Olowu Benjamin Damilare, 21, is the overall best graduating student of the Lagos State University (LASU) for the 2021/2022 academic session. With a CGPA of 4.97, Damilare emerged the best out of 4,994 students who obtained their first degrees at the 25th convocation ceremony of the university.
In this interview, he shared his first-class journey to motivate others, saying he gave his all from the very beginning. He also narrated how YouTube assisted him to practicalise some of the things learnt in theory.
Who is Olowu Benjamin Damilare?
I’m 21 years old from Ilara-Eredo, Epe Local Government Area of Lagos State. My father is a lecturer and a distinguished Professor of Chemistry at LASU. My mother is a civil servant with the Lagos State government, she is the Badagry Divisional head at the office of the Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory (LSMTL).
I had my primary education at Saint Mary’s Nursery and Primary school, Ojo, after which I proceeded into its college for my junior secondary school education (JSS1 to JSS3). Later on, I moved to Federal Government College, Ijanikin, where I completed my secondary education and obtained my senior school leaving certificate. I got admitted into LASU in 2015 to study Mechanical Engineering.
How did you get admission into LASU?
LASU wasn’t the initial plan because I did not select it as my preferred first choice in JAMB but at that time, LASU Post-UTME was open to all as it gave opportunity to those that didn’t choose it as their preferred first choice. I grumbled initially to register for the Post-UTME, but I was compelled by my father to apply pending the time I get a response from University of Ilorin. However, as at the time I was to apply, the application portal had closed but as God would have it, my dad tried at midnight of that day, fortunately for me, it worked. Immediately he came to wake my sister and I that we should send him any picture of ours just so we can apply and that was it. I believe it was God’s plan for me to attend LASU.
Concerning my resolution, entering into LASU, I really wasn’t expecting anything much. I just wanted to be successful in life and I knew that the next phase of my life will be a major determinant of my measure of success so, I just had to put in all I had. Besides, I got to know that getting a good grade will also help one in getting a scholarship to study abroad so as to obtain a post-Graduate Degree. So, I just had to give it my all from the very beginning.
Can you give aggregate of your results from 100 to 500 level?
In my first year, I had a perfect CPGA of 5.0/5.0. Moving to 200 level, I had my first B in first semester and then another B in second semester, making my CGPA 4.94/5.00.
I had a perfect GPA of 5.0 throughout my 300 level and 400 level. As at 400 level, my CGPA was already 4.97.
So, in 500 level first semester, I had another B, which didn’t affect my CGPA and then my last semester was a 5.0. Hence, making my cumulative grade point average a 4.97/5.00.
At what point did you discover that you were a potential first-class graduate?
Actually, it was after my first year when I got my a 5.00 CGPA, I knew I was going to graduate with a first class because I was willing to continue to press till the end and I can’t even imagine myself dropping to a 2:1 after getting such a good foundational CGPA.
What was your reading culture like and how did that help you achieve this feat?
Well, while I was in 100 level, my dad woke me up every day by 4am to read, it wasn’t easy, but it was part of what moulded my ability to persevere and do what was necessary no matter the situation. My second and third year was the hardest as I was reading for long hours. Though, I can’t really estimate the actual duration of reading, it was such that when I get tired of sitting, I remain in standing position to read. After then, the workload dropped a bit, and my reading was just maybe two to three hours maximum.
Apart from reading, what do you do on campus?
Aside reading, I have other hobbies like playing video games, and engaging to several sporting activities such as playing pool ball, basketball, table tennis and so on. I am really a versatile person.
What was most challenging about your course of study, Mechanical Engineering?
The fact that the majority of what we did in school was more abstract than practical was a bit challenging. One of the resources I used to overcome this challenge was watching videos of YouTube so I can get practical view of what the working process and operation looks like. This in a way, helped me to better understand the course.
Did your father’s presence on campus as a lecturer/professor influence your performance or attract favour to you?
I wouldn’t say it did or did not but what I will say is that his presence in most cases made his colleagues and even my lecturers to place some sort of standard I have to meet with talks like ‘You have to make your father proud’ or ‘You know your father is a lecturer, you have to keep the flag high’ and so on. All of these words made me focused, so I don’t bring shame to his name.
How did you find life on campus and how did you cope with distractions?
Life on campus was full of ups and downs especially after transiting to Epe Campus. It was hard adjusting to the environment because it was nothing like Ojo campus. Later, I got used to it and I managed to find my way around it, looking beyond its limitations and to make the best of it.
For distractions, what I did was to constantly remind myself of what was at stake. So, with that, I got back on track and kept pushing.
How did you cope during ASUU strikes and COVID-19 break?
During those times, I always keep myself busy either by taking up an online course or going to YouTube to improve my skills. During the COVID-19 lockdown was when I got introduced to the Foreign Exchange market and I dedicated all my time on the charts. So in all, I kept myself busy.
Do you agree with insinuations that it is easier to get first class in private universities than public universities?
I disagree. I believe that making a first class regardless of the type of school is not an easy task. I believe anyone who is serious-minded and puts in the work required is going to achieve a first class in any school be it a private or public tertiary institution.
Did you partake in the entrepreneurship programme of the school? If Yes, what skill did you acquire and how has it enhanced your knowledge?
Yes I did. I took part in the Agricultural programme, which equipped me with the knowledge of making the best use of lands to obtain Agricultural produce. I also got to learn about the importance and contribution of agriculture to the economy of the country at large.
Now that you have graduated, what next?
I plan to go for my post-graduate studies to obtain my Master’s Degree or perhaps a PhD because in the long run I eventually plan to have a career in the academia.
There is a policy that allows LASU to employ interested first class graduates as graduate assistants, will you consider this option?
Sure, I will consider this because I don’t know what the future holds and also, I see it as an opportunity to give back to the university and impact the upcoming generation.
What tips will you give to students coming after you on how to make first class?
I will advise them to get a solid motivation as to why they want to achieve a first-class degree and highlight what they must do to get it. This would really help them a lot especially in their downtimes. Also, they should know their strengths and weaknesses, improve on their strengths whilst simultaneously working on their weaknesses and stay humble all the way.