Twenty-five-year-old Habeebulahi Abdulwahab, who graduated with first-class honours in Veterinary Medicine from Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, tells Abdullateef Fowewe about his academic journey
What motivated you to choose Veterinary Medicine as a course of study? Or did you have a different course in mind early on?
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board changed my preferred course from Radiography to Veterinary Medicine and I accepted it with faith, with a belief that God will do the best for me. I chose Medicine and Surgery at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, as my first choice, but my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination score of 232 stopped me from going to OAU to study Medicine and Surgery. I would have gone ahead to study another course there but I discovered that the academic calendar at OAU was so long. So, I changed my school of choice to Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, to study Radiography because I was told that my UTME score would not give me Medicine and Surgery. Although I wanted to select UDUS as my first choice before registering for the UTME, due to the insecurity in the North, I decided to choose OAU. However, considering my UTME score, I took a very hard decision by settling for an institution of choice in the North, despite the insecurity.
How many times did you take the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination before you secured admission into UDUS?
I took UTME once and scored 232 in 2015. It was my first time. I prepared well for it and I thanked God for the blessing I received.
What kind of childhood did you have and how did it influence your education?
Growing up, my father enrolled me and my siblings for sound educational training. He employed teachers for personal classes at every stage of our education. I remember attending up to five different coaching centres during the holiday while preparing for the West African Examination Council’s General Certificate Examination then. He also trained us to be strong when faced with challenges. My father is a farmer and at the same time, a teacher. We always went to the farm during holidays and every weekend. All these activities influenced my educational career positively and also prepared me to be able to study well when faced with challenges. It was a rare opportunity for me to graduate with such strength. I thank him for that strict upbringing that later turned me into what I am today.
When did you know you were headed for a first class?
After I was given admission, I had my first determination of graduating with at least a grade point average of 4.80 out of 5.00. So, in my 100 level, I had 4.93. This gave me more courage that I could actualise my dream and I continued on the path with 4.89 in the 200 level, 4.84 in the 300 level, 4.91 in the 400 level, 4.84 in the 500 level and I ended up with 4.86 in the 600 level, which was my final year.
How did you and your parents receive the news of your excellent result in your final exam?
It didn’t come to me as news, because every student at UDUS knows their GPA after every semester. But to my parents, I was the one that informed them that I bagged a first-class degree. The only thing that came to me as a surprise was receiving 17 different awards because I was not informed beforehand by my lecturers. It was a total surprise to me. Although I knew I was the best student all along, I didn’t expect to have such awards. I was shocked when my name was called more than five times for different awards on my induction day. I believe my parents were surprised too because they did not even expect that I would be given an award. I felt completely shocked to the extent that I was lost in thought for minutes while receiving the awards.
Has anyone attained this feat in the history of your department at UDUS?
Yes. A senior colleague, Dr Sodiq Ayobami, also graduated with a CGPA of 4.86, but no one had ever collected 17 awards from different departments within the faculty. In my belief, I still stand out from the other best students with the awards received.
Have you always been an outstanding student right from the beginning?
Yes, I have always been an outstanding student right from my primary school years. I graduated as the overall best pupil in primary school and also graduated as the overall best pupil in secondary school as well. Throughout my education in secondary school, I won inter-secondary school quizzes and competitions.
Can you list the recognitions you got after graduating with a first class at the university?
I received a award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Surgery in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Theriogenology in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Small Animal Medicine in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Physiology in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Animal Production in 2023; and award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology in 2023. Others are the award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Microbiology in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Parasitology in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Pathology in 2023; award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Biochemistry in 2023; and award of honour as the best student in Veterinary Anatomy in 2023.
I also received an award as the best student in Large Animal Medicine in 2023; an award of honour as the best student in Clinics in 2023 and an award as the overall best-graduating student of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine by the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association in 2023. I was awarded the prize for the student of the year for being the overall best student in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 2023, and the Farm Alert Outlier Leadership award from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at UDUS as the student with the best leadership skill in 2023.
