For Adeshina Badejo, a graduate of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), bagging first-class honours in Petroleum and Gas Engineering wouldn’t be first time he would flaunt academic excellence. The genius long had it up his sleeves, even back in high school.

Awaiting gainful employment while running his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme, the ex-head boy reminisced on his childhood days; the values, and routine practices that had set him on the path to success. He had been a kid whose father often patted him on the back for grades.

In a chat with Uche Nnaike, the young engineer also recounted the impact of his dad’s end-term outings — which often celebrated his academic success and that of his siblings — had on his career strides. He said the positive reinforcement had him do so well that he earned a CGPA of 4.58 in his final year.

Can you give us an insight into your background?

My father is a Civil Servant and my Mother a Senior Nurse. I had my primary education at Seatos Private School where I was made the Head Boy because of my brilliant performance. For my secondary school education, I attended Sofunix International College where I was also the Head Boy for the 2013/2014, academic session, based on my top performance and adjudged moral standard. I finally emerged as the best graduating student in the College during my set.

What fond memories of your growing up do you still have? What was your experience like in your primary school days before proceeding to the secondary school?

Growing up was pretty interesting. The outings with my parents at the end of each academic term to celebrate the excellent results of my siblings and I is one memory I still have. Primary school was quite interesting. Aside from school lessons, having a home lesson teacher also made primary school days memorable because I got to understand things I had difficulty comprehending in the class I entered secondary school at the age of 13. I finished secondary school at Sofunix International College. My best subject was Mathematics.

What prompted the decision to study science in secondary school? Did the school you attended encourage it? What was the impact of this on your university performance?

My love for Mathematics and my interest in solving problems fuelled my ambition to study science in the secondary school. Yes, my school encouraged teaching of science. My performance and excellent results in the university was not surprising because it was a logical follow -up to my performance at Sofunix International College.

The School laid a foundation by ensuring students understood the fundamentals of achieving greater heights through hard work and independence. It employed qualified and experienced teachers and this enabling environment was reinforced with equipped library and laboratories.

Students were at the core of all activities as the school’s philosophy is to produce well-rounded and globally competitive students. They are taught to uphold tenets of discipline with a view to shining like a star everywhere. There is zero tolerance for laziness.

Within one decade of the school’s existence, former students graduated across many professionals, including Medicine, Engineering, Accounting. Economics Computer Science, Education, and Mass Communication with excellent results. Its motto was Endurance and Self-Reliance and this had been one of my guiding principles.

Describe your most memorable day in secondary school? How easy was it passing your SSCE and UTME, and how may sittings?

My most memorable day was when I was made the head boy for the 2013/2014 academic session based on my top performance and adjudged moral standard. I had a taste of SSCE in my SS2 and I passed excellently. Despite this, my parents insisted that I continued my studies.

At Sofunix, I sat for my SSCE and UTME in 2014. Again, I passed my SSCE excellently, thanks to the previous experience, but could not meet up with the UTME score for my choice of engineering course (Petroleum and Gas Engineering). This made me opt for the UNILAG foundation programme, which qualified me for direct entry following an outstanding performance.

I had difficulty securing admission into university since my UTME score didn’t qualify me for my choice of course, yet, I was eligible for admission into the Polytechnic. After a long deliberation with my parents, I accepted to go to the polytechnic with plans to retake UTME alongside.

I purchased the form to study Geology at the Polytechnic Ibadan, sat for the entrance exam and was offered admission. But, a few weeks after, I got to know about the UNILAG foundation programme and purchased the form that same year. It was expensive so my parents took a loan.

What have you been up to since you graduated from the University of Lagos? Would you say engineering is your dream profession since when you were young?

Since I graduated in November 2019, I have made several attempts to secure a graduate internship in the Oil and Gas industry but nothing seems to be forthcoming. Notwithstanding, I have prioritized personal development so as to be ready when the opportunities come.

