Alabi Oluwatobi, 21, graduated with a first class from the Department of Sociology, Landmark University, Omu Aran, Kwara State, in the 2013/2014 academic session with a 4.73 CGPA. He tells TUNDE AJAJA about what attracted him to Sociology
Why did you choose Sociology?
My dream was to be a lawyer, even though my teachers in primary school wanted me to study medicine. However, I applied for admission to study Law at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, but it didn’t work.
I also tried Nassarawa State University and the University of Abuja for Law but to no avail. But when I had given up on securing admission into the university at that time, that was when I was offered International Relations in Landmark University and I took it.
It was in the course of the programme that I learnt that I was originally admitted for Sociology, so I started preparing for another Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination to apply for Law in another school, but in my 100 level, I was privileged to have lecturers who changed my perception about Sociology and they made me realise the great and divergent potentials inherent in the course, so I gave it a try.
Since then, I’ve been in love with the course, even though my dad wanted his children to study professional courses. I discovered God let things work in my favour. If I’m going to do any postgraduate course, it will be in Sociology.
Since you didn’t like the course initially, what was your experience like in your first year?
For the fact that I didn’t like the course I was studying in that first semester, all I had my mind on was to write another UTME and leave the institution. That really affected my result and I did so poorly that I had a 4.2 Grade Point Average. When I saw the result, I felt really bad coupled with the fact that nine students had a first class in my department that same semester, so I told my dad.
He encouraged me to love the course and that until I did that, I might not perform to expectation. Those words changed my life and I developed a very huge interest in the course. At that point, I planned to graduate top of my class and I worked towards it diligently through commitment to my academics and building a relationship with God. I made serious efforts to succeed and do so distinctively.
The school also created a conducive environment for learning and a unique spiritual platform to grow in one’s relationship with God. I enjoyed every moment of my university days and it all started from that first year.
When did you start leading your class?
I started leading the class by CGPA in my 400 level first semester because my GPA had continuously increased from 100 level second semester as I was developing interest in the course. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t do too well in my 100 level. It therefore took semesters of hard work to fill that gap.
How easy was it having a first class?
It involved extra effort, commitment and sacrificing some pleasures. Definitely, I had to study for extra hours and use the library, but what really gave me a lift academically was my interest in helping others to improve.
I took series of tutorial even for borrowed courses just to make sure my colleagues did better and it really helped me. One thing I also didn’t toil with was committing my plans, studies and examinations to God in prayers.
I prayed, fasted and read some spiritual texts before exams. I believe that once I take charge of the spiritual then the physical is a walk over and God never fails. Those were the things that worked for me. God has embedded in every human strange mental abilities and intellectual prowess, but most humans have failed to tap into this abundant resource. As for me, I would say God’s divine ability and hard work helped me.
Your parents must have been very proud of you, were there ways they encouraged/rewarded you with gifts?
God blessed me with wonderful parents who cultured us in the way of the Lord and emphasised the importance of hard work. I know they have always believed in me, so I never wanted to disappoint them. My dad would always say that anyone could make a first class if the person would be willing to pay the required price. They bought me all the (reasonable) material things that I needed, even though they didn’t buy me a car, they allowed me to use any of the cars available in the house per time. So, motivation or not, these things made me responsible and kept me going.
But many people don’t seem to know what Sociology is about. Could you tell us about the course?
Sociology is a discipline that systematically and analytically studies culture and human group behaviours; it explains interactions in groups, behaviourial motivations, causes of group actions and inactions and even studies conflict.
The discipline provides a platform to relate with humans better by understanding our different behaviours and relationship patterns. The emergence of the discipline is traceable to the French industrial revolution when Aguste Comte saw a need to rebuild a society after the war, because the social institutions were dilapidated and needed to be reconstructed.
So, he developed the discipline which is today being referred to as Sociology, which helps to understand the fabrics that bind our society together and it is highly needed in a nation like Nigeria for its diversity in culture and ethnicity.
When understood properly and if given the platform to function, the concept of Sociology will proffer solution to the multi-ethnical relationship crisis we experience in Nigeria. If interaction between humans is to be sustained, then sociology cannot be relegated.
What part of your course did you enjoy most and which was most challenging?
The funny thing is I enjoyed every aspect of my discipline but the part that thrilled me most is relating theories to contemporary societal issues. I didn’t see any part of the course as challenging because I always saw difficult situations as opportunity to shine.
Not many people are familiar with its job prospects, what are they, especially in Nigeria?
A sociologist fits into any organisation that has humans and its opportunities are limitless because it helps to understand human behaviour. We do things like human resource managers, consumer satisfaction analysts and I must state that the discipline has over 30 sub-disciplines that address all aspects of human relationship, including health.
What was your typical day like?
I had a wonderful daily routine. We used to have early morning devotion, which was compulsory for all Landmark University students. Then, in my first and second years, I used to spend at least 10 minutes in the library to read newspapers.
My third and final years were quite different because I had more demands in my academics. I used to sleep for about six hours, usually from 11pm to 5am and I made sure I spent about five hours studying every day, which was consistent.
I didn’t spend too much time at the library because I had a hide-out and we had access to the internet from any area in the school, so I could access the school’s electronic library and download relevant materials. In fact, most of my friends didn’t like to play with my laptop because it was filled with books, so they found it boring.
What was your happiest moment in school?
It was when I went for the field aspect of my final year project. I wrote on Socio-Economic Influences of Criminal Behaviour among Inmates of Oke-kura Prison in Ilorin, Kwara State. I had to go to the prison to talk to the inmates and distribute questionnaires. At that point, I felt fulfilled because I saw myself as someone contributing to knowledge.
Did you have a painful moment?
Yes, I missed a professor’s class twice because I was so busy planning transportation scheme. The second time I missed it, I rushed out of the meeting that I was attending and was heading to class when I met him on the way. He was angry with me and he said, “Let me see how you will make an A in my course this semester.” I could feel it that he was concerned and pained I had missed lectures twice, so I followed him to the car, apologised and got notes from my colleagues. I read hard for the course and I made an A in his course, but I was really embarrassed that day.
Were you social at all?
I feel I was okay socially, but my friends complained that I wasn’t social. Some of my mentors advised me to be more flexible, so I got into sports, volley ball specifically, but the truth is, I feel when you are not always available to gist (which I did a few times) and talk over irrelevant things, people tend to label you as boring. It wasn’t that I was always reading or carrying books around. Most times, I preferred to sit and just relax and think.
Were you involved in other school activities?
Yes, I was the Vice-Chairman of Landmark University Student Representative Council in 400level among many other positions that I held.
What are your aspirations?
I want to proceed for my M.Sc. and PhD in Sociology. I have admission in the United Kingdom already but still believing God for a scholarship.
Where would you like to work?
I would love to work with an international organisation that addresses human needs, like the United Nations, World Health Organisation or United Nations International Children Education Fund.
What is your advice to students?
Students must decide not to settle for less and they should not always expect someone to commend them, rather, they should let their vision drive them. I also advise them to invest wisely in their academics, through discipline, diligence and hard work, and they must understand that destinies are tied to their lives so they can’t afford to fail or end up being a nonentity. Finally, they need to build a relationship with God, who is the only one that guarantees a successful living.