By: Toluwalope Ayeye
If you had asked Emmanuel Enyi to give a specific number as to how many competitions he has participated in, he might only be able to give an estimate.
The 400-level student of the Department of Linguistics and African Languages was at the dinner and awards night of a just-concluded scrabble competition as he narrated to this correspondent the challenges of representing the university.
The University of Ibadan, a place where intellect and talent flow through the veins of students and lecturers alike, is well known for being the first and the best university in the country.
The university being the best can be attributed to so many things including the form of pristine teaching and education the students get, and their versatility of mixing their academics with either extracurricular activities, and still thriving.
All of these, happening especially within the university’s walls might not necessarily speak of the numerous talents the school houses. However, with students like Emmanuel, no one outside or inside gets to doubt it.
While students of the university have always been one to step out of their comfort zone, go out into regional, national and international competitions to display their prowess, recently, the trend has become even stronger, with news of students carting away as many medals, trophies and prizes as possible.
For each student who participates in these competitions, the reason they choose to do it over and over again differs. However, one thing they would all agree on is that they love the opportunity they get to represent the University.
Aisha Yusuf, a 500 level student of the faculty of law is not very different from Emmanuel when it comes to keeping count of just how many public speaking competitions she has represented her school in.
While most times, she goes to these contests to represent subsets of the school like MSSN UI and the Faculty of Law, there are other times when she goes as a representative of the University of Ibadan.
An example of one competition she represented the school in was the just-concluded Youth Leadership national debate competition in Lagos. In this competition, she emerged second alongside her partner, Habeeb Abdul, equally a 500 level student of the University.
When asked what gives her the drive to go for as many competitions as she does, she responded: “Different reasons, really. Sometimes, it’s about going out there to compete against students from other schools and at times, it’s about showing up for organizations that have contributed to my growth as a public speaker,” Aisha said.
“Primarily, public speaking is my core extracurricular, so I tend to gravitate toward competitions in that area, both within and beyond UI.
“It’s also about going outside the UI bubble, where you can get pretty confident and relaxed. Out there, it’s a different world.
“People exhibit styles that will leave most UI students wondering if they are still watching a public speaking event or something else. The experiences are novel each time.”
For Korede, a 400 level student from the Faculty of the Social Sciences, the thrill he gets from contesting against fellow students and winning is one that one who has not been in such a position might not understand.
After participating in 4 different sports competitions, he accounts that the highlight of each and everyone of them was when he won his medals.
Organization, Tests and Schoolwork
When competitions are held within the walls of the university, among and within subsets, the competitors still face one challenge or the other in their attempt to come out at the top, and so, hinting that there would be challenges faced in competitions held outside of the university, is not far-fetched.
Korede, the athlete who represented the university in four different competitions including the NUGA Games and went further to represent the country in China, explains that has been a recurrent issue he had to face whenever he went out for sports competitions.
“FISU trials had accommodation problems, NUGA didn’t provide a decent place for us to camp so we, as well as the other schools, had to find hotels, where we stayed for 6 days.”
Apart from these challenges, he explains that while he had not faced any issues with school work clashing with the competition, some of his counterparts have.
“I personally haven’t had any problems with school work and tests while I’m away but some other people have. Despite the fact that the school wrote to those faculties, some lecturers wouldn’t give a make-up test.”
It Takes Two to Tango
For some of these competitors, these challenges might have proven to be difficult to scale through if not for the support gotten from the university.
The University is not ignorant of the many students each year that go on to bear its flag and while many would argue that the school might not necessarily be that supportive, some of the competitors whom we interviewed, would beg to differ.
Korede for example had this to say about the support he got from the university for the NUGA Games: “From what I hear we were the highest paid in NUGA. They paid allowances for every competition we went for. They also gave provisions to all athletes at NUGA.” For him, this helped his performance a great deal as he didn’t compete on an empty stomach and so the zeal to do better was there.
For students like Aisha who represent subsets of the school, she affirms that they equally bring all hands on deck. “It surely helps. Most times I go out to compete, I’ve been fully sponsored either by the school or the organization I’m going through (MSSN UI or Law LDS). It helps to focus on just giving my best performance where it matters most.”
On the other hand, Emmanuel, the UI Scrabble club captain who although attested to the allowance gotten from the NUGA Games explained that his other tournament had been self sponsored.
“For the NUGA, yes, we received total support from the UI management. But for my other tournaments, it was self sponsorship.”