By Ibrahim Adam
The only time a student graduated from the Department of Sociology, Bayero University Kano, BUK, with a First Class Degree was 36 years ago. Since then, sets after sets of even the best graduates only managed to occasionally ‘escape’ with a Second Class Upper, which they consider a really great achievement.
However, that trend soon changed with the recent graduation of whiz kid Sani Muhammad from the department with a First Class Degree acquired on a glowing 4.65 Cumulative Grade Point Aggregate.
Born in Ibadan, Oyo state Nigeria in 1993, Muhammad was originally an indigene of Borno State from Hawul Local Government Area, Borno State, Nigeria, and the second of five siblings born to the family of Mohammed Inusa, a warrant officer in the Nigerian Army and Zainab Mohammed.
As someone who grew up in a military environment, Mr. Muhammad recalled that he attended Command Children School Mogadishu Cantonment Asokoro, Abuja from where he graduated in 2007 before proceeding to Army Day Junior Secondary School, Asokoro, Abuja.
“I was among the best students and served as the assistant health prefect and the secretary general of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria. I graduated there in 2009. After my Junior Secondary school certificate examination (JSSCE), I was selected with 3 other students by the FCT Secondary Education Board to attend a special school, School for The Gifted, Gwagwalada, Abuja, where I graduated in 2012,” he recalled.
The prodigy also narrated how he held numerous leadership positions during his secondary schools days and how he stumbled upon Sociology as discipline even though his initial ambition was to study Accounting or Banking and Finance.
“I was awarded the best Social Science student in the 2009/2010 academic session. I served in various capacities as the Assistant Head Boy, the Mu’azzin Vice Ameer of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, Vice President of the Literary and Debating Society School For The Gifted, Gwagwalada, Abuja,” he told DAILY NIGERIAN.
“At first I didn’t really want to study Sociology. In fact, I have never heard the name of the course. I really wanted to study Accounting or Banking and Finance. Until a day I asked one of my seniors then in school about his JAMB combinations and I loved it (English, Economics, Commerce and Government). I now asked him of the course he applied and he told me Sociology. That was the first time I heard the name of the course. I was sceptical at first to apply the course.”
Mr. Muhammad said it was only out of curiosity that he eventually decided to apply for sociology, to which he was successfully admitted by BUK.
“I later secured admission into Bayero University, Kano, participated in student unionism and served in various capacities as the Press Secretary of the Publicity Committee, and the speaker of the Nigerian Sociological and Anthropological Student’s Association,” he recalled.
‘Almost backing out’
Flashing back on his days at BUK, Mr. Muhammad described moments in which he almost lost faith in the course he was studying and mulled a change of department. At other moments, he said he experienced tremendous anxiety having to deal with many other engagements that almost threatened his concentration.
“The journey so far has been really challenging, the one I can’t forget was my level 300 second semester exam. I wrote that exam with lots of engagement with other duties. I was preparing on travelling to the United States for the Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) program. I didn’t have much time to read or concentrate and some other activities and issues here and there really kept me off-track and less focused.
“I called my parents to pray for me, I reaffirmed my commitment towards making good grades. And I got support from a lot of people during that period. In such times having a good support system like parents, and encouragement from your lecturers would really help. I can’t forget the encouragement from my level coordinator, Mallam Usman Ibrahim whom I respect so much, and friends like Umar, Sadiq, Abdulkadir and Fatima. They really helped me psychologically during that period. I remember I slept only after the exams and read throughout the night just to cover up my course work and to have an idea at least to any question that was asked.
“I initially had doubt about the course from the beginning, I even started asking about interdepartmental transfer but after my first semester result and encouragement from my level coordinator, I felt this is what I’m born to study. I even wanted to leave BUK for the Nigerian Defence Academy in Level 200, but I didn’t make through the finals,” he added.
‘An awesome feeling’
Looking back however Mr. Muhammad stated that he later found his programme exciting so much that he believed that was what he was meant to do from the onset of his life.
“The feeling is awesome and indescribable. I feel so overwhelmed with joy and happiness and I want to thank each and everyone who has contributed with prayers and well wishes to this success. The feeling is so immense I don’t know how to describe it. Today, I feel, if I hadn’t studied Sociology, what would I have done? That’s the feeling now,” he said.
Giving insight into the complexities of academic life in Nigerian universities, Mr. Muhammad argues that sometimes the system appears to be designed to deliberately “punish” students while also noting that sometimes the fault was not really that of the system but the attitude of students to studies.
“Yes the system is created in such a way that some students are meant to ‘suffer the sins of their fathers’, using old methods of teaching and not putting the learning abilities of most students in consideration. Also look at the deterioration in infrastructures, the burden on lecturers due to inadequate manpower and staff, and inadequate teaching tools, etc. It just goes on and on.
“However, some students take issues of their study with levity. It’s surprising when you talk to some students and they say “I’am just in school for the certificate’. They call it ‘a meal ticket’. That mentality makes the student not to work hard and achieve feats that he would otherwise have been able to achieve. So it’s both sides,” he explained.
‘Not all academic hell’
Though many might think that acquiring a First Class was about living a hellish and tough academic life, Muhammad says there were numerous moments of fun and leisure.
“I always create time for leisure. I love Bollywood movies a lot. Those close to me would testify that. I also love chatting with my friends. In fact, I found these two activities taking most part of my leisure time
“For now, I don’t know. But I’m waiting for my National Youth Service (NYSC), then I’m thinking of making use of any good opportunity that comes and proceed for my masters, Inshaa Allah,” Muhammad said.
Also speaking on the reactions of his lecturers to his rare success, he said: “Most of the lecturers were happy with the development and wished me all the best in life. In fact, the HOD Dr. Bello Ibrahim called to congratulate me personally and the Dean Student Affairs, Professor Ismaila Mohammed Zango, also called to congratulate me. In fact he was the one who told me “you’ve broken the jinx of 36 years”. They’re all very proud and happy”.
He further added that he had received some awards in the course of his study and also after he had achieved the rare feat of graduating with a First Class.
“Yes, I’ve been awarded best graduating student by the Nigerian Sociological and Anthropological Students association (NSASA), Best Graduating student Faculty of Social and Management Sciences by the Faculty of Social and Management Science Students Association (FOSAMSSA). Also I have been awarded by the vice chancellor several times from level 1-3,” Mr. Muhammad said.