Twenty-five-year-old Jubril Ojedele who graduated with first-class honours in Civil Engineering from University of Ibadan, tells ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE how his background influenced his academic performance

What would you say influenced your desire to bag first-class honours?

I am Jubril Ojedele. I’m a graduate of Civil Engineering from the University of Ibadan. I’m from Oyo town in Oyo State. I am goal-oriented with eyes fixated on solving global challenges in the civil engineering field, sustainable development, and infrastructure. I will say my late father, Alhaji Ismail Ojedele, influenced me. During his lifetime, he was a staunch advocate for academic excellence. He consistently motivated me to strive for the highest grades from my childhood and I believe obtaining the highest grade in university will be a source of personal pride. Also, I recognised that this accomplishment will enhance my global profile significantly.

Have you always wanted to study Civil Engineering?

Studying Civil Engineering wasn’t a dream I had from my childhood; it became a fulfilling pursuit that aligned with my interests and aspirations to solve global challenges. As I delved deeper into the field, I realised its potential to make a meaningful impact on society, which in turn made it feel like a dream come true in its own right, and I thank God for that.

As a first-class graduate, many will assume that you must have read voraciously in school. What was your study schedule like?

I used to be a voracious reader of school books in my first three years in school, but it dwindled as I moved into my fourth year due to many influencing factors. However, I read for hours because I needed to read ahead of others, so I could assist some of my struggling colleagues. I was not rigid with my schedule because I had several commitments, and I made sure that I was present when needed.

As I said earlier, my late dad played a pivotal role. He used to encourage me to strive and attain good grades and gave me all the necessary support. My background might have influenced the way I approached challenges and setbacks because I developed resilience and determination, which contributed to my ability to overcome academic difficulties and stay focused on my goals. I didn’t wait for any year before I gained admission, though I obtained an ordinary national diploma in a polytechnic immediately after I left secondary school in 2014.

How many of your classmates also graduated with first-class degree?

Eleven of my classmates graduated with first-class degree. It is the highest in the school and the highest that my department has ever recorded. That is why we call ourselves optimus omnium (best of all).

Given that not everybody in your class bagged first-class honours, did you do anything differently that earned you an excellent result?

Let me borrow from the words of Saint Augustine that I learnt while I was in secondary school. He said, ‘Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.’ After praying rigorously for success, I focused on consistent effort, effective study techniques, seeking help when needed and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. I also maintained a positive mindset and reflected on my performance. Mostly, I strived to teach others when they came knocking for help. It helped me achieve so much with perfection. These strategies contributed to my success and can serve as valuable lessons for other students striving for academic excellence.

Would you say such a remarkable performance as an undergraduate was a continuation of your performance in the previous schools you attended?

Yes, in a way, but not absolutely. Although I finished with a distinction in my previous school, and also as the best graduating student in the department, it contributed little to my achievement in the university. However, it helped me largely in terms of experience. I gained admission into the university through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, and really, many of the things we learnt at the polytechnic were not that useful at that time. I will say appropriate doses of prayers, tenacity, smart work and hard work were what fuelled my triumph as one of the best-graduating students in Civil Engineering. I got to UI, I studied the system and I adapted to the system.

Did you also have excellent results in your primary and secondary schools?

Yes, I did. I used to be the overall best or second-best pupil throughout primary and secondary school, and that is evident in my Basic Education Certificate Examination and West African School Leaving Certificate Examination results. My results were always stellar.

Were you able to create time for social activities at the university?

Yes, I was. I was an active member of several societies, groups and associations in the university, particularly the University of Ibadan branch of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria. I was also a one-time public relations officer of the departmental association. I was an active member of EcoVanguard Club UI and some others like that.

Did you have challenges or were there circumstances that made you doubt the possibility of graduating with a first-class degree?

Not at all. I was always clear about everything, and I thank God for that privilege.

Can you describe your mother’s reaction when you informed her about your final result?

