The best graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, in the 2016/2017 academic session, Bright Ngozichukwu, 23, graduated with a 4.81 CGPA from the Department of Chemical Engineering. Would it be appropriate to say being the overall best graduate was your happiest moment?
Yes, it was the happiest moment in my life till now because I was not expecting to be overall best in the university. Although I knew I was going to be the best in my department and faculty, in fact, I was 100 per cent sure of leading my department. I never dreamt of being the overall until I was called to the podium. Honestly, I was very glad and I’m grateful to God.
Apart from the recognition that comes with being the overall best, what other awards did you win?
I also won four different awards. I got an award as the best graduating male; best graduating student of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology; best graduating student, Chemical Engineering Department and Professor Olu Fade’s best graduating student award.
As a child, did you plan to be an engineer?
It was my wish to become a chemical engineer; I have great passion for it, given the way chemical engineers do things and their ability to convert raw materials into finished products. So, I have always developed interest in the course. When I was younger, I used to ask my parents how paint was made but as time went on, I began to realise that some of these things must be processed and the only way I could understand what it entails was to study the process and that informed my decision to study chemical engineering in the university.
Some people run away from science because they see it as difficult. Is it true?
Not at all, I totally do not agree that science is difficult; science itself is one of the easiest courses one can study in the university. It’s about discovering what the world is all about, so there is no wisdom running away from it. Although you may have some challenges like mathematics and chemistry, you can overcome that when you put more effort in your studies.
Due to academic demands, some students studying science related courses do not have time for social life. Was it the same experience for you?
It depends on individuals. As for me, I balanced my academics with my social life, but my academic work was my priority. In fact, I gave my academics 60 per cent and my social life 40 per cent. Applying wisdom in everything you do in life is important.
Was it easy to make first class?
Although it was not as easy as I expected, in my first year, I was told by my department that the journey to first class starts with first semester of the first year and I found out that if one maintains good GPA, definitely one would make first class. I started having first class in my first year and my first GPA was 4.63, which I maintained through dedication and hard work. So, it was more of hard work. Denying myself of certain things for my academics made me to have first class in the university. I strongly believe that when one succeeds, by and large, there would be enough time to enjoy and make up for the lost time.
What attracted you to FUT Minna?
I was born and brought up in the North, so Ahmadu Bello University and FUT Minna are the two universities I have always dreamt of. Those were my preferred universities. Another reason was that the two universities are close to my family, since we live in Abuja. When I was growing up, our parents never wanted us to be far from them and that made us to go to schools that were close to them.
Was there any challenge you had to contend with in school?
The truth of the matter is that I had financial challenge but the good thing is that I tried my best to overcome the challenge. My background is not very solid, so I had to struggle to help myself by engaging in buying and selling foodstuff. I went extra miles to help take the burden off my parents as regards bankrolling my education and paying my school fees.
What was your reading schedule like?
At first, like in my first two years, I read for maximum of six hours every day, but as time went on, I began to create time for social activities. Most times, I used my leisure to interact with my friends, talk about football and other things. But in my final year, I dedicated eight hours to my studies, so the time I had to sleep reduced drastically to enable me to achieve my goal.
How often did you use the school library to facilitate your studies?
I actually used the library but not frequently, I preferred reading alone. Moreover, I had soft copy of my course materials, which made my work easier. But, there were times I used the library to source for materials to update myself, especially in my course.
To have made first class means that you did some things differently that others could learn from. Were you also reading at home during the holidays?
I didn’t have time to read during the holidays. Like I said earlier, I took up the challenge to help my parents to pay my school fees, so during the holidays, I used to go out to look for money.
What other activities were you involved in as an undergraduate?
I joined the academic committee in my department to help in teaching the junior ones, especially those in their first and second years.
Naturally, female colleagues tend to be attracted to brilliant students, how did you handle such gestures?
The truth of the matter is that I had more female friends than males, but it didn’t go beyond academics.
Where would you want to work?
Being a chemical engineer, I would want to work in oil companies like Shell, Chevron and others. More importantly, I want to practise what I studied in the university to be able to contribute my own quota to the society.
Your department has been producing overall best student for some time now. In your view, what is the secret?
Well, the department is not out to hand out first class to students. I think their major concern is to give students adequate training that would help them to compete favourably with their contemporaries in other universities. The department makes sure that anyone who makes first class merits it.
Have you always had such a brilliant performance in your previous schools?
During my secondary school days, I was in the top three throughout. I improved in my academic performance when I knew that hard work, commitment and dedication could be rewarding, for those who want to make it in life. Today, I thank God for making me the best overall in the university. I made good use of my time and I faced my studies squarely. I managed my time very well and I made sure I didn’t miss lectures.
Were there times you almost ruled out your target to have first class?
Of course, in the second semester of my third year, I didn’t even think of making first class again, until one of my friends asked me to summon courage, believing that I would make it. I invested more efforts in my studies like never before and I returned to first class grade.
How would you have felt if you did not make first class or emerged as overall best?
It was God’s ordination that I would make first class and the overall best in the university. However, I’m also aware of the fact that the best graduating student might not be the best in life; everything depends on destiny and God’s plan for someone’s life. It does not really matter if you make first class or third class. What matters most is what you can offer the society as you leave the school.
Were there things you did differently from others to have first class?
The one thing I did differently is what anyone else could have done, and that was the determination to be focused in my studies all the time, which yielded remarkable results.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for your performance?
My parents rewarded me with prayers and when I told them of my grade; and that I was the overall best in the school, they hugged me with tears of joy.
In your view, what makes students to fail their exams?
Students fail because of their inability to be serious with their studies. You must be focused academically before you can do well, otherwise you will fail. Another thing that makes students fail their exams is when they join bad gangs and when they have little or no time for their studies.