Interview with a Role Model

Some days ago, I happened to catch an interview with a representative of PTDF (Petroleum Technology Development Fund) on the radio. I reckon he is the head or a senior officer there. PTDF does a lot of projects to build capacity in Nigeria but it is most popular for its Overseas Scholarship Scheme (OSS).

The issue being discussed was that some candidates who are offered a local (non overseas) scholarship tend to decline the offer. I am not sure if its a full scholarship (tuition, accommodation and maintenance) or not but it seems it is. It also seems like some unsuccessful candidates of the OSS are offered the local scholarship. These uncertainties I am positing here will become clear (or irrelvant as the case may be) after you read the next section.

The Interview

Let us assume the speaker is the head of the PTDF. The following is what the speaker said (not verbatim) highlighting all the points I found interesting.

Speaker:

Our youths are hindered by grandiose ambitions. When they fail to get a chance to go overseas and study, they despair. They decline offers for lucrative local scholarship. These days everybody wants to go abroad and study. This generation dose not value education, they just want to live a fantasy life abroad. Let me tell you about my story which illustrates this point and hopefully, our youth can learn from it.

I graduated from a local university with a Bachelors degree. I applied for a Masters degree via scholarship in a prominent university in London called Imperial College. I was granted the scholarship… but it was a half scholarship. Therefore it covered only my tuition, I had to fund my accommodation and living expenses. I tried all my options but I could not raise the amount I needed to show as proof for visa application. And that was how I forfeited the scholarship.

I did not despair nor wallow. I applied for Masters at the university of Benin. I studied there and got awarded my Masters degree.

Twenty years later now I am in this office. I visit the UK often. We have a number of scholars we send to Imperial College every year. Now every time I visit Imperial College, the Vice Chancellor only need be informed I am around and he will come down to greet/meet me.

The lesson is simple. The same Imperial College which I couldn’t get into, is the same one that now treats me with so much respect when I visit. Don’t be disillusioned about going overseas. If you really want to study then your focus won’t be on overseas but on education.

The Lessons in Summary

  1. Power is good. Aim to get into a position of power; the type that may attract sycophancy.
  2. Focus on Education, not the temptations of being overseas. You can do that later. Be patient.

Three Things Wrong with the Anecdote

The gist of the anecdote is thematically covered in pride and conceit. The experience captured is contrary to the lesson youths are to derive from it. In fact the two lessons are not complimentary but almost antagonistic. However, when I tell these stories to people, many don’t seem to see the fault/inconsistencies in it because it is in a language that many Nigerians understand; conceit. Imagine how many listeners of the programs got encouraged by this “inspirational” story. This is the same language “leaders” propagate in Nigeria. The dialectics and discourse are in conceit-perpetrating cycle.

The second issue further buries the importance of quality education beneath the quest to achieve a certificate; aka Masters Degree. It should be noted that Imperial College is indeed one of the best universities one could hope to graduate from; a leading university in the world. The anecdote makes the simple equation that Masters in Imperial College is no better than Masters in University of Benin. Therefore encouraging the ubiquitous Nigerian attitude that a “degree is a degree”. I am not so much concerned with the name “Imperial College” on the certificate but rather on the academic environment one is exposed to at Imperial College.

The final defect of the anecdote is that it assumes that the Nigerian University System is stable and even healthy. In fact, the last nationwide university strike was called off a month (or two) ago. To be fair; he mentioned that because of the way the government has handled the latest strike, the universities are unlikely to go on strike for the next ten years. Given the Federal Universities’ precedence, every Nigerian has earned the right to dismiss such comments instantly.

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