My secrets to graduating with a 4.94/5.00 CGPA from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria

May, 15 2019

Just after my unprecedented feat of graduating with a 4.94/5.00 CGPA from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, I had a warm interview with the Web Management Unit at ICICT led by the Head, Mr Auwal Adamu Gene. The crew sought a meeting with me to discover the secret(s) behind this outstanding feat. Excerpts and videos are shared with you below.

Question: Can you please introduce yourself (your name, alias if any, origin)?

My name is Nuhu Ibrahim, I’m from Kaduna State. {smiling} No, I don’t have any alias.

Question: You are now holding the highest final CGPA of 4.94 ever recorded in the history of Ahmadu Bello University. How does that make you feel?

Well... ermm... about the feeling... there’s actually a lot to say about that. I feel so very happy, feel awesome... especially on the day of the Convocation. I actually knew about my outstanding CGPA even before then but I felt more on that day; considering the fact that there were thousands of students on that day and I felt like I was the most celebrated person on that day. We had the richest man in Africa (Alhaji Aliko Dangote) on seat that day, we had State Governors, lots of businessmen seated. We had rural heads, the Sultan and all of that... so, it felt awesome getting to meet a lot of them that day; I got handshakes from many of them, I got kudos from many of them... especially Governor Ahmad El Rufa’i of Kaduna State who gave me a standing ovation. He made me know by his words and by his reaction that he is quite very proud of me even before realizing that I am also from Kaduna State. So that recognition alone is enough to make anyone happy and that feeling is enough to make you realize that all the stress, all the... ermm... all the patience, the hard work was actually not for nothing.

Question: In your view, can just anyone be the excellent student that you were in school? What does it take to attain the same or a higher feat as yours?

Well, being excellent is one thing; having an excellent result is another thing; and achieving this much is something else. You know, thousands of students graduated with me on the 27th of April 2019. I might have the best results with 4.94 CGPA but I’m sure there were a lot of other excellent students with me there that day. The way I see things, excellence entails so much more than having the best results.

When you ask, "can just anyone be as excellent I as was in school?", I’d say yes! Everyone can be. It all depends on your mindset, how willing you are to work extra hard and achieve what you want to achieve. I’ll use this opportunity to tell you about what I did in the University. See, I had some knowledge about computing before going to Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. I had a National Diploma in Computer Science from the Kaduna Polytechnic before going to ABU. So I had the opportunity of learning basic intro to computing as well as having some ideas about what one could be doing or is expected to be doing as a computer scientist and so on. So coming into Ahmadu Bello University I already had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve... already knew what I was out to get.

A lot of students come into the University with the mindset of “yes I’m going to get a degree” and they mostly don’t think beyond that. As for me, I knew I was not just coming here to get a university degree alone; I told myself I was coming to get even more than that. So while other students were busy thinking about how to make first class, I was always thinking about how I could make myself better in the field of computing. So I realized there were lots of problems in the world today that could be solved through computing. All I was doing was to try and make myself better at all times in that field. I also put excellence in my mind; like I want to make myself better, meet people that I could collaborate with in order to become better, build better things and so on... By so doing it became even easier for me to pass my courses even though a lot of people will tend to argue that the theoretical things being thought in class seem not to be in line with real-life relevance but I beg to differ because when you look at the right way, you’d realize that most of what we are taught in the university (be it physics, mathematics, geography and what have you) are always in line with what you could do to make the world a better place. So while I was in the university I strove for excellence wanting to make my skills better, wanting to become more relevant to the world and I was, of course, very very serious with my studies because that I was how I could find a way to link whatever it is that we were taught in class to whatever it is that I need to know in the outside world.

As for what I think it takes for anyone to attain the same or a higher feat than mine, I’d say we are all very different (personally, educationally, social backgrounds) but I was kind of lucky I knew what I wanted right from the onset. I had a lot of friends with whom I started but it was when we got to Level 3 that they started becoming aware of what they had come to the university to do. By then it was a bit late. Not too late actually but the reality is as far as results are concerned it was rather late you know... because you cannot get to cover up for what had been lost for complete two years of study that you’ve been playing around.

So first thing while going into the University is, you have to tell yourself the truth. The result thing is not just what you go there to find. You have to strive for excellence. You have to try... strive, no matter the course you are studying... you have to try and make sure that you are studying it deep down in your mind with the push that yes, I’m going to make the world a better place through what I am studying.

Second thing is do not make the result thing the only thing. High grades are great, but you need not lose focus when you drop a point or two in a semester. During exams I would always strive for a five point GPA but I was also cautioning myself that a 5-point GPA was not the only way to greatness and excellence. So if I happened to score a little less than 5.00 for a semester, I did not become disappointed; I did not lose my focus or morale to study more and strive for excellence still.

