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I Was Once Told That My Brain Was Not Meant For The Sciences – UI’s Best Graduating Student

With a CGPA of 6.9 (of 7.0), Marian Nwanne Obuseh, from the Industrial Engineering Department, emerged the overall best student of the 2016/17 graduating set from the University of Ibadan.

In an interview with Tribune, Marian shared some of her passions and philosophy of life.

Listening to your valedictorian speech, one gets the impression that you’re passionate about the girl-child. Is there a story behind this passion, an experience?

Well, I am the only girl in a family of five children. Perhaps that triggered the passion. I’m not particularly sure. I have read a lot about what happens, not only in Nigeria. I mean, we all followed the Malala’s story.  And all I ask myself is ‘what if I were that girl?’ It irks me every single time. These are children that should be bothered about how to pass their next calculus test or how to submit a literature term paper. Instead, they are being married off to elderly men and being s3xually abused. The ones that are lucky not to be married off still share the same fate of dropping out of school. I can’t begin to imagine. When and how did education become a gender-based ‘privilege?’ These girls have bright futures. I do not understand why people would intentionally do these. What happened to marrying older women who can give you their consent? The truth is I wish I could do something about it and I really hope this is a start. These are children who would have been future engineers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, managers, etc. and made impacts in their locale and in the country at large. Yet, people decide to kill these dreams and condemn them to marriage at ridiculously young ages. We can do better.

And, you settled for a course in technology, a field that is mainly male-dominated…and excelled at it. Did you want to prove a point? Why did you choose that course?

I didn’t settle for a course in technology. I chose a course in technology. And believe me, I do not like that appellation ‘male-dominated’. A field of study is a field of study. I wonder where gender got incorporated. From the results of my JSCE exams, I was more inclined towards the arts than the sciences as seen from my grades. Everyone around me advised me to go to the arts for my senior secondary school education. I was specifically told my brain was not meant for the sciences. Nothing had hurt me more then. I mean, that was quite understandable as I couldn’t even tell if a switch was on or off then. But I’m a little stubborn, so I decided to do ‘my own’. Of course, that involved working harder. I even decided to take Further Mathematics and Technical Drawing classes (chuckles). By the time I was graduating from secondary school – Oritamefa Baptist Model School, I was the best student in the Sciences and the overall best graduating student. I loved Mathematics and Chemistry and I read my dad’s geology books. So, I decided to study Petroleum Engineering. However, my JAMB (UTME) scores were not so great. So, I was given Industrial and Production Engineering. I was sad and had made up my mind to transfer to Petroleum Engineering after my first year. However, I grew to love Industrial Engineering because of its versatility. Deciding to remain in the department is inarguably one of the best decisions I’ve taken. So, yeah, I can say I wanted to prove a point when I decided to go to the sciences, but I sure didn’t want to prove any point when I opted for Engineering.

You also spoke about the need for your colleagues to consider taking up political roles in the society. Do you nurse an ambition to, someday, get involved as well?

The truth is if you use your knowledge and skills for yourself alone, you might as well be non-existent. We need to keep building capability in our own little way. Give back to the society, not just material needs, but your knowledge and time. Start small. You don’t have to wake up one day and say ‘Oh, I want to vie for the post of the president of the country.’ Start with your locale. How many people have you impacted? We do not even need religion to have that sense of empathy and decency. So yeah, if you feel the only way you can make an impact in your locale and the country at large is to take up political roles, by all means, do so. There’s no exact way of knowing how much you can excel at something until you actually give it a try. The very first set of Nigerian leaders were young and vibrant men and women. I see nothing stopping us from going back to that trend. As for me, I definitely nurse lots of ambitions and, with time, they’d start coming to life.

Who or what in your background helped shape your world view and philosophy today?

My parents and brothers have had major influences on my world view and philosophy. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but my parents gave their all to making me the woman I am today. And I think this instilled a virtue of self-discipline in me. I do not need my parents to tell me ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that.’ I wasn’t micromanaged growing up. I was brought up to set aside any behaviour or experience that could potentially detract me from accomplishing set goals. With time, I learnt to multi-task and have fun while on the pursuit of my goals.

Studying at Nigeria’s premier university must be tough enough; excelling the way you did couldn’t have been a walk in the park. What did you do differently that you would say worked for you?

When I moved in to school as a first-year student, my goal was to not fail the dreaded CHE 157. I moved from realizing that I wasn’t going to fail the course to realizing that I wasn’t going to fail any course to realizing that I could actually have a first class and finally that I could be the Best Graduating Student. So, I took my time and went through each day as it came.  That entailed knowing my onus and not allowing all the noise make me lose focus. I studied when I needed to study; I slept when I needed to sleep; I played when I needed to play. Striking a balance is very important. It comes with self-discipline. It might not come off as easy but believe me, it is worth the effort.

Did you socialise. If you did, how much, and how did you protect your academic progress from being affected?

Well, socializing is relative. I was the Social and Welfare Director of the Industrial Engineering Students’ Association. I had to set up and steer several committees to cater for the social and welfare needs of the students. I went to parties, I was in the welfare team of the National Federation of Catholic Students annual week committee, and many other non-academic positions and activities. I was in a serious relationship in school and that didn’t stop me from getting those A’s. Like I said before, striking a balance is key. Getting all A’s and graduating from the university is only a tiny aspect of life. You need to be well equipped for the rest of the journey. And you won’t be if all you did in school was go to class, study, go to church/mosque, eat and sleep. I realised this after my first year and I decided to make adjustments.

What do you plan to achieve next, and where would you want to see yourself 10 years from today?

I ascribe my achievements to God. I’ve learnt to always just commit things to His hands. Yes, I have my own plans and goals, but the Bible says unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. I have faith He has bigger plans for me, so I’m going to allow things plan out according to His will.

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