I started my journey in the world of Data Science by taking online courses and attending trainings by Utiva Data School. I enrolled in Soft Skills Training, organized by Jobberman and Poise Graduate Finishing Academy while also volunteering in the Annual Mathematics Conference and Exhibition. I’m currently a 2020 Batch ‘A’ stream 1 corps member.

Engineering has always been my dream profession. My love for Further Mathematics and desire to solve problems attracted me to engineer Initially all I knew was I wanted Engineering but I did not know what aspect to go for.

My choice of course was determined when I was given an assignment back in secondary school to write an essay on the topic ‘Nigeria: The Giant of Africa’. It was during this I read about Nigeria having enough gas reserves to power the entire African continent and solve the epileptic power supply which plagued my childhood.

Many confuse Petroleum and Gas Engineering with Chemical Engineering. Can you spill details on what your course entailed? How did you graduate with a first-class?

Petroleum and Gas Engineering deals with the exploration, production and transportation of hydrocarbons (crude oil, natural gas) as well as the analysis, modeling and forecasting of future production performance of fields.

It involves the use of knowledge from Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Geology  to solve energy-related problems. Petroleum Engineering is subdivided into three broad specializations: Reservoir, Drilling and Production engineering.

It is said that nothing good comes easy. Graduating with a first-class took a lot of discipline, self-denial and required consistency. There were days I had to adopt extreme reading measures just to understand what I was taught.

Reading success stories of first-class graduates back in my secondary school days inspired me. Right from my diploma days, I planned and worked towards making a first-class and it paid off. I gained admission through the foundation programme (UNILAG Diploma) so I started having a first-class from my first year (200 level) in the university.

Given that not everyone in your class made a first-class, what were the extra efforts, sacrifices, or commitments you made that stood you out?

​One commitment I made was to always attend the introductory class for each course at the beginning of the semester because it gave the opportunity to know lecturers. Also, I denied myself of ephemeral pleasures just to achieve the feat of a first-class.

In the automobile industry, the world is drifting away from fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles. Do you have fears about the future of your course?

Truly the world is shifting towards a more diversified energy mix so as to achieve ‘‘net-zero’’ emissions. I have no fear at all. Rather, I take such an opportunity. Right from my secondary, I had been taught about diversification to enable me key into any available opportunity. This is the essence of a well -rounded education.

University will expose one to an array of opportunities and one should not be rigid with what he has studied. By this, I have no fears about the future of my course. Already, I have enrolled in the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) titled ‘Tomorrow’s Mobility’ by the French Institute of Petroleum (IFP School).

The course is currently exposing me to a new perspective. Electric vehicles might be a good option regarding pollution, but there are still issues to solve before we all can drive an electric car. Fossil fuel will still remain dominant and petroleum engineers will be needed for the next 30+ years to provide the supply needed by the global demand.

Many people believe the main job prospects of the course are the oil companies, are there other areas where it is relevant?

That is a narrow perspective. ​Yes, there are other areas where the skills of petroleum engineers are needed. A reservoir engineer who is simply a petroleum engineer with a specialization in accessing resources in the reservoir and managing assets will find it easy going into investment banking. Other relevant areas are public sectors, geothermal industries, carbon capture, utilization and storage industries.

What was the thing you found most amazing about the course that people might not be aware of? Would you say you are a product of hard work or you are a genius?

Most people see Petroleum and Gas Engineering as a restricting course but it is not. The most amazing thing about this course is that it encompasses skills from other disciplines such as chemical, electrical, mechanical, civil engineering and geology. I would simply say I am a product of hard work.

Crude oil is a natural resource that has turned the world around, how has this course impacted your perspective about nature?

Petroleum and Gas Engineering has made me realise that nature can often be unpredictable. Resources that emanate from nature can significantly impact or impair our lives depending on how it is managed.

In 2018, PwC estimated that Nigeria’s economy lost N233 bn to gas flaring, which translates to 3.8 percent of the global total costs in 2018. How does this make you feel, especially as someone who knows the benefits of gas?