Question: Were you also this extremely brilliant during your primary/secondary school days?

When you ask most of my teachers and mates back then they’d most probably say I was quite brilliant. But when you ask me, I’d say I was just myself back in primary and secondary school just like I am now. In secondary school I was learning, and even then I had never set [paper] results as the ultimate measure of what I was aiming to achieve. So, I was placing more emphasis on things that I felt were even more important than results. Yes, I had brilliant results, but building on my intelligence was more important to me.

Question: How would you personally rate the quality of facilities, teaching, learning and student-lecturer interactions at ABU?

Okay, starting with facilities I think looking at the current state of the nation as we deal with shortage of resources... ermm... embezzlement of resources... all hindering prosperity in Nigeria... I’ll certainly say facilities at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria are not perfect but considering the state of the nation I think facilities are good and okay for learning.

When you talk about teaching ABU is blessed with some of the best teachers: professors, doctors, assistant lecturers, graduate assistants... that you can find in the country. Talking specifically about my Department (of Computer Science) which I am most familiar with at ABU, I’d say my Department has some of the best you can think of. They try their best to coach us; they try their best to teach us, yes! As for learning, the environment is not so convenient for students. Talking about my Department for example, you know... computer science is a field where you are supposed to have more of practicals (to discover) what is going on in real life than what has been written by other people. Learning had been quite difficult for us art the Department because we rarely had convenience to learn. Classes are so usually over-crowded... the same thing with the labs... so the convenience is just not there.

As for student-lecturer interaction, it has always been poor. It is something that is there for almost all the institutions in Nigeria. And mostly the reason for that is the ratio; the student-lecturer ratio in the University is poor. Like if you do the stat now, you may realize that a single lecturer to students on a general ratio may be up to a hundred... yes a hundred, two, or even four hundred! So you don’t expect that lecturer, no matter how blessed he is, to effectively manage between a hundred to four hundred students on his own. It is definitely going to be poor. One devastation fact in our institutions is you see some really good students doing well academically and elsewhere in life but these students go through one hundred, two, three, four hundred levels without them being recognized to be mentored by their lecturer so that they can achieve even more during their undergraduate studies. So the student-lecturer interaction really needs to be looked into because learning can only be effective if the interaction between oneself and his teachers is excellent. I have read about some international universities, I have watched lectures from MIT, I have looked at study materials from some of the best universities in the world. The way they teach, the way they learn is somewhat a hundred per cent different from the way we do in Nigeria. So over there, you see teachers happy whenever their students learn and become better than they are and I think that is because the lecturer-student ratio there is reasonable. So having more lecturers (to reduce the ratio margin) here will definitely help.

Question: What two or three critical changes do you think can be effected in Ahmadu Bello University that would bolster the academic performance of many more students?

Like I have already mentioned, student-lecturer interaction is one of the major factors that needs serious improvement to boost academic performance. I have really thought about this in my second year in the University: I looked at the hostels, looked at the classes, I looked at all the resources including the lecturers, sports facilities, health facilities... and I realized that all of these will not be enough even if the student population were to be slashed by two. When you look at the library, that is the first place you think of when you want to study, but you realize that the facilities in the library will never be enough for the students in the University even if you slash the number of students by two.

When you look at the lecturers also... count the number of lecturers in a Department... you realize that they are never going to be enough to have time to mentor the students into having excellent academic performance. Our sports facilities too are good but inadequate. Sports and recreation are important in helping students relax and be rejuvenated but the University does not have enough of those facilities too. So, many things need attention and the thoughts that I have are “what if the University admits only the number of students they know they can cater for? What if the University gives admission to only the number of students they can accommodate in the hostels? What if the University gives admission to only the number of students they know their lecturers are adequate for? I know this will drastically affect lots of students, lecturers and even the University’s income... but that is frankly one major way the University can become a lot better than it is currently.

Question: Apart from academics, what other achievements did you record while in School at ABU?

While I was in Ahmadu Bello University, I partook in a number of competitions – hackathons, idea pitches – and I have come winner is some while I only went home with more knowledge and experience. In 2018, I partook in the Nigerian Universities Programming Contest Held at the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja where my Team came first out of sixteen Universities in attendance including University of Ibadan, Covenant University, Federal University of Technology Akure and so on. After that we also represented Nigeria in the Africa and Arab Computer Programming Contest held around December 2018 in Benin Republic. The company where I had my SIWES programme in Kaduna also noticed some cool things I did for them which made them hire me and make me their Chief Technology Officer after my SIWES programme from 2017 till I graduated in 2018. I was also part of the Hackathon programme organized in 2017 by ABU Developers’ Club (ABUDev) where I and my Team came second. I also presented an idea pitch on that same day where I pitched the 9ja People Rep and won second place.

