19 year-old Wukeh Egem-Odey created a buzz when he emerged as the best graduating student in Covenant University, Ota last month. Having completed his undergraduate course in Accounting, he earned an impressive Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.89, towering above his peers in the 2012 graduating set of the University.
In this exclusive interview with Adeola Adeyemo, Wukeh speaks about his journey to achieving such a feat, his other interests and his plans for the future. His story is an interesting one. Enjoy!
Hi Wukeh. Congratulations on achieving such a feat. How do you feel right now, making history as the best graduating student this year?
I feel indebted to God Almighty, and like you know, God can’t be repaid. So I feel like a debtor. God has done this marvelous thing in my life and I am truly grateful. Like you said “making history”, so I feel further challenged to forget the past and steer forward to achieve greater heights.
Tell me about your journey to achieving this. Would you say it was tough or smooth ride?
Nothing good comes easy. It was definitely not a smooth ride. Tough times they say don’t last, but tough people do. It was a hell of a ride I tell you. My case was different. I had a lot of challenges, health and otherwise, but God chose to lift me up at the end. I didn’t enroll in school to be the best graduating student, I came to learn and build myself to achieve maximum returns on my parent’s investments. God saw me through all the breakdowns and frowns and even when there was an examination period I literarily did not read for, He provided friends that had my back and will sacrifice their own time to read out the notes to me.
What was the lowest grade you ever had in the University and what course was it in?
My lowest grade was a D but it was in a 0 Unit Course. I did not read and the course was Comptia+(Project Management). Only 25 questions so failing was easier. Seriously, my lowest grade in a credit load was a C and it was in Accounting Laboratory- ACC 229- Peach Tree Accounting. God in heaven knows I got an A, I just don’t know what went wrong. It’s a software course and I am sure they made a huge mistake. Anyway it was 1 unit and I was tired of complaining.
What Primary and Secondary schools did you attend? Were you always at the top of your class in those schools?
I went to Hilcrest in Calabar, then to Stella Maris Primary School in Abuja and I was not exactly the top of the class, but I was academically respected, came in top 3 but I always evaded the 1st position, I don’t know why. But I emerged second in the Federal Common Entrance and I passed the Loyola Jesuit Exam, which was considered a great academic feat at the time and till now. I attended Loyola Jesuit College and there, I was never at the top of the class. I was an average student, among the brightest students. Well I was really playful in school and never realized the essence of education till later on in SS3. Thank God it wasn’t too late.
You’re a graduate at the age of 19. This is a bit rare in the Nigerian society. At what age did you get into Primary school, Secondary school and the University?
Well I got into Stella Maris at 6 from Hilcrest in Calabar. I was in Transition, a class after Reception 1 and 2 in Calabar. When I moved into Abuja, however, my Mum took a risk and started me at primary 3 immediately to see if I could cope. The Hilcrest School operated a Grade 4 system unlike the usual Primary 6. So My Mum figured that since transition was the equivalent of primary 2, I should start up in primary 3. Well God helped me, I coped and I wrote my common entrance in Primary 5 and I passed. I entered Loyola Jesuit College at age 9. Mind you, I was born in November so I entered 9 and turned 10 in JSS1. So after 6 years, I entered into Covenant University at 15 and turned 16 in Year 1. Well, where I am from age is just statistics; you are as old as your mind tells you.
What do you think is responsible for your fast climb up your educational ladder?
It was mainly God speed and my parent’s belief. They never saw us as small as we truly were. Once you could stand it, keep going.
You must have been one of the youngest students in your classes in all the schools you’ve attended. Did this affect your self confidence or performance in any way at any point in time?
Yes o. Infact, I think that is why I didn’t do so well in Secondary School. I had not matured on time. I still saw life as playful as it was in primary school and it took me time to find footing. Sometimes, I was shy about it, sometimes, I wasn’t. As I entered the University, nope, not at all. Truly no one will believe I am 19. I look and talk and behave older. So self-confidence has never been an issue. My elder siblings and my parents took it upon themselves to make sure I did not make the same mistake with my peers. I never played video games, I never did what my peers did. I wanted to, but I didn’t find myself doing them. Since, I had always been in classes higher than my age, I act my class, not my age and so it did not affect my performance in the higher institution, nor did it affect my self-confidence.
Have you always seen this coming? Did you know you were going to have such a grade right from when you got into the University?
Well, I knew that University was going to be a lot different from Secondary School. Reason being I had figured it out. I was more serious. I now knew my left from right and knew what was important. So I had my second chance to redeem the Primary School hero. My Ghanaian teachers were shocked at my Loyola performance; I remember I used to go for lessons upon lessons. So, I knew there would be redemption, but bless God it was to the highest degree. I saw it coming and I kept God close by so that it can truly come. I didn’t know it will be the best grade, but I knew I would do great, not average, not just good, but great.
Most intelligent people like you are usually tagged as unsociable, nerds. Would you say you had a similar experience or did you have an active social life at the University?
Opposite. I was on the other end of the stick. On my convocation, a magazine was released called SPOTTED, and they tagged me “Perfection in Balance”. Truth is, when you are coming from the playful end and you figure it out, it is hard for you to leave the play. You just figure how to fit it in, without suffering the books. I still played basketball, I was the Captain of my level team, I still did a lot of fashion designing and modeling, I hung out with my friends (male and female), though I never had an official relationship, but I met amazing people along the way like Biola, Saida, Pelumi, and Joy and they are really great women. I still stayed “fly”. I tried sha. I loved dressing so I was known as a ‘fashionista’ and I kinda still had that serious look on sometimes but I was always faking it for the ‘swag’. It felt good when I would be playing and people go ‘but he will still pass’. Well people always asked me how I combined it all, especially when I started business in my concluding years, but my answer is 3 letters, GOD.
