24-year-old Olamide Olabiyi, who graduated with first grade in Pure and Applied Physics from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Ogbomoso, tells OPEYEMI ADEFEMI about his academic career
As many times did you take the unified tertiary matriculation exam before you got admission?
I have attended UTME twice, first in 2014 with the intention of studying Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ibadan, but I could not get admission because I did not meet the deadline for the course. The same happened the following year. Not too long after that, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology began selling post-UTME forms to students who did not choose them during UTME. So I decided to buy the form. While I was at LAUTECH I did another UTME, still wanted to study Medicine and Surgery but I still didn’t get the course so I switched to Pure and Applied Physics.
Medicine and physics are pretty much independent of each other. How did you do as a freshman?
Despite my best efforts, my performance in the first semester was disappointing. I had technical problems during my computer based exams and when the results came in I failed a class and was heartbroken. I had already given up and decided that I would do a broadcast in the next session. But later I met an older colleague who told me I was too good to fail the course. He advised me to go to the IT department and complain about it. When I got there I submitted my complaint and after verification they informed me that I actually passed the course. Then came the second semester and I did very well. I finished my 100 level with a cumulative grade point average of 4.84. I ended up graduating with top honors in my course and department.
How did you feel when you achieved that, especially given the repeated failures in medicine and surgery?
It was really a calming experience for me. I like to do my best and always strive to be the best in everything I do. I told myself that if I wasn’t good enough to study medicine and surgery, I would have to be the best at whatever else I study. The energy I put into pursuing medicine and surgery was poured into my new degree so I could be the best.
Were you always an A-student in your previous schools?
I had my primary and secondary school in Ibadan until I was admitted to LAUTECH and left Ibadan. I am from Lalupon in Ibadan, Oyo State. When we speak of excellence, I really don’t know how to describe it. I’m just saying it’s God’s grace. God has always given me the grace to excel in my grades, from elementary through high school. I also have a flair for math. I’m very good at solving math problems. When I entered the 2nd elementary school, I lost my father in an accident and because of my excellent academic performance, I was advised to take the general entrance exam in the 3rd elementary school, which I did and passed. For every graduation, my name was called out at least twice for an award. From my junior class to my senior class in secondary school, I was top of the class. I always want to be the best in everything I do, no matter how small or intangible it may seem. I graduated as the top student in secondary school.
Were there things your parents did that shaped your academic path?
My late father was a disciplinarian; he studied statistics and knew the value of education and the importance of immersing yourself in everything you do. He was always interested in our school results. My mother was a teacher at the time and she always did her best to make sure we read.
What was your learning pattern like?
During my school days, my learning pattern was flexible. All I did was make sure I attended all classes, completed my assignments, and so on. Another thing I did was read early in the morning, around 4:30 am, then read in the afternoon as well. I’m not a fan of reading at night, except during exam time. My study time was 4:30am to about 8am and I’m fine with myself that day. Also, I solve any previous questions I can get my hands on about my studies, inquire and research, and then consult older colleagues. I try to understand the essence of each course.
Was there a time when you wished you had given up your goal of becoming great?
There was never a time when I wanted to give up but then I felt really down and wondering what the essence of life is with all the struggles and hard work when I lost my mother while I was a sophomore was level 200. There was never a time in my life when I wanted to give up being the best among my peers. Just as I swore I would, by the grace of God, I was able to complete my program with an As in all my courses from the moment I restructured my goal. I got excellent grades in all of my 10 semesters and completed five of those 10 semesters with a grade point average of 5.0.
The determination paid off, the determination paid off, the effort and sacrifice paid off. Above all, the pain and struggles were compensated by God with these laurels.
Did you have time for extracurricular activities at school?