For my mum, it was a mixture of pride, joy and validation of my hard work and dedication. It was a moment of celebration and accomplishment for my entire family, but it is sad that my dad was unavailable to share in it. I remember vividly that my dad replaced my old and faulty phone when I cleared my Senior School Certificate Examination results in secondary school.

Would you have felt bad if you had not graduated with a first-class degree?

It’s important to note that not achieving a first-class degree doesn’t necessarily equate to failure. Success is multifaceted and personal, and there are various paths to achieving one’s goals and aspirations. So, if it were that not bagging a first-class degree was a direct reflection of someone’s sabotage or something on my grades, I would have felt really bad and disappointed.

From your experience, why do you think students fail examinations?

Some reasons I know from my observation are lack of adequate financial support, health issues, lack of interest and motivation, lack of effective study habits, and cerebral incapacitation in studying courses.

Examination fright is also a problem students face. How did you handle it?

A positive mindset is key. I’m usually not afraid of exams so far I know I only need to prepare adequately for them, backed with enough prayers. I didn’t have a daily routine, because, at times, I missed classes due to other commitments. But mostly, when I was not in my room, I was at the department or the central mosque.

What was your most memorable moment as an undergraduate?

Every moment counted, but what I will regard as my most memorable moment was years of acts of service and the day I was awarded the Most Outstanding Student in Academic Excellence at the 15th Outstanding Award of Junior Chambers International Nigeria, University of Ibadan.

It is common for new students to have some challenges settling down. Did you encounter any challenges as a first-year student?

No, I didn’t because I had a friend who had been in the school. He was the one who helped me with all the necessary information needed as a fresher student.

Did you get any recognition or awards as an undergraduate and for bagging a first-class degree?

Certainly, I had about 12 awards and recognitions to my name while in the university.

Did you see romantic relationships as a distraction in school as some do?

Thank you for this question. I did not see it as a distraction because many people excel academically and are in a relationship. However, if you want to be involved in a relationship, do it legally.

Where do you want to be in a few years?

In a few years, I want to be an accomplished engineer who has contributed positively to society and on the global stage. I want to complete my PhD. I want to see a design and construction company that I co-found with my friends making remarkable strides everywhere. Also, I want to be rich and married with beautiful kids. I pray God makes it all easy.

What have you been doing since you graduated?

I’m currently tidying up my documents for applications to graduate schools, while at the same time garnering relevant experience in the industry as I hope to undertake my National Youth Service Corps programme in a leading construction company.

Studying at the University of Ibadan was a great accomplishment for me, and like every other student, I had my fair share of ups and downs. However, as an innovative dude and engineering addict, I demonstrated a wide range of interests, including capacity building, spiritual development, politics, hackathons, academic research and other engagements. My sojourn at the university was made more memorable by my outstanding camaraderie and companions, especially my Muslim folks.

Most of my friends are those with whom our interests and ambitions align; they are my support system, though I have older and younger friends. I am eternally grateful for the crossing of our paths. My friends include those I met in the department, friends turned family in the MSSN and UI, friends from the halls, acquaintances, and more.

What comes to your mind when people say there is no job out there?

It is a sad reality that resonates with me. I do not agree that there are no jobs, but I agree that there are limited jobs for numerous graduates. So, I believe that with the right values, connections and capabilities one will secure a befitting job.

I will advise students to explore their interests and strengths, reflect on their long-term goals, assess their academic aptitude, and then make a choice aligned with their passions and aspirations. They should not be too concentrated only on academic books. They should seek several means to secure the bag while at the same time maintaining a stellar academic profile. They should also engage in beneficial activities, hone their skills, and make good friends and connections.

As a young civil engineering graduate, what difference are you planning to make in society?

As a young civil engineering graduate, I intend to make a distinct impact by emphasising sustainability and community-focused solutions. I plan to integrate innovative and environmentally conscious practices into my projects, striving for designs that reduce ecological impact and enhance long-term resilience. Additionally, I aspire to collaborate closely with local communities, ensuring that their needs and perspectives are integral to the projects I undertake. By prioritising sustainable development and community engagement, I aim to contribute positively to both the built environment and the lives of those it serves.

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