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How A Dull Student Graduated From University With A First-class Degree 



Edirin Onomuakpokpo

 How do you feel after making a first-class degree from the Nasarawa State University?

 I feel very elated, in fact it’s a dream come true. At the time I got admission into Nasarawa State University Keffi, a lot of students tried to discourage me, including some  of my course mates for being too serious with my academics, some of them even said “nobody will give you first class”. But after my first semester result at 100 level came out, I had 4.30/5.0. This was the moment that changed everything, I realized it was a goal possible to attain only if I put in more effort and work smarter. At the 200 level first semester, I already had a first class CGPA of 4.53, so I just kept on with  the tempo. Although faced with so many challenges, at the end graduated as the best student in my department with a CGPA of 4.59

What are you doing currently?

Currently, l’m serving my father’s land under the umbrella of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). It’s a privilege to serve, I must say and I’m using this opportunity to impact the students at my PPA and ensuring they get the best education in both practical and theoretical aspects of their studies.

 Judging by your name Emmanuel Edirin Onomuakpokpo, you are obviously from Delta State in the South-south. Why did you leave all the universities in the South-south to attend Nasarawa State University?

 After I wrote my first JAMB in 2017, Delta State University, Abraka (DELSU) was the first school to which I applied. My dad wanted me to go for medicine but unfortunately I applied for medical biochemistry instead because I didn’t hit the cut-off mark for medicine in my JAMB. However, I had 98/100 in their Post-UTME exam but yet was not given admission to study medical biochemistry. I could remember crying my eyes out that year, seeing my friends whom we graduated from secondary school together gaining admission to universities, I never wanted to sit at home doing nothing. May be it was actually God’s plan not to get admission then because medicine was never something I envisaged for myself. My drive had always been agriculture because I have always loved the idea of growing food and feeding the nation as a kid. So, studying an agricultural discipline would be to me a fullfiment of that dream. The next year 2018, thanks to  Engr. Uzoma Kenneth .K, a neighbour of ours at the time and a family friend who introduced me to the concept of agricultural biotechnology, he told me this was the future of modern agriculture and encouraged me to focus my attention there since I already had interest in agriculture. So that very year I researched schools that offer this course, to the best of my knowledge Nasarawa State University Keffi was the closest I could find. Proximity to the university was another advantage to me since we  resided in Nasarawa State. These and many other factors contributed to me leaving all the universities in the South and studying at the prestigious Nasarawa State University, Keffi.

What inspired you to attain that academic height?

Let me cut the long story short. I wasn’t always this brilliant and intelligent. There was a time I was called dull by my principal when I was in primary school. I struggled with my academics so much that my principal had to advise my mum to change my school because he couldn’t help my situation. This made my mum cry so much and I could feel her pains. After my mum agreed to change my school,  I was repeated and had to be in the same class with my younger sister at the time. The moment I will never forget was one fateful morning, I was seated at the back sit of the class writing  my exams, I think English Language, as I was focused on my paper suddenly I heard my name Emmanuel!! with a thunderous and aggressive voice, when I raised my head up it was my quantitative reasoning teacher Mr. Haruna. I will never forget his name. He called me out to the front of the class, and without first telling me the crime I had committed, he gave me a dirty slap. After which in an angry tone, he told me I failed his quantitative reasoning exam, that I had 16/70. I held my face with my hands, because I was very fair, the marks of his hands were visible on my face. I went home that day with that trauma and anger and told myself that never again would I be humiliated because of my academic performance. I didn’t just tell myself out of emotion, I backed it up with actions. Nobody was telling me to read my books, I told myself, I stopped playing too much and I began focusing on my books. The next term after the previous one the incident happened, I came second in class. This made my mum so happy . My dad was in Benin at the time, he had to send a bicycle for me as his present to show his appreciation of my performance. I was happy with myself too. From then on, there was this consciousness I woke up to that ignited my desire to become the best in everything I do. I was also inspired by my dad’s academic performance, Mr. Augustine A. Onomuakpokpo. He graduated with a second class upper. At the time I got into the university I told him I was going to beat his results. He challenged me to it and now I guess I won, all glory be to God.

 Did you envisage coming out of the university with that class of degree?

At first I envisaged graduating with a good grade, maybe second-class upper degree. But after my first semester result at the 100 level, I took a pen and wrote on a sheet of paper “l’m a First-class Plant Biotechnologist” and pasted it on my wall in my room. At this point I knew it was possible and waking up everyday to the writing on my wall, I became restless and heavy each time I missed out on my reading timetable because the man on the wall was the only thing I could see.

 What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

The challenges were numerous but the most daunting one  was  the issue of balancing my academic life, social life and spiritual life. I had to find a way to be active in all. To surmount the issue of socialization, when I got into the university at the 100 level, because of how pro-active I was in all things pertaining to student welfarism, I was made the course representative. This exposed me to interacting with students from different backgrounds, cultures and traditions. I had to develop leadership skills, listening skills and attentiveness to be able to shoulder the responsibilities of being a course rep and secretary general of the department. I was also very active in religious activities. During the 100 level second semester, I discovered that from 100 – 400 levels, there was no group dedicated to actively putting my school especially my department in prayers, so I formed one and congregated students to intercede for the department. I believe our prayers worked and God helped us. Although I was engaged with all these activities, I also ensured that only 20% of my time was given to them and 80% of the time, I was always on my books.

How  did your lecturers support you ?

I wouldn’t have achieved this great feat without the help of my lecturers. At this point, I’m proud to call them my mentors. They include Dr. Bello Abdulkarim, Dr. Muhammad Hassan Sani Loko and my very unquantifiably supportive supervisor Prof. J. C. Onovo. They saw the potential I was carrying, and they drew me close like a father would a son and constantly fed me with words of encouragement. Dr. Bello Abdulkarim and Dr. Muhammad Hassan Sani Loko would always admonish me and call me to order when they noticed I had derailed. University is a place filled with so many distractions, sometimes we may get carried away by activities forgetting the very reason why we are there. Having people like these was a blessing to me and I’m proud to say these were the people that encouraged me and pushed me beyond my self to bring out academic excellence in me.

 What is your plan after your youth service?

 My plan after my youth service is to get a fully funded scholarship in Canada, USA or Europe,  to further my academic career in order to gain advanced knowledge in scientific research especially in the area of biotechnology,  genome sequencing, environmental conservation, plant breeding and genetics,  and bio-resource engineering. So that with the scientific skills acquired from this programme, I would be able to positively impact  the Nigeria agricultural sector and the world at large, to help combat the issue of food insecurity and to proffer solutions to plant-related issues using biotechnology.

 What advice do you have for  students who desire to graduate with a first-class degree?

My advice is simple, make your academics your priority and exclude unnecessary distractions and put God first. Have a CGPA goal for each semester and remember each time you fail is an opportunity to reinvent yourself to  do better the next time you try.

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