In spite of the incessant Boko Haram attacks that have shaped people’s experiences in Borno State, 25-year-old Isaac Babatunde dared the odds and attended the University of Maiduguri, where he studied Accounting and he graduated with a first class.
He made 4.60 CGPA in the 2015/2016 academic session. In this interview with Siggy.ng, he speaks on his experience in the school.
The spate of Boko Haram attacks around UNIMAID has somewhat made it a dreaded choice for many students, what was the attraction for you?
I chose UNIMAID because I wanted the school. I have two uncles who graduated from the school and they specifically told me about the Accounting department. They also told me so much about one Prof. T. O. Olowokure. Unfortunately, I did not meet the professor because he retired before I got an admission.
Did you apply to other schools or were you bent on going to UNIMAID?
I had offers of admission in two other institutions – Osun State University and The Polytechnic, Ibadan, and because of that, I was a bit reluctant to resume in UNIMAID. Eventually, I settled for the school and I have no regrets about that.
The Boko Haram attacks had begun at that time, weren’t you scared?
I was sure nothing would happen to me because I had prayed about it. Notably, there were attacks by Boko Haram when I resumed but the attacks were not in the school. In fact, the school was a safe haven, because, throughout my stay, I didn’t witness any attack on the school campus.
What were your memorable moments as an undergraduate?
I had many memorable moments on campus, especially the day Boko Haram attacked Giwa Barracks, which is close to the university. It happened on March 14, 2014. Students of UNIMAID later tagged it ‘Black Friday’. I was already prepared for class in the morning when I began to hear the sound. I thought it was the normal sound that we use to hear, but it became serious when we started seeing the military jet and at the same time, we heard the sound of heavy aerial bombardment by men of the Air Force. Even though the school was not attacked, we felt the impact. Of course, people were scared. It was the day I actually believed that those sounds from American action movies could be real. I actually had my heart in my mouth that day. Glory be to God, that even with the bombings, gunshots and killings in Maiduguri, I still made it.
Was it what your uncles told you that informed your choice to study Accounting?
I have always loved Accounting, maybe because of the orientation I had of the course. At an early age, I was made to see accounting as the language of business. Even though my dad would have preferred that I studied sciences, he still allowed me to choose the course I wanted and I’m happy for that. That is the course I consider as my passion.
Some people still believe that only students who are good in mathematics can excel in accounting. For the benefit of students at a crossroads, is that notion right?
You have to be well-versed in mathematics for you to do well in accounting because courses like quantitative techniques, performance management, financial management and business mathematics require your mathematics skills. However, students who are desirous of studying accounting but are not good in mathematics should not be discouraged. They can learn it and still make very good grades. I used to be an average student in mathematics when I was in secondary school but I became a very good mathematics student when I met Uncle Dave, who also graduated with first class and was undergoing his Master’s degree in the University of Ibadan. He tutored me in mathematics when I was preparing for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. He made me love mathematics and further mathematics, and that was the turning point for me.
What part of the course did you enjoy most?
The part of accounting I enjoyed most was Performance Management, formerly known as Management Accounting. It has no standard and gives you room to express yourself. It is not just about the calculation but also assisting the management to make decisions. My lecturer, Dr. Ijeoma Anaso, really made it easy for us to understand.
How easy was it for you to make a first class?
Sincerely, it was not easy. I had to sacrifice a lot of fun and some sleep when necessary. In my department, the workload was much and we had courses that we needed to pass in one level before we could register for the next stage of the course in the next level. For example, if you fail ACC 101 in year one, you won’t register for ACC 201 in year two because it is believed that ACC 101 is a prerequisite of ACC 201 and the chain continues like that. So, you just have to be serious otherwise you would spend more than the required number of years because once you fail any of the prerequisite courses, you’re automatically spending more than four years. That was like the first line to cross.
Did you plan towards it or it was a result of providence?
I planned towards it and God made it possible. I made sure I read ahead and I went beyond what was taught in the classroom. Also, I did a lot of research about every topic, which expanded my knowledge and understanding about every course, and of course, that prepared me for any impromptu test. I believe students need to go beyond lecture notes or handout. Even if they pass the test or exam by reading only what they were taught, their knowledge about the topic or the course in entirety would be limited. So, while students strive to pass exams, self-development is also important. I also read a lot at night because I found it easy, which shows that students should know and maximise what works for them.
When did you start having first class?
It was my first year and I maintained it throughout. I made sure my GPA, each session, was always above 4.50, knowing that it was easier for the GPA to drop than for it to rise. That implied that I had to sustain the effort.
How would you have felt if you didn’t make a first class?
I wouldn’t have felt good because that was what I wanted and I strove for it. But surely, I would not have felt sad forever. Even though it’s better to come out with the best possible grade because it has its own advantages, I know that class of degree does not determine one’s success in life, so it wouldn’t have marred my joy and chances as an undergraduate.
For the benefit of students who feel that poor performance in secondary school means their chance of making a first class is limited, what was your performance like in your previous schools?
My performance was above average when I was in secondary school. I was not the very brilliant one then. It seems I had not discovered myself then. Now, I realise that my meeting with my uncle, who I referred to earlier, taught me that I could do better than I was doing then. It was not easy passing my West African Senior School Certificate Examination. I had credit in most of my subjects. I had not discovered myself then but when I realised that I could do better, I became more focused and everything became easy. Even though I had to take UTME thrice, I did well in all attempts. I actually scored 262, 243 and 285 in the three attempts, but I was not given the course of my choice but in my third attempt.
Were there times when you were growing up that your parents chastised you or coerced you into being serious?
Yes, they did, because they wanted the best for me. Their chastisement really made me be a man who is sound morally , academically and spiritually. I remember one memorable moment about my growing up, and that was when my dad got me a gift when I performed well in common entrance. I was the second best student. My dad was surprised because I was playful and I only read when he was at home.
Since you wanted first class, did you have to read throughout?
No, I didn’t have to read all through. Although I read a lot, in fact, I was given a nickname ‘library’ but I still had time for other activities. I was the prayer secretary of the chapel choir and I never missed rehearsals when I was a member, even as a member of the executive.
Would you say you were sociable in school?
Yes, I was. I attended some social activities like orientation and dinner, as long as it didn’t affect me.
Some people have likened going through that school as going through the shadow of hell. Do you agree?
Yes, probably based on what they heard and read but it is not as bad as it is being reported. There was no one that I knew that was a casualty and I never had any close shave with death, neither did I contemplate leaving the school. To show you that it wasn’t as bad as some people made it look, the attacks didn’t even affect our academic calendar. I got admission in September 2012 and I graduated in June 2016. In fact, I was mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps in the same year I graduated. However, God has been faithful.
Are there things that your experience in UNIMAID has taught you?
Yes, my experience there has taught me a lot. It has taught me to be tolerant; I have developed the ability to get desired results under pressure and in an unstable environment, among other things. Now, I can live and work in any environment as long as there is oxygen to breathe (laughs). I have no regret at all. I’m happy I attended that school because I was made in UNIMAID, just as we used to say, that if you want to be made, come to UNIMAID.
What are your aspirations?
I want to be a professional accountant and an investment banker. I would also like to float my business because it’s a way I can give back to the society. I would like to work with one of the big fours, like we call them, or consulting firms like Accenture, McKinsey etc. Most importantly, I would like to go back to class to teach and impact on the students. I enjoy lecturing but I want to practice before going into lecturing.