At 18, Aminu Akinyele graduated with a first-class degree from the Department of English, Mountain Top University, Ibafo, Ogun State, having scored 4.63 CGPA. He tells TUNDE AJAJA his motivations and memorable moments in his academic journey
You became a graduate at 18, how did you do it?
I started school early. I went through all the classes until I got to primary school, where I was given double promotion from primary two to primary four. I had a complete secondary education and gained admission to the university at 14; the same year I left secondary school. To the glory of God, I graduated without a carry-over or an extra year.
Since you got admission at a young age, how easy was it for you to acclimatise to the new environment?
Going to university was not the first time I travelled away from home for a long time. My father’s desire was for his children to get education from the different geo-political zones in the country. For instance, when I finished from POWA International School in Abuja; I was eight then, I had my secondary education at Command Secondary School, Kaduna State.
Were there times older colleagues tried to bully you or make you feel like a child?
It was quite tough in my secondary school because of ravaging bullies, who were easily attracted to weaker pupils. However, I learnt the principle of self-esteem and practised it in university. I had a small stature and the strategy I deployed, in addition to believing in myself esteem, was to hang around with people that were older and taller than me (laughs). That was a strategy and it helped to keep the bullies at bay. But when I got to the higher institution, we were all equal and nobody bullied another person.
Do you know if you were one of the youngest persons in your class?
Yes, I was the youngest graduating student in my faculty. Meanwhile, another male student, God’s Favourite, and I were the youngest graduating students in the school.
You once said you were happy you chose English over law, what informed that preference?
I was unable to gain admission to the University of Ilorin, where I would have studied law. Therefore, I opted for Mountain Top University that same year. Law was not available at Mountain Top University then, so I decided to study English. Judging from my experience in the labour environment, more grammarians are needed than lawyers. In addition to that, I believe I have more inherent abilities for English than law and so I’m happy with the choice I made.
Were there people who tried to convince you to study law?
Yes! In retrospect, I can remember my secondary school days when my school mates had already predicted the course I would study. Nearly everyone believed in the myth that the Department of Law housed the most brilliant Art students; so did I. But I later realised that there was more to making the right choice than following the popular view.
How best would you capture your reaction when you eventually graduated with a first-class degree?
I was delighted because it was a dream come true. However, I was not really surprised, and that was because I started having first-class results from my very first semester in my first year. I remember my first result was 4.82. All I had to do from that moment was to build on that foundation, even though it wasn’t so easy. Nothing good comes easy as people say. The strength used in plucking leaves is different from the strength used in pulling a mighty tree. Graduating with a first-class degree was actually a huge challenge and I’m sure anyone with the same class of degree from my department would say the same thing. However, it wasn’t an impossible task.
Some people say maintaining the grade is tougher than rising to attain the first-class mark, what’s your thought on that?
This is quite true. Sometimes, one may be lucky to get first-class grades in a semester, or even session. However, the pride, positive remarks and honour of having such grades call for more work. Also, the higher one goes in university, the higher the pressure. These and many more are the probable factors that make it a bit tough to maintain it. I have also heard it several times that it’s difficult to graduate with a first-class degree in English and I want to say it’s true.
However, he that wishes to rule in the ocean must first learn to swim in murky waters. I set a goal in the university to make a grade that would serve as a landmark in the department. My determination made me thrive. I read voraciously such that I lost count of my reading hours in a day. I also watched videos that made me stronger. In addition, students who study English should take note of the fact that the assessment of our academic performance is quite different from the guide most departments follow. In our case, not only content is judged; grammar is also of importance.
Would you say your feat was a product of some thorough planning or you worked hard and it paid off?
The training I got since when I was very young was to be the best in whatever I do and by doing it the best way anyone can. Therefore, I planned this from my early days and I have always done that at all levels of my education. In university, I would simply say I planned to create a landmark in the department and with rigorous reading, research works and practicing, that journey became easier and my aspiration became easier to achieve. On the other hand, Ephesians 2:8 says: ‘For by grace, you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ Therefore, I can again and again that it is by the grace of God.
Did you win any award as an undergraduate?
Yes, I did. For instance, I won the D.K.O. Foundation Scholarship. I also got Mountain Top University’s cash prize for first-class students, plus some awards for excellent leadership. I was also first runner-up in the 2019 edition of the Nigeria Debate Society competition, among other academic awards. The reward for academic excellence is always a good motivation.
You were the best vocational student in entrepreneurship, what was your vocation?
Agro allied services, hair care management and catering.
Would you consider doing something in entrepreneurship now that you have graduated?
Definitely, I will.
You wrote on your LinkedIn page that you are a content writer, automobile dealer and agriculturalist; could you expatiate on how you got into these?
While my degree enables me to be a content writer; my business and internship experiences allow me go into the automobile business. On the other hand, my father is an agriculturalist and this has, in turn, developed some behavioural conditioning in me.
Were there times you missed being home and you felt like going back to see your parents?
Life in my secondary school was like a sophisticated jungle. So, in my early days in that school, yes, there were times I felt like going back home. On the other hand, in the university, I never had such a feeling.
What are your plans and aspirations?
I plan to further develop myself by seeking scholarship to further my education abroad up to PhD level. After that, I would venture into business.
Were you sociable or you only focused on your studies?
I was sociable. Aside from the fact that I occupied few leadership positions, like the Students’ Representative Council press secretary, General Secretary of National Association of English and Literary Studies, Students’ Representative in the Ceremony and Honours Committee, etc., which permitted me to partake in social engagements. I love meeting new people and learning new things, but in spite of these, I fixed my eyes on my goals and I avoided being a bookworm.
What were your memorable moments in school?
My happiest day was the day I was selected as the Students’ Representative Council’s press secretary. It’s a day I probably won’t forget. On the other hand, the saddest day was when I realised I had a 4.27 Grade Point Average the previous semester. I was sad, but I knew it wasn’t the end of the world.
What do you think students who want to graduate with a first-class degree should do differently?
Never forget your maker, learn beyond your field, do some research, practicalise your course, never be a bookworm, be humble, avoid peer influence and be a dogged student.
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