Continued from Letter 7.
I gained admission into Unilag’s direct entry diploma program quite easily. Unlike the UME exam, the diploma exam was uneventful, and I aced it. But it wasn’t enough. I’d made a deal with myself about getting two admissions and it had now become a matter of need. I waited with bated breath for the UME result and hoped against hope that some kind of miracle would take place. Perhaps angels would finish up the exam for me, or they would mark my scripts, or they would make the person marking to make a mistake – I made up all kinds of scenarios of supernatural intervention that would lead to my scoring my target 310 score.
I scored 274. Again, everyone congratulated me, but somehow the score made the entire situation worse; I couldn’t stop imagining what I would’ve scored if I’d been allowed to finish. No doubt I’d have hit and probably surpassed my target! To make things even worse, I scored 34 in math. Meaning that of the 19 questions I was allowed to answer, I got 17 right. I was beside myself with anger. My parents tried to talk me out of it without much success.
Unilag had just introduced their Post-UME exam and I'd done very well in it, so I hoped that, combined with my 274 UME score, it would be enough to get me a place on the admissions list.
It wasn’t. I don’t remember the exact UME cut-off score for Economics that year, but it was slightly higher than 274. Possibly 279 or 282.
The first admissions list came out and my name was not on it. A fellow church member friend of my dad’s, who also happened to be a lecturer at Unilag, advised my parents to give it up and make me write the JAMB exam again the following year, after all “people write jamb multiple times” and “17 is a little too young to be starting University, anyway.” Oddly enough, this fellow’s son, the same age as me, was starting Uni that year. I remember my mother wondering aloud whether early university education was the exclusive privilege of boys or lecturers’ children.
One Tuesday evening a couple of weeks after this, we attended church service and this same fellow found us after to inform us (a little too happily), that a second and final list was about to be released, and my name was not on it. That night as soon as we got home, I locked myself in my room, put on a worship CD, turned off the lights and lay on the floor. I let the songs wash over me, unable to pray, cry, or do anything. I just lay there.
Then track 4 started to play and the room changed. I felt a presence descend into my room. I can’t quite describe it. It wasn’t anything I saw (my eyes stayed close) or heard – I just knew. When I describe this story to myself (and I’ve done so many times in the years that have followed), I say God came into my room. When I tell others, I say it felt like God came into my room. The song finished and the atmosphere eased, but I stayed put for a few minutes before I could get up. No words were spoken, or visions seen, but I knew. The presence “said” to me, “it’s done.” I put quote marks on said because there was no voice or any humanly-explainable way the message was passed. All I know is, when I lay down, I didn’t think I would get in, but when I got up, I knew I had gotten in.
The next day, the second list was published, and my name wasn’t on it. This gave me pause because I was convinced that based on my experience the previous night, my name would be on the list. Perhaps the lecturer fellow had seen a wrong/incomplete list, perhaps an angel would include my name on the list – I didn’t know how exactly but I was sure my name would be there. So, I was momentarily taken aback when it wasn’t. But I remembered. I remembered the experience from the previous night and my faith came back. I knew I would get my second admission. There were rumours of a 3rd list being released, so I figured that’s how it would happen.
Weeks passed and nothing came. Diploma classes started and my parents paid the fees and urged me to attend classes so as not to lose out both ways. They argued that the program followed the same curriculum as the Year One class so I could easily switch classes if the UME admission came through later on. This made sense to me so I started to attend diploma classes but as a symbol of my faith/defiance I refused to take any notes. I didn’t even buy notebooks. When anyone asked I told them I was waiting for my UME admission but attending diploma classes anyway. I must’ve looked like a crazy person. But I knew what I knew.
One Monday morning I got to class, and first semester exam dates and timetable were announced. Somehow seeing those exam dates on the board jolted me to reality. I had exams in a few weeks, and I didn’t even have any notes because I was stubbornly holding on to a silly dream. Wasn’t that just pride? People would give anything to have any admission at all, yet here I was being ungrateful. I gave myself this pep talk as I walked from my faculty building to the bookstore that morning. I was finally going to get notes and get my act together. It was time to accept and settle into the diploma program so I could do well and get direct entry into the Year 2 class.
I was just about to go into the bookstore when my phone started to ring. I picked up and it was a friend from diploma class, shrieking, out of breath;
“Ada! Ada!! Ada your name is on the board! YOUR NAME IS ON THE BOARD!”
Suru: Your name is on the board! They've just released another list and your name is here!
As I write this, I’m taken back to that moment and crying all over again. I ran all the way back to the faculty and looked at the board for myself. It was an A4 sheet of paper with an underlined heading and a list of about 10 – 12 names. Apparently, Unilag had decided to give admission to the top scorers in their Post-UME exam. Still disbelieving that this was actually happening – it seemed more probable that someone irritated by my faith was trying to prank me – Suru (her name was on the list as well) and I walked to the course adviser’s office to verify. We introduced ourselves and our mission, and the first thing he said was “congratulations.”
You know what made it even more mind blowing? That was the first and only time Unilag brought out an admissions list of people who’d scored highly in the post-UME exam. Never before, never after.
Over the years I’ve referred to this experience many, many times when I’ve found myself facing seemingly impossible situations. It’s become one of the altars in my life, reminding me that I belong to a God who created an entire admissions list for me. Thinking about it, if I’d scored my target 310 score, I wouldn’t have had this experience. I’d have missed out on this moment in time where the God of the universe met me.