Lecturers told us making first class was impossible –Joshua Erubami, DELSU overall best graduating student
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 200Level, 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 100level. I won N50, 000. I felt that joy of winning so I had to carry on with it in 200level. 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 100level 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.