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?
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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 2nd and 3rd 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.
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