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First Class Diary: Grades Don’t Determine Your Future, You Do!

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Good morning my readers, how are you doing? Hope you all have sọrọ sókè? Yes, because our nation must be better. Do you know that grades don’t determine your future? You do!

Today, we have a guest from federal university of technology, Akure. I’m feeling really excited to introduce our guest for the week, Abiola Ajila.

By the time you’re through with the interview, you’ll understand my excitement. You can read previous one here

In his words,

I could barely complete secondary school, yet I graduated with a first class honours from Federal University of Akure. Worked in a world class African financial institution-Access Bank Plc, obtained renowned International professional certifications in compliance (CAMS, CFCS & CFE). And I emerged the only scholar from Nigeria to win the fully funded Double Masters Erasmus Mundus Programme Scholarship (AFEPA) to study in two European Universities and two other universities.


Abigael Ibikunle of Edugist: Please share with Edugist, a little about your background.

Abiola Ajila: I’m Abiola Ajila, from Iwo LGA of Osun State, Nigeria. After completing all sessions of Junior Secondary School (JSS), my single mother could not afford the fees of Senior Secondary School (SSS).

Our debts had risen so high in the school at the end of JSS and the Principal of the school stressed that I shouldn’t bother to resume SS1. Mum was able to raise part of the fees for SS1 but I was often sent home during class hours to go fetch the balance of my tuition fees.

The principal detested my face and name, and sent me home at will. But I couldn’t afford to miss out. So, instead of going home, I would hang around the school environment, and at close of school, I would follow my classmates home, borrow their textbooks and notes, replicate and study on my own.

I missed many classes in the three terms of SS1 and first term of SS2, but I scaled the exams. Help came, I joined a new school in a new environment, was assessed and then I started the second term of SS2. Interestingly, I topped my SS2 mates in the new school.

I completed the remaining terms of SS2 & SS3 with high grades and had distinctions in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics & Economics in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

So, I proceeded to the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in 2011, interned at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO) in 2015, emerged as the Pioneer First Class Graduate. With that, I won the University Prize for the Best Graduating Student in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics in 2016.


I was the only First Class Graduate in my Department and First Awardee in the 2016 Convocation ceremony of the University. Thereafter, I completed my mandatory national service at the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN) in 2017.


AI: Was there any motivating factor(s) that influenced your choice of discipline and institution?

AA: I actually wanted to study Civil engineering but I was offered Agricultural and Resource Economics. So, I fell in love with the course and decided to excel in it.

The motivation was the fact that the course combines mathematical economic concepts for application in agriculture. It also has the resource and environmental economics aspect which is a beautiful field to delve into.

AI: There are two major skills that every student must possess: COMPETENCE and PERFORMANCE. While competence revolves around skill acquisition, performance is much more concerned about skills application. It is believed that most graduates are competent because their academic performance testifies to this, but they are performance-challenged. This poor performance ipso facto hinders them from getting lucrative jobs in the labour market. What can you say about this assertion?

AA: There is no gainsaying the fact that most competent graduates are performance-challenged. You can’t totally blame them because the skills and knowledge that they’ve obtained ‘competence’ in, is not what is required for the job.


AI: What do you think is responsible for competence without performance? Please suggest ways of improving the performance level of university students and graduates

AA: University curriculum is largely centred on departmental courses and does not adequately capture some skills that is required for graduate employment.

I believe that all hands must be on deck to solve the perennial problem of competence without performance or simply put – graduate non-employability.

The Government, universities, employers of labour and university students need to synergize to solve this problem. Government should enrich the academic curriculum of universities.

They should make it mandatory to take courses related to graduate employability. Just like it made entrepreneurship mandatory for universities students.

The courses should be centred around soft skills such as emotional intelligence, ethics at work, presentation skills, business etiquette, root cause analysis, time management, personal financial management, business writing etc.

These courses should also be geared towards complementary life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking and creative skills.

Government should also equip universities through upskill of university academics and adequate funding of research for development. Employers of labour must also be ready to provide the graduates with adequate training. It will enable them to be more creative, imaginative and innovative.

University students should be encouraged to take psychometric tests (basically aptitude tests). Before graduation, they should be confident enough to take numerical, verbal, and logical reasoning tests.


AI: Achievement in life transcends one’s personal efforts. There were people who, during your programme, rendered some assistance that made your dreams a reality. Who are specific persons whose contribution you can’t forget in your first-class feat?

AA: Just like the African proverb says that “It takes a village to raise a child”, I wouldn’t have achieved the feat of a first-class graduate without the support of my family, lecturers and friends. I owe the success to all of them.

