With a CGPA of 4 . 86 , Joshua Aghogho Erubami was the best graduating student of the Delta State University, Abraka in the 2015 / 2016 session . In this interview with OVIE OKPARE , the 22 – year old shares his experiences and how he feels being the first student to have graduated with a first class degree from the Department of Mass Communication in DELSU
How was life growing up?
I was born in Oghara in Delta State. I grew up under the direct care of my elder siblings. My mum had four children for my dad . I ’ m actually the last of them. My dad also had children from other women . My mum and dad had issues , and my dad couldn ’ t let me go with her so I grew up in his care . Growing up with him wasn ’ t that easy as there were a lot of challenges because my dad was involved in so many things . He was into politics. He ’ s actually the Umugbrogodo ( Spokesman ) for Oghara Kingdom .
Were you this brilliant when you were in primary and secondary school ?
I attended St . Peters Nursery and Primary School in Oghara . Before then , I attended Okeregwe Primary School . It was a public school . I did just one year there , and my performance was actually outstanding . I still remember very well the last term I spent there, I took the second position . I attended Oghareki Secondary School , also in Oghara . Thereafter , I went to Delta State University . I did pre – degree in Library and Information Science after I could not secure admission to study Law .
How come you couldn ’t secure admission ?
I had issues with my O ’ level , mathematics specifically . I didn ’ t really like maths at all and it affected me . I tried O ’ level five times . For my pre – degree , I did very well . Actually, I was the overall best student for that session . From then , I moved on to Mass Communication; and today I am a graduate.
Were your parents comfortable with your choice of course ?
My father wanted me to study Law . I actually wanted to but because Maths was always disturbing me and I couldn ’ t engage in exam malpractice , I just had to switch to Mass Communication .
But why didn’ t you think of studying Medicine or any other professional course ?
For medicine , there are some things about humans that I just can ’ t stand . So , it was out of it. But for the issue of Law , it was basically my O ’ level and the issue I had with maths .
How easy was it for you to make a first class ?
I wouldn ’ t say it was easy . I came into a department where no one had actually had a first class before .
Meaning you also broke a record in Mass Communication Department ?
Yes . The best they ever had was a second class upper division . Before that , we were given the impression that getting a first class was just impossible . I still remember some lecturers would come to class and they would tell us first class was just impossible to get and that we should get as many A’ s we could get in 100 Level because it was just objective but when we get to 200 Level , we should just forget about getting an A in a course .
So how did you do it ?
Along the line , a lecturer , Dr . Lucky Ejebor , came and told us about a students ’ financial award scheme that DELSU was giving to best students in each level every year . This caught my interest. I had always wanted to pay my school fees myself outside what my parents were giving me .
So , I did the scheme and I emerged as the best student in my faculty in 100 level . I won N50 , 000 . I felt that joy of winning so I had to carry on with it in 200 level . Incidentally , I didn ’ t know my lecturers were watching me . They made me become aware that I had the prospect of actually coming out with a first class if only I worked harder . I doubled my efforts and most of them gave me their text books . I just read and read to get myself ready for what was ahead .
What did you do differently to achieve this feat ?
My life was simple . I just had to understand my reading habits . I read for seven hours daily but I did not read for seven straight hours. I woke up in the morning and read for two hours . During the day , I read for two hours and in the evening , I read for three hours before going to bed . I was actually the faculty president in my final year . There was no unionism activity from 100 level to final year that I was not involved in . However , I would always read during the weekends , specifically on Saturdays. I wasn ’ t doing anything tangible other than reading .
What was your parents ’ reaction when they learnt you made a first class?
I only told my father I was graduating with first class but I didn ’ t tell him I was going to be the best graduating student . I actually wanted everything to come as a surprise to him . My dad is aged , so he could not come for the convocation . But before my brothers got home , he already heard the news.
Did you ever imagine you would become the best graduating student in your set?
Initially, there was no such intention . I just wanted to be a graduate. I ’ m actually the first university graduate in my family . The rest graduated with HND . When I got into DELSU , I just wanted to do well . I had to map out a to – do – list on how I should live everyday as a student . Every semester , I set a target for myself . . All through school , my father never asked for my result because he expected that I would not fail . My dad expected the best from me so I never wanted to betray that trust . I never had the intention of graduating with the best result but after discussing with people, I thought it was possible . The to – do -list entails my daily activities and places I should visit . Secondly, I set a target for each semester . Each semester , I set the target of five points . In the eight semesters , I had five points , thrice .
