|Jafar Usman Ph.D (in view)
Zariat Yetunde Ayoade writes,
Mid March 2023, Jafar Usman, an alumnus of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS), finally received the astonishing news he had been waiting for. The Russian Federation had selected him as a beneficiary of the highly-selective Russian Open Door Olympiad Scholarship. It was a dream come true for him.
Having completed both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the university, he attributes this feat to his two spells there.
“Graduating from UDUS has prepared me for this feat,” says Usman, who graduated with a 4.26 Cumulative Grade Points Average (CGPA) from the Department of Biochemistry (B.Sc) and Masters of Molecular Biology with a 4.0 CGPA in 2021.
The Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto is one of the second-generation Nigerian universities the Nigerian government established in 1975. This university, which also goes by “UDUS” and “UDUSOK”, is situated in Sokoto State, Northwestern Nigeria, a state famous as the Seat of the Caliphate. It existed as the University of Sokoto until 1988 when the government renamed it after the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio. The name change accounts for the reference to students and alumni of the university as Danfodites.
Within its nearly half-century-long existence, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, which prides itself as “The Most peaceful University in Nigeria”, has graduated an array of notable members of the Nigerian and African society. This list includes the former Speaker of The House of Representatives and Executive Governor of Sokoto State; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Executive Governor of Kebbi State; Atiku Bagudu, the Executive Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Attorney-General of the Federation; Abubakar Malami, the President of the 74th United Nations General Assembly and Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations; Tijani Muhammad-Bande and the Vice President of the Republic of Gambia; Isatou Touray, amongst others.
Similarly, the university boasts claims of academically and morally upright students and enjoys wide acclaim as the university that awards degrees based on academics and character. PEN PRESS gathered that Danfodites hearken its motto, “iqraa”, an Arabic that translates into English as “Read”.
Landing the Scholarship
In Usman’s words, “The Russia Open Door Olympiad Scholarship is a 100% merit-based opportunity, structured in competition format. This is what distinguishes Open Door Scholarships from others. The Competition has 2 rounds for Master’s applicants and 3 rounds for Ph.D applicants.”
While the Olympiad, like the ancient Greek Olympics, is a competition where only the best survive, Usman scaled through brilliantly.
According to the scholarship’s official website, the 2022 Olympiad had 28,000 participants in the postgraduate track, a pool that produced 300 winners and prize winners. It covers 14 areas, for which students from any country in the world can apply. It is fully funded, providing tuition fees, monthly stipends and other benefits.
The competition has three stages for Ph.D application. The first stage of the application is a portfolio competition, where a candidate will upload his achievements, including scientific publications such as research journal, certificates, conferences, motivational letters amongst other credentials.
The second stage of the application is for those that make the shortlist. This stage entails an online protract examination.
Usman explained that, “it is a critical stage where only 25% of the total applicants are successful”.
The third stage is for people that pass the exam. The successful applicants will face an interview with potential supervisors in their respective fields.
“You will be interviewed online by three supervisors,” he emphasized.
Participants who scale through the three stages will become the Olympiad winners and prize-winners. They will have the right to apply for a full scholarship for full-time studies at one of the Russian universities within the quota of the Government of the Russian Federation for foreign citizens.
Usman emerged the 64th candidate for the first round out of 515 who applied for his field of study, Biotechnology.
“42 of us made it to the second round and only 32 participants were eventually selected after interviews with potential supervisors from Russian universities.” he revealed, excitedly.
The 2022 olympiad had 28,000 participants, from which only 1,700 were selected with 300 winners for the Ph.D tract.
“It is not as easy as it seems,” Usman confessed.
UDUS Prepared Me for Greatness
“My experience in UDUS is that you need to struggle for everything; at classes, at hostel and everywhere. The academic calendar was strict. The environment and the Sokoto weather are extreme. Studying in UDUS will teach you how to adjust in every situation.”
He opined that one beautiful thing about studying in UDUS is that it infuses resilience in its students, Danfodites, in the face of hardship.
“UDUS is one of the best universities we have in this country. One can only know this after graduation.”
There’s a popular joke amongst Danfodites that, “You need to read to get an F in any course”. While this saying is hilarious, the struggle for academic excellence continues every session and semester at the Fodiyo Varsity. Students sacrifice their sleep to meet up with the syllabus and Usman was not an exception to the ordeal.
He recounted his undergraduate days, saying, “it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and good study habits. I was disciplined and consistent in attending classes and studying regularly, seeking help from my professors and classmates when[ever] I needed [help]”.
He maintained that, above all, having a positive and motivated mindset to push you throughout your studies is important, also identifying prayers and consistency as tools to achieve greatness.
Usman said, “I prioritized my time and assignments, using tools like calendars and to-do lists”.
Speaking about his department and relationship with its lecturers, he admitted that, “UDUS has prepared me exceptionally well for this feat. Graduating from a department of about 15 Professors, most of whom won prestigious scholarships during their postgraduate studies is really a motivation to me. The basic Biochemistry and molecular knowledge injected in us as undergraduates really helped me in winning the second round of the scholarship competition.”
“During my Master’s program, the lecturers emphasized critical thinking and problem solving, which helped me approach research questions with a clear and logical mindset, and this really helped me in passing the interview stage of the competition,” he furthered.
Usman encouraged Danfodites to dedicate their time to developing a strong academic foundation, exploring their interests and passion, and pursuing opportunities that align with their goals as undergraduates.
“Danfodites should focus on developing themselves by engaging in independent research, seeking guidance from professors and mentors in their fields of interest, staying curious and being open to new ideas. Also, embracing challenges as opportunities for growth are all ingredients for success,” he concluded.