Thanks to my mentors (Dr Segun Ogunwande, Dr Ashagidigbi Waheed & Mr. Ayobami Oladejo) who have always been with me during the pursuit of a fully funded scholarship.

To my friends and seniors who have provided the right motivation, guidance and inspiration – Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Oluwaseun Ajayi, Oluwafemi Ogunlalu, Omolayo Joshua Olorunwa, Babajide Milton Macaulay, Ph.D., Kelechukwu Onwukamike (Dr. rer. nat.) (Ph.D), Rita Orji, Ph.D, Michael Monday, Aderinsola Ayoade, Paul Pemida et al., I say thank you!


AI: As a first-class graduate, are you currently gainfully employed?

AA: I joined Access Bank PLC in 2018, attended the 5 months rigorous training school and emerged as the Overall Best Student in ‘Investment Markets and Strategies’ with a 93% grade in a school of 13 classes with about 300 trainees. I started my professional career as a compliance officer and gained relevant knowledge and certifications within two years from many international organizations (ACAMS, ACFCS, ACFE, UNODC, UNODA, UNDSS, USDA, USIP, OSCE, CFI, CISCO, IBM, AWS, UNITAR, UNEP, UNDP, InforMEA



AI: Do you think your grades have or is giving you any major advantage over other graduates with lesser grades?


As much as I want to agree that a First-class degree gives me leverage for opportunities, I do not believe that it is a major advantage over other graduates with lesser grades. I have seen Second class upper & lower students who have won international scholarships and others who are working with multinational corporations. It all boils down to determination, diligence and goal setting. Grades don’t determine your future, you do.

In the last three years, I’ve received rejections from my numerous scholarship applications (Commonwealth Masters Scholarship, Commonwealth Shared Scholarship, Chevening, Schwarzman, Rhodes etc.).

I had a habit of ‘starring’ my rejection mails and moving on to the next scholarship application. So, I just wouldn’t give up. In March 2020, I had a breakthrough. I was offered a partial scholarship – The University of Glasgow International Leadership Scholarship.

But, I had to decline the offer because, in that same month, I won the prestigious Erasmus+ programme Scholarship! Double MSc! Fully funded!. I was so fired up that I took the CAMS exam in March and CFCS exam in April, just to solidify my knowledge in Compliance and I passed, both exams!

As the only scholarship awardee from Nigeria in the European Masters programme in Agricultural, Food and Environmental Policy Analysis (AFEPA), I am set to begin my first masters in Agricultural and Food Economics at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Germany.

Also, I get to choose one of these three universities for my second masters (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden; Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (UCSC) in Milano, Italy; and Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) in Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium)

Abiola Ajila

Sweet right? Oh, I almost forgot that I would also attend two summer schools in two of these three partner universities (Pontificia Universidad Católica (PUC) in Santiago, Chile; Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona, Spain; and African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in Nairobi, Kenya). Glory to God!


AI: For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grade like yours, what would you advise them?

AA: My advice to them is simple –

Don’t just chase excellent grades. Become an excellent student and a person of value.

The great American author – Napoleon Hill once said that “Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting”.

Thomas Edison also said that “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time”. TRY, JUST ONE MORE TIME.

Lastly, the late Chadwick Boseman said that “Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you”.


AI: What would you advise the government to do to improve the standard of our education system?

AA: Enrich the academic curriculum of universities. Equip universities through upskill of university academics and provide adequate funds for research and development.


AI: Any other thing you would like to share?

AA: I’ll conclude my story with one of my favorite personal quotes.

It doesn’t matter how long success comes. Yes, wait for it. No, go to it. In fact, do both- Meet it halfway.

With God’s strength behind me, his love within me, and his arms around me, I’m more than sufficient for the days ahead.

Thanks for reading. Please reach out to me if you intend to take CAMS/CFCS/CFE certifications or other AML/CFT related certifications. Or if you wish to make applications for MSc scholarships.


That’s it on the series for the week. Hope you had a swell time reading?

To be featured on the series, please send a mail to Abby

I am Abigael Ibikunle and celebrating excellence is a top priority for me.

iTeach, iSpeak, iTrain, iFacilitate, iWrite, iInterview and iLoveYou all. Smile! See you next week!

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3 years ago

Wonderful write-up, keep up the good work Abby.
Please, I am interested in knowing more as regards application for MSc scholarship. I’ll be looking forward to your response. Thank you.

Abigael Ibikunle
Reply to  Janey
3 years ago

Please send me a mail to"> or Whatsapp me on my line as you can see

3 years ago

[…] By the time you’re through with the interview, you’ll understand my excitement. You can read previous one here […]

3 years ago

[…] interview is one of a kind considering the circumstances surrounding the interview. You don’t want to miss […]

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