My reward from mum was a special meal –Chibuzor, first class Accounting graduate, UNN
Chibuzor Agbahia, 27, led the Department of Accounting, University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a 4.83 CGPA in the 2014/2015 academic session and she went home with some prizes. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she talks about life in school and afterwards
Parents, especially mothers, are wont to be overjoyed when their children have academic excellence. How did yours receive it?
My mother expected it because she had an idea of my performance in school, but she was still very joyful. She prepared a special meal for me when I got home, and that was one good way she always rewarded me for doing well in my academics, every time I went home for holiday. That was the much she could do and it meant a lot to me. Those were very happy moments for my family and I.
Have you always had similar performance in your previous schools?
Yes, I was the best graduating female student in 2006 from Comprehensive Senior High School, Alapere, Lagos. And when I took the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, I passed them at one sitting. When you prepare for exams by studying hard, to pass will be easy. All it takes is adequate preparation. That was the same approach I employed when I entered the university. It wasn’t that I specifically set out to have a first class at all cost, I simply put in my best in everything I did and I was confident that I could make first class. So I kept working hard and I never gave up. It wasn’t easy; neither was it too difficult. It was a function of planning, diligence, discipline and prioritising well. And it feels good knowing my hard work paid off. It’s a feeling of satisfaction.
When did you start having first class?
Right from my first year. My first Grade Point Average, in my first semester, was 4.84. Subsequently, my semester GPAs fluctuated between 4.72 and 5.0. But I managed to maintain the consistency throughout my course duration to ensure it was a first class.
Since you are from a humble background, as people prefer to call it, did you have any challenge with finance?
That was one of the reasons why I had delay in securing admission. After graduating from high school in 2006, I had to work for four years to raise some money. When I first left school, I worked in a shop where we sold recharge cards in bulk. I was the one managing the business. Also, I worked as a security supervisor in a bank, and I was also dressing in uniform. I had to do it to raise funds for my higher education; and like you called it, I’m from what we call humble background. It was just my mum, my siblings and I. So, in the fifth year, I took the UTME for the first time and secured admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I was preparing for the exam while working full time as a security supervisor in a bank. And by the time the result was out, I already saved some money to start admission process and pay my fees.
How did you raise money to continue to finance your education?
There were so many expenditures and very little fund available. It was quite difficult until I won a scholarship award from MTN Foundation. It’s called MTN Foundation Science and Technology Scholarship. I applied for the scholarship in 2012 and was shortlisted to take the examination. I passed and got enlisted as a beneficiary. Since my CGPA was always above 3.50, I enjoyed the scholarship until graduation. I must say it was indeed a real blessing.
What was the worth of the scholarship?
It was N200,000 annually and I got it for three years; from my second year in the university to the final year. That scholarship made a significant difference because I didn’t have to worry about money anymore; it helped me to meet my needs, I paid my fees and bought the things I needed. So, I was able to focus more on my academics. I must say that the scholarship boosted my academic performance. My family members did the best they could but it was obvious that I needed a scholarship or a part-time job to support myself after my younger brother also secured admission into a university. I am thankful to the MTN Foundation for the scholarship award. It really helped me to concentrate fully on studying. I have no idea what would have happened if I didn’t win that scholarship. It was also a relief to my mum because she didn’t have to bother about my fees; she only focused on catering for my siblings.
What were your happiest and most embarrassing moments in school?
My happiest moment was when I won the scholarship. I was overjoyed. I think my most embarrassing moment was when I fell off my bunk bed while trying to get off the top for the first time. I had never climbed one before. Actually, that was my first time away from my family. I had never attended a boarding school or slept anywhere away from my mother, so, I had to learn it. Soon afterwards, I was teaching new comers how to climb the beds.
Apart from the scholarship, what were the things you did differently from your classmates for you to lead them?
