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Defining a PhD Celebration with Tears and Joy

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I would like to start from the beginning about how I got decorated with the Doctor of Philosophy in Literature and Creative Writing. Dear friends, please, bear with me as I narrate this tale.

It started at Prophet Adeoye Street, Ijeshatedo, Lagos state. We lived in a crummy flat, where the toilets flushed after drinking buckets of water, where the compound’s well provided water for cooking and shower. The front served as our pitch for various games: four-man post, STOP, sùwè, catcher, police & thief, rubber, tyre and football. My childhood friends, Osezele and Jawando never missed out.

 

Amidst these games, we held tall dreams. For me, I wanted to be a Jordan or a Jackson or a Miller, that’s all. I played every sport because I believed sports men and women displayed discipline and riches. Daddy put me in Pepsi Football Academy at Bode Thomas where I honed my skills for distributing passes from the middle of the field.

 

But, daddy and mummy always thought the best way to be a responsible human was to go to school. They frowned at too much football and turned our focus to schoolwork. There was no day daddy didn’t talk about reading or working hard. He usually quipped: “you have to read like you want to die; nothing is easy.” He showed us how: he studied for ICAN and CIIN under the dubious glow of the lantern and generous chorus of Ijesha’s mosquitoes.

Our house was guided and led by daddy and mummy. All I knew at that time was daddy worked from about 4am till 10pm everyday except Sunday. He read from 1am or from midnight till work time. While mummy stopped her regular job just to take care of us.

 

Nazareth Nursery and Primary School was down the road. That’s where the academic sojourn started. It was there I discovered the beauty of playing with words and that’s where I met Uncle Monday. Uncle Monday said “you can write but you need to pay more attention to editing” and at other times, uncle Monday will beat me up for failing to do the maths homework “properly”.

 

In primary four, my report card revealed my position thusly: “17th out of 46”. I showed mummy first. Her face morphed into a fire stand like that of the logo of Nazareth. “Osi,” she started, “your daddy go kee you today. Wetin be this?” I didn’t know what to say. Sure enough, daddy returned early from work then asked for my report card. On seeing the report, daddy unleashed the best beating on me then followed it with an advice: “you must do well next time. Now, go and start reading.”

 

I don’t know if it’s the report card that made dad trash me dangerously with his belt or the fact that he borrowed some money to pay fees and I still messed up. Till today I don’t know.

But, next term, the report card reported “3rd out of 47”. I can remember Uncle Popoye and Uncle Bada saying, “the guy is brilliant, he just needs to reduce his playfulness.”

 

I can’t. The playfulness gives me joy, it’s my life; it’s what has got me in and out of trouble.

 

I finished that primary school experience then headed to Obalende, St. Gregory’s College, first three years was a call to claim the position of top class. My friends Anietie Udoh and Bar. Martin Okomah and I competed. We wanted to know who could read the most novels. I brought books from daddy’s library to furnish the group. I was tending towards the nerdy group until I got into my senior secondary years and we moved to Marsha, kilo when the nerdy me went south.

 

I had found basketball at Obalende and went on to pursue it with a passion but when things didn’t work out as planned, the street snatched me for a while. I wouldn’t say I regretted anything because it was a learning curve.

 

Academic life drained from me fast, as my focus deviated. In addition, JAMB was jamming her low scores into my body. No school wanted me then. I had applied for law and fine art but UNILAG and UNIBEN thought I was too dull because my jamb scores were low.

 

Somehow, I found myself at UNIPORT studying basic economics. Friends, I don’t know what I was doing there. I just wanted to be in school because I was getting into too much trouble than the neighbourhood could handle. UNIPORT was a short stint as nothing came out of it.

 

Fortunately, Covenant University came in line and that’s where, believe it or not, I figured this whole thing called life out. First two years, as always, was involved in play. My friends, Dalhatu, Sam, Bitrus, and others and I were everywhere in town from Ota, Ogun state to Options, Ikeja almost every weekend. My report card made my teachers and even one of my uncles use the harshest of words to describe me.

 

The F’s came in like a beautiful bride. She prepared the bed and served me a sour meal.

 

The words to describe me then usually ended negatively. My family and true friends like Frank and Ronald encouraged me with their words of positivity and more importantly, they encouraged me with their ethos and work ethic.

 

Year three, I doubled up my academic engagement and was able to stumble out of he school with a good grade.

Then landed a job at UBA. The work was, to put it simply, nonsensical and another level of slavery. It was while doing this job that I decided to go for extra studies.

At Kingston University, London, I got one of the best results. I realised that if I applied myself diligently to anything, I come out with glorious results. It was at Kingston that I met my new brothers Sam Faulkner and Henry, they taught me about patience and love.

 

Playing hard and working hard is me. My friends and family appreciate me for who I am. This has been the propelling fire that has kept me going.

 

Plus, without the journey to this town, my motivation and monsheri wouldn’t have found me. They too bore the burden of my academic sojourn. With them, I realise that I can always weave through the hurdles of life.

My PhD journey is captured here in another article. I’m a glowing example of imperfect perfection and I know my mistakes and I keep learning from them.

As I walked on that stage to be decorated by my chancellor, I’m reminded of my family who stood by me when so many people kept throwing the stones of doubt and negativity my way, as I walked on that stage today, I’m reminded of friends who invested their time and resources in all my endeavours, as I walked up on that stage today, I’m reminded that there’s more to be done in terms of building my businesses and academic career and I’m reminded that a single achievement is normally achieved best with the right team.

I’m reminded more importantly of my parents’ contributions and God’s blessings.

 

I don’t know why it seems that the air is filled with peeled onions. I know deep inside what this means to me. Cursed, and almost kicked out of the program but, I’m still standing here. The values learnt will keep me going.

 

From Ijesha, Lagos to Cambridge, U.K. is a long tale I will tell one day through a book. But, today, I appreciate life and family and true friends and every situation.

 

I welcome you to follow me on twitter @moshoke

 

 

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Literary author, experienced technical author and a creative writer with a passion for literature and how words work. Michael holds a PhD in creative writing and is a distinguished fellow of the Higher Education Academy, U.K.

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