Again, another major achievement I recorded (even though some people may not count it as such) was that I dedicated a lot of my time and energy in seeing that a lot of my friends and classmates in general benefitted from what I understood of my teachers and things I learned by experience or by chance. And a lot of them have severally come to appreciate the little I have been able to impact on their lives which helped them improve in their academics and some other aspects of their lives as well. That was quite an important acheievement for me during my undergraduate days at ABU Zaria, yes!

Question: If you had not gotten a chance to study Computer Science, what other field would you have ventured into and would you still have done this well?

Me studying the Computer thing was actually by chance; I’ll see it as a thing of destiny, if you like. While I was in secondary school I knew about computers but never really knew how deep and great computer science is. I had much enthusiasm for mathematics in secondary school, and I often would take my textbooks and follow their problems one after the other and solve them. Then after secondary school all I wanted to study in the University was Mathematics. I wrote the JAMB UTME and passed, had good O-Levels but I don’t know why I never got admitted into that University. Instead I was only able secure admission at the Polytechnic – Kaduna Polytechnic – to study Computer Science so that was how the Computer Science thing started. And if I had not studied CS, it would’ve been Mathematics and I think I might have done even better than in CS.

Question: You were the President of ABUDevs for an Academic Session. How were you able to combine both administrative functions of ABUDevs and your regular academics?

Whaow, this is a nice question I am happy to here. When the chance came to apply for posts or roles in ABU Developers’ Club, I knew I wanted to be part of those who will provide leadership for the Club but I was scared of taking the role of President because I thought it would interfere with my academics. But then, I realized that perhaps this was the way towards excellence. I looked at the vision the mission, the objectives of the Club and concluded that if I could be part of this Club, if I could be the leader of this Club, no matter how much it would affect me academically, I could still achieve a lot. So I took the bold step and accepted to be the President and amazingly for me, I achieved a lot from being the leader: it brightened my leadership skills, my connections... my networks in ABU. I got to meet most of the leaders especially the Director of ICICT who always gave his fatherly advice on leadership, computing, technology, and many more. Got to also meet with and discuss matters with the Head of Department Computer Science, Prof. Sahal Junaidu. Also got to rub minds with Director of University Advancement, Prof. Ahmad Adamu and all of them like that. They taught me a lot about leadership and people skills, ICT and so on. So I feel I have achieved a lot and even though sometimes I did experience clashes with my studies because of my Presidential duties but I do not regret being the President of ABU Devs; and I would not advice anybody to reject an important role like that. Many great people around the world today didn’t get to where they are just because of degrees, but also because of their networks, their connections, which come outside of academic activities. So I was able to realize that and I took the bold step as it was in line with my desire to always strive for excellence.

Question: Would you advise Students to combine academics with other activities while in school? Why?

Now when you talk about other activities, there are a lot of other activities and there are students who will tell you they couldn’t graduate (on time or with good grades) because of this or that activities they were engaged in. Me being the President of ABU Devs was an activity. Someone can be the President or an Exco member of an association like State Students’ Associations and other Ethno-Cultural Associations... so if I should just go straight and say “yes, people should be engaged in activities” then I wouldn’t be fair because I personally won’t join just any activity. However, I would advice that if it is a positive activity, an activity that would make you a better person, then I’d encourage you to combine your academics with an activity. You must know yourself though, you should know your capabilities, what you can cope with, how far you can go, how many activities you can engage in, and so on.

Question: So, what was your social life like as a student of ABU, and how would you say it influenced your performance?

My social life was excellent even though others might want to judge it differently. A lot of people who knew me, my friends... were so surprised on the day of the Convocation. I got many calls with questions like “Nuhu so you are this good?”; “Nuhu how come you were able to do this?”; “Nuhu but we used to play pool and watch football together at the Social Centre... what time did you get to read?” and so on. So my social life was okay. I spent time playing, never left recreational activities behind. Through such activities I met lots of people and socialized well. For example I was Director of Software of NACOSS (Nigerian Association of Computer Science Students) and I met people there; I also met and socialized with people through my headship of ABU Devs, some people I met and socialized with through games I play like scrabble, snooker and so on. So my social life was good, yes.

Question: Any hint about who your mentor or role model is or are (if many)?

