When 29-year-old Ayodele Daniel Dada secured admission into the 54-year-old University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 2011, little did he realise that he will today become an academic icon, who will rekindle the university’s fame on world map.
Dada, a graduate of Psychology blazed the trail by his unprecedented feat, obtaining a Cumulative Gradient Point Average of 5.0 out of the available five.
Since the news of Dada’s milestone was boastfully broken on February 24 by the university Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Rahman Bello during the pre-convocation media briefing, the entire world has been abuzz with the story of the 29-year-old scholar.
However, intimidated by his own achievement, and like a snail, he instantly recoiled and went underground, cutting himself off the outside world apparently avoiding any contact that could bring him to the media glimpse.
“No one knows him,” said the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Duro Oni, when New Telegraph inquired about the student’s whereabouts.
Not even Prof. Iyiola Oni, the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, which houses the Department of Psychology, where Dada studied for four years, could tell much about the student.
But, New Telegraph was lucky to track Dada, the pinnacle of excellence, down somewhere in Ikeja at about 8 p.m. on Friday.
Looking quiet, calm and unassuming, Dada was accompanied to the spot by another First Class graduating student of the university from the Department of Finance, Faculty of Business Administration, Abiola Durojaiye, who also scored 4.88 CGPA.
Asked about his reaction to the new aura around him, Dada said: “It is a big challenge for me. Coping with it has been very challenging. I have had to stop using social media especially Facebook because friends’ requests have kept piling up every second.”
On whether he started his academic exploit and journey as a genius, Dada, the firstborn of the family of two, who hailed from Efon-Alaye in Ekiti State, said his story is far from that of a genius.
He explained: “I must tell you that I started out as a slow learner. My younger brother, Samuel Olusola Dada was sharper and quicker. In fact, my father used to scold me often believing that I was too slow for his liking and to excel, but I remained unperturbed.
“I am the type that learns slowly, but once I understand certain things it is difficult for me to forget them. I can only describe myself as a brilliantly determined learner and not a genius.”
According to him, his father, a Chartered Accountant-turned Pastor, David Dada, and mother, a teacher, Mrs. Anne Yemi Dada, had been used by God to lay the foundation for his success.
Dada told New Telegraph: “My father really gave us very sound footing. Though I was slow, he knew as soon as I grab it, it would stay with me. So, he always used me to show off among his friends. There was a time one of his friends visited, and we were asked to list the world capital cities. His friend said Tanzania’s was Dar-Es-Salam, but I insisted it was Dodoma because it was Dodoma then before it was later changed to Dar-Es-Salam. When the man found out that he was wrong, he felt bad.”
As a teacher’s son, Dada attended the Roots Model Nursery and Primary School, Aguda, Surulere, Lagos, where his mum was a teacher. When the mother moved to Chibolan Private School, also in Aguda, Dada also transferred to the school.
“But my mother’s presence in the schools impeded my freedom,” he said, even as his mother recalled that his performance in primary school earned him admission to about five secondary schools.
“But we eventually settled for Hope Bay College, Ajegunle-Apapa, and he shuttled from our Surulere home for six years, Mrs. Dada said.”
Dada said it was a difficult, but funny experience, saying at the beginning, his father used to drop him off in school when he was working for an Agro-Allied Industry in Badagry. But soon enough, his father left the company, and Dada had to go on his own.
To prove that he was an average student, Dada made only three ‘A’ and four ‘B’ in his Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), conducted by the West African Examinations Council, (WAEC).
“I even had ‘C’ but I got ‘A’ in Mathematics because my father had taught me that Mathematics is the most important subject.
Shortly after leaving secondary school, Dada’s relationship with his father became strained, when he declined his admission to UNILAG in 2005 to study Computer Engineering.
To Dada, the family was merely forcing the pill down his throat and that he did not feel he could do well in the discipline, and he politely declined to enroll for the programme.
“My father was livid. Many people also blamed me that I was frustrating my father’s efforts on me. For many years I hardly saw the good side of him,” Dada recalled.
To his mother, who recounted the agony she went through during the period, the matter degenerated to the level that it almost broke the home and her marriage.
The matter became compounded when his younger brother, who had also resumed to UNILAG as an engineering student suddenly absconded, claiming he would prefer to become an entrepreneur.
“I had to go on my knees before God praying for His intervention. It also took me time to understand my son, but once I got to know him, we became closer. He is my prayer mentor and I know that no book is too big for him to read. But daddy didn’t take time to see all this. But I thank God for the intervention,” his mother explained.
