this semester, the way they will all rejoice and shout and celebrate. The fear of failure is also something, that also pushed me, failure for me is anything lower than A. I can’t go to bed knowing that I would get a B grade in a course, that is why most times I always read through the night, because I didn’t want to get a B grade, it was always A grades and even the A grades were always 80s and 90s, that was always the aim.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Honestly, I don’t know, I am still praying to God about that. I am not the kind of person that fixates his mind on something. I have my ideas, but I don’t know where I can end up, I may probably be a lecturer, but what I really wish for is to have my own company, my own business which will involve engineering. The whole essence of the business is to give back to the community, add value to people lives and give back to the world. That’s just the aim for me.
What was your worst experience in UNILAG?
That will be my EEG 201 exam, Professor Mowete took that course. That was one of the most simple courses in this school, but because I was told before I got into the UNILAG that professor Mowete is hard, I became very jittery in the exam hall and I had a B grade in that course, but I knew that I could have done better, if I had set my mind straight and I had not listened to those rumours. I later went on to have A grades in all the courses he later took because I had learned the hard way not to listen to rumours.
What was your best experience in the UNILAG?
My best experience was my first time of walking into the faculty of engineering; I was so overwhelmed by the structures and the environment in general. My first 5.0 grade point was also an experience that I would not forget in a hurry, when I walked to the board and I saw that I had a 5.0 grade point, I was so emotional and I called my parents. I had other 5.0 grade points in UNILAG, but that particular one was something I won’t forget in a hurry.
Did you live a balanced life; in the sense that was it all just reading for you or you had time for playing and partying too?
I lived an overbalanced life and I give thanks to God for that. I was the sports secretary of my department in my fourth and fifth year. I was the head of sports committee in the whole faculty in my final year too. During my free time I used to go for some barbecue events too. I also spent time with friends as I had a lot of friends, I am sure I made more friends in this school than most of my classmates. I am friendly, I love making friends especially, if you are serious minded. I don’t discriminate. I also participated in and won the gold medal for engineering association FIFA video game competition. I even encouraged my classmates to go and play football during our free time.
As best graduating student of UNILAG, do you think you are on the same level academically when compared to brilliant students from top rated schools like Harvard University?
Definitely! The thing is most Nigerian students usually underestimate their lecturers. Our lecturers are world class. There a lot of things that I have learnt here that I can go outside and brag about. I got quality education in UNILAG and I got it at a very cheap rate, it was almost as if I was given free education. We pay as little as N15, 000, which is nothing compared to what those students in Harvard and other top schools pay and I am sure I got the same quality of education. I don’t believe in letting my environment limit me, if there is something that you are not being exposed to, you expose yourself to it. I don’t expect my lecturers to teach me everything in class; I go out and learn as much as I think I should learn.
What are your hobbies?
I love playing video games; I love playing and watching football. I love swimming too, though I can’t swim, I love dancing too, though I can’t dance very well. I love to listen to rhythm and blues and also rap type of music.
What challenges did you encounter in the process of achieving this feat?
The power situation was a major challenge. I remember a time in which I had a 4 unit course in my second year. The night before the exam, there was no electricity anywhere in school, so myself and my roommate had to use the street light close to the senate building to read, all because I didn’t want to get a B grade in the course, other students would have just decided to sleep, but for me I just told myself that I could not let the imperfect environment cost me my grade. The laboratory courses I did were also a major challenge. If not for the laboratory courses, I would have finished with a 5.0 grade point. In those laboratory courses, you can write as much as you can and at the end of the day, you will still be given a C grade or B grade. There was time I had A’s in all my courses except the two laboratory courses I took in which I had C grades.
How has life after school been so far?
It’s been fun. I am working in a place where I am learning so much. Learning is just the thing for me, anywhere I can learn new things that are practical and I can earn money there in the process.
What was growing up like for you, were you always confined indoors to reading?
My parents are bankers and as a result of their work, they never had our time. My parents are not the kind of parents who will ask whether you’ve done your assignment or whether you’ve read your books. For me, I think God just directed me and my siblings in His own way. We all came out with good grades, my brother and my sister both finished with a second class upper in spite of the fact that our parents never really told us what to do. We were not always confined to the house we played with kids. Fell into the gutter too like other kids, played football in the rain too like other kids. I was a very normal kid.
Now that you graduated as the best student in UNILAG, what next after school?
So many people have ideas for me, but I am still praying to God about it, but left to me it will be to going for my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exercise, then I would probably go for my masters’ degree and then my PhD degree and if I get a good job offer. I would work for a while before I do my postgraduate studies. (The Nation)