I received N100,000 from Farm Alert, a month-paid internship, and N85,000 from the faculty.
Did you encounter any challenging moments at school that tested your level of determination and almost made you give up?
Yes. There was a situation that made me think of giving up. I was in the 300 level when I attended a national convention organised by the National Association of Veterinary Medical Students at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (in Enugu State) in 2017. At that time, we went to the convention with the approval of the faculty (at UDUS) but a test (at school) was conducted before we arrived back at school and I was unable to take mine till the result was out, and all efforts to find remedies to it was aborted. I was so saddened by this incident that I thought of giving up then, but I was able to study and prepare extremely well. I later got an A in that course in the end.
How did you manage the pressure that comes with studying at university with many rules and regulations to obey?
Federal universities have many rules and regulations which all students must abide by, but being a law-abiding student from secondary school prepared me ahead of the task. It was so easy for me to follow all the guidelines outlined by the school authority, and I made sure I had no bad record in any department in the school, nor violated any law. At the faculty, I had the opportunity to serve as a leader to many and a role model to some students. I organised tutorial classes for my colleagues and junior ones mostly on biostatistics and Biochemistry topics.
I was also active in many associations in my faculty. I have served as the chairman of the education committee of the Association of Veterinary Medical Students, from 2020 to 2023. I also served as the editor-in-chief of the National Association of Muslim Veterinary Medical Students from 2020 to 2023, and much like that.
What type of company did you keep as a veterinary student?
Being open-minded about human relations, I made a lot of friends, though some have become family friends.
What was your reading pattern like?
I didn’t have a reading pattern different from the normal ways my colleagues read. The only thing I think was different was that I always had my reading timetable created immediately after the school timetable was out, and I made sure I read to understand not to memorise.
Did you have exam fright?
Well, exam fright did come sometimes, especially in my department where I had to take many examinations but the best conquering method that worked for me was proper preparation and prayer. I didn’t start any exam without prayer and I did ensure that I went through all the notes given to us, even extra notes, thoroughly before I started the exam. Doing these helped me conquer exam fright.
All my lecturers were lovable, caring, and kindhearted. I was comfortable with all of them. They were diligent, hardworking, and dedicated to their work. They treated me like their son, to the extent that they gave me food, money, and shelter sometimes as the case when necessary. I will describe them as the best lecturers in the world.
Which departmental courses did you find the most challenging?
Well, throughout my time at the school, I passed through 10 departments in the faculty, and didn’t find any of the courses challenging, though Veterinary Surgery and Radiology were tough sometimes, I conquered them.
Did you have favourite courses?
My best courses were Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Animal production/Theriogenology and I chose them because I love talking about chemical formulas, and structural formulas and because those areas are still developing and there are a lot of opportunities there. I like Animal Production /Theriogenology because, in Animal Production, I have the opportunity of tackling food insecurity, unemployment, and financial insufficiency by establishing a farm and using technological advancement in controlling animal reproduction to boost farm production. In Animal Production/Theriogenology, I have the opportunity of tackling food insecurity, unemployment, and financial insufficiency through technology.
What do you do now?
Currently, I am an intern vet doctor at a private hospital in Iletuntun, Ibadan, Oyo State. I am very grateful for the great opportunity given to me to study under the tutelage of the owner. I am amazed by the state-of-the-art equipment in the hospital.
With a first-class degree in the bag, what is your plan for the future?
Attaining this feat has changed a bit of my plan. I am a veterinarian well-versed in theory and clinical practices. I had thought of going for clinical practices after my final exam, but with this amazing feat, I discovered the best for me is to move back into lecturing so I will be able to share the knowledge.
The next step on my agenda is to study for a master’s degree through a scholarship which I am still searching for and I need help on that.
What can pupils or young Nigerians do to achieve academic excellence?
I will advise them to always strive for academic excellence regardless of the poor recognition the government is giving, and to stay focused and always have the greatest determination in achieving success. Also, they should aim to contribute positively to the nation. They should not allow anyone to influence them negatively, and they should be prayerful in whatever they do.