It was a gleeful afternoon that I checked in at the Civic Center Towers to meet a busy Emmanuel Aiyenitaju, ACCA. The interview was conducted in an ambience of conviviality, starting with a handshake at the reception. With initial dream of studying Medicine that didn’t materialize, Chemistry became the only option and the only option. Emmanuel was determined to graduate with an eximious grade. Today, this situational Chemist is a certified, chartered accountant who is having a great career as an Audit Assistant Manager at Deloitte.
Success does not freely come one’s way. It calls for personal determination and self-development. A successful person is a source of inspiration to those who equally aspire to achieve success. You are at the liberty to leverage on Pelumi’s secret of success and model yours around his. Nothing is impossible. You will be surprised that the word “impossible” itself means “I’m possible”
Take your time to read your fill.
Elvis Boniface of Edugist: Mr Emmanuel, would it be convenient for you to take us through your academic life?
Emmanuel Aiyenitaju of Deloitte: I am Emmanuel Pelumi. I attended CMS Grammar School, Bariga Lagos between 1997 and 2003. My secondary school days were notoriously challenging because my academic performance was a miserable one. I experienced a meteoric transformation in 2002 when I represented my school at the Lagos State spelling bee competition. I emerged the best speller in the competition. My excellent performance turned me to a Cinderella because I had never thought I could achieve such a landmark. Consequent upon my performance, I was appointed a one-day governor of Lagos State. Seeing myself in this position, I engaged in a personal dialogue on the best way to become more focused in my studies. Another thing that inspire a transformation in my academic life was the motherly words of encouragement from the then Lagos State First Lady, Mrs Oluremi Tinubu. She maintained that I possessed some inborn spirits for academic excellence and advised I take my studies seriously. Ever since then I have attached seriousness and a very strong determination to succeed to whatever I do.
I ended the first year with a 3.7 grade. I became worried. I later realised that it was my perpetual lateness to lecture room that occasioned the first year’s grade.
After my secondary school, I proceeded to the University of Lagos to study Chemistry after my ambition to read medicine was jeopardised by my score in JAMB examination. It was the same spirit of self-determination that triggered my academic excellence at the university. In my 100 level, it seemed unrealistic that the set was unrealistic. I ended the first year with a 3.7 grade. I became worried. I later realised that it was my perpetual lateness to lecture room that occasioned the first year’s grade. In those days, each time I arrived the lecture hall, it was already filled up. I had to take my position among the backbenchers. This did not help me at all; it was absolutely difficult to control my view on the lecturer and board because of my short sightedness. I can’t see twenty-twenty. Before the beginning of the following year, since I never wished myself a poor grade, I had to purchase a pair of glasses that aided my visibility. I do not possess the strength to read for a longer period. But, I combined my concerted efforts with self-determination to succeed. Today, I am glad to graduate with a first-class distinction.
I had my one year’s mandatory service at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta between 2009 and 2010. Immediately after the youth service, I was offered a job opportunity at Akintola Williams. Though there is no correlation between the services provided at the firm and the course I did at the University, I remain tenacious due to the influence the willingness to follow my elder brother’s professional career had on me. I thank God that I am now a chartered accountant.
EB: As a first class graduate, are there periods you failed any of your courses?
EA: There was no period I failed any of my courses except during my post graduate programme. It was a herculean task to pass the ACCA examination. This was the only examination I failed several time. It was as if the world was about to end. I only fortified myself the assurance that ‘I am not a failure I believe strongly that failure itself means success. I often said that if people had passed the exam, I kept the spirit that I would pass it.
I experienced a meteoric transformation in 2002 when I represented my school at the Lagos State spelling bee competition. I emerged the best speller in the competition. My excellent performance turned me to a Cinderella because I had never thought I could achieve such a landmark
EB: Was your Studying Chemistry at the University a self -decision making or influenced by someone around?
EA: Chemistry was not the course I aspired to study at the university. I was highly ambitious to study medicine like everyone in the science department then. In my JAMB examination, I scored 235, a score that was below the cuff-off requirement for Medicine in my choice of institution. In order not to lose that year’s admission opportunity, I did a change of course. I gained admission to study Chemistry. I was dissatisfied with the alternative course I was given. A lecturer in the department who seemed to be aware of our dissatisfaction cushioned the displeasure that had enveloped our heart with his professional and father advice. We were advised to be the best in the course given to us. He maintained that our performance had a way of creating opportunities for us later in life. I held on to the lecturer’s advice.
EB: It is believed that every student should possess two important skills- COMPETENCE AND PERFORMANCE to function effectively in the society. Findings have revealed that most graduates only possess COMPETENCE- skills acquisition; they obviously lack PERFORMANCE- the application of skills acquired. What is your own opinion about these two skills?