It is no news that Nigeria is a rich gas province producing little oil. Despite this, homes and industries are unable to realize their full potentials because of the epileptic power supply. It is appalling and makes me sad whenever I hear the amount of money lost to gas flaring yearly. I believe with the NLNG Train 7 project and the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme, gas will be better utilized going forward.

Apart from using it for powering gas turbines for electricity, what are the other uses that Nigeria is not taking advantage of?  What bothers you most about Nigeria?

Aside from power generation, other uses of natural gas that Nigeria is not taking full advantage of include production of methanol and ammonia for fertilizer production, production of hydrogen which is a primary feedstock for the chemical industry, just to mention a few.

I  am grieved about the lackadaisical attitude of our leaders in Nigeria which is self-centred and lacking consideration for the sustainability of the future. Except there is a reorientation of our leaders at the helm of affairs, the situation might worsen. Power supply is a potent requirement in all facets of development.

Unless there is a meaningful and aggressive search to address the incessant power outage in the country, things may not go as desired. Here again, the issue of leadership discipline and sincerity of focus is germane to attain regular power supply. Finally, the level of attention given to education is sad. This is why the eggheads end up leaving for foreign countries where they will be appreciated. There should be more investment in the education sector and reward for academic excellence.

How many hours did you sleep and dedicate to studying daily? Were you told stories about how difficult it could be to have a first-class and did it affect you in any way?

​I cherish my sleep a lot so I sleep for 7 hours daily. On weekdays, I read for at least 4 hours when I get back from class. On weekends I read until I am tired of reading, although I take breaks in between. Yes, my father always told me that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown; that with global competition, best is required of any university graduate.

As a result, I should ensure graduating with a first-class and this has always given fillip to my reading habit. This impacted me and hence, my present success story. My parents had the habit of keeping promises of reward for excellent performance and this encouraged me to study harder.

In my second and third year, I used the departmental library a lot, particularly for reference purposes. I changed my pattern in the fourth year and did most of my reading at home because I had a room to myself which was void of distractions. I was involved in other school activities too.

I was a department representative at the Oil and Gas bar in the faculty of Law; I served as an Officer and Programme Chairperson for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, University of Lagos Student Chapter, where I initiated the maiden edition of ‘The Industry Discourse’. I also founded Team Synergy; a group interested in solving energy-related issues.

What I like about engineering is it encourages innovation and never gets boring. I never imagined not making first-class. If I did not make it, I would have been a little bit disappointed considering the efforts and sacrifices I made. I enjoyed reading, watching football, and playing music.

One of my happiest moments was in my 200 level when I saw my first semester result and it was a first-class. Another happy moment was when my group ‘Team Synergy’ won a grant of €1000 in the 2018 Team Total Grant Competition. I can’t remember having embarrassing moments in school.

What are your aspirations? Where will you like to work after your NYSC programme? What’s your advice to students, both the incoming and those already in school?

I aspire to be a world-class and renowned Reservoir Engineer, who will help Nigeria unlock and harness her huge gas reserves while also achieving the goal of ‘‘net-zero’’ emission. At the end of my stay in the industry, I hope to pass the knowledge acquired to academia.

I would like a forward-leaning company with a great work culture, where I would be constantly working on challenging energy issues and innovations and also utilize my full potentials as a reservoir engineer. There are quite a number of companies I believe would provide me this opportunity. For example, Schlumberger, Total.

However, this is not an exhaustive list. I am willing to work with other IOCs/Indigenous companies that would provide the opportunity for me to grow and be a world-class engineer. For the incoming students, know what you want and go after it without fear. Don’t be coerced into studying a course you don’t have an interest in. Education is the only lasting legacy parents can give.

First-class is possible for anybody regardless of your background. For those already in school, do your best to finish well. Do not be discouraged by the lack of incentives for academic excellence in the country.  Study, develop yourself while waiting, and the opportunities will come.

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