Nigerians are exceptionally wonderful; with a knack for excellence in whatever they do. This reality has further been proven by one Nigerian media practitioner whose adventure from Food Technology to Journalism has left many agog. It is no longer news that Oluwamayowa Tijani, a Nigerian Chevening scholar, bagged ‘Distinction’ in his master’s programme at the University of Sussex. In an exclusive interview with The Transverse’s Adeyemi Ayeku, ‘Mayowa who studied ‘Media Practice for Development and Social Change’ reveals among other things, how he intends to impact media practice in Nigeria and the world at large with the knowledge at his disposal. Enjoy the excerpts below:
TT: Having a distinction couldn’t have come easy. How did you do it?
MT: I didn’t do it. Jesus makes everything beautiful in His time. I just yielded myself to the process, and everything I’ve learnt before Sussex culminated into a distinction – hard work, smart work, consistency, love, passion, laziness, procrastination, lack of excuses and all. Let me just say I had no reason or I gave myself no reason to do less. I had all Nigeria couldn’t give me, and I had immense grace from God. The rest, they say, is history.
TT: Your course of study was “Media Practice for Development and Social Change”. Having excelled in this, what impact do you intend to make with it in media practice in the Nigerian society?
MT: This course was so deliberate for me. When I was to go for my master’s, I had one thirst: How does the media drive development in the world and how can we leverage that in Nigeria. So I just simply googled masters in media for development and I saw Media Practice for Development and Social Change at the University of Sussex. Later, I found out University of Sussex was, is, the best university for Development Studies anywhere in the world. Harvard was second, so I knew this was it.
Then I applied and was not disappointed. Now, on one of my modules (or what we call courses in Nigeria), I learnt how the media can drive activism and consequent challenge on the system, and of course, come development. While on that module, I started putting what I learnt to use, and my reporting led to Lazy Nigerian Youths hashtag that shook the whole country at the time. In fact, I was to have the class for that module on the day I went for the Commonwealth Head of the Government Meeting (CHOGM 2018). I bridged town and gown (what I learnt in school and the real Nigerian reality) and voila, everyone is talking about the trend. There’s a Wikipedia page on this that explains my role in it better. So, it is not how I intend to make impact, it’s how I have been making the impact, one bit at a time.
While working on my dissertation, I worked on a movement, which I still plan to pursue in the interest of Nigeria. While still in UK, I wrote a policy document on how the media can better report and handle elections and elections build up in Nigeria. Just one of my many recommendations was the live Fact Check of political debates, which we, at TheCable, introduced into the political landscape in Nigeria.
We had the first one during the VP debate and the second one, during the presidential debate. The experience from the first one made politicians more careful at every debate afterwards; so, I think we are making the impact, no matter how little.
TT: Was there any form of reward from the institution for your excellence?
MT: Excellence of course is greatly rewarded in the UK. My excellence on this programme was greatly rewarded with extremely high quality opportunities: from fellowships to PhD opportunities, to any other form of personal and professional development. All these are available now, the question will be, what next do I want? So, excellence is worth here, and I’d say in Nigeria too. Just that the scales are different.
TT: Having drunk from the spring of both Nigerian and UK educations, what can you say about the former in relation to the latter and what changes do you think can be effected to make the former relevant in the real world?
MT: Sincerely yours, there is as much difference as there is similarity, between both systems. What do I mean? I mean Nigeria is not as bad as we make ourselves believe, but it is far from how good we also think it is. The major differences are the people, the thought patterns, and the freedom to be creative. Once, I visited one of my lecturers in her office, to get more clarification on one of my assignments. I met another two or three other students there. There was no space to seat. She offered me her seat, offered another student her visitors’ chair, and sat on the floor. I was stunned. It’s simple, but the message was clear, they put the student first – the student is king. In Nigeria, the lecturer is god, and the student is a slave; this does not encourage learning.
Secondly, the facilities. If Nigerian universities had 24 hour power supply and 24 hour internet, the possibilities are endless. My first month at Sussex, I used 82 gigabytes of internet data. I can’t try that in Nigeria. With good accommodation, constant power and internet, access to academic journals for “free”, Nigerian students in Nigeria will connect with the world and do wonders.
Finally, the freedom to be creative. A classmate of mine submitted his debut rap album, which he finished in school, and a critical analysis of music for development, as his master’s thesis. It is one of the most remarkable academic works I have ever seen. The freedom to do something like that is limited in Nigeria.
I studied media for development, but I had the freedom to go to another “faculty” to pick a course in Irregular Warfare, because I wanted to understand Boko Haram. The paper I wrote from that course has gained attention from across the world. I had a need, the school didn’t box me up, it allowed me explore and learn on my needs. Today, I am better for it, Nigeria is better for it, and the world will be better for it.