Autism crippled me in my first five years as a child –Ogundare, UNILAG first class graduate

Autism crippled me in my first five years as a child –Ogundare, UNILAG first class graduate

Gbayode Ogundare, 23, graduated from the Department of Petroleum and Gas Engineering, University of Lagos in the 2014/2015 academic session with a 4.87 CGPA. He talks about his success in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA

Autism crippled me in my first five years as a child –Ogundare, UNILAG first class graduate

Have you always wanted to study engineering?

Not at all; up until some weeks to the closure of registration for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, Medicine was on my mind. But after some research into the course and its work practices on a large scale, I discovered it wasn’t going to appeal to my make-up because I’m easily irritated with the sight of blood. This prompted my choice of engineering.

Some people tend to think that the reason people study the course these days is because it is well remunerated?

People actually see it as a course that attracts very good remuneration, but my interest in particular is to contribute my quota to the betterment of the sector that has almost singlehandedly driven the nation’s economy for decades since agriculture was neglected. Beyond that, I also like to be a part of the solution to the challenges facing the sector that is so critical to the global economy.

How easy was it to graduate with a first class?

It depends on individuals and the plan put in place to make it a reality. It could be easy for anyone who has the goal of having a first class in mind, coupled with adequate planning, hard work, focus, discipline and rest of mind when it comes to finances. On the other hand, having a first class could be difficult for anyone not ready to make these commitments and sacrifices. I made an attempt to have first class degree upon admission into the university and God crowned my effort. No man receives anything unless it is given from above. I was involved in a lot of things but I was able to manage my time very well. I was a worker in my fellowship right from when I was in 100L, so I had enormous commitments, coupled with my academics. With these, I had to properly manage my time to meet up with the demands of my academics. I am happy and fulfilled because I had a balanced life in school cutting across academics, sports, religion and other relevant associations.

Can you tell us about your growing up?

My growing up was full of mixed feelings. Due to the protracted labour surrounding my birth, I ended up having this brain complication known as “Autism”. This untoward development practically crippled my first five years as a child in the area of poor academic performance in the Nanny (the version of crèche in vogue in the nineties) and my early years in the primary school walls coupled with the inability to mix and play with other kids. But after repeating primary one, my parents prayed about it and I was healed by the power of God. Ever since, I have been improving in my intellectual capacity and delivery and I made sure I moved with good friends. I had my Senior School Certificate Examination at one sitting in 2009 with six A’s, two B’s and a C in English and I sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination twice and I gained admission after the second exam.

How was your performance as a first year student?

In the first year, I had 5.00 GPA in the first semester and 4.59 in second semester. I led my class with that. I’m not a genius; I’m only a product of hard work and genuine determination. I actually drove myself to success but there were times I could only read for two hours throughout the day. I was also conscious of my daily schedule, and in spite of that, I played and watched football, played with friends and room mates. I was the pastor of my fellowship, and in order to meet up with the demands of being a student pastor, I had to cut down on my sleeping time. On the average, I was sleeping for four hours every day. I was involved in my departmental football outings and I took part in the track events at some other times. I attended some seminars and conferences within and outside the country.

What is Petroleum and Gas Engineering about?

It’s simply the application of scientific techniques in the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas reserves to generate money.

What are the job prospects in a country like Nigeria?

The job prospects are relatively nice. Some people believe the only place the course has an application is in the oil companies but there are opportunities in the academia, operating companies like Shell, Addax, and Chevron etc., servicing companies like the Schlumberger, Halliburton etc., and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation among others.

What was the thing you found most amazing about the course that people might not be aware of?

The knowledge I gained about crude oil, the refining process and the finished products was all very interesting, but in addition, the course enlightened me on the importance of a good, unpolluted environment and how such impacts on the world. Many people are concerned with the finished products, like petrol, but there is more to this all important sector than what we see on the surface.

Were there times you had financial challenge?

It was more severe when I was younger, especially in my early school days because finance in the family was not good at that time, coupled with the hardship in the then Abacha-led military regime whereby salaries were not paid. I remember that my siblings and I had to hawk ice-cream to augment the salary of our dad who was then working with a bank (now defunct). But, my parents defied all odds and gave us good education, in accordance with the scripture that says, ‘A good man leaveth an inheritance (Education in our own case) to his children’s children.’ In my primary and secondary schools, we didn’t have good attire but my siblings and I got good education. However, by the time I was in the university, things became better and I was able to give out to other students.

What were your happiest and most embarrassing moments in school?

My happiest moment was when I got triple good news about; my travelling to Malaysia for a Petroleum conference (all expenses paid), six months internship with Addax Petroleum and becoming the general secretary of my fellowship. Those were moments in my life that I would always cherish. The most embarrassing moment was when I had 68B in my industrial training (SIWES) which was a six-unit course. It had a serious effect on my CGPA and it really affected me for some time. But I had to move on. Both (the good news and my SIWES result) were in my fourth year.

These days, some people think there is no big deal in having a first class. Do you share that view?

That position is relative. Putting all parameters together with the blessings of God, it’s not a big deal. I mean, if you are determined, committed, focused, hardworking and prayerful, there should be no big deal to it. However, it becomes a thing of celebration when you have it, because not everybody has it. To have it, you need to be above average.

Given your dedication to your studies, how social were you?

I didn’t have a problem with my social life at all. I had a cordial relationship with my friends, colleagues and lecturers. I played with my friends, played football and tried to associate with people as much as possible. Also, as a pastor, it was necessary for me to have a cordial relationship with people because of the needed relationship with the fellowship members. So, I think I didn’t do badly at all. I led a fulfilled life in my undergraduate days.

How did you handle gestures from women?

It is believed that women love to associate with brilliant and intelligent men but I was not ready to involve myself in such things. I knew how and when to get the lady I would want and love. I ignored gestures and unnecessary familiarities from the female folks, even though I still had few female friends. My relationship with friends wasn’t all about books; I engaged my friends in a lot of informal discussions.

Were there friends or colleagues who made jest of you for not being ‘sharp’ in terms of relationship?

Yes, there were such scenarios in the secondary school and university. But deep down inside me, I knew I was sharper and wiser than those of them who were into it. With the enormous plan I had in mind, there was no way I was going to delve into something like that.

Have you ever been discouraged by the unemployment challenge in Nigeria?

No. It doesn’t take away the fact that the rate of unemployment in the country is high and that it stares everyone in the face, but I believe that even in the midst of the job scarcity; there are jobs for those who have exceptional services to offer. So, I’m not worried about it.

What are your aspirations?

I would like to work in any of the international oil companies in Nigeria or abroad; practise in the field for few years so as to add value to the oil and gas industry, whilst continuing the “Gathering of Champions” vision, which is a platform devoted to placing the right tools of success in the hands of the youths for an enviable destiny. After this, I like to enter full time ministry to keep impacting lives on the global stage on the subject of Total Salvation through Jesus Christ the Son of God.

What would be your advice to students?

It is never too late to have a goal and focus on it. They can use the platform they have been given to acquire to lead a fulfilled and comfortable life. Success is available to all, but at a price. They should ensure they pay the price, and success will be their companion. Until the right price is paid, failure is inevitable. Students should pay more attention to hard work because it is the result of that hard work that forms their result eventually. I also advocate that students should strive to start having good result as early as their 100L. It helps.

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