My first result as a fresher almost discouraged me – Alabi, FUTA first class graduate
In the past, civil engineering and courses like architecture are the frontline courses in the construction environment, until recently when Building and some other courses were introduced. What inspired your interest in studying Building Technology?
I would say studying this course was not accidental. When I was in SS1, I started developing interest in engineering, especially building and civil works. Anytime I was seeing movies and I saw skyscrapers, roads constructed in unusual places and bridges that could only have come about by deep thinking and advanced technology, I was usually impressed and I would spend time admiring such works. So, I applied for civil engineering in FUTA but I was offered Building when the admission list was released. And I thank God for it because I have no regret accepting the offer. Meanwhile, when I was young, my dream profession was to be a medical doctor. That was about the dream of an average child, at least those I knew when I was young. And it was equally the delight of parents that a brilliant student should study medicine or law. So, I wasn’t left out of that collective desire. But as time went on, my passion was redefined, and many thanks to a brother of mine, who encouraged me to embrace any course related to construction and that I should major in building. He studied economics but ended up working in a construction firm.
It’s easy to guess that what the course would entail is already covered by courses like Civil Engineering, Architecture and other related courses. What is the difference/correlation?
The three you mentioned have one or two things in common but it doesn’t take away the specialties of the respective areas. The jobs of architects and civil engineers are almost common knowledge to people; however, a builder is responsible for building construction management, which involves interpretation of the drawings prepared by design professionals, preparation of labour, equipment and materials required for the work, including the electrical and mechanical services in the building, development of construction methodology and techniques to bring the desire of the designer to reality, preparation of construction programmes, building maintenance and management of the facilities and management of all resources involved. Let’s just say a building expert. Notably, however, effective communication is necessary among these professionals, which is why they do related courses in the higher institution. And for students contemplating whether to go for the course or not, it has very wide job prospects.
What part of your course did you enjoy most?
The part I enjoyed most was the field trip aspect, specifically the trip to an estate in Lagos. I saw very nice buildings and I was particularly fascinated by the techniques they used to minimise cost, without compromising quality, the quality of the materials, the modern facilities for waste collection and recycling, the coordination of the site and everything about the estate. And I found it interesting that the estate was being managed by a builder. On the other hand, the part that I found somewhat challenging was the practical aspect, which was initially very tedious, but later became very beneficial.
Would you say having first class is a dream come true or it happened by happenstance?
Since I entered the university, I had always nursed the ambition graduating with a first class and I knew it might not come easy. But, with determination and hard work, it became a reality. When I saw my first result in my first year, it dawned on me that it is not just by strength. I started with 3.86 GPA, which was below my expectation, but it got better over time. I put my strength in God and I decided not to be intimidated by others; I tried to understand the reading schedule that works for me and analyse those factors that hindered me in previous semesters and I worked on my weaknesses as well. It was not easy moving from 3.86 to 4.66, but God made it to be easy for me. In addition to the divine help, I was determined, I worked hard and God crowned my efforts.
Did you have to shy away from other activities to stay focused?
Not really, but I would say I was able to manage my time, which is a major ingredient for academic excellence. I was sociable to a little extent; I attended concerts, award nights, friends’ birthday parties and picnics but I didn’t go to club or pool parties. I also attended fellowship activities and I handled tutorials. In fact, it was when I served in the fellowship that I moved to first class grade.
Could you share with us how you moved from 3.86 to first class?
I started with 3.86, and from that to 4.12. In my second year, I had 4.25 and 4.40 in my first and second semesters respectively. In the third year, I had 4.44 and 4.52 in the first and second semesters respectively. In the fourth year, I had 4.56 and 4.59 in the first and second semesters respectively, and in my final year, I had 4.62 in the first semester and 4.66 CGPA as my final CGPA.
Did you come across people who told you not to waste your time working towards it?
Yes, in my first year, a senior colleague who was two years ahead of me told me that it was not possible to pass through FUTA without having at least one carry over. Some people also said first class would not make one rich. In fact, someone told me that if I graduated with first class, he would use his G Wagon to carry me. I heard all sorts of things, but I didn’t allow those things to discourage me, because there were times I almost gave in. Of course, I know there is more to life than having first class, but I also know the feeling that comes with accomplishing set goals, which can be a catalyst for greater exploits for those who are really determined. And beyond the first class, I always encouraged myself that I would not be a first-class graduate on paper only, but a first-class resource anywhere I found myself.
Did you win any award/scholarship as an undergraduate?
No, but I believe I would win one for my postgraduate study.
What are your aspirations?
My aspiration is to be a first-class resource in life; in my academics, even going forward; in my profession; in the business world; a first-class citizen and to be a positive influence on people.
Is there anything you would have loved to do as a student that you could not do?
I wish I was able to learn musical instruments, but I guess I couldn’t make time out for it.
How easy was it passing your West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination?
I had my O’ level result in SS2, and I gained admission into FUTA immediately I finished secondary school. I passed all my exams at one sitting in the public school I attended. So, I didn’t have any delay at all.
What memorable moments did you have as an undergraduate?
My happiest moment as an undergraduate was in my third year when I moved to first class. It was a historic moment for me. I didn’t really have sad moments, though there were some challenges, like financial issues, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Did you live on campus or off campus?
I lived on campus for four years and off-campus for a year, but I would say the experience was great. And I think it’s good to experience both.
What was your typical day like as an undergraduate?
All glory to God, it was a testimony at the end of the day, though there were times when I had to trek long distances due to lack of funds. I remember a particular week that I only had two cups of cassava flakes (Garri), but I survived. Sometimes, I borrowed materials from friends to read, usually because I couldn’t afford them. At the end of the day, I made it. Knowing that I didn’t have the materials, I used to start reading early, so I didn’t have to wait till exam period when people would be busy with their study materials. I also made sure I read theoretical courses early in the morning and ensured I understood all calculations and design courses immediately I left class. I did all these repeatedly at my convenience before tests or exams and I handled tutorials during the usual lecture-free week, and that itself is part of studying. I used the library so well when in my first and second years, but after that, I only made use of my phone and computer. But, despite all these, during my free periods, I saw movies, especially the ones in series, I listened to music and as a strong Barcelona fan, I watched football as well.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
Currently, I’m serving as a teaching assistant in a polytechnic in Ogun State.
Where would you like to work?
I like to be an independent researcher for United Nations in sustainable building and energy.
What would be your counsel to students who desire academic excellence?
My advice is that they should not put their trust in their strength; they should understand what works for them and be determined. Also, they should be useful for God, because if Paul plants and Apollos waters, all is futile without the intervention of God.
There have been incidences of building collapse, what are your thoughts on it and what is the way out?
The incidence of building collapse and its menace in the country is alarming, and I believe the cause can be narrowed down to two factors; quackery and the use of substandard materials. Therefore, it can be curbed through the implementation of the new National Building Code that has just been announced by the Federal Government. Also, there should be adequate sanction of anybody that goes against its provisions. The NBC addresses the duties of all professionals in the building industry and it addresses the minimum requirements at the design and construction stages.
As a fresh graduate, if you are to compare building technology in Nigeria and other parts of the world, what would be your rating?
I would say five out of 10, but we are improving. We are now using some innovative and sustainable building materials for construction, though we are behind in the aspect of building management system and smart buildings. I believe it will get better.