Monday, 4 December 2017


My full name is Tochukwu Emmanuel Okafor

  Q  Nicknames (if any)
  A Toch, Tochi, Tobe, Tobsky, Tobs, Somtex, Tomez, Professor… (I become very shy whenever people call me by any of these names.)

   Q.   Tell me about your family background
A. I grew up in a close-knit Catholic family of ten in Ilaje-Bariga, Lagos. I am the seventh child. My father sold spare parts of motorcycle at the Lagos Trade Fair. My mother sold clothes along the Yaba railway; she would make a run for dear life whenever a train creaked in. I grew up among my siblings and many cousins who came to live with my family.

 Q. Did you ever think before you entered the university you would have a first class?
 A. No. In fact, in my first year at the University of Benin, I had no idea what a grade point was. I was ignorant of many other things like scholarship opportunities. I was only interested in studying well and having excellent grades and coming home to my parents and siblings to say, “see. I have made you guys very proud.”

  Q.  When did it become clear you will have a first class?
  A. In my third year at the university.

  Q.  What branch of engineering did you study and how easy was it?
  A. I studied Electrical/Electronic Engineering. Truth is, the course becomes easy only when you really study and understand how certain concepts work. However, Electrical/Electronic Engineering is a time-demanding course, challenging, and can get soul-destroying when you work and work at something and seem to be getting nowhere, which surely happens during certain moments of studying the course.

  Q.  What was your schedule in school?
  A. For my first year, I remember always trying to adjust to the university life and the new city that I had found myself in. So I think I spent a lot of time doing this. But I made sure that I was always very busy. I attended morning masses at St. Albert’s Catholic Church. Then I spent some time within the church, studying in the cool breeze. It was always breezy at St. Albert’s Catholic Church and the views from within the church yard were beautiful. Afterward, I attended lectures, and I think I slept through almost all of them. I had not started using glasses by then, though my eyes were bad. Growing up, I had studied with candles and kerosene lamps. I borrowed lecture notes from friends because I couldn’t get to copy from the board. When lectures were over, I ran off to John Harris Library, where I would read and read and forget what time of the day it was. I only left the library when I was hungry or had a study appointment with another student. (And oh, I did all of my cooking.) Then I spent my nights studying at the Basic Medical Complex. In my first year, I worked as a Unilever Campus Brand Ambassador and as a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. For my subsequent years, I was already used to the campus. I was involved in a lot of conferences, church activities, and creative writing workshops. And somehow I still found time to study. I have only recently asked a close friend how many hours in a day that I used to study. He told me that I studied for 16 hours every day. Haha. I find it unbelievable!

  Q.  Did you have a social life?
  A. Yes. A very good one!

  Q. Did you have a girlfriend?
  A. No.

  Q.  What are your plans for the future?
  A. All my plans for the future are currently works-in-progress, and I get very anxious talking about works-in-progress. Perhaps when they begin to materialise, we will have another interview to talk about them.

    Q. What advice will you give to students like my daughters who are on the fringes of first class?   
 A. Be yourself. Work hard. Pray. Focus on yours goals rather than on your struggles. Dare to do the undefinable. Collaborate. Never stop learning even when what is being discussed is unrelated to you or your field. Smile, make friends, and take lots of pictures. And always remember that if you don’t get the first class honour, you are excellent and beautiful in your own right. It’s about you and what you can offer to the world.

Thank you so much for having me.

No comments: