The atmosphere at the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, was full of excitement last Friday as the institution marked its 7th convocation. The hero of the day was a 19-year-old Wukeh Egem-Odey, who obtained a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.89 out of a possible 5.0 to emerge the best graduating student, MOTUNRAYO ABODERIN highlights how he achieved the feat
He is just 19 years old but already has a number of titles attached to his name. He is a business man, distributor, motivator and above all Covenant University’s best graduating student.
As Wukeh Egem-Odey, read out his valedictory speech, the crowd could not help but cheer the young man, who beat 1, 338 other graduating students of CU. He scored a CGPA of 4.89 out of a possible 5.0 to bag a first class degree in accountancy.
Describing his certificate as just his ‘NAFDAC number’ and his choice to sacrifice ‘ambition on the altar of a vision’, Egem-Odey who hails from Cross River State said people had just seen a tip of what he could do. He added that as long as God is on his side, he has much more feats to accomplish.
However, Egem-Odey who is the third child in a family of five, said his journey to success was definitely not a ride in the park. He stated that the award as the best graduating student was just a confirmation that “God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.”
He said, “Life wasn’t so rosy for me. Throughout my four years in university, I battled with a series of health challenges. I was regarded as just one of the average students. Nobody considered me for this award because I was always sick and on drugs. That I’m alive today is God’s grace.
“When I got into CU, I had the determination to excel, but I was not so interested in being the best. I just wanted to get to school, have impact on many lives, excel in my studies and make a difference. I saw the need to make people succeed in life as being more important than anything else.”
Speaking on his days in the university, Egem-Odey said he was business and academic conscious.
“I’ve always been business conscious. I don’t believe in working for anyone. In my university days, I started a company with two friends. I’m also a distributor of Forever Living products. I don’t believe in sitting and waiting for the government or my parents to give me money.”
Despite his youthful desire to enjoy life, Egem-Odey said he didn’t let it distract his studies. “Life is all about balance. I had to find a balance. Being a youth, the temptation to want to enjoy life was very strong. There were times I wanted to have fun, being a youth, but I tried to remain focused.”
Speaking on his reason for choosing to study Accountancy, Egem-Odey said it was one course that is business-driven.
“I specifically chose to study Accounting because it’s the language of business. And business is one language you can use to make a lot of impact without being a politician. I thought, if I study any course, it must be business-related,” he said.
Egem-Odey did not withhold expressing his views on the Boko Haram issue in the country. “Taking a look at the country before this whole issue started and our former Presidents, there wasn’t this much chaos such as what we have now. But ever since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office, Boko Haram started and it is growing very big. I think this people are more than just a group of people who are against Western education.
“It’s sad to say, but I think we need military force to confront this group because it is a fierce group. We also need to outsource security, the American government has dealt with terrorism, we need to employ intelligence to tame this group of people. We need intelligence and military force. We should take it upon ourselves to eradicate this group.”
In the area of unemployment, Egem-Odey said that unemployment problem was one that could not be eradicated by the government alone.
“This problem of unemployment is like trying to repair a house that wasn’t properly built. I think the government has a role to play, but businesses have a role to play. I believe in small scale enterprises, they drive an economy. I went into business to impact on lives. Money on the other hand is a cheap result and the best way to get it is to work for it. It is not to be given on a platter of gold.
“At the secondary level, entrepreneurship education should be given to pupils together with the necessary equipment. Students should take their minds away from their parents being their source of income. The best employment is self employment.
“Creating wealth for your self is inbound. One should not say he or she is unemployed, because there is a lot to do . The government cannot just wake up and eradicate unemployment. Graduates should engage in small business enterprise. Investment keeps you going. Coming out of university, you should not have ‘earning salary’ as your major focus, invest in yourself rather. Find people to bless. People also should not focus on amassing wealth, rather they should look for ways to create wealth for others,” he said.
Egem-Odey admitted that some graduates of public universities might say that his first-class degree came cheap just because he had his at a private university.
He said “When a baker is in his bakery and he is equipped with a good oven and stable electricity, he would produce good bread or cake, but if there isn’t stable electricity and the oven isn’t a state-of-art type, the bread or cake would be bad. So, whatever their thoughts are, I don’t care. In this university, I’m the best graduating student by God’s grace, but in learning, this university equips you to be a total man.
“There is no public university and you can quote me anywhere, that can duplicate what happens here except they learn from us. So my certificate should not be what they should attack, rather they should look at what they can learn. Just give me a year or two and you will definitely say CU has the best. Graduating from this university isn’t all about getting a degree; you learn a lot about entrepreneurship, adding value to people and being a total man.
“So people should not criticise CU graduates, they should equip their own kitchen. If after the result, I don’t make a difference in the lives of people, then they can question my certificate. But such a thing will never happen,” Egem-Odey said.
On how he coped with relationship with female students on campus, Egem-Odey said he had problem with ladies, but he tried as much as possible to maintain his chastity.
“Throughout my four years in the university, I wasn’t in any serious relationship; I made a vow to my mum that I would not have a girlfriend.”
His mother, Mrs. Nancy Egem-Odey, who shed tears of joy, said she was so proud of her son. She said she never thought he would emerge as the best graduating student.
“I remember those days during his illness. Every month, I had to bring his drugs. It was a tough time for us. I’m just grateful to God,” she said.
The Vice-Chancellor, CU, Prof. Aize Obayan, had while addressing the crowd, including parents, students and principal officers of the institution, said 88 of the graduating students made first class in various disciplines.
Giving a further breakdown of the result, she said, 646 had second class upper division while 576 graduated in second class lower division. Seventy-nine received third class degrees.
“The institution’s School of Postgraduate Studies graduated a total of 89 students out of which 70 had master’s degree and 19 Ph.Ds. This university has, in its first 10 years of existence, laid a solid foundation for raising a generation of new leaders,” she added.
Also, the Chancellor, CU, Dr. David Oyedepo, in his address charged the graduating students to uphold the core value of possibility mentality to make the best of their journey in life.
He said, “Remember, it is the help of God that makes high flyers. Remain connected to God and remain as well committed to the good of others. You are being released into a world of unlimited opportunities.”
The guest speaker of the day and former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, said there was an urgent need for African countries to bridge the productivity gap between men and women through institutional reforms and effective public investment.
Ezekwesili added that empowerment of women to participate actively in a modern society would enlarge the scope of human capital that would power economic growth.
“Every society that disrespects the right of women to access basic services ignores their right to participate in the decision-making process in the family and the general society,’’ she said.