Ocharive Aruoriwo, 20 , was one of the four students who made first class in the Department of Economics , Babcock University , in the 2016/ 2017 academic session. She had 4 .63 CGPA. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA , she talks about the experiences that shaped her days in school and what worked for her
You have a small stature , were there times people made attempts to take advantage of that ?
Yes , in my first year, one of my lecturers asked me to stand up in front of the class and she asked if I followed my elder sister to class . Of course people laughed , more so that we were all new , but it wasn’ t an issue . I guess she was surprised to find out I was a student of the university. I knew such would always come up with my kind of stature.
Do you still recall some of the notable events that characterised your growing up?
I was ten years old in 2007 when I started junior school , with my small stature. Going by what we read in history and what our parents told us , that kind of stature could have denied me the opportunity of education in the early days of Nigeria , because of the minimum size policy for school enrolment . My parents were made to sign an undertaking that I would perform above average academically before the school management agreed to offer me the admission . Six years after , I was awarded the best graduating student in arts and humanities at the valedictory service in 2013 at the high school . That meant a lot to me .
What were your dreams as a child?
I first wanted to be a doctor , then a lawyer . I guess that could have been influenced by the things around me . And at that time , I had no idea what economics was . As I grew older, I began to see the course in a different light . And then , I remember that the profile of the then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy , Dr . Ngozi Okonjo -Iweala , who managed the economy so well, inspired my choice of economics as a course of study at Babcock University . The fact that the economy is an engine powered by economic policies made me want to know what it entailed , and now I ’m glad with the choice I made . Interestingly , my father wanted me to study accounting. But we had to strike a deal that for me to study economics , I had to enrol for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria Examination alongside my undergraduate study . I had a choice not to, if it was not going to be convenient , but I believe that combination of economics and accounting would eventually enable the realisation of my dream of being a world class economist and financial solution provider .
When did you start having first class ?
My first GPA was 4 .86 in the first semester of my first year , but at the end of the session I had 4 .83 CGPA. Actually, I had always wanted to attain the best in everything I did , so I decided I was going to graduate from Babcock University with a first class, and I worked towards it. As one would imagine , it was overwhelming , because there were difficult times which felt like I was losing myself. In fact, there were two semesters in particular that threatened my resolve and efforts to finish with a first class, but by the help of God, I was able to push it through . I realised that the first thing is to have a goal ; have a target , otherwise you wouldn ’ t know if you are doing well or not . If you plan to make first class and you keep having 50 , nobody would need to remind you that you have to sit up . And of course, beyond setting a target , working hard to meet up with that target or delivering on your set goals is another thing entirely. So , I spoke to myself and I worked really hard .
Were there things you did that others could have done to have a similar result?
I really would not believe I did something differently , but as much as I was willing to set my priorities right coupled with the grace of God , I knew my target and I went for it. First class is not something you wake up to; you work hard to get there . For someone like me who had to take ICAN exams as well, I had to work twice harder . I had sleepless nights sometimes, having to make out time for my ICAN examinations ; at the same time making sure my undergraduate studies didn ’t suffer . And beyond hard work , God ’s grace played a huge role . I think it’s the combination of both that makes success possible , not only in academics , but in anything we do. When you have a target and you are committed to it, naturally , you give all you can to make it happen. I remember that a lot of times , I had to use my pocket money to buy stuffs for my studies and I don’t regret any because I saw it as my journey to better days . My parents always made me believe that the best investment is investment in one’ s self development and I have seen it work .
Did this notion also help your performance in your previous schools?
Yes , I have been consistent in my academic performance from elementary school to college . One of the things that helped was that my parents constantly reminded me of the importance of excellence . Aside that I always had the internal drive to excel and be above only . I sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination once , because I knew there was no need for a second trial , I had to give my best to make it once and for all . On getting to the university , one of my best performances was in my first year when I had an average of 4 .83 CGPA. And my parents never denied me of anything . They may not be the type that would tie compensation to performance , but I remember in primary one that they bought me a bicycle for getting grade A+ . I probably won ’t forget that .
What was your usual routine like as an undergraduate ?
Very stressful ; staying up late to read at night, having to wake up early for classes, having to meet deadlines for assignments , then chasing team members around for group assignments . At the end of the day , those things made being a student interesting , I mean your ability to combine tasks and not default in the main one. And that was why I made sure I always read during free hours during the day and then I read mostly at night. On the average , I slept for five hours daily and I studied for about 16 hours, lecture hours inclusive . I rarely used the library; my room was good enough for studying .
Did you create time for social activities ?
I was a social person; I apportioned time for relevant activities. I went for concerts and I was involved in extracurricular activities. Life should not be only about reading , especially as students , who are expected to create a balance for all their activities. If you truly know what you are doing as a student , those few hours for social activities would not make you fail, unless you have not been doing enough for your studies. During my leisure , usually , I had general discussion with friends and I listened to good music .
As a graduate of economics, what do you think is the major problem with the Nigerian economy ?
Over dependence on crude oil and even when efforts were made to diversify the economy , we still find that the major exports are primary produce at the harvest stage with no value added ; denying the economy of employment opportunities and increased revenue that would have been created if those goods were to be processed .
Economics is seen as a course with a very wide application , where would you like to work ?
Finance , especially in the area of credit creation. I plan to become a renowned economist and chartered accountant.
If you are given the opportunity to rule this country for a day , what are the things you are likely to do first ?
Ruling Nigeria for a day is a fantasy ( laughs) . However , with an opportunity to rule Nigeria , I would seek to make agriculture more productive, such that the primary goods are processed before export, thereby creating employment . I think we need to engage more people and take people off the streets.
If you had an opportunity to meet with the President today , what economic policy ( ies ) would you suggest to him ?
I would suggest a more feasible export promotion policy , which would see to processing of our primary produce before exporting them . I believe that is key .
What misconceptions have you heard about economists ?
I have heard a lot about economists being stingy , but the core of economics is the allocation of scarce resources based on scale of preference . This has been misinterpreted as being stingy .
Some people assume that life in private universities could be boring, because of the routine and some limitations , how did you handle it ?
I don’ t agree that life in the private school is boring , we had secular activities suitable for unwinding . However , it is left for individuals to either take advantage of those activities and have fun or be bored .
Were there challenges you faced in school ?
Yes , combining my undergraduate studies and ICAN examinations did not come easy , more so I had a target for both programmes . On one hand , I wanted to make first class in my first degree , and on the other hand , I had to pass my ICAN exams. So , I had to study really hard .
Can you recall your happiest and most embarrassing moments in school ?
My happiest moment was the day I saw my 400 level second semester result . I said to myself ‘mission accomplished .’ You can imagine that feeling of satisfaction when you set a goal and you put in your best and it becomes a reality . That was the way I felt. I believe students should set realistic goals , study hard and keep their eyes on success , meaning they shouldn ’t lose focus , because once you lose focus , it is easy to be distracted and getting back on track may not come easy .
Did you win any scholarship or award in school ?
I won an award for outstanding academic performance in 300 level, and I was very happy about it.
Is there anything you would have loved to do as a student that you could not ?
I would have loved to be more active in school politics .