Naija StoriesNonfiction StoriesSeries

Tales from My Alma Mater (Part 1)


The accounts in this series are real or as real as the author remembers them. For issues of privacy, the author would change the names of some people. Such changes would be indicated with an (+) after the first time such a person’s name is mentioned.

This account is not meant to malign anybody or institution, but to tell about the experiences of the author while in the university.


If you asked me, I would tell you that JAMB is the most frustrating institution in Nigeria. Forget NEPA, PHCN, or whatever their name now is; forget bad roads; forget unemployment; if possible, forget corruption. And let’s focus on JAMB for a moment. Do you know that JAMB can make you study what’s not in your destiny? Or that they can make you look like a dumbass amongst your friends? Check the number of people who haven’t gotten admission into any tertiary institution, or those who are studying courses they don’t know what it’s all about, then you’ll understand my point. If not for JAMB, how would I have known about Applied Biochemistry, the course I studied for four years?

And my story started on 16th December, 2014. Earlier in the year, I’d taken WAEC, and later JAMB like most of my peers. At the time, I’d put Pharmacy, instead of the Medicine and Surgery almost everyone was clamoring for. What’s the hype about Medicine anyway?

“But Somtoo, you’re too brilliant to settle for a lesser course,” a secondary school teacher had opined. Really? What makes any course lesser than the other? Of course, I couldn’t argue with her, as she would have used the earnings of various professionals to rest her case.

Another advised me to make sure that I put a professional course. “That way, you would secure your future once you’re out of the university.” As if courses and not what people are made of, secured their futures for them.

Amidst all these, I was fighting two other different battles—one within me, and the other at home, with my parents. Internally, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study, I just wanted to go and study a science-related course. But my parents, especially my sweet mother, wanted either Medicine or Pharmacy. I had suggested Microbiology, but she had scoffed at the suggestion.

“Ọ kwa ị ga na-ekpo nsị ndị mmadụ?” (“So that you’ll go and be packing people’s excreta?”) I had laughed uproariously and had tried to tell her the little thing I knew about Microbiology, but she had shushed me.

“Put Pharmacy if you don’t want to put Medicine,” she had said, her face set against any rebellion. My father had been more or less on her side, but he really wanted Medicine too. I got tired of the whole Medicine craze and put Pharmacy instead.

After the JAMB exam, I waited patiently for my result, which would come out in a week’s time. When I got home on the day of the exam, I’d calculated my score based on the questions I was sure I got the answers correctly. Do you know what I got? 272. Then I added another miscellaneous eighteen marks for the ones I guessed. So, at worst I would get 272, and maybe, I would get up to 290. Such lofty dreams.

But on the day I saw my result, I really believed that JAMB was a scam, at least, for me. Back then, I didn’t know how to check the result, so my dad had checked it for me. In the evening when he came back from work, he called me and said,

“Somtoo, do not feel bad about your result. I know you tried your best.”

“What’s my score, Dad?” I asked, quaking with fear.

“You scored 180. I’m sorry.”

I felt like hot lava was poured on me. I started hyperventilating, and beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. I felt dizzy, and if I knew how to faint, I would have gladly done that. At least, that would have added an extra drama to the whole awful situation. As I hung my head in shame and agony, I thought about how I would tell my friends that Somtoo—the best in the school—got 180 in JAMB. They would have laughed at me forever.

But then something happened, something miraculous, if you asked me. My father tapped my shoulder, and said, with barely restrained mirth, “Don’t cry. You got 205.”

Immediately, my head snapped up. I searched his face for any hint of sarcasm or mischief, but he was serious, even though he was laughing at my display of shame. But I couldn’t believe him, so I asked for the result slip. I took it from him and saw that he was actually right. I had gotten 205! I jumped on him in ecstasy and nearly broke his neck due to the way I tightly held him. When my mother came back, she also congratulated me.

I knew it was not the kind of score I was expecting, but it was better than 180. How would I have faced my friends and teachers? As I was about to sleep that night, my mother had told me that I had to work extra hard to make sure that I aced my Post UTME exams, if I hoped to get Pharmacy.


The much anticipated Post-UTME came after my secondary school, on Tuesday, the 12th of August, 2014. That day was… something else.
Dad had insisted that he would go to Awka with me and my younger brother. My friend, Chibuike also wanted to go as he had also applied for Pharmacy in Unizik. I didn’t want my father to go with me; I mean, I wasn’t in nursery or primary school anymore. I was going into the university. But I would have had better luck convincing bees not to sting than to convince him not to come. I had to acquiesce.

The exam was scheduled to commence by 10am, so on that day, we left for Awka as early as 6.45am, a journey of forty-five minutes.

Read Part Two.

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  1. Reminds me of that year..
    Well just like Paul said, this is truly African!
    Nigerians and this course issue.😂

  2. I am a writer and this struck a light in me. Beautiful! What makes this nicer is the African story in it!

  3. It was awesome..U wrote just like the young talented writer I had always known..
    Can’t wait for the next part

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