By Mercy Hill
There is a popular saying among young people that it is better to work smart than to work hard, for smart work yields more productive results than hard work. Smart work, when combined with talent is capable of shooting one beyond the skies.
Here is the story of Rebecca, a talented young enthusiast who has carved a niche for herself in Media and Communications. She is the founder of beccadiaries.com an enthusiastic writer with a soft spot for factions. A RubyWrites 2016 finalist. She has also completed several freelance writing projects, including BBC Media Action’s Drama series, Story Story (series 32 & 33),a lecturer with the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She is also a Kashim Ibrahim Fellow with the Kaduna State Government (as SA to the Executive Governor).
My name is Rebecca Maulome Padonu from Badagry local government of Lagos State. I am from a family of 9 (parents inclusive). I am the 4th child, a middle born – I’ve got 3 older ones, 3 younger ones, (3 sisters and 3 brothers). My dad is an artist while mum is a classroom teacher.
I am from a Christian background where father asks if you’ve read your bible before asking if you’ve eaten for the day. I had my primary education in a Muslim Primary School, a place I was occasionally disciplined for not doing the right things, – for Christ’s sake, I’m a Christian. But yeah, that unique exposure contributed to a lot about me today.
I had my secondary education in Badagry Grammar School and a stint as a boarding student in Yewa Secondary school, Ogun state.
How was it like gaining admission into the university?
After my secondary education in 2008, with my first JAMB score of 210, I had planned to secure admission immediately and graduate at the age of 21, – little did I know that 21 will be my age at the point of admission.
Later in 2009, I was 17 and realized that most of my friends were already in the university just the way we planned it. I didn’t make it the previous year, neither did I sit for JAMB the following year (2009). I told my parents about my desire to be in school just as my friends. In fact, I narrated my many dreams about the university, but my parents won’t take me seriously. They only advised that I await JAMB opening for 2009/2010 academic session and I wouldn’t have any of that.
I was working in a computer engineering firm and could afford a form, so, I purchased a distant learning form and presented it to my mum. She looked at me and from that moment, knew that I was dead serious. She paid me back the money for the form and started making inquiries for a diploma course somewhere before JAMB will be out.
I found myself in a bus to Ahmadu Bello University Zaria where I will study Diploma in Mass Communication for the next 2 years. It was my first time travelling over 20 hrs by road. My first time leaving the South-west to any other part of Nigeria. So, there sat an 18-year-old daring young lady, making that journey alone. I encountered armed robbery attack for the first time and misplaced my luggage containing my clothes, shoes, foodstuffs, photo album, 6-year-old diary and bible. Did I mention documenting my life every day until my diary became an Ababio? Yes! I did, until I misplaced it on April 10th, 2010 at Zaria Flyover, popularly called Kwangila.
While studying Mass communication (diploma), I applied for same course but didn’t get the admission. By that time people had congratulated me ahead for having an average of 258 where the cutoff point was 190.
After diploma graduation in December 2011. I knew going back home wasn’t a part of my plan because I left Lagos to be a degree holder. So, I renewed my apartment off campus and took up a job as a classroom teacher in Gods Time Comprehensive Secondary School, Zaria. That year, I sat for JAMB again and this time, I got lucky.
How were you able to graduate with a first-class Degree?
I can’t tell this story without going back to my diploma days. Having resumed late in 2010, I decided to put in extra efforts. I remember reading in Sodom and Gomorrah, the longest corridor in ABU, where couples hangout – and everyone laughed at me for doing so. That didn’t discourage me though, maybe I only changed location. At the end of the semester, I was the only student on distinction and I led my class till 2011, graduating as the best student.
This gave me confidence in my ability to study and be an ”A” student. Fast forward to 2012/2013, studying Theatre and Performing Arts never came easy because it is a department where your practical and theory will be judged to be any kind of student at all.
I gave in to a lot early because I love to be engaged: I started working with students ahead of my class on film making, stage plays, writing and very active in the church fellowship. I intentionally cut down on social activities, my circle was very small. Also, ‘library’ became my second home and my course mates will jokingly call me that. The fact that I do so many things at the same time made me cultivate the habit of creating schedules daily to keep me organized. I do not joke with school work because I know that what is worth doing is worth doing well. In summary:
I studied hard to develop myself
I didn’t joke with my CAs or any academic activity
I had a personal timetable
I walked and worked with the right people. Those who motivate me to be more
I prayed for success
I was intentional about all I did, and God crowned my efforts with success, graduating with a first class and the best student Faculty of Arts 2015/2016 academic session.
There Were challenges?
Oh yes, there were. There were so many things to be done at the same time and they were all calling for my attention. Financially down in my early years too.
But I was able to overcome those challenges
I worked with a personalized time table where I highlight activities for the day and ultimately, I prioritized my activities for each day and week alike. For financial issues, I lived within my means and started going for private productions which helped gradually. And in 300level, a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), contract paid my bills greatly.
