From Sharing A School Bag With 2 Siblings to the Top Spot at UNILAG! Meet Babatunde Alawode – University of Lagos Top Graduate 2010 with a 4.93 CGPA/First Class in Mechanical Engineering

Thursday 21 January 2011 was indeed a memorable one for thousands at the University of Lagos, as they received various degrees from the University after years of rigorous academic training. It was time to reward students who had put varying degrees of efforts into their respective programmes. Of the several thousands of first degree recipients were 119 First-Class graduates, among whom a particular student stood out. 21-year old Babatunde Olusegun Alawode, a graduate of Mechanical Engineering, emerged the Best Graduating Student with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.93/5.00. In this exclusive interview with BN Editorial Assistant, Gbenga Awomodu, this young man who wants to solve Nigeria’s energy problems, shares interesting bits about his childhood, friendship, education, and, of course, Nigeria.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Tunde Alawode, a native of Abeokuta in Ogun State. I come from Semore in Imo, somewhere in Obafemi-Owode Local Government. I am from a polygamous home and I have 28 siblings. I am the 21st child, and seventh of eight from my mum. I recently graduated from the University of Lagos with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Your graduating CGPA of 4.93 translates to how many A’s and B’s?

I had one C and four B’s. Two of the B’s were in my first semester in Unilag, and the remaining two in the fourth and fifth semesters respectively. The C was in a physics laboratory course in my second semester -everyone in class had the same grade. I did, altogether 76, courses.

Please let us into your academic history, pre-university.

I started at High Class Nursery and Primary School, Ikotun, Lagos. Later, I followed my sister, Moji, to her school, Folem Private School (then God’s Time Is the Best Nursery & Primary School, Igando, Lagos). I started at the bottom of the class, but in primary three, I ‘suddenly’ came third. By primary five I was steadily in second position behind Moji. I was enrolled at St. Saviour’s High School, Ijegun, Lagos in September 1999. For the first two terms, I was again second position behind my sister until I came third in the third term of JSS 1, beaten by a girl named Nengi. At the beginning of the next term, the most brilliant students in the neighbouring class were brought to mine. I was scared of even performing worse, so I became more serious. I came first that term and haven’t looked back since then. However, there was a particular very disappointing incident during my JSCE examinations, which made me decide to prove a point – I had all A’s and a P (in IntroTech) in my JSCE. In the 2005 WASSCE, I had all (eight) A1’s and a B2 (in English Language). I heard that was the best result in Lagos State at that time.

Why did you study Mechanical Engineering?

In SS 2, I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with my life. I soon realized that I loved things engineering. I liked medicine too, but hated the sight of blood and disliked that drugs were too bitter. If I were a scientist that specializes in making drugs sweeter, I would be motivated! My favourite subjects were Physics, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Technical Drawing and Chemistry, so I thought I would not fare badly in Engineering. I read a copy of Awake! magazine which explained the bleak future of the world with current trends in energy demand and use, which would eventually make the world uninhabitable. I decided that my life must make a global impact in the area of energy. Imagine if you only required a litre of petrol to move from Lagos to Sokoto, or if your car could run on only water.

Finish up the exclusive interview here!

UNILAG Memoirs: Hurried Exit from King Jaja Hall

By Gbenga Awomodu

King Jaja Hall, University of Lagos

Many will never forget in a hurry how we were sent packing from Jaja Hall of the University of Lagos. At the end of previous sessions, when we were not in our final year, it was not unusual to see students depart from school as soon as they were done with exams. Suddenly, loneliness descended on some of us like cold water on a cold winter night! Though I love some quiet and do a lot of serious thinking during quiet times like in the middle of the night when everyone is sleep or during the weekends when most people have gone home, I begin to feel like going home too, as soon as school becomes deserted after the session. I just botch initial plans to stay back in school to relax.

This year, things were quite different. Suddenly, final year students did not want to go home and bid Jaja Hall bye so soon! We had barely finished our final exams and many still had Final Year Research Project to submit. Many had Class Dinner and similar events to attend later in the week, a few days after the completion of exams. Everyone just wanted to stay, relax and enjoy some extra time after exams. But a rude shock hung in the air. The school authorities had ordered that students vacate the hostels on Sunday, September 19, 2010. Later it was extended to Tuesday, September 21, 2010. But some students still had papers that same day. Despite pleas and consultations with even the Dean of Student Affairs, there was no going back. Not even the final year students were given any preference in this matter.

