Sanni Abidemi, 22, was the overall best graduate of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State in the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 academic sessions at the school’s joint convocation ceremony that held recently. She graduated from the Department of Statistics with a 4.88 CGPA. She talks about her success in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA
Being a relatively young person and one with a small stature, were there times people treated you based on that premise?
My colleagues never did that, but I had a few of such instances outside the school campus. When I was in 400L, I remember two occasions when some guys approached me and asked if I was in 100L. In fact, they sounded sure I would be in 100L, with the way they spoke to me. There were such moments but I’m happy I was far beyond where they thought I would be.
Did people tell you how difficult it could be to have a first class?
It’s like a norm for people to say things that could dampen one’s aspiration, but I was determined. I have God, so I wasn’t scared. I have a positive mind and that was why even when people tried to discourage me about working towards distinction in any course because it was difficult to have ‘A’, I remained resolute. With those, I started having first class in 100L.
When you got to school, did you consciously plan to have a first class?
When I got to school, I made the decision and I set that target in 100 Level that I wanted to graduate with first class and I was lucky to meet people with the right mind. I had to move with senior colleagues. They told me starting at 100L was quite easier if one was serious. I started well. My first GPA was 4.61 and my first CGPA was 4.70. I met people who encouraged me. So, I worked towards it and I thank God for helping me to sustain it.
Did it come to you as a shock when you learnt you were the overall best in two academic sessions?
Being the overall best in my set came as a surprise, not to even talk of being the best in two sessions combined. I never saw it coming, though I already knew that I would likely be the best in my department and that I would be one of the best in my faculty. When I was told at the Senate Building that I was the best, I can’t even explain how happy I was. You know how it feels when you are so happy within but you won’t know how best to show it. Not because you can’t but you tend to be short of words; I was so happy. I give the glory to God. I had to call my parents to tell them. They were so proud of me. I’m so happy and grateful to God, especially for making my efforts to count after everything.
What were the efforts you put in?
I understood what worked for me and I explored it. I read every day but I wasn’t the type who would read for hours at a time. I could read for 10 minutes at a time and have some rest and then continue later. With that, by the time exams were approaching, I wouldn’t have much work to do. I would only go over what I had read from the beginning of the semester. In addition, I solved past questions with colleagues. One other thing is that once we started lectures, I would start reading. On getting home daily, I made it a habit to go through what I was taught that day and I did consult textbooks. I also used internet, downloaded books online and I took tutorials, which also helped me to understand things better. Time management is one other thing students have to take note of. I had to cut down on social activities; no partying, no time for social activities. There were times I had sleepless nights and I would still continue reading in the morning. It wasn’t fun at those times, but they were special sacrifices that I had to make and I thank God it turned out well.
Does it mean it was easy to have a first class?
God made it possible. Without Him, it wouldn’t have been easy. Attaining first class is quite easy but maintaining it was tougher. To maintain it, what I did was to do some calculations before exams so I could know what I was working towards. After the exams, I would take my question papers and mark myself to know what to expect and it worked. So, God made it easy for me.
Have you always led your class in your previous schools?
In my primary school, I was always leading my class, but in secondary school, I was just above average. I passed my West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination at one sitting. In WASSCE, I had two ‘A’s, six ‘B’s and one ‘C’ and in UTME I had 266. I have always had quick assimilation and when I read, I understand very quickly. So, when I got to the university, it was only normal that I pay attention in class and read my notes every day. If you read your notes the very day you were taught, the rate of assimilation will be higher unlike when you wait till one week to exam. During lectures, if there was anything the lecturer mentioned that was not clear to me, I would take note of it and read up on it later. Beyond these, I would say I enjoyed the grace of God.
Do you think there is more to first class than reading?
Yes, there is the God factor. Then, of great importance are commitment, perseverance and interest, because you find that there are people studying courses they are not interested in. Interest is very important in course of study because if there is no interest, even when your performance is not good in the course, instead of working harder, you could see it as a proof/indication that the course is not meant for you, and it could get worse.
Does it mean you had always wanted to study Statistics?
No, I wanted to study Medicine, and I know I had a good score in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination but I guess I was given Statistics because of my post-UTME score.
Since you like medicine, will you still like to study it?
No, the opportunity to cross to medicine came in 200 L, and I had the required CGPA to cross. I left 100L with 4.70 CGPA but in line with the way I was brought up, I put it in prayer before I obtained the form. After that, I didn’t have to obtain the form because I put it in prayer and God directed me. At that time, I had already offered some courses in Statistics and I could see its wide application, so I had become very interested in the course. It aligned with God’s plan for me to study Statistics.
But people see the course as easy. Is that true?
A very good understanding of mathematics is very important. However, some people still think Statistics is easy because they think it is about the mean, median and average they did in secondary school. There is a lot more to it; it is a very wide but interesting course. Statistics is not only about the calculation. There is the theoretical aspect to it, which was taught in class. It also has the field work aspect; we construct questionnaires, go to the field to administer them, talk to people, analyse the data and at the end give informed recommendations or opinion, as the case may be.
What are the job prospects open to people who study statistics?
There is no place statisticians cannot work. Every business, organisation, including governance, requires planning and decision making and how do you do these effectively without collecting data. The government that makes policies need statisticians to be able to make informed policies. That is why the countries that are ahead today have a good data collection and storage system and they do these through professionals; the statisticians. Based on our interaction with people and the data we have collected and analysed, we are able to forecast and give informed counsel. So, we can work anywhere.
What was your growing up like?
I’m the first child of the family of four. My parents did whatever it took to take care of us. We were taught the act of reading at a very young age, and I remember that when we came back from school, we used to have lesson teachers. During holidays, my father used to give us home work that could keep us busy till he returned. So at that early age, I had already cultivated reading habit and dedication to academics. My parents have always been of great help and they made anything I asked for available to me. They encouraged me to always strive for the best and anytime they heard about students graduating with outstanding results, they would always call me to encourage me and that helped too. There were times we had difficulties but God helped us.
How did you use your leisure?
I spent time with friends and I listened to music too. I had preference for R & B with good message. I used to watch educating movies; I love adventures and engaging great minds.
How did you manage gestures from men?
There were lots of that, right from my first day in school till I graduated. Whatever I’m not interested in, I don’t attempt going into it. What I did was to keep such people as friends.
Were you in a relationship throughout?
I wasn’t in a relationship when I got to school but I had one in my final year till now.
What was your happiest moment in school?
That was when I had 5.00 in my 200L second semester. I worked towards that every semester, but God made it happen at that particular time.
Were you also reading during holidays?
I used to, but not as much as I did in school. The difference was that, at home, most of the books I read were not my lecture notes, but other books of interest.
What are your aspirations?
I have so many plans for myself. Ultimately, I’m praying to God to choose a path of success for me; I mean where I would do well, impact on the society and make life better for the people.
Where would you like to work?
I have a lot of plans and I believe God would see me through.
What is your advice to students?
They should be steadfast in prayers, work hard and believe in themselves. The feat I achieved is achievable by anyone who works hard and commits his or her works to God. When I was in 100 L, I chose to start well, be consistent and finish well. Even till the release of my final result, I kept praying that my CGPA would not drop, so there is the place of prayers and of course, hard work.