At 26, Romola Adeola, a Nigerian, is the youngest PhD holder from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She talks to
MOTUNRAYO JOEL on her feats
Kindly introduce yourself.
My name is Romola Adeola. I was born in March 1989. I’m from Lagos State, Ikorodu local government precisely. I’m the only female child of my parents.
Where did you have your primary, secondary, and tertiary education?
Most of my formative education was in Lagos, Nigeria. For my tertiary education, I attended Lagos State University where I finished in 2009 and then proceeded to the Nigerian Law School in Abuja; I was called to the Bar in 2010.
Did you obtain your masters in Nigeria?
No, following my National Youth Service in 2011, I proceeded for my Masters in Law at the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 2012.
Why did you decide to travel to South Africa for your PhD?
I decided to do my PhD in law in South Africa due to the expertise of the research institution.
Is there any special reason why you choose the University of Pretoria and not any other university in Nigeria?
I chose the University of Pretoria because it has a research institute within the Faculty of Law that has both the reputation and expertise in the field of doctoral studies that I sought to pursue.
What is your area of specialisation?
My research was on development-induced displacement within the African regional context. The research was in the field of international law cutting across development studies, rights, investment and political economy.
Describe the whole experience studying for your PhD?
Studying for the PhD in law was interesting, challenging and worthwhile. It’s like embarking on a journey with a roadmap with several routes that you would need to learn to navigate as you proceed. But I must say that it’s a lot easier travelling on that journey with God’s guidance.
What was your thesis on?
My thesis titled, “Development-induced displacement in Africa: Striking a balance between the imperative of development and the rights of persons likely to be displaced,” was supervised by the Director of the Centre for Human Rights, Prof. Frans Viljoen.
In my thesis, I analysed the obligation in article 10 of the African Union Convention in relation to the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. Her study, said to be one of the first on the African Union Convention, focused specifically on development-induced displacement which is one of the root causes of internal displacement in Africa.
What are your winning streaks?
I would attribute my success to God and my supportive parents who place a high premium on hard work and personal development. My parents were instrumental to my success in the programme through their consistent support and encouragement. Further, I must say that I have been privileged to have great teachers, mentors and relatives who were supportive.
You are currently the youngest PhD holder from the university; how do you feel?
I’m grateful to God for the opportunity.
Some ladies of your age have their minds focused on work, relationships and other things, why did you decide to study for a PhD?
Everyone is different. We all run the race of life differently and our priorities are set based on our needs at every given point in time. Following the conclusion of my Master’s programme, I felt a strong desire to further my studies and have a PhD. Since work and marriage were not key priorities, I had the luxury of time to engage in my pursuit.
How did your South African colleagues in the institution react to your achievement?
They were impressed, stunned and challenged. The reactions were diverse. On my part, I’m grateful to God.
What is your plan for society?
I plan on being of service to humanity by impacting knowledge and mentoring others who seek to achieve similar feat.
Would you be moving back to Nigeria any time soon?
That’s a good question. I’d always come home whenever the occasion demands.
Compare the education system in Nigeria with that of South Africa, what is different?
The education system in Nigeria teaches resilience and in many ways, it prepared me for the intensity of my postgraduate studies abroad. Yes, there are challenges with respect to infrastructure in our country, but I’m optimistic that the government and the education sector will fix these challenges.
What are your hobbies?
I love to play lawn tennis and read a good book. The book could be a fictional novel, an autobiography, a motivational book or a nice travelogue. There is always mental space for widening one’s horizon. Whenever I get the chance, I play scrabble and chess.
What other awards did you win at the University of Pretoria?
During my Masters, I was awarded a prize for the Best Dissertation in the LLM programme and Best performance in one of the core modules. I also received the Dean’s Prize for the Best Essay on the LLM journey.
Did you ever think you would emerge the youngest PhD student?
I really didn’t think of it initially. When I started the PhD, my priority was to complete the programme in time for graduation. However, towards the end of the programme, my age began to attract some attention with regards to a record being set. At first, I wasn’t conscious about it, but I’m grateful to God that it happened.
Did you have time for social activities?
I was guided by the saying that there is time for everything. There is time to study, there’s time to play and so on. The PhD programme was a time to study as such; I barely had time for social frivolities.
Where you social media-friendly during the programme?
Hardly and it was a personal decision. I guess there are people who can multi-task and be on social media sites while studying but I chose to reduce my activities on social media partly because I wanted to fully concentrate on my research. However, my advice to anyone thinking about it would be— do what works for you; know yourself and manage your time.
Did you have mentors at the institution?
Yes, I did. One of my mentors was my research supervisor, Professor Frans Viljoen. His penchant for hard-work and his sharp insights on issues relating to law, politics and development were critical to my research.
How many hours did you study for?
I did it full time and as such, it was my main pre-occupation.
How do your parents feel about your achievement?
They are grateful to God.
Do you have any regrets in life?
I don’t believe in harbouring regrets because I believe it’s like clicking on the rewind button of life which is ever moving forward. My advice to anyone harbouring regrets is, sink the past into oblivion and move on. It’s never too late to make something out of life, you only have to be determined enough to forget the past and move forward.
What would be your advice for anyone who wants to achieve similar feat?
My advice would be commit your plans to God, be diligent, stay focused and choose your companions wisely. With these few principles, combined with some others, one is bound to excel.