Pharmacy Prodigy: Unveiling the Secrets Behind My Success as the Best Graduating Student at UI in 2022

This week, we have an amazing personality being featured here, the best graduating student from the Faculty of Pharmacy in the Premier University, Nigeria for the 2020/2021 academic session.

Cynthia Okafor, The Supernatural Student, The Prosperity Ark

GWC:Can we meet you?

CYNTHIA: My name is Pharmacist Cynthia Chidera Okafor. I was born on October 1st, sharing the date with Nigeria's independence and that's so special for me. I'm from Agulu, Anaocha, Anambra state, Nigeria and I schooled at the University of Ibadan and graduated as the best student in the faculty in the 2022 set. I had first Class Honours, having a CGPA of 6.90 out of 7.0. I got the Dean's Roll of Honour reserved for first-class students, had 5 out of 6 distinctions, was the best student in Dispensing, best in Pharmaceutics and Industrial Pharmacy, best in Clinical Pharmacy and the Best in Social and administrative pharmacy. I was also the 2nd runner-up, in Shalina Young Talents Award 2021, (a quest for the best pharmacy brains in Nigeria), the 1st runner-up in Dean’s Quiz competition 2018 and the Best Speaker, Chief Lanre Bello Inter-Faculty debate competition organised by JCI, 2018.

GWC: Beautiful! Stupendous! Amazing!!! I'm so wowed! You got an extra feather to your cap and have since then, been referred to as one of UI's BGS. How did you feel when you were announced as the best graduating student in your department that year?

CYNTHIA: I was very excited because I saw it as the fulfilment of prophecies over my life. I entered the University of Ibadan(UI) when I was at 200 level as a direct entry student from the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra and since then, I had been praying about it and so, for me, it was not just a wish that came through, it was answered prayers for me.

GWC: Wow! It had left the stage of being a wish…What are your aspirations for the future, ma?

CYNTHIA: I plan to go into academia, that is, to lecture people. I love to impart knowledge and have them see things in a new light. I like to explain things to people, helping them see them in another picture and letting them know that whatever it is, pharmacy or any other course is not as hard as they think it is. I also aspire to be part of change agents and policymakers in the health sector. I want to be a part of a move that will refurbish the healthcare system dealing majorly with the use of safe, quality and efficacious medicines, especially in Nigeria and other developing countries.

GWC: What study tips or secrets did you make use of while in school?

CYNTHIA: I know that I am not a night reader. I am not the type to forfeit night sleep because I won’t be productive enough the following day, so I avoid TDB (till- day- break) method of reading. The best graduating student from the Faculty of Pharmacy many years ago who is now a lecturer here at UI (Dr Adebolagun) advised us on the very first day of school back in 200 level, to always start reading daily and early in the semester from the get-go so that the course work doesn’t pile up. So I adopted that, and that advice from the BGS in 1988 influenced another BGS in 2022.

The Prosperity Ark

If I am taught a topic on the 1st of January, it’s my utmost desire to read it, dissect it, start from the basics, enter the topic deeply, fully understand it in class, flesh up my understanding, and later on, watch videos on that topic if I have to, check past questions if I have to, all before 15th of January. Because in pharmacy school, and I believe it’s like that for most other courses, things can get choked up if you pile your work up waiting till the last minute.

GWC: What other things did you do apart from being a student?

CYNTHIA: My major extracurricular activity was being an active member of the workforce of my church. I'm a member of The Standing Church International and I serve as an usher there. I had to be in church for about five days a week and so, church constituted a big part of my life and is still a big part of my life. I was also into public speaking, I was a member of the Literary and Debating Society, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students, University of Ibadan Chapter and I had spoken in several debates with the team, I also had a remote job that I picked up while in 500 level where I worked with Victory Drugs and Pharmacy, one of the largest and oldest community pharmacies in Lagos, Nigeria. This sharpened me and helped me learn and acquire more skills as I helped my clients.

GWC: As regards your dreams and aspirations, what is/are your greatest fear(s)?

CYNTHIA: Ha, my greatest fear is being in that place where I have to live a mediocre life. I know I'm born to be great and that God has so much in plan for me so, I do not like just being there, living an average life.

GWC: Hmm…What was your source of strength in times when you felt like quitting?

CYNTHIA: Something significant happened to me where my CGPA was not as excellent and I felt like there was a lot of competition in class and within me, I was already feeling down and so, I stepped out of my class that particular day and spent time praying, asking God what His plans for my academics were. I received a word which is in the Bible. Isaiah 41:10, where He said, "Cynthia, don't be afraid, don't be dismayed, I will strengthen you from failing, I will uphold your CGPA from falling". So, God was my source of strength all through and my man of God, Pastor Dr Akintara Akinkuade consistently prayed for me and spoke words of victory over me. I sowed my seeds consistently, listened to exam outreach messages all through school and even till now and I drew my strength from them.

GWC: Great! From your replies earlier, I can infer that God and your man of God are a major part of your life. So, aside from them, what and who inspires you?

CYNTHIA: (Sighs) The world is changing and requires you not only to be book-smart but also be able to adapt to so many changes. You know, there is a rampant saying today that doing well in school is not as rewarding as doing well in other things. That's a big NO because I believe that you can be a WIN-WIN in life and the person who inspires me in that line is Daniel, the one in the Bible. You know, the government changed three times during his lifetime and he remained one of the most prominent people all through. That means that he was not just book-smart, he was relevant and could contribute to his sector. This has taught me that I can be excellent in school, at work and wherever I find myself.

Late (Dr) Dora Akunyili was also the major source of inspiration for me to study pharmacy. She was a one-time NAFDAC Director general and because she married into my hometown, I had always heard about all she was doing for the people at that time and how she was going all out to ensure that everything was in place for people to use the right, safe and efficacious drugs. She practically gave herself to that and so she was a big inspiration to me.

GWC: Right now, I'm so loaded! What would you love to say to encourage other students?

CYNTHIA: As a student, you should know that at this time, your primary assignment is to study and so, if you're doing anything aside from studying, don't marginalise your studies because you can be excellent in all you do. If you were a worker in a bank, you would do all you can to do it well so that you can receive your salary, have the same mindset for your academics because there's nothing like "school is a scam". School is never a scam and all those statements of failing have to be intentionally removed from your vocabulary.

Although the school doesn't teach you everything, it teaches you the basics through which you can go through life. Dear student out there, shun laziness and every discouragement as best as you can and then, put God first because only He can help you to become exceptional in your studies. A lot of students are struggling today and what makes you different is the God-factor you have and cherish.

GWC: On behalf of every student, I thank you for this, Pharm!

What do you think about the Nigerian Academic Sector? What things do you hope to see improvements on?

CYNTHIA: Uhm…the Nigerian academic sector is very far from where it's supposed to be. It is grossly underfunded, mismanaged and not well taken care of, Academic staff will not be able to deliver their bests with unpaid salaries. We have the human resources for the academic sector but the financial backing is not there and that's especially important because even the students are feeling the heat of poor funding. I think that this is where the improvement should start.

If funding is properly put in place then other things like corruption and redundant actions will be taken care of.

GWC: Thank you so much, Pharm. Cynthia Chidera Okafor, it was a great time well-spent with you and we're so grateful for this. God honour you greatly.

To our audiences and students who wish to connect with our guest, you can follow her on Instagram.

Till next time, keep winning dear ones.

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