Keeping good friends played major role in my success –Obinwanne, first class graduate, UNILAG
Enewally Obinwanne emerged as the best male graduating student in the Department of Pharmacy at the recently held convocation of the University of Lagos for the 2017/2018 academic session. He graduated with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.87. He told TUNDE AJAJA the secret of his success and plans for the future
You were the best male graduate in your class, would you say that was what you worked towards?
I decided to give my best and I made up my mind to accept whatever came out of it. Right from my first year, I knew I could achieve it, so the goal was just to do my best and leave the rest to God.
It wasn’t easy, neither was it very hard but I would say it took the grace of God, good time management, dedication, doing the right thing at the right time, confidence, hard work and discipline to attain that feat. And I thank God all the efforts and hope didn’t amount to waste.
Was there anything that influenced your quest for a first class?
During our first year at the College of Medicine, the best graduating student at that time had a motivational talk with us. From that programme, my friend and I drew some lessons from what was shared and we decided not to settle for anything less so we could also excel and be good examples, reference points more like, for the junior ones.
To God be the glory, I was the best male student in my class while my friend, Victor Mfon, was the second best male student. That simple perspective shows that excellence in one’s endeavour starts with a determination. You need to have a goal, and I’m glad we made that choice because it propelled us to work hard.
We learnt you won the Stephen Oluwole Awoka Foundation grant, could you tell us more about it?
It’s a foundation that supports postgraduate education in the field of science. I was nominated by my Dean and it involved an oral interview with the foundation’s panel of judges. I intend to pursue postgraduate degree outside the country, so I was awarded a travel grant with seven other students from different schools. And I’m deeply grateful to the foundation for the grant. It would go a long way in helping me achieve my career plans.
Would you say studying pharmacy was a dream come true?
While in secondary school, I was interested in engineering, primarily because I was very good at mathematics and calculations. But along the line, my father told me about pharmacy. I was also very good at chemistry, so I decided to go for pharmacy. I went through the Diploma programme and I got it. And I must say that I have no regret choosing the course. No regret whatsoever.
We did minimum of nine courses each semester, including our final semester. There were laboratory reports to write, classes to attend, books to read, tests to prepare for and assignments to be done, all at the same time. I would say each course was unique in its own and I enjoyed them.
Overall, it was fun learning about drugs, the names, their sources and how they function. It’s interesting knowing how they work and understanding the human body and how the drugs affect them.
There seems to be some mystery about how drugs work in the human system, especially to those who are not in your line of profession, could you, by virtue of your training, give some insight into this?
There are different classes of drugs and they act in different ways. They have different mechanisms. For example, some drugs act on receptor (active sites) and create signals through which changes occur in the body, while some act through enzymes, either they alter the function of the enzyme or they increase or decrease the quantity of the enzyme in the body.
For the benefit of students who are at crossroads as to whether to choose the course or not, what advice do you have for them?
Such persons should have an open mind because they will learn a lot. It is, in reality, not about Biology, Chemistry or Mathematics. The foundation is good but there is a whole lot to learn and enjoy when you enter the department.
Most people think it’s really just about selling drugs, but there are different aspects and varied prospects in Pharmacy. We have drug control agencies, pharmacy law, drug research, drug synthesis, community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, academia, industrial pharmacy and consultancy. The profession teaches you to be very versatile and there are many opportunities for you to choose from.
Given that not everybody in your class made it, what were the things you did differently that you think students could learn from?
I won’t say I did anything differently because I really don’t know what they did. About 25 of us made first class.
However, what I would tie mine to is the grace of God, time management, dedication, confidence, hard work and discipline. I always made sure I read early enough, I understood what I read, I covered all I was meant to cover and read each of my notes at least twice.
For the benefit of students, it takes discipline and hard work to excel because clearly there are more than enough distractions in the higher institution setting. As much as possible, follow what works for you and don’t copy what works for others but doesn’t work for you. Try as much as possible to have friends that can push you to excel. Be diligent in the little that you do and you will prosper.
Some students would assume that you were always reading to have had such a result, what was your reading schedule like?
One of the important things is to know yourself and what works for you. I’m a fast reader and I like enjoying my sleep, so I always try to start reading early in the day when I’m preparing for a test so I don’t have to read overnight. But people are different. Some people enjoy reading at night and they could be playing around during the day. So, doing what works for you is important.
Another thing is to start reading early, and reading several times, not just to pass but with the purpose of understanding. That is more important. It sticks better when you understand what you are reading and not cramming. If some students realise they would need to apply those things someday, they would read to understand and they would start reading early enough so as to have enough time to understand.
Our grades started counting from our first year at the College of Medicine, which was actually our second year in school. So, I started having a first class from my first year at the College of Medicine. To the glory of God, I never had ‘C’ throughout my stay at the College.
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Were you involved in other school activities or was it all about your academics?
Yes, I was involved in other things and I had to combine everything. It was hard but by the grace of God, one didn’t affect the other. My friend, Adegoke Emmanuel, and I started a smoothie business in school and we were selling.
Also, in my class, I was part of the football team where I played as the striker. I was also the electoral chairman of my final year class. I was involved in athletics (100m) for my class and was part of the academic committee and planning committee for a trade fair organised by the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students.
Would you say such a remarkable performance as an undergraduate was a continuation of your performance in your previous schools or things got better?
I would say it was a continuation of my performance. In my previous school for example, passing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination wasn’t easy but I read very well and did a lot of tutorials. So, I had them at just one sitting.
It seems common for new students to have some challenges settling down, did you encounter any challenge as a first year student?
There were lots of distractions due to the freedom that comes with being in the university but as much as possible, I tried to do the right thing at the right time and I kept good company (friends).
Were there times your parents rewarded you for good performance?
Yes, with holidays and gifts. It was a good source of motivation. I should add that I also owe my excellence to my parents for being able to provide for me because knowing that my parents were always ready to provide for my needs helped me to focus on my studies.
Could you imagine how you would have felt if you didn’t make first class?
It is hard to say but I might feel bad at first. However, I won’t let it get the best of me.
While academic excellence is good, not having first class is not the end of the world and I don’t judge my time based on another person’s wrist watch. I always do my best where I find myself and pray for the best. One should never stop hoping for the best.
There are many reasons students fail, from your observation while in school, what were some of those reasons?
Most times, they don’t know themselves and what works for them. Some are not confident enough that they can succeed, some are lazy, some keep bad company, some are not pushing themselves enough and some are ashamed to speak out when they need help. These are the factors I have observed personally.
What was your most memorable moment in school?
My happiest day was convocation day and the reasons are just imaginable. I was truly happy.
In the next few years, where would you want to be?
I want to be happy, successful and distinguished in my field. I want to be the best I can be and have a positive influence in my community and on the upcoming generation. I would like to practise my profession but I also have interests in investments, so I’m confident that the coming years are full of great happenings and accomplishments. I would also love to work in a multinational company.
Looking at the diseases plaguing the world today, is there any medical challenge that you wish drug intake could be able to solve someday?
Yes, and that would be cure for certain ailments like cancer and sickle cell.
Some see being in a relationship as a distraction while others see nothing wrong with it, what is your view on this?
I wasn’t in a relationship but it wasn’t as if I avoided it. For me, I didn’t see it as a distraction; two of my close friends were in relationships and they still got a first class.
It depends on individuals and that was why I said people should know themselves and what works for them.