By Dr Michael Irene|

Trust me when I say this, PhD is hard. When, in January 2012, I started the program, I didn’t anticipate what was coming. In November of the same year, a shocker came: my first supervisor resigned without informing me, and a new one was assigned.

The new supervisor read my work and responded, “No. This is not a PhD! I can’t supervise this.” I looked at her, zoned out for some seconds and watched as her mouth moved furiously until my ears caught this punch-line, “you’ve got to change your topic, Michael, that is,” she continued, “if you want to remain in this program.”

I could not believe it. Ten months of research and writing and this is what I get. That’s when Mary Mary’s song, “Can’t Give Up Now crept into my head.

I started again. I submitted ten new topics and finally, we decided to go for the appropriate one.

Year two, everything was going on fine or, so I thought. New supervisor, after reading my first submission, was mad about the quality of the draft (A draft must be free from grammatical errors, she argued. Choi!) She sent an email to the Director of Research, in which I was copied, saying, “Michael’s writing is not of PhD standard. I think he needs to be advised to withdraw or settle for the MPhil.” I read the email five times, I remember that day, and I recall the taste of salt water rolling into my mouth. What can I do? Who do I speak to?

I called my brother in Naija and he says “Na jeje monkey sit down, wey you go climb him back. But, I know you. You go find way out.” I only thought about his monkey analogy. It is true, I was literally sitting on a monkey’s back, and this PhD-monkey tossed me around recklessly, up, down and sideways. I wanted to quit at this point but I thought of where I was coming from:

I was coming from a house where my parents sold their Abuja home to send me here, I was coming from a past where some of my teachers during my undergraduate days doubted me and labelled me with negative adjectives, I was coming from a place where my family sacrificed so much for me. So, quitting was not an option.

The Director of Research and my new supervisor invited me for a meeting, one cold evening. Mr. Director said, “What have you decided to do?” I replied, “Can you give me two months to re-write the draft?” The owners of that irresponsible monkey looked at each other for a moment and later agreed; “Last chance,” they said in unison, as if they’ve been rehearsing that line.
Two months later, I re-submitted. The new supervisor said, “This is it. This is the standard! Yes.” However, because of the complexity of my topic, two more doctors were added to my supervisory team. It went on well from there, maybe sha.

As I prepared for my confirmation of candidature, my Macbook was stolen. Is someone out there to stop Letterme from getting this degree? Get thee behind me! I cabashed all of them. I went in, presented without stress and was confirmed.
I completed the program. The journey was worth it. I learned that champions are relentless and if they persevere they can achieve anything.
It is not my brilliance that brought me this PhD, two things did: God and one hundred hour workweeks of, researching, reading, writing and re-rewriting.

Feature Image by Greg Rakozy.