Humphrey Ifezue, who graduated with first-class honors in Computer Science at Caleb University, Lagos State, talks to TEMITOPE ADETUNJI From Punch Nigeria about his motivation, challenges and the next step forward.
What more can you tell us about yourself?
I am from Nawfia in the Njikoka Local Government Anambra State. I have two siblings, an elder brother, and a sister. I am 24 years old.
How does graduating with a first-class degree make you feel?
I feel very excited. I wasn’t expecting to be a first-class graduate; I intended to do my best and come out with a good result. Although I wanted a first-class degree I never chased it.
At what point did you hit first class?
I first hit the first class division in the first semester of my 100 level at school. I had a grade point average of 4.78 and that was what inspired me to do more.
What role did your foundation at the primary and secondary levels play in your success at the university?
I don’t think they really impacted my university. I was an average student in my secondary school. I was more in the 10th or 11th position in my class. I wouldn’t say my secondary school was what inspired me. I would say it was the dedication that I put into Computer Science because it is a course I love. It changed my story at the university.
How did your parents react when you informed them about your final result?
They were excited about it. I think they were very excited when I made my first 5.0 GPA. They encouraged me.
It was reported that a philanthropist and Chairman of Atlantic International Refinery and Petrochemical Ltd, Akintoye Akindele, gifted you and the two other best graduating students N5 million and automatic employment. How true is that?
That is very true. He gave the overall best female undergraduate, overall best postgraduate student, and me a cheque of N5million each. When he was offering the cheque, he also mentioned that there was automatic employment if we were interested. Two of us showed our interest and we were each offered an employment letter too.
What exactly came to your mind when he announced it?
I felt so excited; it felt like my prayers had been answered. I wasn’t present when he mentioned it. I came late to the convocation. It was after the programme that my friend – the overall best female graduate – informed me about it. At first, I wasn’t sure I was among them because I was the second-best, so I thought it was just for the overall best student. But I got confirmation from my vice-chancellor. I was excited because I have never received such an amount.
Have you received the money and employment letter?
Yes, the cheque has been cleared. Also, I received the employment letter as he promised. I was excited knowing well that the money will help with a lot of expenses with moving my plans forward.
What do you plan to do with the money?
I will use the money to go further in my education overseas in cyberspace. I plan on taking a professional cyber security course.
What were the things that attracted you to Computer Science?
As a little boy, I loved operating gadgets. I have always been fascinated by how individuals communicate with each other through a cell phone and the operations carrying out the transmission of our voices from one part of the world to another. I was curious about the field. I wanted to know more and how I can use it for my benefit. I will say my curiosity about the field attracted me.
I’ve been interested in computers since I was in elementary school. We entered an era when everything we used on the internet was based on trust and had a lot of access that should never have been allowed. So, with all of the evil people who began accessing the internet and causing havoc, I saw it as an area that needed more people to help stem the tide and stop people from doing bad things. I also wondered how communications worked and I was so curious to know.
Which areas in Computer Science are you interested in the most and why?
Cyber security has a networking aspect which brought me to Computer Science; cyber security is not just about communication but at an advanced level. I am interested in cyber security. It deals with the protection of data, while in transit or static. It involves computer networking, which brings me back to my early age curiosities. It’s also a lucrative profession. It is a good course because it protects all categories of data from theft and damage.
You have spoken in broader terms. How relevant is it in Nigeria and which contemporary problems in the country can it help to solve?
It is relevant in every country, not only in Nigeria. It is relevant in terms of confidentiality, and the accessibility of your communication in a secured manner. It is the protection of computer systems and networks from information disclosure. Nigeria is the second-most corrupt nation in West Africa. More cyber security expertise can aid in checking corrupt practices.
What was the experience like in your first year?
My first semester was challenging. I was trying to figure out how to navigate the school and its rules. Making new friends was difficult because I was always indoors.
Do you share the view that many first-class graduates from private universities would not have graduated with that grade from public universities?
Well, I will agree in the sense that larger class sizes mean less individualised attention. But still, it depends on individuality. Attending a public university doesn’t mean one cannot come out with good grades. I agree that the educational system in public universities is poor, in the sense that the learning environment is not conducive, and the lecturers are unconcerned. A lot of distractions living off campus can be a factor. But, I still feel the result will be the same if the students are focused on what they want. So, I disagree with the saying.
What were your toughest moments at Caleb University?
I don’t think I had a particularly trying moment; every day was challenging, but it was an opportunity to build on my past achievements. There was a struggle of always waking up every day to meet up with classes, though it helped because I never missed a class.
What study method worked for you? Or did you spend hours at the library and study at night in a classroom?
I didn’t have a specific study method. I will say attending class was a study method because I always pay attention to lectures. I didn’t really visit the library; in fact, I will say I visited the library once. I don’t like using the library because it is too quiet for me. I’m fascinated by technology, and I do a lot of research on it for fun rather than for school. I believe that helped me a lot in classes because I already had an idea about most of the computer-related courses in school from my research. I also never missed a class. I benefitted from my lectures as well. I did the research for fun not to pass exams. I am not the reading type, I only read when I have exams. I try to cover up the course outline.
If there was anything that discouraged you or almost made you give up on your academic goal, what would that be?
Laziness in getting up early to get to class on time and attending classes. I dislike school. But even though I dislike school, it is necessary so I had to study but I never liked doing it.
You mentioned earlier that you arrived at your convocation late and some might wonder whether you were reluctant about it. Were you?
Not at all; we all know how the Lagos traffic is. I came late to the convocation because there was heavy traffic.
Between hard work and flair, which will you say pays?
Hard work pays in all that we do because even when you have a flair for something and you don’t put in some effort, you can’t achieve anything.
Did your parents doubt the possibility that you would come out with first class, knowing that you did not like school?
No, they didn’t because when I was at 100 level at Caleb University, my first semester GP was 4.79. That was when they encouraged me and said they knew I was smart enough and that I could achieve it (first class).
Are you the only one with a first class in your family?
Yes, I am. My siblings graduated in the second-class upper division.
How would you have felt if you were a student at a public university, with the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities?
I would not have felt good about it, because I see it as a waste of time. My mindset about education would be changed because seeing my mates graduating would make me feel I have remained in a particular spot. It is like a downfall.
What do you think your peers facing the ASUU strike can do to make good use of their stay at home?
I will advise them to learn a skill or trade. They should get busy doing something. This is an opportunity for them to acquire something different from their course of study. By the time such a student graduates, they must have acquired something new.
Have you started working in the company that offered you employment?
No, I have not started but very soon, I will. I am still working on the process. I wasn’t posted to Lagos for the National Youth Service Corps programme, so I am working on the process. I need to complete my relocation.
Since you love research, do you intend to become a lecturer?
I think I am good at teaching because I once taught my class for a particular project but I don’t think I will be a lecturer because I am naturally shy.