I started studying as soon as the semester began. I applied myself to what I was learning and related the materials to real life situations. I made the course come alive in my thoughts and asked questions when necessary. I was committed to understanding the least detail. I didn’t need anybody to coerce me into being serious. My family members always encouraged me, which helped as well. Four of us had first class and they were all very intelligent people. It pays to work hard and put God first.
Knowing that you had to maintain your CGPA above 3.50, does it mean you were always reading?
I have a strong passion for excellence and I can also say it’s a family tradition to be at our best. Beyond that, I read for longer hours, like 12 hours during exams, but lesser in other periods, and played less, like going out with friends, social networking, idle talks and watching movies. I structured my schedule to ensure I covered the entire coursework twice before the examinations began. I studied in short sessions and rested in between. Studying different subjects in a day was more effective than studying one; that eliminates boredom. For me, a quiet environment is essential for proper concentration and listening to music while studying does not help one concentrate as some students suggest. I believe we are different and it is important for people to know what works for them. I used the library very often, as there were many books to choose from and the atmosphere was favourable for learning. I also enjoyed studying underneath big trees. The shade made me feel cool and helped me to study longer; the cool breeze refreshed my thoughts and helped me to assimilate faster. I didn’t deprive myself of good sleep; I slept for about six to eight hours daily and I made sure I had regular siesta after lectures each day. Beyond academic books, I enjoyed reading the Bible and spiritual publications daily.
Have you always wanted to be an accountant?
As a child, I thought being a doctor was really cool but I did not dream of being one someday. I just wasn’t sure what I wanted. As I got older, I was inclined toward numbers and computations. So, Mathematics and Financial Accounting became my favourite subjects in school. When I was to choose a course, I chose Accounting because it is numerical and tough; that’s why I love it. It involves a lot of analysis, brainstorming, and paying attention to details. Some people see it as difficult and that is what makes it attractive to me. I am passionate about accounting. Particularly, I enjoyed Management Accounting. Financial Reporting was a bit challenging, but I later understood it. Accounting is beneficial to me personally. I am better equipped to manage my finances now. I make informed decisions and I can run a business successfully. At the moment, I teach Financial Accounting in a school in Delta State as a corps member.
The rate of unemployment in Nigeria can be scary. Are you sometimes disturbed?
A little, but youths are encouraged to acquire skills to enable them to become entrepreneurs. I’m quite skillful in fashion designing. I’m rounding off as a corps member, and hopefully, it won’t be difficult finding a job afterwards. I like fashion designing but I will definitely practise my profession; accounting. I hope to balance work, family and worship. This would lead to real satisfaction and happiness for my loved ones and me.
Where would you like to work?
MTN has done so much for me. I can do so much more in return. I would like to work for MTN Nigeria.
People often see accountants and economists as stingy, perhaps due to what they learnt. Has anyone ever told you that?
No, I’m quite generous. I enjoy my things more when I share them. The only things I don’t share are sharp objects and answers to examination questions (Laughs).
How would you describe your social life in school?
Good. I had many acquaintances but few close friends. I related well with colleagues and lecturers. I attended events only if they did not take place at night and did not involve loud music or things like smoking. I was involved in other school activities but minimally; my academics was the priority.
Did some of your colleagues see you as too serious?
Yes, few students did. However, most students studied as much as I did or even more. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka instills in her students a culture of hard work, discipline and integrity.
You must have won some awards as the best in your department. What were they?
Yes, I won awards. I won one from the school as the best student of the department; I won a cash gift from Zenith Bank and another cash gift from Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation. It was for some selected departments. I’m grateful to God for how far he brought me. I advise students to study hard and start early in the semester. That’s why they are in school. They should draw up a schedule and stick to it. And if there is any course they don’t like or they find challenging, they should study the course frequently, especially in the morning. Students should stop waiting until the last minute before they get things done and they shouldn’t cheat in exams. Examination malpractice is like a poisoned food; it may satisfy the person presently but it would certainly hurt the person afterwards. On a lighter mood, they should do exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.