Never too late to learn: A thought on Theo and Hameed’s feat

I wish to congratulate two of my colleagues in journalism and members of our WhatsApp news-group on their unique feat of bagging doctorate degrees yesterday, i.e. Theophilus Abbah and Hameed Bello. I have worked with Abbah years ago when I was Editor of Leadership daily and he came in as Editor of Leadership Sunday. Hameed is a friend whose path and mine crossed many times in the course of our work.

Both guys have obtained these third degrees from the University of Abuja, Abuja.

Abbah wrote on Facebook yesterday: “Today,  I translated from being Mr Abbah to Dr Theophilus Abbah. Ten professors in the Department of English of the University of Abuja and an external examiner, a professor from Benue State University, certified that my PhD thesis is scholarly and that I have orally defended it  for the award of the highest academic degree. For me,  it’s a journey  through hell but I give glory to God.” And Bello wrote today: “Good news. Special greetings to all. This is to inform you that after a tough but successful final  defence yesterday, the University of Abuja has recommended Senate to award me a PhD in Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Language and Ideology. Alhamdulilah.”

Joyous news indeed. I am happy for them. I had known from both, a few years ago, that they had begun their courses of study. I knew it was an uphill task. How time flies!

Now their enviable achievement has got me thinking. Abbah was until recently the Managing Editor of Daily Trust and is now the CEO of, his online investigative newspaper. Hameed is the Editor/CEO of the Peoples Daily. This shows that they are extremely busy people but that did not stop them from pursuing the golden fleece to the highest level. This is a clear challenge to those of us who think we are too busy or too contented with our level to go back to school.

Of note, also, is the fact that both gentlemen pursued their PhD courses at a conventional institution of learning rather than a distance learning university such as NOUN (the only one of its kind in Nigeria). Which made their educational pursuit all the more challenging. It reflects the need for us to also go back to school as soon as possible. If one can’t go to a conventional university, there is an easy choice in the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) which affords one the opportunity to gain a higher degree in spite of a busy schedule.

So, I advise my friends to dust off those BAs, MAs, BScs, MScs, etc., and seek a higher level of education. One is never too old to study some more. Only this year, the octogenarian Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President, bagged a PhD in Christian Theology from NOUN. And I know there are many old men and women studying at NOUN and other places.

It is not about using the higher degrees to look for work. It is both about seeking deeper knowledge and attaining further accomplishments in life. A good example is Obasanjo who is no longer looking for anything in life except the good life and his notorious sport – politics!

And don’t say you have no time or money! It has nothing to do with that. The time you spend on some otherwise frivolous engagements – such as on the social media, gossiping, clubbing or even in bed – could be put to better use. No time? Create it.

Also, nothing comes easy. Make the necessary sacrifice. Remember what Theo says in the above quotation: “For me, it’s a journey through hell.” Nothing good comes easy, so says the old cliché.

Today I recall, with pain, my own attempt to pursue a PhD study. It was in 1997 when I was working at the New Nigerian Newspapers in Kaduna. I travelled to Zaria and bought the postgraduate study application form at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). Back home, I filled it, got referrals and attached all the relevant documents. Having obtained M.A. in Journalism Studies from Cardiff University three years earlier, my desire for higher education was still hot. But returning my application form to Zaria proved difficult. I had no time, or so I thought. It was about 15 years later that I saw my ABU application form tucked away among some papers. Had I pursued an academic life, I could have become a professor by then as, indeed, some of my mates did. I felt sad.

There was even a time I thought I had no need for any additional degree because I wrongly regarded it as “qualification”. What did I need it for? I had almost reached the zenith of my career in the media, I thought. A higher degree – for what?

My perception has since changed. It may have to do with my present station, working in a university.

However, I am even busier today than when I bought the ABU form. But wiser. Wise enough to know that the only time one doesn’t have, really, is all the time in the world. That is to say life is short. So, the best time one has is today, today.

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