I Only Wanted To Be The Best In My Department –Usman, IBB University best graduate
Sa’adat Usman, 23, emerged as the overall best graduate of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State at the institution’s convocation for the fourth graduating set, which held recently. She had 4.86 CGPA from the Department of Biochemistry. In this interview, she talks about how she attained the feat
Will it be right to say being the overall best graduate was your happiest moment?
Honestly, it was my happiest moment because I never knew I was going to be the best overall in the institution. I was only targeting being the best in my department. When I was called to the podium, God knows I was very glad and people close to me knew that my joy was at the peak.
Apart from the best overall award, what other awards did you win?
Apart from being the best graduating student of the institution, I won an award of academic excellence from the Student Union Government of the university, which I got in 2017.
What attracted you to Biochemistry?
Actually that was not my dream profession as a child. I wanted to be a medical doctor and I kept applying for it at the University of Ilorin but when it became obvious that I might not get admission there, I decided to go to Kwara State Polytechnic to study Science Laboratory and I finished with upper credit before I joined IBBU Lapai to study Biochemistry.
What will you regard as the secret to success?
I believe students need to realise that there is need to sacrifice some things to attain set goals. To succeed, you have to forgo certain things to achieve the kind of result that you want and I see that as the only way to make it. Personally, I have realised that there is no course that is easy in the university and so hard work is the central point for academic excellence. It demands putting in your best to achieve a good result. For example, against the common notion, science itself is one of the easiest courses one can study in the university because once you understand the principles, you can handle the rest. It is about discovering what the world is all about, but some people feel it is difficult. So, hard work is the key.
Talking about sacrificing some of the things that give you pleasure for your academics, did that affect your social life in any way?
I think the most important thing is for students to be able to manage their time and of course how sociable we are depends on us as individuals. I did not sacrifice my academics to be social because I must read and pass my exams very well to attain my set goals and encourage my parents who have invested so much in my education. It doesn’t mean I read throughout my days in school because I wanted to make first class, but I gave my academics 90 per cent and I apply wisdom in everything I do in life, which is very important.
Since you were so determined, would you say it was easy to make first class?
It was not as easy as I expected, but it was more of hard work and denying myself of certain things. Although I entered through Direct Entry, I was advised by one of my lecturers to start taking my academic work seriously if I wanted to make first class at the end of my programme. Over time, I realised that the journey to success was not easy and from my second year, I started having first class and I maintained it until I finished, through dedication and hard work. I remember that my first GPA was 4.73. That was why I was so happy and surprised that I was the overall best in the school because I just wanted to lead my class.
What informed the school you went to?
I was born and brought up in Lagos and my parents took a decision that I should go to our state, Kwara State, to continue my university education. That was why University of Ilorin was my only choice of university because I always dreamt of it. But along the line, I could not secure admission into the school, hence I ended up in Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai. And I need to thank my parents for meeting my needs. I didn’t have any financial challenge while in school and I thank my parents who took adequate care of me. That was part of the reasons why I didn’t have any excuse not to be focused and make them happy. I’m so glad that I didn’t default on my side as well.
What reading schedule worked for you?
From my second year till I finished, I didn’t read more than two hours in a day. What I did was that I made sure that during lectures, I paid more attention. With that, I would have lesser need to spend hours reading. I would only need to revise what we were taught. So, I never read more than two hours daily until I graduated from the university. That is why it’s good for students to know what works for them.
How often did you use the school library?
I actually used the library for reference purpose, say to source for materials to update myself, especially in my course. Beyond that, I didn’t have any reason to go to the library. I would rather read in my room.
During the holidays, were you reading while at home?
I wasn’t reading during the holidays; not that I didn’t have the time, but I used that period to help my mother in her business. Naturally, I wasn’t the type that reads for long, and since I knew that reading is not part of my hobbies, I pay attention in class and once I revise what we are taught, I’m okay.
Were you involved in other activities in school?
I joined some students to learn how to sew clothes and plait hair and since those teaching us were also in the school premises, I utilised the opportunity to learn something and made little money for myself.
Naturally, men are attracted to brilliant female students, how did you handle gestures from them?
It is a normal thing in the university setting, but it wasn’t an issue for me because it happened from time to time. The truth of the matter is that I had male students who were my friends but I tried as much as possible to maintain the relationship with them purely on academics, no intimacy.
Where would you like to work?
Even though I want to further my education, I would like to work with agencies like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Standards Organisation of Nigeria and other such quality control and regulatory agencies. I want to practise what I studied in the university to be able to contribute my own quota to the society.
The School of Natural Sciences has been producing the overall best student for some time now. What would you say has been responsible for that?
First class in my school is based strictly on merit and I would even say that my school is not after giving first class to students. I think their major concern is giving students best training that would help them in their future endeavours. And the School of Natural Sciences will drill you properly before giving you the first class. So, those who have succeeded in leading their sets must have worked hard for it.
Have you always had a brilliant performance in your previous schools?
Yes, I did well in my secondary education. I was one of the most brilliant student in my days and I was in the top three throughout. Even when I was in Kwara State Polytechnic, I had upper credit in my National Diploma in Science Laboratory programme. I believe my academic success is traceable to hard work and dedication, which are ingredients that work for those who desire success in life.
What was your typical day like as an undergraduate?
I wouldn’t say I really had a typical day as an undergraduate; I simply made good use of my time very well and I attended my lectures, which was the time I derived the bulk of my understanding for each of my courses. After the day’s work, I went back to my hostel to cook and of course eat and sleep. In anything I did, I learnt to keep to time.
Were there times you would have ruled out your target for a first class?
There was no time like that since I had been maintaining a good CGPA from the start. I did not give up, rather, I religiously concentrated on my studies by going through all that I was taught and today I became the overall best student of the institution.
How would you have felt if you had not emerged as the overall best?
If I did not make first class, I would see it as an act of God. But going through my records, I knew I would make it by the grace of God. However, first class is not the end of it these days. I feel it does not really matter if you make first class or third class, what matters most is what you can offer the society as you leave the school. So, beyond the accomplishment, there is work to do. Of course, the joy of making it and attaining that goal is always exciting and refreshing.
Were there things you did differently from others to have first class?
The only thing I think I did differently was the ability to listen attentively in the class. Once I went back to the hostel, I would revise what I was taught in class and that really helped me to become the best overall. So, beyond hard work, students should be smart to know what works for them and of course take advantage of it.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for your performance?
I did not tell my parents about being on first class grade, not even being the overall best in the university. It was my siblings that told them of my performance and they prayed for me. They were evidently fulfilled and they kept thanking God for what He had done for the family. As for my lovely siblings, they hugged me with tears of joy.
In your view, what makes students fail?
It’s a natural thing that if you don’t read, you are bound to fail. Some students fail because they don’t take their studies seriously and some just lose focus when they get to school. Another thing that makes students fail is when they join bad gangs.