By: Emelife Uc, 200l MELL

Suleiman Adebowale is a first class graduate in Mathematics of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, and also the recipient of the award for Best Graduating Student, 2017/2018 session with a CGPA that is arguably the best his department and faculty has ever produced: 4.91.

What people don’t know about Suleiman Adebowale however, is his rough journey to excellence.
In this interview with PEN PRESS UDUS, Suleiman Adebowale shares how he was able to reach such excellence in a clime like UDUS and a course he never wanted, further enduring a carryover, and still graduating top of his school year.

Pen Press: First of all, a very big congratulations, Suleiman. This is a commendable feat, graduating with a first class and in not just any department, the almighty terror- Mathematics. That’s like a double win, congratulations!

Suleiman Adebowale: Thank you so much, I appreciate. It is just by the grace of God. What do I know? Alhamdulilah!

PP: So tell us your story. How were you able to scale through the jungle that is UDUS?

SA: If I must be candid with  you, it is just the grace of Almighty Allah, determination, commitment and prayers. Sometimes, I felt like giving up but once I remember the promise I made to my Mum before getting admission, I will be like let me study a little more.

PP: Who were your inspiration all through the journey?

SA: My inspiration!!! One of what inspired me is a graduate of UNILAG then, Mr. Ayodele Daniel Dada that graduated with 5.0 cgpa in my first year 2014. I then told myself if he could do such then I should be able to do that too, which I did in my first year. But the higher you go the tougher it becomes, something happened in my second year that almost shattered my goal.

Mr. Kazeem Aremu (Egbon like i fondly call him) and the current HOD of Mathematics Dr. Issa Garba were also my inspiration, because I always wanted to know Mathematics like them, and still do.

PP: You mentioned something happened in your second year that almost shattered your first class goal. What was that?

SA: A carry-over. I had a carry over in GST 213. It almost weighed me down. Alhamdulilah!

PP: Wow! You had a carry over? I’m sure that must have destabilized you. How did you get up from it?

SA: Brother, it’s  God. I could remember vividly that moment, myself, Saifullahi and Abdulrasheed  were checking our  results at MH1, the duo had A in both GST 211 and 212, they were like they are damn sure that I will have the same, but reverse was the case when I checked. I saw F in my GST212, I was shocked, I felt bad, it was as if I failed my Mum, myself and my dream, I was destabilized.

Thanks to my beloved brother, Mr. Yunus Abdujeleel, he was there for me. He encouraged me to accept fate, he told me this is just a test of faith from Almighty Allah, and instead of feeling melancholic, I should rather thank Allah in which I did, before you know I got myself back on the track, believe you me,  I began to see it as a motivation. No wonder the Chinese proverb says that, “the problem you have is not actually the problem rather it is ur attitude towards the problem.”

PP: Wow! Your testimony is inspiring especially since it has turned a norm in Nigerian undergraduates to see failure as a stumbling block. In your case, it was a motivation. That’s a whole new perspective I think everyone should jump on.
But then, has Mathematics always been the dream?

SA: No. To be candid, I’ve always wanted to be a Theatre actor. And before you ask, yes I’m a science student who applied for Mathematics but before I did, I wanted to be in the art class, but I met myself in science department,  because there was this believe in my area then that science students were better and more intelligent than art students. My friends in sciences also came to challenge me in art department that I ran from sciences because I was afraid of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. I accepted the challenge and I came to science thinking I will only spend a term, before I knew it, I was immersed in science and I had no course in mind to study yet.

It was until I started seeking admission into high institution, Obafemi Awolowo University, and University of Benin in 2009 to be precise, and after not getting, settled for COE following the advice of my mother, did I find love for Mathematics because I was offered Mathematics/Geography.

PP: How were you able to overcome the stereotype that associates Math as being difficult?

SA: Fear of the worst of all enemies can be effectively cured by forced repetition of acts of courage. Everyone who has seen active service in war knows this, practice make perfection. I indulged myself in doing mathematics all the time, you don’t learn Mathematics by reading, rather you learn it by doing it.

PP: Was there at any point you wanted to opt out and wished you were studying your dream course instead?

SA: Yes, to be perfectly candid with you I still have passion for my dream course.

PP: Do you think Nigeria as it is appreciates outstanding Math graduates?

SA: That I can’t answer yet, but what I know is that the knowledge of  Mathematics is desperately needed everywhere.

PP: What suggestions can you make to the ministry of education to improve the study of Math in Nigeria?

SA: The ministry should employ competent Mathematics teachers starting from the primary level to tertiary level, because the rate at which students fear and fail Mathematics is alarming.
The government should encourage teachers by paying their salaries promptly and they (government) should provide a well equipped Mathematics laboratory and library to each school.
The teachers should encourage the  students and let them know the beauty of Mathematics. Henry Brooke Adams says and I quote, “A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops.”
And the students should stop saying “I hate mathematics”, you  can’t know what you hate.

PP: What are your plans for the future? What next after NYSC?

SA: After my NYSC by God’s grace, I will be going for my masters degree. It is also part of my plans to have a  standard poultry which I have started a little here. I’m also a web developer, I’d like to perfect the skill.

PP: What’s your advice to students out there who wish to excel outstandingly in their various field of studies?

SA: My first advice is that you should always put God in everything you are doing, with God all impossible are possible.

Secondly, never give up, know that if anybody can do it, you can do it better. You have the potentials to achieve it, even the Bible says, “As man think, so shall it be.” You can achieve Big – far bigger than you’ve imagined if you are determined and never give up.

PP: Thank you so much for your time, Adebowale. We celebrate you and anticipate greater feats from your end.

Suleiman Adebowale is an indigene of Oyo state, Nigeria. He is currently carrying out his NYSC exercise in Cross River, Nigeria.

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