Instead of enrolling at UNILAG to study Computer Engineering, Dada opted to study Base Transcever Station (BTS) programme at an ICT training school in Ikeja.
And upon completion, he enrolled at the Alliance Francaise, to study French Language, which equipped him to speak French fluently today.
He also assisted his uncle, Pastor Segun Oluwadare to sell computer hardware and building materials at the Computer Village in Ikeja, and Amoo building materials market in Mushin.
According to him, he was doing all these to make little income to sustain himself on campus whenever he gained admission.
However, in 2011, Dada decided to study Psychology, and expectedly, a decision which his father was uncomfortable with, queried the rationale behind his choice.
“My father said Psychology was not different from Philosophy. But I knew where I was going. So, I sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). After the examination, I looked through my question papers and I believed I couldn’t have scored less than 310 out of 400. But JAMB withheld the result believing I had cheated,” he narrated.
He said his father knew there wouldn’t have been any justification for JAMB’s action and so they moved to get the result released, but all efforts were to no avail.
“Then considering my desire to return to school, many family members, friends and church members suggested I enrolled for the UNILAG Foundation programme. They even borrowed us money since my parents had no such money because my father had retired from service,” he said.
On completion of the foundation programme, Dada made a CGPA of 4.71.
“And it became the talk of the Faculty. I was surprised because I had planned to score 5.0 points but some lecturers told us specifically that no one could make an ‘A’ in their courses. So I was not surprised when I scored 69 ‘B’ in an English course,” he recalled.
Some lecturers advised him that once he gets to 200 level, the foundation CGPA would no longer count, so he should brace up for the remaining six semesters.
“So from 200-Level till I graduated, I made ‘A’ in all more than 40 courses I took. Though there were still lecturers who believed we could not make ‘A’ but I worked and prayed so hard that the minimum score I got was 70, which was in my final semester examination.”
Asked how he achieved the feat, Dada thanked God for His mercy, saying he was also determined to prove a point.
His words: “My point was that parents should allow their children to have input in their choice of career, and that perception matters a lot in determining the importance of a programme. How could you say Medicine or Engineering courses are better than Psychology? That is unfair.
“My class has really done well because for the first time in the 54-year-old history of UNILAG, Psychology Department is producing five First Class graduates. And without boasting, I believe God used me to make that possible because I used to share a lot of sourced materials with the class. I don’t believe in hoarding materials because my parents had taught me that making others around you better does not hurt.”
Dada recounted that he began to nurse the ambition of obtaining CGPA of five points when he saw the profile of the university’s 2013/2014 academic session’s best graduating student, Akorede Pelumi, who made 4.96 CGPA.
“I was preparing for the first semester examination of my final class and I was already in 5.0 when I saw his posters. So I decided that God’s willing I would beat Korede’s record, but I never knew it could be 5.0 because in my final class I was the chairman of a class committee and I was busy organising series of programmes,” he explained.
On his stay on campus, Dada added: “I used to visit Ozone Cinema and I watched lots of Hollywood movies. But one of the things that helped me was that I did not stay on campus all through. I lived with my parents in Surulere because the hostels are too rowdy for my liking. They are full of distractions. So no matter how late I stayed in school, I would get home.”
Asked whether he had a girlfriend on campus, Dada said he shied away from it because the result of a research had shown him that the best way to make a mark in school is to avoid having a girlfriend.
“But there were lots of advances from many girls and I believed many of them felt I was too hard a nut to crack.”
As a student, Dada recalled that he made money from organising tutorials, saying: “I also worked for some of my lecturers and I was paid well. In fact, at a stage I was able to lend my friends money.”
He commended many of his lecturers for providing him guidance, especially Dr. Alex Egudinasi, who he said many of his mates disliked because he always detects plagiarism through software. “He was thorough and I loved it.”
Today, having successfully taken part in the career fair organised for graduating students by the university, Dada alongside other First Class students, including his new friend and schoolmate- Durojaiye, have been engaged by, Procter & Gamble, where he had since resumed about two months ago.
Despite the lure of the job, Dada argued that he would not stay long on the job as he hope to seek further knowledge abroad that will further challenge and expose him more about Psychology.
Towards this end, he noted that he had already courted some friends in the field including a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, California, US, Prof. Carol Dweck.
“She (Dweck) had got a grant from Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation to conduct a study into the motivation of poor kids in an academic environment. Then I worked on his research work for my final year project, and I was surprised that when I sent her e-mail, she responded with courtesy and even encouraged me. Her works are wonderful,” Dada added.
Dada, who aspires to be a Professor of Psychology, said he would prefer to deploy his knowledge to impact the nation’s education system.
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