At school I was involved in almost everything – leadership activities, organizing tutorials, theater group in communities. I have been involved in several extracurricular activities ranging from my scholarship to department, faculty, dorm and school in general. The largest of the positions I held at the school happened in the 2018/2019 academic session when I was appointed President of the Student Union when administration at the time was banned. I had just driven home for treatment for particular knee pain when I received a call from the Dean of Studies’ office to report to the Dean of Studies’ office on Monday morning. I began to wonder what the meeting might be about as I actually had no disciplinary case that would have led me there. I went to school on Sunday and reported to the student office on Monday. When I got there, along with 12 other students, it was pointed out to me that we were appointed based on our previous semester results, which happened to be the best in each of the faculties. We were told that from that day forward we would be in charge of the Studentenwerk’s activities. Then the positions were assigned on the basis of the best grade point average of the semester in question. I had a 5.0 GPA, so I was elected Chair of the Executive Committee, while the person with the second best score was elected Vice Chair and Third Secretary. I held the position for two academic sessions because I was called again to continue leadership of the fraternity in my senior year when I thought I had completed my duties in 400L.
I did my commercial training. Upon my return, management asked me to continue my administration. That’s how I became a two-time president of the student body.
I was also an active member of the theater group in my community, Nigeria Federation of Catholic Students, and I was also the PRO/Provost of the unit. It was my sense of fun. In my third year I was elected class governor in my department after the former was removed from the department.
The following year I was elected President of the Central Deanery Council of the Nigerian Catholic Youth Organization of the Archdiocese of Ibadan and faced the challenge of holding these offices simultaneously in Ibadan and Ogbomoso. It wasn’t easy, but I had to cope with everything and reconcile my academic life with it. I had foreseen how I would handle the responsibilities of President of Ibadan Youths as I had planned to do my industrial education in Ibadan. I wanted to make a mark in the organization and leave a legacy, which God’s grace allowed me to do.
Through all of this, I have never joked with my sport, especially when it comes to football. When I was in high school, I was the goaltender for my department and the team captain for my class in all our games.
Was there a course you were afraid of?
I’m not one to fear classes, but there are classes that we’ve grown afraid of. There was no class I was afraid of; but I had two courses that got me going because they demanded a lot from me. I even considered taking them to my final exams. But I couldn’t do that at the time because of the reputation I had built. Those two courses were PHY 303 and 304, Electromagnetism.
Was there a time during your studies that you would describe as challenging?
Yes, that’s when I lost my mother and the following week my grandma too. Seven days before the start of my sophomore exam in my sophomore year, death played a fast game when I lost my mother, may her soul rest in peace, and everything felt meaningless to me. But I got back up and did my exams and, like all the courses this semester, had borrowings from outside the department, and it happened to be the best result in my class for the semester. That was God compensating for my struggles, so far it was obvious.
Were there things you did differently than others to become top notch?
Doing my best in both my leadership role and my academic career has not been easy. It always required extra effort from me. Things or studies that I would be comfortable doing and would come out victorious would require much more effort as my tasks were very demanding and tiring. I made sure to use my study time efficiently.
Have you lost friends or a relationship to focus on your academic goals?
I haven’t lost any friends at all. I had two like-minded friends and a few others who weren’t really like-minded, but they remained my friends nonetheless. I haven’t lost any of them. Then I just knew how to deal with everyone. I’m a party person as I love showing up anytime to celebrate with friends and family. There was literally no one in my class who played as much as I did. I knew what I was aiming for, I knew my goals, and no matter how much play or fun I was having, when it came time to read, I would do it.
What limitations do you see in your chosen professional field?
The limitation in this area is that Nigeria does not respect science. It doesn’t really celebrate the sciences and it’s so unfortunate that we are where we are. There are no career prospects for such courses in natural sciences, engineering or technology in Nigeria. Nigeria doesn’t celebrate science and it’s a very big dent for the nation. When you are asked what you study in school and you say science, the first thing people think is that you would eventually become a teacher or lecturer
What are the career prospects of your course?
There are several job opportunities in this field – science, engineering and the like.