I look up to almost everyone in life as someone I could potentially learn from. Whenever I meet people, no matter whom they are, I look at them and try to figure out what is unique about them and what I could learn or imbibe from them. I look at them and try to find out what is it that they are good at, what is special about them, and I’m always willing to learn from them. So I’ve learnt how to talk from some people, I’ve learnt how to walk sometimes from some people. So I’ve learnt from different people such that sometimes when I get back to people I’ve been away from for sometime they observe and comment “Nuhu, you’ve changed how you talk these days” and I’d tell them it’s my boss that talks like that. Some people would say “Nuhu, you’ve changed the way you walk these days” and I’d tell them a colleague of my at the office walks that way. Some would say “Whaow, Nuhu how comes you started liking Apple products?” and my honest response would be “well, in my office now almost everybody uses Apple and I got to pick up the trend”. “Nuhu how comes you’re putting so much emphasis on Java these days?” and I’d tell them I met this online friend who loves Java a lot and he was able to convince me that Java does a lot of things so now I’m picking up Java. So I’ve learnt a lot of things from different people, not forgetting Prof Sahal Junaidu , Head of Computer Science at ABU. I learned to speak in public by watching and learning from the way he spoke in public. My leadership skills became better by looking at him, going through his history and picking up some great things from his past. I also have a lecturer, Mallam Ibrahim Umar Enesi who is a brilliant programmer. Working with him taught me how to write better codes and so on. I learnt leadership skills from my boss at work and life from my parents. So quite a lot of people who influence me there and I won’t be able to call all of them my mentors otherwise if I start calling everyone my mentor, I won’t be able to mention everyone.

Question: What was the title of your final-year Project and what problem did you try to solve there?

My final year project was titled “9ja People Rep”. It is a social networking platform aimed at bridging the communication gap between Nigerians and their representatives. So there’s this problem I realized around 2 to 3 years back; I realized that in Nigeria no matter how intelligent you are, no matter the status you’ve reached either business-wise or educationally or politically... it is usually very difficult for you to have the person representing you at the State, Local or Federal level to listen to what problems you have, what skills or solutions you have to help make the world a better place. So I realized that after I developed a solution for Kaduna State I couldn’t find the right channel, the right person to show the solution to for implementation. So I realized that that bridge is not there, we can’t get to communicate with our representatives, they can’t get to communicate with us unless one has this personal relationship with them or political relationship with them. So I thought of having a social networking platform. We’ve heard a lot about twitter and instagram and the facebook but they don’t directly solve our peculiar communication gap problem so I came up with “9ja People Rep” to bridge that gap between our leaders (State Governors, the President, Councillors, Senators, Ministers... and all of that). It’s a platform that facilitates communication with, say the Commissioner of Police, the Inspector-General of Police for example, State Governors, House of Reps Members and so on.

Question: As best-graduating student, there will be quite a number of opportunities open to you at the moment. Could you share some of them with us and what the next steps are for you?

You’re right, there are a lot of opportunities – opportunities that you wouldn’t even expect. You know immediately after the Convocation I uploaded a photo on some of my social media pages. I’m on LinkedIn and also Facebook. I’m currently into discussions with some professors over there in Canada and South Africa... inviting me to join them in further studies and research. I’ve also met lots of Software Engineers here in Nigeria – some in Lagos and some in Abuja – inviting me to come and work with them. So yes a lot of opportunities have opened up. I also got to have meetings with the Governor of Kaduna State Mal. Ahmad Nasiru El-Rufa’i. We’ve had two to three meetings I think, he took his time to advice me about many things. He himself was a first-class product of Ahmadu Bello University. He took his time to let me realize the role of first-class students in life, why a lot of first-class students have failed. He cited quite a number of first-class students who graduated with him but sadly failed in life. He gave reasons why they failed and he ordered some books for me to read so I would gain confidence in myself and know that I can achieve a lot more still. He offered me opportunities and assured me that he would be willing to help in whatever way that I may need help such as job opportunities, postgraduate opportunities... so yes, a lot of opportunities have really been coming and these opportunities have shown me that whatever it is that I had put in place to achieve this feat had not been in vain.

Question: Do you plan to practice in your field of study or venture into another field entirely?

Well, the answer is very clear. Computing is that field that everybody is running to currently. You see Lawyers coming into computing. You see somebody studying Microbiology still wanting to learn one or two tools to get knowledge with IT. I see myself working in this field... I don’t think I’d be leaving this field for any other field.

Question: Where do you see yourself in, say, the next 4-6 years?

This is the most difficult question to be answering because it’s quite difficult to predict precisely where one could be. But currently I’m channeling my energies into solving problems affecting our societies. I see myself in the next four to six years being recognized as a problem solver. My entire skills, my energy, my strength is always focused into observing problems, thinking about solutions, interacting with people to know what are those things that affect them most that I can use the little skills I have to solve and I believe that from now to the next four to six years I’d have solved enough problems to be recognized as a problem solver.

By Nuhu Ibrahim

Full Stack Web and Desktop Developer