The 2012/2013 academic session best graduating students of the University of Lagos, Bakre Oluwafemi, who had 4.86 out of 5.00 as his grade, shares his experiences as an undergraduate, and how he attained such feat.
Did you ever aim to be the best graduating student in your set?
No, I did not. I just wanted to finish with a first class but God had other plans.
What were the major decisions you took when you were admitted to the university?
The first time I walked past the scholars’ hostel (Mariere), I told myself that was where I would live throughout my stay in UNILAG and I worked very hard to achieve that aim.
It is a common thing to be discouraged by seniors on campus that having a first class degree or even a second class upper division was impossible. Were you told such stories as a fresh undergraduate?
Yes. I was told lecturers in my department were sadists(which was so untrue). I was also told I literally had to bury myself in my books to perform well (which also was not true).
Did it affect you in any way?
No, it did not. It only made me challenge myself and work harder.
How many hours did you invest in studying per day?
I didn’t keep count, I just read until I met my reading targets for each day.
Were you involved in other school activities?
Yes, I was the Sports Secretary of the Society of Electrical and Electronics Engineering in my 4th and 5th year. I was also the head of the sports committee in the Faculty of Engineering in my 5th year.
How many hours did you sleep daily?
It varied with the time of the semester. At the beginning of the semester, I could sleep for long hours and really enjoy myself but towards the business end of the semester, I would have at most, three to four hours sleep.
Some students don’t sleep once exam is approaching, what was the experience for you?
Well, I was that kind of student. I even used to read all through the night and go to the exam hall depending on how tough or voluminous the courses were.
How many times did you sleep in class to study?
I never slept in class. I found the reading rooms in the hostels to be more conducive.
Some students prefer to read in the afternoon, some prefer evening, some early morning, some midnight, while others could read anytime. When was the best time for you to study?
I loved reading in the midnight, that was when I understood things better and didn’t get distracted.
How often did you go to the library?
I only visited the library once and that was my second year. I preferred reading in my room and the hostel reading room. I never liked reading in the library, the environment was too serious.
What were the challenges you faced?
Intermittent supply of electricity during exams was one. Another was some lecturers not giving me my deserved grades in some courses I took.
It is believed that serious students have to battle with peer pressure from friends who do everything possible to influence others. Did you face any such challenge?
Yes, I did. I stayed in the BQ in my third year when the distractions became too much for me. The students I lived with loved parties and girls more than their academics. I had to flee to the school hostel in order to avoid being influenced badly.
Some people run away from engineering because they think it is difficult, what attracted you to it?
Well, I loved Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry back in secondary school, and these subjects form the core of Engineering, hence, the attraction.
Why the choice of Electrical Electronics?
As a kid, I used to loosen gadgets in the house to see what they were made of. I just had the natural interest in electronics and electrical appliances from a very tender age.
Which of your courses did you enjoy most?
I enjoyed the programming courses, unlike other theoretical courses I took, they were more pragmatic in nature. I also enjoyed Circuit Analysis and Synthesis as I found them very interesting.
What informed your choice?
While discussing the courses I could apply for in the university with my sister’s lesson teacher, he advised me to go for Electrical Electronics Engineering as it offers numerous areas of specialisation and endless job opportunities.
What part of your course was most challenging?
Having to write long lab reports and still get low scores was probably the most challenging part.
Did your parents have their own course preference in mind for you?
Not really. They never influenced my choice. My dad only joked once that he would have loved to have a medical doctor in his house.
Which course would they have preferred for you?
Probably medicine, but I never liked Biology.
What was your most embarrassing moment in school?
It was the day I had to use the female toilet because I was suffering from diarrhoea.
Can you still remember your happiest moment?
Yes, that was when I heard that I was the best graduating student.
Was there any form of reward from your parents for doing well?
Yes, some cash, a trip to the UK, and a massive graduation party.
What are your future plans and aspirations now?
I hope to gain adequate work experience, further my education and then start my own company.
Is there anything you would have loved to do as a student that you could not?
Yes, I was not a bookworm and I was too busy trying to live a balanced student life. I only got to master my courses days before the exams and I never really had time to organise adequate tutorials for my mates and juniors.
Were you a social person?
My social life is normal. I am quite sociable and sure know how to have a good time, but I always gave my academics more priority.
It is believed that females love to associate with brilliant guys, how did you handle their gestures?
I believe my relationship with ladies had more to do with me being sociable than merely being smart, so, that notion may be wrong.
How many girlfriends did you have in school?
I cannot really say, but I had a handful.
What has university education taught you?
That you can make it in life without going to school.
Who influenced your decisions in terms of academics?
My parents challenged me to beat their record of a Second Class Upper Degree, which they both obtained from the University of Lagos.
Is there anything you intend to change about the society?
I hope to develop expertise in the power sector and add my quota towards achieving stable power supply in Nigeria. I am also of the notion that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right. As a result, I hope to contribute towards having free, quality Internet access in the near future.
What is the next thing for you now?
I hope to commence my NYSC programme in August, after which I hope to gain employment in a reputable firm where I can gain valuable work experience and then further my education when I’m certain about my desired area of specialisation.
Would you consider lecturing as a profession?
Well, it would be an honour to impart knowledge in the upcoming generation. So, it’s a possibility.
Were you ever discouraged by the economic situation of the country whereby some people who had first class are jobless?
Yes, it is so bad that I don’t even consider my being the best graduating student as being an outstanding feat. I only try as much as possible to improve myself and be as good practically as I am on paper.
How easy was it to graduate with first class honours?
Nothing comes easy; I worked and prayed really hard.