Did you have any delay getting admission into the university ?
I tried getting admission just twice . I got it the second year . The first time was basically the O ’ level issue. The second trial , I got three admissions . I got admission to styudy Library and Information Science . I was the overall best student that year. I also got admission to study Mass Communication , and also another admission to study English and Literary studies . So I had three courses to choose from . So I went for Mass Communication.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in making this feat of having a first class ?
The challenge was initially that of having to manage both academics and other things . I was involved in politics . I also delved into journalism after my internship at The POINTER newspaper. The task of putting a balance between my academics and other things especially in my final year was very challenging because I had to learn to manage human and time resources . So I had to make up time for my seven hours of reading too . Funding was also an issue because I am not the type that asks for money . I only get it when I am told to come get it. When I was in school , if my dad didn ’ t call me to come and collect money , I just wouldn ’ t go home to ask for money .
What were your general experiences in school ?
My experience academically was a very good one . Whenever results were out, I wouldn ’ t check until someone from my department would check and tell me that he or she had seen my result. Then again , my social life was plain; I didn ’ t go clubbing . I was just engaged in activities in school . I was always attending political meetings .
Has anything changed about you since the new status ?
Not really . I never knew I was humble until this time . I have seen comments and messages pointing to my humility . Nothing has changed . My friends are still my friends and I have made more friends within the shortest time. Take for instance ; I received over 200 friend requests Saturday after the convocation . The next day was almost as high as the previous day .
What area in your course of study did you find difficult?
I don ’ t think there was any area I had challenge . There were no challenges with any of the courses.
Will you consider yourself a genius ?
I think it depends on the yardstick. I have not seen a genius who does not have a dint of hard work.
Do you still wish to fulfill your dad ’ s desire for you to study Law ?
There are very high prospects that I would go back to study Law . I have set a target for myself . My service ends in April 2018 . By the next academic session of the school , I will do my Master ’ s programme and if God does it for me, I wouldn ’ t stop, I will go for my Ph . D. Then , I will consider the prospect of returning to law .
Why do you feel some students fail in exams ?
The basic reason why students fail is that a very high number of students don ’ t believe they can do it. Many students fail a particular exam before they sit for it. There is nothing as confidence . Once you have the confidence , things will start working out . It is when you are confident that you will pass a particular course that your innate ability or creativity will come out . There were many courses I wrote that I went beyond what was given to us in the classroom . What I added were researches of people I read and then what was given to me in the classroom and my personal evaluation of the issue. Most examiners are looking for what is outside the box . Sometimes , you see a student write the correct answer but he strikes it out because of lack of confidence . I think lack of confidence is what makes students fail .
I didn ’ t believe I was going to become the overall best graduating student . It was few days to the convocation that I got the official text requesting me to get prepared for the valedictory speech . It was then I realised I was going to be the best graduating student . I was happy and I felt fulfilled.
The governor made some pronouncements including giving you immediate employment …
The governor offered me employment to lecture in the school as a Lecturer Assistant. He also requested that the university should encourage me to do both my Master ’ s and Ph . D. To me , that pronouncement is commendable and encouraging and I think it will serve as a source of inspiration to other students . Nothing is as gratifying as rewarding hard work and excellence .
What if you get a better offer , will you jump at it ?
The thing is that I actually love academics or rather, I grew up to fall in love with academics . I grew up loving lecturing . As it stands , If better offer comes, it does not negate my desire for academics . I think I love lecturing or even when such offers come , I can also do part- time lecturing .
Would you say the kind of friends you kept also influenced your performance ?
In school , I had many acquaintances but very few friends. I would say in my department , I had just two friends . I had a male friend and a female friend and the only thing that brought us together was for the reason of always wanting to discuss academics and books . I can ’ t have a friend who will not discuss books . Naturally , such a friend would fade away. We got stuck till we graduated. They made 2 . 1 .
What do you make of the country ’ s unemployment rate ?
The unemployment issue in Nigeria is actually a critical one and it is something that needs urgent attention and solution