One of Nigeria’s highly inspiring true life stories is that of Emmanuel Oluwasayomi Ahmadu, popularly known as Mr Voiceover, a Kogi-born Batch B Stream II Corps member serving in Kwara State. Ahmadu, an award winning voice-over artiste, Nollywood actor, anti-depression and suicide advocate, is a graduate of mass communication from University of Benin (UNIBEN).
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The story of his determination to succeed at all costs was aptly demonstrated when he wrote his Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) 17 times before he gained admission into UNIBEN. In this interview, Ahmadu speaks on his life.
How did you write SSCE 17 times and passed before you gained admission?
I survived through the grace of God. The journey started when I was at a tender age and everything was rosy in the family; then the situation turned sour and family crisis began. My father and mother separated due to irreconcilable differences. That was when my crisis started. I attended 16 primary schools and 14 secondary schools between 2010 and 2014 due to persistent family crisis which caused me psychological and mental imbalance, leading to SSCE attempts before I finally passed after the 17th attempt in 2014.
The examinations I sat for included WAEC, NECO, NABTEB, NECO GCE and JAMB that ushered me into the university. During the period of writing O’ level examination, I endured the pain to keep attempting each exam yearly with the sole aim of passing without cheating, despite pressures to succumb. This is because I knew succumbing to malpractice would cause me more harm than good, considering the psychological and mental effects of being enrolled in several schools and learning under different teachers.
I studied to the best of my knowledge but, in the end, I kept failing until God gave me breakthrough in 2014. Prior to when I finally passed SSCE, I enrolled in SSS2 in a school in 2013 when I strengthened my relationship with God and I also fully concentrated on my studies. During the period, I borrowed textbooks and attended private lessons with best students in various subjects and I also got SSCE syllabus from experienced teachers who doubled as my personal tutors. Furthermore, I constantly treated past questions on various subjects and I ensured that I scored higher than previous marks during my personal studies. I also received home tutorials on core subjects with brilliant students and graduates living my neighbourhood.
All these efforts paid-off as I eventually passed all my subjects in flying colours without cheating and got the best result in the school where I enrolled. It was this feat that ushered me into UNIBEN. All along, I had the conviction that I wanted to pass without cheating in order to correct my past and to prepare for a promising future. Today, I am glad that I am a change agent contributing to tackling national and global problems. If I had quit school or succumbed to the pressure to indulge in exam malpractice, which is becoming a norm to many students and youths in Nigeria today, my story would have been different.
What was the family crisis all about?
The family crisis started when I was about seven years old, separating my parents. I saw hell. It was more like a spiritual conflict with physical manifestations. The situation was so terrible that we the children were scared of approaching our father to share our emotions and love with him. The sad experience lasted more than 16 years when our father died despite fasting and prayers to save the situation. Interestingly, my father was a pastor and he was constantly on transfer which, in the end, had dire consequences on the family. Meanwhile, my mother was always relocating with him until she could not do so due to its effect on her life, her children and her job. During this period, I moved from one school to another and the cycle continued until I enrolled in 16 primary schools and 14 secondary schools months in two years.
I grew up to understand that my mother showed us more attention, care, godly counselling and love, and took up all responsibilities despite the separation from my father. She spent her salaries as a civil servant, engaged in all types of petty businesses and sometimes went the extra mile to obtain bank loan just to sponsor our education. She ensured that her five children did not go astray despite pressures from family members. My mother also funded the University Matriculation Examination which I wrote five times and SSCE which I passed after the 17th attempt, even when she knew that I was not ready to succumb to cheating in line with the godly counselling she exposed us to from tender age.
During the period you were rewriting your SSCE, what was the motivating factor?
One thing that kept me going was my belief system and God’s grace I saw quite a number of my junior colleagues who became master’s degrees’ holders and some were already working while I was still wearing secondary school uniforms to repeat SSS1 & SSS2. But I remain focused to succeed.
What about your parents, teachers and siblings? What roles did they play?
My mother played a great role, although she was at some time frustrated and wept profusely and compared me with other children in the family and with my peers who were making their families proud. She was frustrated by my repeated failures and the shame I was causing her. At a point, she took a bold step to advise me to quit school and invited family members to beg me to consider carpentry or learn a trade rather than for her to continually spend money on an unproductive son. But she never stopped praying and fasting for her children and husband. I technically suffered educational setbacks the most amongst my siblings as a second child in a family of five children. I was repeating class with my junior siblings and teachers would instruct me to meet my siblings for explanation in subject areas where I did not understand.
Teachers nicknamed me Coconut Head because I did not always understand what was being taught in class let alone being able to answer questions and I was fond of taking either the last position or the penultimate grade in my result. During a time I was rewriting my SSCE, our last born was also preparing for his first attempt in same exam at the Federal Government College, while other junior siblings and my elder brother were already in higher institutions. I felt traumatized but I kept hope alive with advice from close associates and people with loving hearts. In the end, I emerged as the first university graduate in the family. And as fate would have it, I was mobilized for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) months to when I will turn 30 years which is the age limit for Youth Service. I have no doubt in my heart that God orchestrated my story to pass a message to this generation.