Tobi, the daughter of Apostle Lawrence Achudume, General Overseer of Victory Life Bible Church, Abeokuta, Ogun bagged a doctoral degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from the prestigious American Graduate School, Paris, France at just 26.
The former student of Lawson Group of Schools and TAIDOB College, Abeokuta, had her first degree in the same discipline from Benson Idahosa University (BIU), Benin, Edo State. She earned a Masters degree in International Relations in a UK university before proceeding to France for the doctoral programme which she started in September 2016 and completed in June, 2020. She spoke with Online Editor Sunday Oguntola on her motivation and academic feats. Excerpts:
You have gone through Nigerian and foreign curriculum. What’s the experience like?
It’s been a good experience for me, actually. Our education curriculum is good but it is always good to improve. We could add more practicality to the curriculum and make it more relatable to the jobs available in the market.
In terms of facility and infrastructure for learning, do you think Nigeria is doing well? If no, where do you think the focus should be on?
The inclusion of technology in Nigeria institutions will help a lot. The world has gone global and so we should as well. It’s not going to be a fast switch but a slow and steady one would be great also. Computers and access to information should be a need and not luxury.
What motivate you to study abroad and what are the areas do you think Nigeria need to improve on as far as education is concern.
The main intention for studying abroad was to have another experience with education different from Nigeria. UK seemed to be the closest and so I went for it. For france, it was basically to be exposed to a different language and culture. For a good career in international relations, knowledge of more that one language goes a long way.
Let’s go back a bit to your formal schooling…
The Lawson Group of Schools and TAIDOB College remains two great schools that prepared me for academic greatness in life. I started my formal education; nursery and primary education at Lawson and later had three years junior secondary in TAIDOB College. I thereafter went back to Lawson for my last three years secondary education, which I completed as an Arts student. I wrote and passed the West African Examination Council Senior School Certificate Examination in flying colours. The result facilitated my admission into the university. I had my first degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from Benson Idahosa University (BIU) Benin the Edo State capital, which I completed in 2013/2014.
Why International Relations and Diplomacy?
I was fascinated by a representation of a diplomat which I watched on a television programme, after which I was counselled about it and I thanked God that I chose it as a course of study. As an art student, one of the courses that I could study aside for what I eventually settled for was Law, which I did not really wanted to study because as a person I see it as a more restrictive course which I don’t like. So, I settled for a more diversified and broad course for my first, second degrees. I then decided to go all the way by studying it for my doctoral programme. I must confess as a secondary school student, it has always been my dream to either be a lawyer or a diplomat!. First, God made it possible and secondly my parents and siblings, who who were always there, supporting and encouraging me through counselling, guidance as well as spiritually and economically to be what I wanted to be in life.
What helped you in achieving your life time ambition of being a diplomat?
I had good support of teaching systems during my secondary education, particularly from the Lawson Group of schools where I ended my secondary education. I must pay kudos to some of the teachers that I passed through their tutelage. Also, particular mention must be made of Chief (Mrs.) Alaba Lawson, the proprietress of the Lawson Group of Schools whose leadershop, discipline, hardworking, time management and other motivating quotes were always inspiring. The rules that we have in Lawson were those that could set one up for mental growth”.
Why France for your PhD?
I chose to come to Paris because I wanted to learn the French Language. I wanted to be in a place where I could improve on speaking and understanding the language. On the other hand, I chose the school because, it is a specialised one that’s focused on International Relations and Diplomacy. It is an environment where you are sure that you’re getting the best of the course of study in the world.
How much of French do you speak now?
I must confess that I’m not as fluent as I would like to be yet but I’m more fluent in the language than before. As regards adaptation of foreign student like me into the French system, I must be sincere that my first year was more challenging. It was a period that a foreign student like me realised that the French we all know is not what it’s spoken in France.
How did you cope as a foreign student with the French culture?
It was initially difficult for me particularly when I had my Masters degree in the UK but later, like other foreign students, I adapted to the culture as an individual as well as collectively with my colleagues. Let me tell you that I was the only Nigerian student during the programme.
Why did you choose the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria as your thesis?
I received maximum cooperation from my supervisors on the eventual topic as it went through many changes.
What advice do you have for Nigerian students in foreign countries?
I will advise that whatever it is that they want to do, please pursue it vigorously, not because someone wants you to do it. What I have learnt during this programme was that honestly speaking If the course had been forced on me, I could probably not have completed it. I would have quit long time ago.
What day would you describe as unforgettable during the course of study and why happened?
I had several unforgettable movements and days but the particular one that stands out and remains unforgettable was during the defence period but I thank God that I sailed through.
After PhD, what next?
There are so many thoughts of what to do next but I pray for guidance and direction from God. But among my plans is to go into academic, specifically sharing my knowledge of education in Africa, United Kingdom and France with my prospective students. With my first degree in Nigeria, second degree in the United Kingdom and the Ph.D in France, I have seen different educational curricula in different countries that prepare me for academic in the nearest future. Going into academia will allow me put together the good part of the educational system and help students to learn in the best way they could.
How soon will you be ready for Mr. Right? He could be a foreigner, right?
My husband will come from where God wants him to come from. I have learnt a lot from my parents’ marriage. One of them is the fact that your spouse does not necessarily have to be from the same tribe with you before you can make a good marriage and progress in life. I’m not very choosy about where Mr. Right would come from as long he’s the one God plans for me. How soon? As soon as the Lord says it’s time.
As daughter of two ministers, of God in what ways did prayers help you during the programme?
Prayers, they say, is a master key. I thank God that I did not stumble on the course but rather it was a God-given purpose just as I always have a the back of my mind that as daughter of two great, servents of God, I could not afford to fail. So, I really relied on God, my parents, prayers to fight my occassional frustrations along the course of study. I’ve realised early in life that challenges are necessary steps to be taken in order for one to attaining greatness in life.