By Laju Arenyeka
It is fast becoming a cliche that some people are just born geniuses. The young man who holds the record of best graduating student in Nigeria doesn’t quite fall into that class. With a CGPA of 4.99 under his belt, 20 year old Victor Ubong used to fail woefully as a child. In an exclusive interview with Vanguard Learning, He talks about the nuggets that make up his success story.
Have you always been at the top of your class?
Not until I got to Covenant University. Growing up, I was practically a struggle. I lost my mother, who had always been my motivation when I was in JSS3. In my junior secondary days, I used to be one of the last in class. Sometimes, out of 50 people in a class, I would come 43rd. But when I entered SS1, I was the best in accounts, though I was an average student in subjects like Biology and English.
What brought about the difference from olodo to genius?
I think it was because I started specializing. I began doing well in accounts alone as I had always had an interest in accounting because my father is an accountant. The whole transformation really began in SS2 when I met Jesus as my personal Saviour. That was when I knew that I could be the best.
At that time though, there was this boy that challenged me. He was the best in commercial class and because of him, I started reading seriously. By SS2, I became the best in commercial class. After then, I started improving, and never looked back.
What inspired your having 5.0 GPAs almost every semester?
When I first came into Covenant University, I never knew what a 5.0 was. But one shocking thing I did was before I resumed 100 level in September 2007, I told my father to disown me if I didn’t graduate with a first class. In fact, I wrote it down and gave it to him.
I did that because I was surprised that he could pay my school fees, and I wanted to show him my appreciation and also challenge myself. I wrote “Dad, thank you for paying my fees, I promise that I come out of Covenant University with a first class, and if I don’t, disown me”. Then he collected the paper and put it in a file, which is still in our house.
When I went to Covenant, and I heard of someone I now call my mentor, Toju Arenyeka, who had a 5.0 in the first and second semester of her 100, I was inspired. The result was still on the board, I saw it myself. That was when I realized that it was actually possible. I still had my first class in mind, but I just aimed for a five point like every other person. But what I will say is God did it.
What extra efforts did you put in place?
In my first semester in school, I was reading for sixteen hours every day. There wasn’t really time for friends so I had just one friend, Mayowa. When the results came out, we both had 5.0 GPAs and he wasn’t reading as much as I was. He would read for three hours a day and still got the same result. So I was challenged.
In the second semester, I read with Mayowa and another friend for about three hours a day, and that was when I put the idea of synergy into play. When the results came out, the three of us had 5.0 GPAs. From then on, we preferred the idea of reading together to our long hours of reading alone.
Now, I read for about three hours every day. When I was preparing for the first diet of my professional exams last year, I read for a minimum of six hours every day. For this second diet, I’m planning to read for about twelve hours or more every day. Since I don’t have my friends with me now, I have to study more.
What do you think about the fact that a lot of first class graduates are still job hunting?
I think that once you have the quality, the job will surely come. I think that if anyone tries to get a job and doesn’t, such a person should develop themselves more and the job will surely come. Just keep on developing yourself, go for professional exams, seek to know more so that you can contest more favourably in the labour market.
What is your take on the belief that anyone who goes to a private school should graduate with a first class or at least a second class upper because of the high cost of fees in private universities?
I don’t know about other private schools, but at Covenant University, you work for everything you get. The environment is such that if you work hard for something, you will get it. No lecturer can decide that nobody will get more than a B. The best graduating student in Nigeria before me, who had a 4.96 from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, went abroad for his masters and excelled more than everyone else in his school there. So Nigerians are smart, almost every first class graduate I know from Covenant and elsewhere have succeeded even outside the Nigerian university system.
Are you of the opinion that some people are born geniuses?
Of course, there are people who have been very smart from a young age, but there are also people who weren’t very smart from the beginning but are doing very well now, and I am a testimony of that. There are many just like me and my advise to them is to identify their areas of weaknesses and work on them. For me, English as a course was a weakness, and I’m still studying it more.
Tell us about the course you had a B?
It was an accounting software course. Ironically, before the exams, I was the one teaching my course mates how to use the software, so I don’t really know what went wrong. My system had a problem in the exam hall, but it came back on, and I finished. I was not expecting a B, even the lecturer was shocked that I had a B. I felt very sad, but I think it was meant to be. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t expecting to get many of the A’s I got. For my GST 111, the use of English, I was not expecting an A.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done to pass an exam?
For GST 111 that I mentioned earlier, time was up, so I shaded B for numbers one to fifteen. I had exactly 70% in that course. Another unusual time was when I wrote a paper that I did not read for at all and still got above 80%.
Where do you see yourself seven years from now?
I should be 27 years old by then and I see myself as a partner in an accounting firm, as a doctorate degree holder, and very close to being a professor by then. I’d like to lecture, but only part time.