To most Nigerian senior secondary school leavers or “graduates”, being offered admission into any higher institution of learning isn’t something one can easily come by on a platter of gold, but when it eventually happens, it is always celebrated almost in the same style as somebody who won the prestigious American Visa lottery. Since life isn’t always fair, the value is almost unknown to the lucky ones who come from influential homes with all necessary “connection” at their beck and call. To know the true value, simply ask an average Nigerian student who, after winning the hard battle with WAEC or NECO, still got jammed by the almighty JAMB time and time again and quite unfortunately couldn’t afford the optional Pre-Degree Program, Diploma or Degree Foundation Program due to the exorbitant cost.
One of the happiest days of my life was the day I was finally offered admission into the university, after staying almost half a decade at home and another one year striving through Pre-Degree Program to get “admitted”. My joy and happiness knew no bound, but the fantasy was short-lived on realizing that Odunuga Neye, my crony and closest buddy as at then, whom we fought the battle of PDS and its crisis together was denied admission – an unfortunate event which made me decided not to honor the glamorous matriculation ceremony as a symbol of true friendship and loyalty.
Oh! I forgot to add that I was “admitted” into Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago –Iwoye in 2005/2006 academic session to study Chemistry, a four year course which ironically was my achilles heel throughout my course of study in Senior Secondary School. I could remember that the WAEC certificate I used in procuring the hard earned “admission” had D7 boldly printed on it as my grade in the much dreaded course. Considering the stress, anxiety, time, finance and other resources it took to finally clinch a course and proudly on “merit list”, I was left with no choice than to embrace it with a christian hug.
Have I mentioned how brilliant I was in secondary school? Did you know I was one of the best students and the youngest “graduate” back then in high school? Yes, I was. I was my mama’s pride; very brilliant and eager to learn. Back then, I was one of the best at Mathematics, had soft spot for English language, found it quite easy to understand Biology, Physics and Economics. I knew Geography well enough to be able to pass it at all sittings. Yoruba Language and Agricultural science are subjects I need not prepare well for before having the required grade – B3 at worse. It was boldly written on my Secondary School Testimonial that “He is a very brilliant student”.
Convinced? Er, no…? For some Saint Thomas, if you wouldn’t consider it pride or showing off, I can start mentioning some of the inter-school competitions and debating sessions I participated in and, as expected of somebody of my caliber, WON. More uberfacts? My PDS aggregate score of 78, four years after leaving secondary school should further buttress my claim. If by now you still have some seeds of skepticism or some elements of doubt in your mind, kindly consult Pastor Fireman or Reverend Kings for deliverance. Thank You.
Freshman year as a Chemical Scientist in view went almost as peaceful as better imagined because good grades kept flowing in from different angles except for my very own CHM 101, which not-so-surprisingly, I still got a ‘D’. Some quarters attributed the mass failure of ‘we’, chemistry students – as chemistry major students are called – to the strictness of the lecturers while some claimed it was an intentional act by the authorities of the department to enforce on ‘us’ the notion that Chemistry as a course is no child’s play and OOU Chemical science department ain’t no bed of roses. Whichever way the case may be, nothing justifies the fact that only one student, of all 128 students who wrote the examination as a major, had ‘A’ while five other lucky ones had ‘B’ with the vast majority jubilating, dancing naked at the market square, slaughtering cows and strangling chicken necks in appreciation to the gods for having 40 (E) – being referred to as “Ori yomi” [My lucky ring worked] – and myriad others cursing their lucks, enemies and their wicked stepmothers in the village for having 39 (F) or below. I scored 48 which falls into the D – category and believe me, having ‘D’ in a four unit course will cause more than a dent to your CGPA [Cumulative Grade Point Average] and it wasn’t really shocking when my Grade Point (GP) was hanging in the mid 3-point balance even with the fact that I had few As and Bs in other courses especially the 1 and 2 unit ones.
