By Francis Ewherido
In 2015, a young Nigerian girl, Oghenekevwe (Surname withheld) landed in the US on scholarship for post-graduate studies, after an exceptional undergraduate performance in a Nigerian university. In the US she continued from where she stopped in Nigeria, smashing records and putting in one exceptional performance after the other. She got her Ph.D. in no time. Her performance in the US was so good that her American university wrote to the Nigerian university, where she did her first degree, to link it up with more exceptional students.
My wife and I met ‘Kevwe’ for the first time in New York in 2015, not too long after she got to the US, though I had heard of her and her siblings from my eldest brother. She was (still is) a simple girl, but very intelligent, even if her humility will not allow her to acknowledge that. But intelligence alone takes no one to her destination. It only speeds your journey. ‘Kevwe is very hardworking and focussed. In her six years in the US, she has achieved so much that you can only stand in awe of her, her relative young age notwithstanding.
Families, young people and Nigeria have a lot to learn from the life of this exceptional young lady. She grew up in a Christian home with very high morals. Her parents brought her up in the way of the Lord and she never departed from it, even when she was far away in the US. Many parents in Nigeria today are miserable wrecks. The children they sent to school in Europe and America in one piece have returned in pieces. They have lost not only hundreds of thousands in hard currencies on fees that produced only misery, but more painful, their children who have completely derailed. How do you soften cement that has hardened and remould it into what you desire. That is what rehabilitating these children, who have derailed, is like. It is a herculean task.
I have said it multiple times here and I will continue to reiterate it. The first 10 years of a child’s life are very crucial. That is when they are most pliable and amenable. That is also when they need the highest standard of care. Parents should devote quality time to them. Make sacrifices for your preteen children. You can always do your economic pursuit and make your money anytime, but if you get it wrong with your children during the first 10 years of their lives, you have a big problem on your hands. However, if you get the first 10 years right, you spend the next six years consolidating on the work you have done in the first 10. By the time your child is 17 years, parenting becomes autopilot. But if you get the first 10 years wrong, you spend the next six years amending, like someone amending a defective building. But it is more difficult with a person because he has a mind of her own, unlike a building that does not. You might be lucky to use the amendments to straighten the crooked paths and smoothen the rough edges. Your efforts can also fall short.
It was not only Kevwe’s academic prowess that endeared her to the university; she also had exceptional character. Her parents laid the foundation that still endured and when she graduated from the university, she was found worthy both in character and learning. How come that with the negative reputation Nigerians have all over the world, an American university is writing to a Nigerian university to link it up with its exceptional students? It is because Kevwe was (still is) a great Nigerian ambassador. This is also a lesson for everyone, especially those who think it is the government’s responsibility only to polish our negative image. It is everyone’s responsibility. Wherever you find yourself, be a good ambassador of your family and country.
To the youths, Kevwe should be an inspiration to you. While she was here, she was like any youngster, she had her challenges like passing JAMB exams. He wrote the exam more than once and did not get the course she wanted to study. In the university, she did not sleep with lecturers or bribe them to get good grades. She studied hard, acquired knowledge and got good grades. Some university graduates today cannot write an application letter for a job, yet they complain of unemployment. How did they graduate? How did they pass through primary and secondary school? Some parents are part of the problem. They bribe teachers and invigilators during exams for their children to allow their children to cheat. The parents ate soured grapes and the children’s teeth are now on edge.
You must study hard and get good grades legitimately. There are no shortcuts and no way around it. You should also stay focussed and have an idea of where you are going. Even when you do not fully grasp where you are going, just keep moving, staying in one place is not an option. As you move on, look out for opportunities, they will come. At some points the dots will connect, things will fall into place and your life will make a meaning. Whatever bad point or situation you find yourself in now is temporary. Do not descend into despair and depression.
One question that has been on my mind is, if Kevwe was here, would she have gone this far? Very unlikely. We have a system that stifles growth. Some students have been pursuing their Ph.D. unsuccessfully for the past 10 years, why? There are too many wicked academics in the ivory towers. Nigerians must realise that wherever you are, you are supposed to be a solution provider, you are supposed to make life easy for people, not complicate it. If a professor is supervising a doctoral student and a programme that is supposed to take four years, takes 10 years, unless it is the student’s fault, the professor has failed.
Another very worrisome trend is our inability to retain our best brains. Many Nigerians, who excel, travel out and never come back. In the past, it was not like this. Nigerians travelled abroad and came back home after studies or sojourn to contribute to the growth of their motherland. I almost cried recently when I saw a Nigerian proudly displaying his American passport. This Nigerian is a Nigerian to the core. He had been in America for a while and his plan was to relocate home. He never had the intention of taking American citizenship. But he had a rethink, seeing the chaos and insecurity back home. Nigeria is bleeding. A nation that cannot retain its best and provide an enabling environment for them to flourish cannot make any meaningful progress. This haemorrhage has to stop.