The best graduate of the Federal University of Technology , Minna , Niger State , in the 2015 /2016 academic session , Victoria Eluwa, 33 , graduated with a 4 . 75 CGPA from the Department of Chemical Engineering . In this interview with ENYIOHA OPARA , she talks about her experience as an undergraduate
Will it be right to say being the overall best graduate was your happiest moment or you saw it coming ?
I was very happy the moment I climbed the podium as the best graduating student of the university . I never knew I was the overall best , I only knew I was the best in my Department and School ( known as faculty ). I had always thought there must be someone ahead of me , and I thought I should let it go and I didn ’ t know it until when I climbed that podium. So , I was very happy .
What were the other awards you won?
I won six different awards . Apart from being the best graduating student of the university, I received an award as the best graduating female ; best graduating student of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology ; best graduating female student of the same School of Engineering and Engineering Technology ; best graduating student of Chemical Engineering Department and again best female graduating student of Chemical Engineering Department .
Was it your plan as a child to be an engineer ?
I dreamt to become an environmental engineer so as to know what is happening in our environment and to make the environment conducive for people to live in . I had always looked forward to seeing some chemical processes , like how to convert the waste around us to useful products that can make the environment more conducive and make life better for individuals as well as make our nation a better place to live in . So , I have always had likeness for engineering . When I was much younger , I used to imagine how soap or powdered milk was made . As I was growing up , I began to understand that some of these things undergo processes and the only way I could understand what happens is studying the products . That informed my choice in the university.
Some people still run away from sciences because they see it as being more difficult. Do you agree with that ?
I don ’ t think science is a difficult course . Yes , people do run away from it but I think the major reason is mathematics , and the truth about it is that mathematics is the cheapest and easiest subject you can handle . If you play around with mathematics , there is nothing else you cannot play around . So , some people find it difficult because of fear and nothing else. In my department , we had 114 students offering the course . We had between 15 to 20 females while the rest were men. The major thing is to be focused. I was determined ; I really wanted to be at the top , and that was the driving force .
Some also believe that students studying science related courses do not always have social life because of the demands of their academics , was it like that for you as well ?
If you want to excel, especially in science related courses, you can ’ t give your academics and social life 50 – 50 per cent. No way . One has to be a priority . In my own case , I think I gave it 45 per cent because I didn ’ t want my social life to be dead but then I wouldn ’ t want it to overshadow my academics , and it didn ’ t affect my academic life at all. Wisdom is important.
How easy was it to have a first class?
It was more of hard work. I had to let go of certain things . To have outstanding result , one must be prepared and be willing to do the needful; including sacrificing the time one could have used to have fun . Those were the things that helped me to succeed . I believe that when one succeeds eventually , there would be enough time to have fun and make up for the lost time .
When did you start having first class ?
I started having first class right from my first year . My first GPA was 5 . 00 . I joined the university as a Direct Entry candidate with my Higher National Diploma .
If you already concluded your education in the polytechnic , why did you go back to the university?
I had it in mind to get to the peak of my academic career, and that was why I went back to the university. I was in the polytechnic between 2002 and 2007 while I joined FUT Minna in 2013 and graduated in 2016 .
Have you always been this excellent ?
Yes , I have been this excellent right from my primary school . I always led my class in my secondary school ; I was between 2 nd and 3 rd positions . During my year in Federal Polytechnic Bida , I always led my class , and sometimes , the men were angry as to why a lady should be leading the class . But there was nothing they could do about it.
When you were to further your education in the university , what informed your choice of institution ?
I really wanted to go to a technology -oriented university. I think that was one of the major things that influenced my choice . Another reason was FUT Minna ’ s closeness to my family and the environment where I grew up . When growing up , our parents never wanted us to be far from them and that prompted us to go to schools that were very close to them. I have a brother and a sister, who are much younger . So , the family love has always been there, and so they always wanted us around . I cherish those memories I shared with my siblings and parents .
Did you have any challenge with finance?
Before I lost my dad in 2007 , both my dad and mum were responsible for my fees. I lost my dad when I was rounding off my HND programme in the polytechnic, but luckily , I got a job at FUT Minna in 2010 as a technologist . Three years after , I was allowed to further my studies , so it really helped me, and with the support of my mum, I was able to pay my school fees.
What was your reading schedule like ?
I read for a minimum of three hours and maximum of five hours every day . And when I first got to school , on the average , I was sleeping for about six hours . But towards the end of my programme, it became difficult , especially in 2016 when I had to dedicate so much time to my project . So , the time I had to sleep reduced to about four hours .
Did you have preference for using the library?
Using the library is easier now. There are e – books everywhere so it is easier to get soft copies of your books . Our library was well equipped and what I used to do was to go there and pick some copies to read on my own. I didn ’ t read inside the library ; I would just go and source for materials to update myself , especially in my course .
During the holidays, were you also reading at home?
I wasn ’ t reading during the holidays . My holiday was for rest and maybe spending time with my family , especially helping my mother in domestic activities.
Were there other activities you were involved in?
As I said earlier , I worked in the school , and they granted me study leave . But still , I had to attend to my work. Since I had those two important things to combine , I didn ’ t have enough time to get involved in other activities in the school .
Men would always be attracted to brilliant students , how did you handle the gestures ?
When I was in the university, they didn ’ t really disturb me, because most of them knew that I was a member of staff of the university and that respect was there.
Where would you like to work ?
At present, I ’ m a technologist , but I have preference for lecturing so I could get to the peak of my academic career. I want to disseminate the knowledge I have acquired. I love the academic environment .
Do you recall any embarrassing moment in school ?
I joined the 2013 / 2014 set in the department , and I remember one day when a lecturer walked in and asked me the functions of the equipment called Gascomotography . I had never set my eyes on the equipment because I was new . I felt embarrassed . Another one was when we were given assignment in groups . Everybody was contributing and when I contributed , one of the students attacked me and said , ‘ do you think you are the only one who has idea more than others?’ I was embarrassed , but at the end of the day , I was the one who saved the group . And then , students being who they are ; we reconciled and went about with our studies.