Jaja boys are notorious for many things, but one stands out of the pack. They love to yell “Go Away!” Whether it’s a bevy of beautiful ladies (or chicks, as they are popularly called) passing by the hostel, someone making incoherent or semi-coherent announcements via the epileptic Jaja Hall public address system which had been bedeviled by perennial ‘sour throat’, or the hall mistress making announcements and reeling out rules, warnings or general codes of conduct, Jaja boys do not hesitate to scream “Go Awaaay!!!!” on the top of their voice, from the fourth floor down to the ground floor. Even as the hall mistress (a.k.a Mummy Jaja) kept reminding everyone to start packing their luggage and prepare to go home, the ‘troublesome’ tenants replied by telling her to “go away”. This dragged on and she threatened to stick to her plans. But no one really took her seriously, except for the ‘chicken-hearted’ chaps in lower levels, especially Year 2, who started moving out of the Hall in droves.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 came and Mummy Jaja made her good her promise to evict the now unwelcome residents. Though she had managed to evict most people, some drama ensued towards the end of the day. From about noon, as occupants entered the Hall, they were constantly reminded that this was the final day and that they should go to their rooms, pack their belongings and sign out of the residence for the session. Many final year students, who had ‘plans’, remained adamant; they just kept going in and out of the hostel like they still planned to stay till the end of the year! As evening fell upon us, the energetic Mummy Jaja refused to bulge. She remained at the gate and with the aid of her male administrative staff held students in the hostel hostage. The only condition for leaving the hostel was that you packed your things and sign out. Power supply was deliberately cut from the student rooms, especially on the A-Wing. This was meant to frustrate all of the remaining students out. But, many of them still told the hostel authorities to “go away!”

That night was the Lagos Varsity Christian Union’s end-of-session Praise Night, so I tidied up, took the few things I needed, hoping to evacuate the hall finally the next morning. I would later hear of the additional drama that played out till late in the night. In fact, I was told that the students even had to go see the Dean of Student Affairs that night. After so much noise, pleading and whatever, light was restored to the student rooms and everyone was mandated to leave the hostel the following morning before 9AM.

Anyways, Praise Night was awesome and we danced away our sorrow at the Chapel. When I returned to the hostel on in the morning of Wednesday, September 22, 2010, I knew there was no time for sleep. I emptied my locker, made a call home, and by 9AM, my belongings were home, ahead of me. I would not be able to visit the Lagoon Front every morning like I had planned. Jaja Hall wasn’t the neatest, but it was a very good escape from the colossally unkempt hostels at New Hall. Now, that’d be for another post!

Aaaww! Remembering the Chemical Engineering Boys

I miss the Jaja Boys; I mean my former roomies and neighbours on A-Wing of King Jaja Hall, University of Lagos. We had a nice culture that was also in practice at the Mariere extension of the Chemical Engineering boys’ clique. It had to do with exclaiming “Aaaww!” whenever there was a dry joke in the air. It felt sweet and fun to do it to others, but you often don’t want to be the butt of such taunting exercises. People just keep winding you up sometimes, anyways.

Mallam J and I were customers (a la good friends) and he often tormented me with “aaaww-inspiring” lines. To be fair to him and myself, not all jokes or attempts at being funny or witty deserved the “aaaww!”, but many of us just soon became addicted to the stuff. Mallam J intentionally belaboured me with so much of jaw-dropping stuff, especially during his midnight calls. He has a funny way of making/squeezing his face. Doubei ‘Zude, Jyde, Ese, Ufot, Idris (a.k.a Oga Ade), Oloye, Alaka Laurenzo, Majio_UK, MLK are some of the numerous clique members who made life fun in the midst of school pressure. So what’s the point of all this?

Anyways, it was on a Wednesday night, October 20, 2010, around 8:55PM Nigerian time. I was listening to Cool FM 96.9 on my Nokia phone (Nokia for life!!). Then the guys anchoring the show talked about a particular couple. The husband was at the wheels in their car while the wife had sat at the back of the car with their baby. But she had a problem. They had decided to help one of the husband’s colleagues from the office with a ride. The ‘innocent’ lady had taken a place in the front of the car, next to the driver, the husband that is. Paraphrasing the hosts, the wife felt slighted and irritated by the lady’s choice of seat and felt she should have taken a seat next to her and her baby at the back of the car!!!

As usual, many callers called in to voice their opinions. While someone questioned the woman’s *‘para-ing’, another could not just understand why the woman could be so ‘paranoid’. But, who knows the kind of skimpy stuff or cleavage-announcing top the colleague-from-the office’s attire could have been wearing? Someone even said the ‘nagging’ wife needed to take ‘Paracetamol’. Still another guy, albeit mean, said she should take some ‘parrafin (oil)’ to avoid paralysis! One chap even said his own paranalysis of the whole matter was that “some people just like to be paranoid.” On and on they went; both the hosts and the callers. Someone said that her ‘para-ing’ could lead her to paradise too soon! Then, one of the hosts in closing said (paraphrased) that paradventure, she might need the attention of the paramedics!

Aaaww! :) What an effort at rhymes and rhyming! Right now, I can see Mallam J, Alaka Laurenzo, Jyde, Doubei and MLK reeling on the floor! Aaaww!!!