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I sold things, became a panel beater to be in school – Abdulwahab, best graduate, FUT MINNA

The best graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, in the 2014/2015 academic session, Abduallahi Abdulwahab, 31, who graduated with a 4.78 CGPA from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension Technology, in this interview talks about his experience as an undergraduate

How was your growing up?

My growing up was really interesting. I grew up hoping to have fun without commitment in mind. My father ensured that I was always reading my books and not playing around. He advised me to grow up with the knowledge that average wasn’t good enough. This made me more studious to impress him and that indirectly made me an excellent student who paid more attention to details. I also engaged myself in sporting activities; I played football as a form of exercise, because, according to that popular adage, work without play makes jack a dull boy.

What did you dream to become?
My growing up was like that of any other kid. Many of us wanted to become either what our parents were or what we watched in the television. However, the one I found very interesting was law. I wanted to become a lawyer like my uncle, but as I kept on passing through academic processes, I realised that law is not for me. I found out that I had more interest in nature, and that is agriculture. In 1996, I dreamt of becoming an agricultural economist, so I would be able to bring in the principles of economics in managing farms.

Some people run away from science because they find it hard. Is it harder than others?

I also used to see science subjects as the most difficult and that was because I was not in the science class in my secondary school. I never studied Chemistry, Physics or any science subject, yet, I wanted to be an Agricultural Economist, a science discipline. So, I had to enrol for extramural classes to learn about those science subjects. Interestingly, since then, I fell in love with science. I later realised that studying science in secondary school to pass the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and what obtains in the university are two different things. I had a wonderful time studying science in the university but reading to pass WASSCE was really tough and I believe that is what makes some people to be afraid of that discipline.

Agricultural Economics and Extension Technology is like a two in one course. Having a first class in a course like this may not have come easy. How did you do it?

Having a first class is not easy, especially if you are a student with a big dream. Most times, people believe that hard work leads to first class, but I believe the first step towards having a first class is having a concrete plan, being committed to it and then hard work and prayers. Those are the three things I will attribute my success to. I wrote a book, titled ‘Education without Tears’ which is a translation of how I passed through my studies. So, in my own case, I already had a dream that I would graduate with a first class and that if not the best, one of the best in my school.

Did you have a long-term or short-term plan?

That is what I refer to as academic objectives or goals. I used to have a plan for every session, semester, test and exam. Now I know that for me to be in first class, I needed to have seven ‘A’s out of 10 courses and the rest B’s and I kept striving towards it. I have a distinct way of studying. I don’t study because others are reading, I need to condition my system to assimilate before I even pick up books and I need to free my system from stress before studying. Those are my top secrets. I often tell students that they should not waste their time pursuing success, because success is multi-faceted. Some people cheat to be successful, some bribe their way to success. If you want to be successful genuinely, pursue excellence. If you excel, success will come looking for you and that is me. I took my studies seriously, I strived hard to make my ‘A’s, knowing that if I’m good in what I choose to become, hopefully people will come looking for me.

What level were you when you wrote the book?

I was in 300 level. I discovered that youths in our society need encouragement and I did something to motivate them by writing that book (Contemporary youth and employment). It did help a lot of youths in my community and beyond.

Did you have such performance in your previous school?

No, I never had such result. In the past, I really didn’t value education, I went to school and I only had the determination that I would not fail. So, I wasn’t that kind of person that was out to have the overall best result in the school, and so my performance wasn’t as good as this.

Why didn’t you get into either ABU Zaria or Bayero University?

I couldn’t due to the economic situation of my family and even the country at large. I could not go to those schools. I trained myself, so I was responsible for my studies. I respect other universities, but FUTMinna is one of the universities easily accessible by people like me.

Who sponsored your education?

I am financially independent with regards to my academic studies because my parents were not buoyant. I organised lectures for students sitting for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and WASSCE, and through that, I raised money for my studies. Apart from that, I engaged myself in panel beating job, I sold leather bags in school to make ends meet and also, I borrowed land to farm and sold the proceeds to be able to pay my school fees.

For how many hours were you reading daily?

I didn’t read a lot. I prefer writing to reading but for you to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader too. One of the attributes that define my academic success was I didn’t miss classes. Most of my studying and reading were during my lectures. As a matter of fact, 60 per cent of my assimilation was directly from the lecture room. I ensured that I studied as soon as I got home, I usually spent between 15 and 30 minutes to read. Agriculture is such a hectic course that has both theory and practical aspects. Also my reading style during the weekend was different from that of week days. During the weekend I had enough time to go through my work.

How many hours did you sleep daily?

Well I enjoyed my afternoon sleep, which helped me not to sleep early in the night and that does not mean I was reading all through. I enjoyed going through the activities of other universities on the internet especially their academic work. I usually slept for eight hours daily.

How often did you use the library?

I wasn’t the type that was used to the library often. Most of my readings were online but I did go to the library once in a while. Most of my resources are often online, I browse to make up my studies.

Being a brilliant student, how did you handle gestures from girls?

Because I was focused on my studies, I told myself that I would not have anything to do with any girl until my final year. I was friendly with them but there was nothing beyond friendship.

What was your most embarrassing moment in the school?

The period I considered as my embarrassing moment was the day a lecturer turned me back and asked me to leave the class because I was late for the lecture.

What was your happiest moment?

My happiest moment was the day I scored 5.00. It was something I dreamt of all my life. It came to fulfillment and it really helped me to become the overall best student in the university.

Were you involved in other school activities?

I was an active member of my departmental association and I was a football lover.

Where would you like to work?

I like to work anywhere in Nigeria. Preferably, I wish to be a lecturer because I love teaching. I have the zeal to further my education but I need a job to finance it. My parents are not buoyant to do that, so I would have to help myself.

When you were doing the panel beating job, were you ashamed of doing such as a student?

I wasn’t, because I was looking for money for my education. How could I have been ashamed of helping myself? I did the panel beating job with pride as long as it provided me with the money to finance my education.

This interview wa first published in Punch on March 16, 2016

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