Oladimeji Shotunde emerged the best graduating student in Lagos State University (LASU), thereby, breaking a 37-year-old record with his CGPA. In this interview by ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, he speaks on how he was able to achieve this feat, his plans for the future, among others.
What would you say were the things you did that made you emerge as the best graduating student?
I would say what facilitated my emergence as the best graduating student was the fact that I was able to identify three things and work on them. I was able to work on my mindset, association and I was able to understand my environment. These three things are crucial and critical components for overall success anywhere we find ourselves. Beyond that, I was also able to build intelligence. Intelligence is very important anywhere you find yourself because if you want to thrive in the contemporary world we find ourselves today, there is the need for you to build intelligence rather than just being brilliant. So I would say for me, those three worked for me, and in addition, being intelligent stood me out and that led to my emergence as the best graduating student.
I also socialised; I was a balance personality. I maximised campus life, I participated in extracurricular activities, community engagement and everything. So I was all round and that to a large extent helped me out.
How did you feel knowing you broke a 37-year-record in LASU with your 4.95 CGPA?
I felt overwhelmed, I felt elated, I felt happy. It’s a mixed feeling actually. Of course, it’s a good thing to set a record, at the same time, it comes with expectation that there is a need for you to keep advancing the frontiers, keep being at the top of your game and everything, so it has a feeling of accomplishment and on a second thought, you will discover that I’m just starting this journey and as such, we have to keep the momentum.
Would you say your circle of friends influenced your grades?
To a large extent, it did. For you to attain academic excellence, even beyond that, there is a need for you to watch your association and be conscious of those you call your friends. You must also selectively and objectively pick friends.
For me, my friends to a large extent influenced my academics. Then, we created a group called Excel Minds Academic Group. What we did there was read together, group study and challenge each other. So all of that contributed because that means we created a group that incorporated like minds and that was enough motivation on its own.
Why business administration?
Business administration was my choice. I tried LASU three times. The first time, I was very young then so I had to wait a bit because I wrote my GCE at a very early age. The second time I applied to LASU, I scored well. I did the post-UTME and I was among the top three or top five but there was this issue of improper shading so I was given management technology which is more or less like a science-related course so I couldn’t go for it. I applied for a change of course after which I was given Physical Health Education (PHE), so I told myself this year is not my year. I had to wait at home for another one year and that was when I finally got business administration. From time, I have always had the mindset of owning my own business, becoming an edupreneur which is what we are presently working towards.
Were there times your parents thought of withdrawing you from school because of financial challenges?
There were never times as such. My father never considered such, he was always quick to provide. There were times he even sold his car. My parents are very supportive, they were willing to make sacrifices to ensure that my academic sojourn goes unhindered.
What were some of the other challenges you faced?
Considering I was going to school from home, the number one challenge was distraction considering the fact that you see your family everyday; even if you have 8:00 a.m lecture, there are things you have to do, like sweep, wash my mother’s grinding machine because she grinds in front of the house. My father might also want to send me on one or two errands. These things are normal, but they were distractions I faced. However, what I do is I utilise my nights for things that are personal to me like things I was not able to do throughout the day because when you are in school, there is a limit to what you can also do as there are lots of commitment to school also.
Another challenge is the environment. LASU is a tough and very stressful environment. You meet different people, lecturers and departments, so adapting to that environment could be tough if you are not smart or intelligent.
You founded an academic group while in school, how did you combine that with your academics?
It was very easy because we founded Excel Minds Academic Group which happens to be the foremost student-led academic platform we have in Nigeria with over 10,000 members. It was easy because it was like practicing what I preach. As the founder of an academic group, it was incumbent on me to ensure I display academic excellence because you can imagine someone that is advancing an academic platform being on a one point or two point CGPA.
Excel Minds for me on its own was a motivation for me to always get the best because I tend to organise frequent tutorials for my colleagues and everybody. So by virtue of me rendering those services, although for free, it was a leverage on which I was able to ride on.
How do you manage to run the academic group for free?
I always have the belief that service to humanity is the ultimate aim of all human existence. What helped us was that we had people who were willing to identify with us, we call them stakeholders. When we have a major event or anything, these people are always ready to donate no matter how small.
Also, when you do things for free, the assistance will always come in. God really helped us because I cannot really fathom how we really get funds to stimulate our activities, but they were always coming in, all thanks to generous donations that were coming in from stakeholders and other persons that were willing to identify with us.
Tell us more about your background?
I share the sentiment of the average Nigerian student, financial challenges. I am from a family of four, I am the last child. I had a rough background. There was a time I was following my father to his mechanic workshop, at some point, I was working in his car wash. At some point, I was also helping my mother grind pepper in her shop too.
I wrote my GCE when I was 14, and I passed remarkably, so I skipped SSS 3. From there, I secured admission into Yabatech. When I was in ND II, that was when I was to resume 100 level in LASU, so at a point, I was combining both because my father insisted I should finish. After my admission into LASU, it was not easy, but I had to blend.
You were recently given a cash prize by the governor of Lagos State, how much were you given and what plans do you have for it?
I was given N5 million and part of the money will be used for my startup project, the company I plan working on. I plan on using the money to fuel the project, although it is an experiment. I have always shared this love for edutech and education generally, so I am building my edutech startup and a substantial amount of money will go there.
Also, I would assist my parents, siblings and relatives with some things. It’s a public money so it has to go round. It would also be used for some personal things.
How would you rate the educational sector and what do you think can be done to improve it?
For me, I would rate it 30%. There are lots of things we are getting wrong currently and the challenge is that we fail to realise that the educational sector is a crucial sector that stimulates critical thinking which will in turn lead to innovation which will birth the needed growth and development we want in our society.
The curricula we are using now is obsolete because we are using curriculum of 2005-2010, which do not reflect the modern and contemporary times. Also, there is a stark difference between what we are being taught in school and what is obtainable. I think it’s high time we started having industry experts and others, coming into the academia to deliver teachings to undergraduates or we working on the curriculum to reflect what is obtainable out there; the new skills, new software packages, the analytics and others. These are very important for undergraduates in Nigeria to know because the fact is when they graduate, they would see they are far behind. So it’s high time we started preaching less of theoretical doings but rather practical doings.
Moving forward, what is your plan now?
Although the plan is not yet clear for now, but of course, my masters and thereafter, secure a PhD. I want to become a consultant and be shuffling between the academia and the industry.
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