I was an average student in primary school – Joshua Adeniran, OAU, Ile-Ife first class graduate

Adeniran Joshua, 25, graduated with a first class from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, having had a 4.72 CGPA. He shares his story in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA

You had a first class in one of the disciplines some people dread, have you always had such an impressive performance in your previous schools?

Not really. Even though my position in primary school was between second and third, I was an average student in secondary school, such that I couldn’t even make all my papers at one sitting. I had a D (Pass) in English Language in my West African Senior School Certificate Examination, so I had to take the National Examination Council exam and the General Certificate in Examination, which is popularly known as GCE, where I had all my papers. I sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination twice, because my 217 score in the first attempt wasn’t good enough for Chemical Engineering, so, I did it the second time and I had 246. But I took a conscious decision to be better and I had to pay the price by working harder, more so with my kind of background.

Could you tell us more about your background?

Growing up was not very rosy. Sometimes, I had to pay school fees late because there was no money. I remember that I couldn’t become a prefect because my school uniform was torn and patched. There was no money to change it. It was that bad but thank God I didn’t give up.

When you were admitted, did you plan to have a first class?

Yes, but all I wanted was a first class, not necessarily to lead my class. I only got to know I was leading my class when I got to part four, and one of the things that influenced me to take that decision and work hard to make it a reality was that I was told it was very hard to make a first class in Engineering in OAU, and instead of being discouraged, I found it very instructive and took it as a challenge. As long as it was possible, I aimed for it. Knowing what I wanted, I took my studies seriously from my first year and I remember my first CGPA was 4.76. All thanks to my parents who told me that to make something out of nothing, it starts from the foundation, so that helped me to be serious and work hard from the start and it worked.

What informed your choice to be an engineer?

I have always wanted to be an engineer and that was my dream as a child. That could have been because I know someone who was an automobile engineer, but I never wanted to be a mechanical engineer because I thought it is closely related to my dad’s little-paying job. When I got to secondary school, my best course was chemistry and since I wanted to go for engineering, I had to opt for chemical engineering.

How easy was it to have a first class?

Anything can be easy, even the hardest thing to do, if you do your part and leave the rest for God through prayers. I did everything required of me; went to class, did assignments (not dubbing because you also learn a lot when you do your assignment yourself and with presence of mind), I read at the right time, went for test and exams and prayed. That was all. I knew I was an average student while in secondary school, so on getting to the university, I told my parents that all I needed was money to buy textbooks, money for extra lessons and a low-cost laptop. Then, I made friend with brilliant students, most especially the best student in Electrical Engineering, Adejumo Waheed, who helped me sharpen my knowledge of physics and mathematics. So, I am a product of hard work and God’s grace.

What is Chemical Engineering about?

Chemical engineering has to do with conceiving and designing of processes to produce, transform and transport materials, mostly chemical – beginning with various experimentation in the laboratory and then production of the technology on a large scale. It deals with the synthesis and processing of chemicals and materials.

For the sake of students who are considering making it a choice, what are the applications in a country like Nigeria?

Basically, it is applicable in any industry that uses anything chemical or chemical-related materials. These include oil and gas, energy, soap, pharmaceutical, paint, plastic and biochemical industries, etc. For example, some people confuse it with petrochemical engineering but chemical engineering is like a set, while petrochemical is a subset. Chemical Engineering is applicable in a lot of industries but petrochemical has to do with the oil and gas industry. So, chemical engineering is quite wide in application.

Like some others, did you find engineering drawing difficult?

No. As I said, one will have to stand up to the challenge. Anyone scared of engineering isn’t ready to become one. People tend to be scared when embarking on a new journey, especially when told the negative experiences, but if it’s a journey you have to make, then you would have to find a way to make it pleasurable. Engineering is not difficult, but challenging. It is left for individuals to stand up to the challenge. I didn’t do technical drawing while in secondary school and I had A and B in the two technical drawing courses. All I did was to put in extra effort by going to learn from those who knew it, especially those in mechanical engineering. Actually, any subject that relates to chemistry interests me, especially Biochemical Engineering but I found Process Control a bit challenging then.

In school, some engineering students behave like special students, what advantage do you think engineering has over other professions?

The only advantage I know that engineering has is because of its many branches and sub-branches that are much more applicable virtually everywhere and to everything around us.

What was your typical day like as an undergraduate?

It was mostly triangular; class, hostel and library, except for Bible Study, Sunday Service and meetings because I was an usher in my fellowship. I used to sleep for about five to six hours but the duration of my reading wasn’t fixed because it was largely dependent on how many hours we spent in class. But, if I was free throughout the day, like Saturday or lecture-free week (shortly before exam), I could read for about 12 to 14 hours, even though not at a stretch. I didn’t really have any best time for reading; I read when I had the opportunity. I spent most of my time in the library and around like-minded friends. I asked questions even when I had an answer so I could hear other people’s views. Also, I tried as much as possible to read through everything we were taught each day to avoid accumulation so that on exam days, I only revised and solved past questions until I went for the exam.

How often did you use the library?

I used the library a lot. About 60 per cent of my reading hours were spent in the library.

How would you describe your social life in school?

Next to nothing, all I used to do when I needed to relax could be to sleep, watch movies or go for a Christian programme, like gatherings where speakers would speak. My hobbies are reading and watching foreign movies and I spent most of my leisure time doing that.

Was there a way your parents rewarded you for your good performance?

Yes, even though they are uneducated. When I requested for money sometimes, they might not really see a good reason for such requests, but all I used to do was to show them my results and explain how I accomplished the feat, which motivated and encouraged them to do more. They tried their best.

It is believed that ladies love to associate with men who are intelligent, were there such gestures?

Yes, but I handled it professionally. It was just academics and nothing more. If any of such wasn’t related to academics, then we wouldn’t relate, and some people did make jest of me for not being ‘sharp’ when it comes to relating with women, but I knew what my goal was and I know that being that kind of guy will jeopardise everything I worked for. I didn’t want that, so I stuck to my goal.

Were you ever discouraged by the rate of unemployment in Nigeria?

No. Focusing on such could make anyone lose focus. I have the belief that if you have a good grade, keep developing yourself and trusting God, you won’t be unemployed. There are jobs in Nigeria, but it depends on how qualified you are to fill the post. That is why it is important to be at our best.

Can you recall your happiest and most embarrassing moments in school?

My happiest moment was when I scored 95 in a course and the lecturer summoned me to his office. The most embarrassing moment was when I had 94 in a course where almost half of the class failed and extra marks couldn’t be added as it would shoot my mark above the maximum, thereby making people see me as an extremist. I also won’t forget when I defecated in my pants when I was in part one. It was during an exam and I was rushing from the hall to the hostel to use the toilet when I could have used the one in the exam hall. I felt embarrassed then, but it is the good and the bad that shape our experiences in life.

Where would you like to work?

I would like to work in an environment where there are challenging opportunities, professional development and career advancement.

What are your aspirations in life?

To be the best in everything I do and be an inspiration to others.

What is your advice to students who desire excellence?

They should work hard, remain focused, do what is expected of them diligently as students and trust in God while they pray.

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