Sophomore year. First semester was a period I wish Alzheimer’s disease could wipe off my memory. Hard and ill luck pounced hard on me. I had “horrible B” – as we usually nickname scores ranging from 66 – 69- in five courses of 2, 3 and 4 units and as usual 70s and 80s in the 1 unit ones. I resolved to taking some pep talks in form of tutorials from respected intellectuals during the half time break and with confidence, I resumed the other half of the session – the Rain Semester and it did really rained. Attitude towards lectures continued with the usual style of gisting in class about non-academic events just to exterminate boredom arising from some of our pedagogues’ dreary approach to lecturing or dozing, like a drunk retard, when it gets to the height of it. Judgment day came and I, since I was still one of the brilliant ones, went home smiling, basking in the euphoria of eventually scaling through to the semi-finals.
Tragedy struck again, again and again when result came out. Sounds of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth as predicted in the Holy Bible will happen in hell was dramatized by fellow classmates around the result score board. But it was no drama, it was as real as death. I almost collapsed – I think I did collapsed when I overheard, first as a rumor but later confirmed as a fact that I had been “gifted” with 3Es and 2Ds, no As, no Bs and few Cs in the series of examinations I could swore to have 5As and probably 2Cs which might arise from the not-so-friendly Mathematics 202 and Physics 204 courses I was forced to take.
During the ensuing drama…
I searched for a reflective illuminating surface
I found one,
I looked into it
It was still the same me, nothing much has changed aside few tiny beards struggling to grow and my grades, yes my grades plummeting down the bottomless pit head first. I said to the man in the mirror “It is over”. Chemistry and her agents have dealt another career threatening blow on me, my hard earned image and my grades which as expected pushed my CGPA down the scale to the early 3-point which I could only imagine to happen in a nightmare judging by my aforementioned attributes of brilliance, intelligence, my unquenchable thirst and insatiable curiosity to know things no matter how irrelevant.
Chemistry betrayed me and made futile all my efforts. I felt the need to wake up from the horrifying siesta hoping to discover all had been nothing but a dire nightmare, but wrong I was as reality struck me in the face.
Did I fail? Did I lose?
I kept asking questions I was sure never to be able to acquire adequate answers to, because virtually everybody around had more than necessary reasons to be sober or moved to tears – a situation grossly attributed to the appalling results staring us right in the damned face.
Quite easily for some, they moved on. It took more therapy than those administered to drug or sex addicts, for me to finally decided to stop crying over spilled milk and let things go. Each time I came across my CHM 232 question papers with correct answers written all over it, my mood swings or seeing CHM 242 which I’m sure a Secondary School drop-out will easily supply answers to always take me down memory lane to ask myself the same old question…Lancaster, wetin hapun?
First half, Semi Final. Things seem to get a tad better at the late hour as we started having friendly lecturers take us attention-grabbing courses. It was still surreal to me though and I was later proved right. Polymer Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry and Natural Product Chemistry all seemed more fascinating than hard, but Chemistry never changed as CHM 323 killed the joy unceremoniously. Of over 120 students who wrote the examination, only 12.5 % made the pass mark with over 100 students failing the course, (though I and one other student had ‘’missing script’’) we all still went through the same catastrophic ordeal of CHM 101 and for some unlucky ones, CHM 321, which I, through the needle’s eye managed to pass, was added as jara. In the event of this, students who were virgins in the game of ‘’carry over’’ got raped and deflowered with at least two of the courses as reference… Chemistry again!!!
I, like most other students remained indifferent by the unfavourable circumstance because ASUU through its 4 months strike action gave us more than needed time to recuperate and get over the shock. The ill-timed “holiday” eventually dealt us the killer blow by its disadvantages stretching to the extent that Olabisi Onabanjo University had to lose an academic year thereby extending my graduation year from 08/09 to 09/10. Biggest blow? Yes, but que sera sera. Isn’t it?
Resumption, like lightning, struck suddenly and I assumed my positions of coming for 7’O Clock lectures, standing in lecture rooms or laboratory with no “stool” to take the weight off my feet and dozing in class mode was instantly activated as our guarding angel, Dr. O. L., went on sabbatical leave abroad.
Our immunity got deprived, our defense line left defenseless.
We were left in between a threatening two-horned Devil and the Deep Red Sea. At first we got lucky as an interim head was chosen, but all enthusiasm, optimism and all our fanaticism went down the sea as death struck at the “wrongest” time, claiming the life of our dear HOD. To some he lost the battle of life though he will always be remembered for all his good deeds, but to most… a new era had just began.