EA: There is a symbiotic correlation between the two concepts. Sincerely speaking, I am completely in sympathy with the fact that both skills are essential in the academic life of students. I have seen first-class graduates that are competence challenged. My usual advice to students who are close to me is that they should always try to acquire learning skill. Education is not about the grade; it is majorly about what you can do in a real-life situation. I totally concur with you.
EB: In your own opinion, what would you mention as the major factor responsible for competence without performance?
EA: In Nigeria the structural architecture of the school curriculum is only designed to favour competence, and to the detriment of performance. You discover after graduating that what goes on in the university is a different ball game from the reality one faces in life. The school tends to focus more on competence because the lecturers deem to be much more concerned about the grades of the students. One thing is that the converse is the case in developed countries. In those countries, during the holidays, students intern with firms related with their various courses. The essence of this internship is to prepare the students for whatever the job demands and they are already fortified for the future. Besides, the exercise enables the students to fraternise with the system they are going into after graduation. I think for the government to bridge the gap, that lacuna that the systemic failure in the university usually leaves, I would suggest that work-related internships are exposed to the students rather than the regular traditional academic exercise. Just like the CIWES we did in our year three, we benefitted a lot from the exercise.
Education is not about the grade; it is majorly about what you can do in a real-life situation. I totally concur with you.
The students themselves need orientation in order to the essence of the exercise. If the exercise is introduced to them but they fail to value or appreciate it, it still ends up as an exercise in futility. This is the reason they need orientation on why the programme is essential.
EB: Achievements in life transcend one’s personal efforts. One way or the other, some individuals would have been of immense help towards the realisation of your dream. Could you mention those who rendered some assistance during your course of studies?
EA: Of course, there are people who rendered some assistance to me before and during my programme. Even at present people still render assistance. We cannot do without it. Prominent among those who occupy a monumental space in my hall of praise is Senator Oluremi Tinubu. She was the one who catapulted me out of mediocrity. Her intervention ended up being a turning point in my life. I can never forget her motherly roles. Also, within my class there were classmates whose academic performance was unconsciously a source of inspiration. I look up to becoming them. These are Olayemi Gafar, Abiodun Anifowose, Benson and Jide Odukoya.
EB: Do you think your grade as a first-class graduate gave you an advantage of a lucrative job?
EA: The only advantage I will say my grade gave me was the opportunity to go for an interview. First class is just a nomenclature. Without the grade, I might still have the opportunity to work here. Not all staff here or at every other organisation are first-class graduates. What we need to know is that, as a first-class graduate, one can only gain easy access to interviews. One will surely be invited for job interviews. First class and 2.1 are the criteria to get job placement in Nigeria. Apart from the doors of job opportunities that open for graduates with first class distinction, it gives them access to run a PhD degree without going through a master’s degree. I have a good number of friends studying outside the country because they graduated with a first-class grade.
EB: For the students who aspire to graduate with a first class grade, what advice do you have for them?
EA: Graduating with a good grade is more of personal efforts and determination. One thing that every student must understand is that they must know why they are in school. Anybody can graduate with a first-class grade as long as they believe in their ability to achieve it and they are studying a course all because someone is studying it. i don’t believe in impossibility. A student should be focused and understand themselves. Most of my friends on the same grade with me were ardent readers. They used to read for hours. I was not a reading type. The only time I tried to emulate them, within a few minutes, I had slept off. I couldn’t meet up them. Individual styles of reading differ. I learnt to do things in my own way. Every student should understand their nature and act in conformity with it. Another important thing is that students should avoid distractions. There are a lot of distractions these days on social media. The only thing that occupied my mind was my studies. I completely sacrificed all social lifestyle to live a better life today. If I had spent my time moving from club to club, I would not have achieved this today.
The only advantage I will say my grade gave me was the opportunity to go for an interview. First class is just a nomenclature. Without the grade, I might still have the opportunity to work here.
EB: On a final note, what would you advise the government to do to raise the standard of education in Nigeria?
EA: First and foremost, the welfare of the lecturers and teachers needs to be adequately looked into. The government have a lot to do in this area. Each time I meet my teachers and lecturers, I feel emotional disturbed with type of life they live. Majority of them live a miserable life. One cannot get the best out of them if they continue being subjected to a poor living condition. Also, there should be sufficient provision for learning-enhancing facilities in all schools. During my days back then, there were facilities in universities. At least, to some extent we had access to quality education through exposure to real-life practical work. It is necessary the government invest enormously in education. The growth and development of this country depends largely on the quality of the education the citizens are given.