Did you have any nickname while in school?
My friends called me EGEM. They really dragged it. Others called me Woks, some called me Prof. and towards the end of my stay when I accepted the post as the CPC Chairman, my named changed to CPC.
If there is anything you would have loved to change about your experience or stay at the University, what would it be?
Absolutely nothing. All the dots connected and even the things that went bad were the very things that led to the good things. I loved the whole experience. If there is a gun to my head sha, and I really had to answer this question, I would have loved to know some really cool people earlier, but hey, I still get to know them right? And I would have started business way earlier.
What would you say were your lowest points throughout your stay in the University?
When I lost my friends-Damola Afolabi and Femi Ribadu, those were my lowest points. Great talents called by their father in heaven.
Why did you choose to attend Covenant University? Did you attempt to secure admission into any other University or has this always been your dream?
Dream? No. I wrote the SATs and the TOEFL and I got admission into University of Maryland and into Hawaii Pacific University. I also got admission into the Igbinedion University. Covenant was some arrangement between my mum and my cousin. I heard many things about the school and I just thought I will never be a part of it. As God would have it, it became my reality.
Share with me Wukeh, what’s it like at Covenant University? Is it stiff and boring like most outsiders tend to think it is?
Of course, I cannot say what outsiders say because they will always be wrong. It is like being “out of your mind”- that is exactly how outsider’s views are. It’s got all the rules and regulations and all that and it can be really frustrating if you are below obeying the rules. You must agree with me that boring things happen to boring people. So no matter the environment, if you are an interesting person you would find the place interesting. CU peeps will sha have their fun. Whether it is picnic, dinner, fashion show, drama night, choir concert, redefinition, jamborees, and what have you. By below the rules I mean, if you just obey and live your life, you would really have no issues. It’s those that are bent on breaking them that find out how stiff they are. It’s got all the rules, some could be annoying, I admit, but the trick is find your friends and you will laugh about it, find your place and you will not be disturbed, find your God and tap from the environment. What is stiff and boring about that?
Did you ever feel stifled with the strict rules and regulations that students were compelled to adhere to?
I was vexed sometimes, really vexed. But hey that was when I thought and spoke like a child, now I think and speak like a man. Some rules were just, ah ah, haba! But then I grew to just laugh about it and just obey. Getting angry at the rules will hurt you more because they never run out of new rules.
Did you ever wish you had attended any other University at any point in time and what were your reasons?
Well, I have never attended any University before so I don’t know how it is like in others, but sometimes, like when I really wanted to play interschool games, I wished I was in a more liberal school. Asides that, sometimes when they will really stretch us, I wished I had just gone abroad and studied.
Tell me about your family. How would you describe their support to you throughout your educational pursuit?
Amazing. My family gave me all the support there was in the world. My Mum would buy all the clothes in the world so that I can wear and focus. My Dad will spend money on anything educational to make sure I maximized my education. My siblings, especially the elder ones, Wufeh and Benjamin were of so much support. My brother will just send me money at times to make me feel happy and of course it worked. My sister was so selfless, she would sacrifice her laptop for me among other things. I have a very wonderful family and I thank God almighty for that. All through my ailment in school, they kept praying and feeding me with encouragement. Them and God almighty, being the vine, are the reasons behind my success.
Why did you choose to study Accounting?
Because Accounting is the language of business.
Why Business? Are you interested in running a business of your own?
I love investments, in fact I am investing in the aboki near my house in Abuja. I started business off with investments in other businesses, then I took the bold step to partake in the annual trade fair. I had always been a customer, but this year, I chose to be at the other end. I sold bread, plantain, egg and indomie, with a friend and brother, Kolade and my school aunties. We made good money and split it and some people laughed at me, but “it is foolishness to be shameful of what is gainful”. I was richer than I had ever been. When I saw that money is actually easy to be made, all you have to do is create channels of wealth and start small, and like a postage stamp, stick to it till it gets there. I had very wonderful business partners and we made hundreds of thousands together. KC is his name, a great guy, now it’s on to the millions. I was good at initiating and funding businesses, but not being the one handling it, so I could attract customers and it was fun, because there was no day, at least for my last year in school that I didn’t make something. I lost a lot of money, more than half a million in investments, but I thank God for giving me the strength to jack back up even in spite of my academics. I met Rhema, a very great business partner too and we are on for life. I just became a partner of 2 companies called UPGRADE and BINAZONE after my graduation, so watch out, we will soon be on the stock market.
I am currently a bronze distributor with Avenues 2 Wealth, a great company, and that bronze will soon change to silver and silver to Gold, then Platinum. Also, an Assistant Supervisor in Forever Living Products. My aim is to be a millionaire before I am 20, and by God’s grace, I am already there and beyond. I believe in business for driving change, I am not just interested in making the billions and trillions. I want others to be rich and successful too.
What is the next step for you now in your educational and career pursuit?
I want to take Certification exams in relevant fields, get chartered, get a masters degree and a PhD by God’s grace. Whatever field I will choose to study in event has to be directly relevant to Nigeria’s situation. I am considering furthering my career in Forensic Accounting.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in life?
Whatever you accept is yours. God doesn’t choose for you. If you think you can’t or if you think you can, you are right. Get up and do something with your life. If you are poor, don’t accept it; if you are sick, reject it; if you are not that intelligent, fight it. Like Martin Luther said, ‘if you can’t fly, run, if you can’t run walk, if you can’t walk, crawl. By all means please keep moving’.