Graduating with a first-class honor, couldn’t have been an easy task especially in a university like that. Were you sure of a first class or did it come as a surprise to you?
To be sincere, all I wanted to be was an excellent child. My mum is a classroom teacher and she expected nothing less than excellence. My parents had mentioned that they will send us to school, but it was left to us to make the best of it. The struggles of my childhood were the necessary fuel I needed to succeed in life. I was determined to make them proud but didn’t know a first class will come with it especially with my kind of discipline (Theatre), getting a first class won’t come easy. So, when it came, it was a dream come true, a bit of surprise.
What were your dreams and aspiration while leaving the University?
I wanted to be a lot, do a lot and visit a lot of places. I wanted to hit the ground running and be all that I can. I started applying for so many openings immediately I graduated and at first, waiting for NYSC delayed me from going all out and I just engaged in a bit of writings here and there.
During my service year at Akwa-Ibom state, my dreams of getting better, equipping myself in order to impact lives rejuvenated. I’m aware that my country isn’t running as it should be, and that gave me more courage to start developing myself to make Nigeria a better place.
After you graduated was securing a job from a good organization easy? Judging you were top in your class?
I don’t think topping a class directly translates to topping the life out there. I know I carry a lot within me but I’m also aware that there is need to build capacity in order to do more. The struggle out here is fresh and real.
The eagerness to be more, pushed me to start applying for scholarships and fellowship programmes while serving in Akwa-Ibom State. I met setbacks like every other, but I persevered because I believe I can get anything I put my mind to.
What are you doing presently?
Hahahaha….I am such a mosaic soul. Currently, I am a Kashim Ibrahim Fellow with the Kaduna State Government (as SA to the Executive Governor). It’s a one-year leadership training experience for Nigerian youths – preparing us as the next generation of leaders, a member of the inaugural set which are 16 in number. Also, a freelance script writer (Radio and TV scripts). I delved into film making too and I just produced a short movie last month.
I started a personal blog in January this year where I tell stories about what I do – @ www.beccadiaries.com
I got an appointment to lecture in the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, ABU Zaria, in December last year. This is a dream come true.
I would say I have been able to mentor people, especially…
I love to watch people grow and I’ll share one with you. Shola Babalola got admission into Theatre and Performing Arts, ABU Zaria when I was in 200level. He was particularly impressed by my CGPA at the time and we became friends. At the long run, he led his class all through and was able to make a first class too. In fact, he has also applied for the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship Programme – he humorously calls me his mentor.
I have got so many mentors
I have more than one mentor, basically because I do a lot. They are; Mal Nasiru El-rufai – Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Dr. Orode Doherty – A US Board-Certified Pediatrician and Public Health Practitioner, Dr Ola Ifatimehin – HOD Theatre Arts Department, BUK
My greatest achievement in life?
My greatest achievement is the opportunity to have gone to school. The networks I’m currently building and many platforms I have graced as a result of my education.
I have failed in many ventures and felt like giving up.
One of those experiences, hmmm, Oh my God! Was while serving in Akwa Ibom State, a friend introduced me to a fellowship programme application which I opted for and got interviewed. This went well until the interviewer asked if I can consider staying back in Uyo for extra four months after Passing Out Parade (POP). Being that I have planned out how my days after NYSC will look like, I told her it will only be possible if the programme is worth it after all. But, later that day, I had a rethink and sent her a text, and she replied that “my supervisor thinks it’s too risky to have you on the team”. Afterwards, nothing I said could convince her.
I tried another application about 2 months later and didn’t make it too (I tried a couple more as well). I was heartbroken; I had sleepless nights thinking about what that first fellowship I missed, because of my response (so I think), could have helped me achieve. All these I was doing amidst the plenty activities at my PPA, CDS and personal project. I blamed myself all the time to have caused the first rejection.
Barely 3 months to NYSC POP, another application came up and it’s the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship (a Leadership/Governance training platform in Kaduna State). I got the information very late and was only able to submit on the application closing date. But I gave it all my best. Long story short, I am now a Kashim Ibrahim Fellow (KIF) with a job placement as SA to the Governor of Kaduna State. I now understand that the rejection only made me stronger.
My family and upbringing played vital roles in my success and career
Being a product of a humble background, I have always challenged myself to do better than the generations before me. I’m particularly blessed to have these lovely people in my life. They give me the right push always. They are my drug in the right dose. We bond so much and relate on all levels. We get to share experiences, celebrate one another and inspire in same vain. I love them dearly.
My message for the Youths out there
Is that youths should always learn to separate right from wrong – and stand for the right things. They should know that anything can be achieved once conceived. Remember that smart work will beat talent each time talent relents.
Ultimately, let’s all work towards making Nigeria great again.
Thank you so much Miss Rebecca it was a nice time hanging out with you.
You are welcome