Nigerian man, Elkanah Oghenovo Mowarin, 50, was the best graduate of Mass Communication Department, University of Lagos in the 2014/2015 academic session, having finished with 4.75 CGPA.
In this interview, he tells TUNDE AJAJA how it feels graduating at such age
At 50, why did it take you this long to have a degree?
I have had some degrees before now and as a matter of fact, I have been operating in the media industry for more than 20 years, but I know it is important for us to do what we have to do, regardless of age or the level we find ourselves.
I don’t want the emphasis to be on what I have achieved before going to UNILAG, rather I want to inspire and motivate people to do whatever they have to do, at whatever age or level, playing down on what they have before.
So, why did you go back to school?
I opted for undergraduate study because I wanted to have a comprehensive academic knowledge of an industry that I have been operating in for over 20 years. I wanted to have a substantial grasp of the academic dimension of media marketing.
I wanted to take it from the introductory level, like Introduction to Mass Communication, and then grow along that line. I wanted to have a holistic academic knowledge of Mass Communication from the first degree point of view and that was what I did. I needed the necessary academic certification to support my practice.
When you decided to go back to school, were there people who tried to discourage you?
Well, there were those who felt I did not need it. But as an adult, it was a personal decision. I prayed about it and I got a personal conviction to go ahead. And so I set my mind on my goal of obtaining a degree in Mass Communications.
How were you able to combine family and business with academics?
I am a multi-tasking person. I studied in UNILAG for four years as a full time student and I went to school every day and I was in class every time I should.
I live in Lekki with my family, but I had to secure an apartment close to the school due to my commitment to my study. I relied on the services of lecturers, senior students, and others considered to have superior knowledge.
To answer your question directly, it was about setting my mind on a goal which was to get certified on what I have been practising for years. With that in mind, I was able to blend everything together. It was indeed challenging, but God gave me the grace.
You would have had younger people as your course mates, how did you cope?
This is quite hilarious. I recall getting to class and seeing myself amidst students of 16, 17 years old. However, they (my colleagues) were very respectful. I was not arrogant. I was free with everyone. Though it was a challenging time, the fact that we had a good learning environment coupled with the cooperation of my younger colleagues made it enjoyable.
Were there times your younger course mates made you regret your decision of going back to school?
There was never a time. Though there were moments of disagreements, they were not so bad to make me regret going back to school. We were like a family.
There was never a time I thought of jettisoning the idea. I went to school to build capacity. I was very determined. Even if there were distractions and commitments, I refused to be discouraged. I was environmentally blind to things that might want to distract my attention.
Did you relate with them as a father or as colleagues?
I related with them first as colleagues, but those of them who came closer to me as though I were a father or uncle to them, I related with them in like manner. They called me daddy, uncle, and other names to show that they love and respect me.
Do you think you would have done better in your academics if you were younger and single?
Better? I don’t know. I had a 4.75 CGPA. Maybe I would have got 5.00 CGPA just like the overall best graduating student of my set. I really don’t think it is about age.
It is more of setting a goal for myself, attitude and self application to the course. There were younger ones who didn’t have first class and there may be older ones who couldn’t attain such. I believe it is God that gives to whomever He wills.
As the best in your department, did you plan to have a first class or it was by providence?
I was in school for academic knowledge and not with the purpose of bagging a first class. I think it came by providence, moreover, I don’t even consider myself as the most brilliant in my set. However, I was poised to have a good result and I was focused.
The first class feat is a combination of so many elements; like the enabling environment, wonderful lecturers, who were always ready to put us through anywhere we needed help and the seriousness I applied to it; but we give God all the glory. He is the ultimate. Beyond that, I gave it my all.
Since you had experience in what the course entails, would you say it was easy to have it?
Certainly not! Far from being easy. I used to get to school around 7:30am daily. I never missed a class and I never missed taking notes.
I was diligent in our numerous assignments and tests. It was a real struggle; but because I set my mind on it, it was not much of a problem.
However, I can say that it was indeed a very challenging time for me. Prior to my admission, the last time I drank coffee was in the secondary school, but as a student again, I had to rely on coffee to an extent so as to keep me awake and alive. So, I set aside many things to give my studentship 100 per cent attention. I made up my mind to study and make the best out of it.
One would want to assume that your exposure before going back to school must have contributed to your success How much impact did it have?
My exposure to media marketing was of tremendous advantage. I noticed that there was hardly anything I was taught in class that I had not been exposed to before as a media marketing entrepreneur.
So, my exposure assisted me a great lot in my studies. But beyond that, I studied as many times as it came to me. There were instances I read as early as 5am to 7am. Sometimes, I did all night reading.
By my nature, I read a lot. We had lots of assignments and tests, so I had to read. I also had resource persons who were always around to support me. I also had to visit the library to access certain books. I also did a few exercises to keep my body fit.
What interests you about journalism?
A journalist is an information carrier, opinion moulder and well respected in the society. Journalism positions you in any aspect of life: academics, entrepreneurship, governance, among others. It is a well-rounded profession.
Which area did you specialise in?
I majored in broadcasting, but the certificate reads B.Sc. Mass Communication, I had a rounded exposure to all sequences – broadcasting, print, public relations and advertising.
What informed your decision to major in the broadcast sequence?
I chose to major in the broadcast sequence because it best reflects what I have been practising for many years. I am into media marketing, with focus on television content production. So, I thought it necessary for me to be certified in the area I have been operating for years.
You must have had memorable moments. Can you share some with us?
One of the most memorable moments was when I got to the class one day only to discover that my lecturer was a colleague of mine where I had worked before. We were co-managers, and he is now a PhD holder. It was quite an interesting experience. When he saw me, he asked why I was in class and I told him I was his student.
Then he laughed and said he knew I came to acquire knowledge because I had attended several schools before. Another memorable moment was the day I entered class and students were greeting me thinking I was their lecturer, only to later discover that I was their colleague. There were instances when I went to make photocopies of materials and the people there would ask me the class I was lecturing. I told them I was a student and they were amazed. For me, everything was fun.
Do you still have plans of going back to school again?
Knowledge is inexhaustible. We will continue to learn. I love to study. So, I may still go back to school again. Never say never.
Can you tell us your happiest and the most embarrassing moments?
My happiest moments were after the release of semester results and I saw my results, having many As. I felt fulfilled during these times. On the other hand, my most embarrassing moments were the instances when people were not so friendly. This was from some of my course mates. These were people who would ordinarily be my children. Sometimes, they addressed me in an uncomplimentary manner, but I saw such as a price to pay for the environment I found myself. Another instance was, when in a bid to rejoice with my senior colleagues during their convocation party, I sprayed them money. I was later summoned by the management of my department. It was a very embarrassing moment for me. I never wanted to have any confrontation or bad time with my department. I was summoned and verbally cautioned. It was a depressing time for me, but God intervened as it was just a verbal caution.
What is your advice to students?
I will advise students to understand that their primary reason for being in school is to study. They should remain focused and shun cultism, alcoholism, prostitution and all other things that could make them disappoint their parents.