The Genius Of Aminat Yusuf: Before The Catalysts Go Under The Radar

“She stands peerless not just by the power of her own say-so, but the orchestration of factors that played well to her advantage.” In the afternoon of Friday, 23rd June, a day after the denouement of the 26th Convocation and 40th Anniversary of the University, I was ambling back from getting an item at the popular Franklass bus stop opposite the vast Ojo campus of the university when two urchins brisked past me discussing – no prize for guessing – the achievement of LASU’s 5.0 star, Aminat Yusuf, and the 10 million Naira gifted her by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the day before. Ordinarily, I should have sauntered on unconcerned with the conversation (half of Lagos was probably discussing the feat at that same time, anyway). But my curiosity was piqued by how animated the 15 or 16-year-olds, whom I could otherwise have passed for being unlettered, judging by their raggedy mien, spoke about such academic attainment. Interesting! Even though my legs were heavy and my body tired from the exertions of the prior week of the 2-in-1 Convocation activities, I hurried up to match their pace and walked at earshot to get the angle of their tete-a-tete. “Won ni omo yen, five point zero lo ni (they said the girl had 5.0), that means she no fail any question throughout university. Ah!”, the first ended his statement with an exclamation, an apparent perplexity at the incongruity of such a feat in a public University, a state university for that matter. “Aje lomo yen, Oloun. For secondary school sef, ko si bo se mo iwe to, you must to fail question sha ni (that girl must be a witch, and no one can convince me otherwise. Even in secondary school, no matter how brilliant you are, you must fail a question). I smiled. In their puerile savviness, their ignorance of the university scoring system was manifest. It was the same mistake that many people whom I have heard, especially outside the university make. They seem to think that Aminat scored 100 over 100 in every single course she took throughout her five years in the university to be able to finish with 5.0. Whereas, all she needed was to get an A (or a distinction, achieved when you score anything between 75 to 100) in every course. And even that was hitherto almost impossible. The boys were contemplating what they could do with the whopping sum of 10 million Naira that Mr. Governor gave Aminat when I eventually got to University’s main gate and ceased following them. Little was known about 23-year-old Aminat Yusuf Imoitesemeh, an indigene of Edo State until the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, announced her feat during the Convocation Press Conference on Wednesday 14th June. Since then, Aminat has become the proverbial golden fish who has no hiding place; the subject of animated discussions, the crux of newspaper stories and articles, and the proud bearer of such appellations as “star girl, “heroine”, “genius”, amongst others, and I dare say she deserves every accolade that has been poured on her since her achievement became public knowledge. Not only did she set a record that cannot be bettered anywhere, but she also did so in a course as intellectually saddling as Law being a girl child, an indigent student bereft of the luxuries that could have made her journey easier. Her CGPA of 5.0 aside, I dare say she is the very best that Lagos State University has seen and one of the very best to have passed through any public institution in Nigeria. Indeed, her feat is by no means an easy one, and so it is for the other 281 graduands who also earned a first-class degree at the just concluded Convocation Ceremonies. During that press conference the Vice Chancellor, a record breaker herself, announced proudly that the 282 first class graduands was the highest figure to have been produced in the history of the University in a single graduation. The ovation that greeted her announcement evoked feelings of a similar declaration that she made 15 months earlier during a similar event when the university held its 25th Convocation. It was the institution’s first Convocation under her nascent administration and she had gleefully declared that the 112 first-class graduates produced that year was the highest in the institution’s history. Now that the number has been bettered, a trend is emerging, and it’s not just in the number of scholars being produced by the university, but in the sheer quality of their erudition. Let this sink in: In the 25th Convocation, the number of the first class was 112, a record. The best graduating student was Benjamin Olowu with a CGPA of 4.97, a record. In the 26th Convocation, the following year, the number of the first class was 282 (two sets were combined), a record. The best graduating student was Aminat Yusuf, a record. Four records within two years in the same LASU where it was easier to find a needle in a haystack than to find a CGPA of 4.5 and above on a student’s result at graduation! Now here is my point: Were the records merely a case of coincidence? Or have the students suddenly become more diligent in their studies? I think not. To simply attribute it to either is to miss the point. I believe that the demonstration of higher academic attainments more empirically, speaks to the reality of a systemic evolvement, an institutional shift that LASU has experienced within the last few years and specifically under the leadership of Prof. Olatunji-Bello. To argue otherwise, in my humble opinion, is to do a great disservice to the people, and there are many of them, who have worked hard to put LASU on this pedestal of sustained growth. Don’t get me wrong: Benjamin Olowu, Divine Lopez, and Aminat Yusuf are geniuses; all the first-class graduates are, but even an Iroko tree cannot thrive in the absence of water and a clement weather. In the words of Susan Brooks, “It is the learning environment that determines the success and motivation of the student to achieve”. So, the first catalyst, evidence of LASU’s growth, is a conducive atmosphere for learning. Without a conducive environment, today’s genius would have remained nothing but potentials. Under the leadership of the professor of Physiology, LASU today boasts of an environment characterized by serenity, security, and infrastructure, such as good lighting cum internet connectivity, that engenders learning. Unlike in the days of yore, when a stroll on the ill-lit campus was akin to walking through the biblical shadow of death, the ivory tower ground, the campus, well-illuminated and protected, has become a safe haven, a sanctuary even, for students who wish to study any time of the day. The example of Aminat Yusuf herself, who spent a good part of her five years of study sheltered at the University Central Mosque on the main campus lends credence to this point. A CGPA of 5.0 would have been unheard of in an unsecured environment. Secondly, LASU lecturers must also be applauded for their commendable inclination to reward students’ performance with commensurate grades, a clear departure from the notorious act of grade capping, which has become synonymous with many public university teachers. It is almost a universal practice in public ivory towers that students’ results are determined not by the quality of their input, but by the whims of the lecturer. “A is for God, B is for me, and C is for the best among you”, you will often hear. But in LASU, today, what you give, is what you get. And while the lecturers are getting the accolade, the Senate of the University must also be praised for endorsing hard work, in the prompt and just approval of results, and in the process setting good examples of same. Also worth stating is that under the right leadership, LASU now generally boasts of a motivated, energetic, and passionate workforce, professionals who are willing to provide quality service to the thousands of students of the university. The implication is that no case of missing script, lost profile, sexual harassment or the threat of it could derail Aminat and her likes from graduating with flying colors. A sense of ownership of the vision to make LASU the best University in West Africa, and the knowledge that helping learners achieve their full potentials in the University forms part of the building block to achieve that vision is a motivating factor. LASU has become a garden in which flowers (students) blossom and dreams become reality; an institution that rewards excellence, where students like Aminat can dare to dream and with the existing catalysts, achieve their aspirations. Those catalysts are summed up in one word: leadership. Gbanja works at the Centre for Information and Public Relations. He is the Media Aide to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello, mni, NPOM
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