The era of “according to university regulations”. I’ve lived more than 8 years of adult life in Nigeria and have had ample experiences to understand the “nigeriac” mentality and approach to things. When authorities mess up, abuse office or misuse their power, Nigerians don’t usually walk up to them or challenge them, they don’t carry placards and angry banners to picket them at their various comfort zones, “we”, rather gleefully, find solace in giving them awkward epithets and tag them with other people of like characters. It was not surprising when the new regime was awarded the sobriquet Ghadaffi regime while most called it Darken Rahl’s regime. During this regime, stuff that were once taken with levity were now being handled with iron hands. Protocol like registration and submission of course forms which “we” always tend to overlook were now duly observed.
One thing got me really proud, though startled at first, which was the fact that for the first time since I was inducted into the OOUITE hall of fame, potential Chemical Scientist got united and stood against this so-called authority who wanted to impose examinations scheduled for Monday morning on us on a Thursday afternoon “according to university regulations”. We protested peaceful on top of our voices and WE WON – pyrrhic victory it later came to be but it was worth the effort. The “authority” had to issue out a new examination time-table and, to get back at us, all our examinations were clustered together, leaving us no chance of revising or reviewing the second course before writing the examination and the third paper also followed suit as we wrote three papers consecutively. Unknown to General Ghadaffi, we were already used to writing nine (9) papers in three days – part of the struggles we’ve always been facing right from our freshman year. We all said to ourselves “nothing do us”, not knowing the plan(s) “they” had for us in the near future – according to university regulation.
Grand Finale. Second semester of the final year, which, going by formality, is the last semester as undergraduate, kick started and like time, flew by. Final examinations took place early August. I did what was expected of me and at the end of the first week of the month, I became a “graduate”, though not in all definitions because I was still working on my Research Project in a laboratory I dare not write anything about lest NUC (Nigeria University Commission) revoke the department’s accreditation. I finished my project, did all necessary things and submitted my report. I heaved a sigh of relief and started waiting, hoping for and yearning for NYSC – a scheme which has in all ramifications outlived its purpose, usefulness and integrity… that’s something to discuss another day.
“Anti-GOD”, the state governor, who doubles both as the highest authority and the number one visitor of the institution, played its own ignominious part in the trauma by his despicable act of denying the lecturers their monthly stipends which made them stare job in the eye for a duration of four months inevitably ruling us out of serving in the NYSC Batch A slated for February/March. I accepted my fate, braced up and settled for Batch B which is to hold by June/July until the “authority” again – not highest this time – decided to have our future his own way. Results of examination conducted early August the previous year were not yet duly processed. Rumors started emanating from all nook and crannies threatening the credibility of the department. Yet, nothing was done except friends and colleagues flooding my Facebook wall with inquiries and questions, neglecting the fact that I am but an apprentice like them.
The much awaited hope eventually surfaced as Mr. You-Know-Who was unceremoniously sent packing, giving room for the needed change as the best man for the job was giving the helm of power. Dr. N.A.A, a man of character worthy of emulating, though not feared, but loved and respected by all and sundry to the extent that my man from the “according to university regulation” dynasty had to swallow his pride and call him “Oga mi”. Who cares about the sarcasm? Fellow classmates – now regarding themselves as prospective corp members – mobilized around to render the modicum magnanimity at their disposals, sacrificing a great deal of time, resources and risking dear lives against all odds. I thought it would at the long run pay off not knowing the deed had already been done. Time was no longer enough for us to mobilize and go for service with Batch B because the “call-up number” sent from NYSC Headquarter glaringly exempted all Chemistry students who now had to mobilize after the deadline set. Now what I am left to hope for is Batch C which is for October/November, over a year after I wrote my final paper, no thanks to Chemistry and its stooges with all their disgusting gimmicks and fake promises.
In all, I tend to say “I came, I saw, I conquered”, but I, once looked upon as extra-ordinarily brilliant, smart and quite intelligent had to settle for a mediocre class which made it look like I was never brilliant. Chemistry forced me to read to pass and not to understand because no time was allocated for assimilation or understanding. Charles Kettering said “There is a lot of difference between knowing and understanding, you can know a great deal about something and not really understand it”. To me, Charles couldn’t have been more right with the situations of things I went through in Chemistry. The only question plaguing my mind now is “Chemistry, a course or a curse?”.