With 4.98 CGPA, Ibrahim Adedeji Alimi emerged the 2018/2019 overall best graduating student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG). In this interview by ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, the mechanical engineering graduate talks about his journey in school, the steps he took to achieve this feat, among others.
Was Mechanical Engineering your choice?
Yes, Mechanical Engineering was my first choice. I chose the course when I finished secondary school and I got it at once.
Did you think you were going to emerge as the best graduating student?
No. I didn’t see it ahead. Coming into UNILAG, I only wanted to finish with a first class and have a good CGPA. The best graduating student was something that I came into the realisation that it was possible when I got into my fourth/fifth year. Not like I wanted to be in my 100 level, but it just happened along the line.
How did you feel when you realised there was the probability of you emerging as the best graduating student and even when it was finally announced?
When I realised there was the probability of emerging as the best graduating student, it made me more focused in my fifth year. After my second semester in fifth year, I just knew I definitely had to finish with a five point. So it made me more focused in my final year. When it was finally announced, yes it’s a great thing. My parents are proud of me, my siblings, friends, mentor are all proud and happy for me. I’ve gotten lot of calls, congratulatory messages, although it can be a bit overwhelming to be in public space.
You got four awards and 15 prizes; you were also the best graduating in the field of science. What would you say were the strategies and extra steps you took that made these happen?
I would first give glory to God for the opportunity. For me, I’d say having this kind of performance boils down to being consistent and motivated to stay on top of your game because finishing with a good CGPA is something you start from your 100 level. You have to be consistent and get something that will motivate you because at a point, you might want to lose focus. If you have a goal or target you want to meet and you keep working towards it, it will keep you going. Also, you should have people around you that are very supportive. For me, my parents were supportive and were always there for me.
What was your study pattern like?
To be frank, I didn’t have a study pattern because there were some days I could go as far as reading for seven hours, 11 hours, and there were some days I was not reading at all. My reading was based on my mood and the necessity. Mood in the sense that do I feel like reading today? If I feel like reading, I’ll pick up my book and read for the number of hours I want. Necessity is do I have tests or examinations, so I definitely have to read for them. So I did not have a particular pattern or way that I read. All I knew was I just read when it was necessary.
What were some of the challenges you faced while in school?
Studying this course, mechanical engineering in the University of Lagos itself was a challenge. It was so rigorous. In terms of other challenges, there was a time I didn’t get accommodation early enough and I had to go from Sango-Otta to Lagos for some weeks. I had to wake up around 3:00 a.m and I would not get home until around 11:00 p.m. I was sleeping for just three to four hours for this period but I scaled through. I think my final year project too gave me a little hitch, but overall, I’m grateful.
Did you maintain a high CGPA from your first year at UNILAG? What motivated you to do exceptionally well?
I had a perfect start and up till 200 level, first semester, I was on a five-point CGPA. I had a great start. What motivated me to start very well was the UNILAG endowment fund of N50,000. So, that was my source of motivation. I wanted to finish with a first class because that is what qualifies you for the endowment fund. After I qualified for the endowment fund, the motivation changed, that since I was on a five-point, I had to maintain it. I told myself that since I had maintained it for three semesters, it was actually possible for me to keep it going.
How were you able to balance school work with social life and others? Or did you forfeit some for school work?
I had issues with time management so I cannot say I was able to balance extracurricular activities with school work. At some point, I lost out on some or they kicked me out. I was a member of one organisation, I was not performing so well, I was not even attending meetings and others, so at a point, they had to kick me out because I was not an active member. But over time, I think I got better. I think my fourth or fifth year, I was able to engage in other activities like being the chairman for Engineering Muslim Students’ Society (EMSS) Fresher’s Day Committee, a quality control team member of Professor Ayodele Awojobi Design Competition (PAADC), among others.
Did your circle of friends or family influence your grades in any way?
Definitely, my family had influence on my grades, because they made everything available to me. My father would always call just to check up on me, to know how I was doing in my courses. Even though he didn’t have engineering background, he still wanted to show how caring he was. After every examination, he would call and ask how it was. In terms of academics, my father was really supportive and he was there for every other thing as well. If I needed something in school, he would make it readily available and get it to me. That was a source of motivation and it pushed me to be on top of my game because I had everything.
Also, the type of friends I keep as well were supportive, even my classmates. They were so supportive and they wanted the best for me. I think they were the ones rooting for me to be the best graduating student. They did play a huge role in me being the best graduating student.
How easy was it to graduate with a 4.98 CGPA?
It was not easy because I had some rough moments and there were some examinations I wrote that made me have doubts if I was going to finish with an A. At some point, the pressure was also high on me that I had to maintain the grades and others. It was not an easy feat. Mechanical Engineering was so stressful and demanding with lots of activities and lots of things to do. There were some great moments and there were some down moments. It was not easy.
Do you think mechanical engineers have enough opportunities here in Nigeria? Are they appreciated enough?
I have not been in the labour market; I am currently serving so I cannot really say much about that. But typically, mechanical engineering roles I know of are in oil companies and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies. The good ones that pay so much are the oil companies and they are not readily available to people, the opportunities are not there. But still, I cannot say because like I said, I have not been in the labour market.
Asides being a mechanical engineer, what else do you enjoy?
The social activities I do, I watch a lot of movies and I love football. I watch shows on TV as well and I like to read short articles that are educative.
What is your advice for people who want to achieve great feats academically?
Just be yourself, there’s no pressure. Know what works well for you. For me, I was not the kind of person that read overnight or used the library and I did not have a routine to read. I studied myself and knew what worked for me. I read in my room and it worked well for me. So just study yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses and play along that line to see how you can improve the weaknesses. Don’t say because someone else is doing this, you must do it too. You can borrow from people’s experiences and ideas and pick from it. Basically, use it to make yours.