Ambition of obtaining PhD began 35 years ago, says UNILAG’s 82-year-old Duyile
Dr. Dayo Duyile’s story has been an inspiration since the news of his Doctoral Degree in Mass Communication at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) broke. Duyile has practiced as a journalist for about six decades, rising from a reporter to the pinnacle of being an Editor at the Daily Sketch. He had also served as Director of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) plus a taste of broadcasting, public relations and advertising. He has the credit of creating Mass Communication Department in more than four universities. Presently, he lectures in two universities –Elizade University (full time) and Wesley University (part time). Dr. Duyile will be part of UNILAG’s convocation this week (Wednesday, January 18, 2023) as the oldest student to bag a PhD. In a telephone chat with GBENGA SALAU, he spoke on his intriguing journey to bagging a PhD at almost 83 years.
You practiced for almost six decades, what informed your decision to obtain a PhD now?
It is a long story. When I was in secondary school, before I came into journalism, I loved the idea of being called a doctor, though not a doctor of medicine but doctor of letters. Also, I used to read biographies of many achievers in the universities. So, I was determined to emulate them.
But when I got into journalism, I observed that most of the editors and senior journalists had no PhD, so I felt PhD was not necessary to succeed in the profession. As time went by, I discovered that journalism, apart from being a profession, has some academic culture. In that case, one has to go to the university to do some studies and conduct research.
Again, shortly after I got employed at Daily Times in 1962, Alhaji Babatunde Jose came up with a policy that only graduates of universities would become editor of the Daily Times. That again encouraged me to seek admission for a university education. I started with a diploma and thereafter went for First Degree, Masters and now a PhD. But it took me a long time to achieve all these because I was not doing the degrees almost immediately. It was about nine and 12 years in between each.
The idea of bagging a PhD was reignited about 35 years ago. I was in Namibia for a conference and I met a man of over 70 years who just completed his PhD programme and his town was celebrating him. I saw this and I became enchanted again about the need to bag a PhD.
However, long before now, I got admitted at Michigan State University, United States of America with a scholarship to do my PhD along with a teaching assistantship. Unfortunately, the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande did not grant my request to proceed to the United States for the PhD. He said I cannot go because the evening programme, which I just introduced at the NIJ as the director, was making some headways. So, he felt leaving at that time was not too good. In obedience to his view, I shelved the plan to take up the admission.
Can you imagine loosing a PhD scholarship in the US with teaching assistantship of $1950 a month? But the love for my profession, the love for the job I was doing then at the NIJ and the attitude of ‘I must be obedient to Jakande’ made me comply with his directive.
I have had so many other opportunities in Canada and Australia but it did not come to fruition. I kept the spirit of doing a PhD in me even after retiring actively from the newsroom and was staying in Ondo State. Suddenly, I saw that I must renew the need to do a PhD. So, I got in touch with the University of Lagos when it advertised and through the intervention of Prof Ralph Akinfeleye, who was Head of the Department of Mass Communication, I was admitted. Though, it was not easy because I was offered an admission two years earlier, I did not take it up. So, I was warned this time around that if I was not ready, I should inform them, because the slot cannot be wasted.
I assured the department that I will show up if admitted. Akinfeleye also raised the fact that I was living in Ondo and the programme is full time in Lagos and I pledged I would be fully available for it. So, I was offered admission and I complied. That was how I got in. But the university was not strange to me; it has always been my choice. My first and second degrees and now PhD were completed at the University of Lagos.
When did you start the PhD programme?
I started in 2016, though we were admitted in 2015. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted it a bit, and the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) strike. If not, we would have graduated before now.
What informed your choice of thesis: ‘A Historiography of Emergence and Development of Early Newspapers in Nigeria?’
When you are in the university for a doctoral degree, one will come in contact with so many possible topics for the research, but I have always been interested in the history of Nigerian media and I have written books and articles in that discipline. I thought it wise to go deeper, and do some scientific study about how the Nigerian press has emerged? Who were responsible for it? What were in their minds when they established the early newspapers? What they wanted to use the newspapers for, the method of production of the newspapers then and the editorial policies. All these were my interest and reason for the topic.
How do you feel being able to start and complete it this time around?
It was an exciting exercise as far as I am concerned. When you have a determination to do something, you better do it and achieve it. It has always been my natural style of behaviour. When I decide to do a thing, I will do it. So, I prayed to God that I had wanted to do my PhD for a very long time and now this is an opportunity, oh Lord, help me. And if you have your trust in God, nothing is impossible.
So, I will first of all, give thanks to God for giving me the strength and opportunity and safety of travelling from Ondo to Lagos almost every week and then completing the programme. So, it was exciting, risky but I knew that success was waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. I made a lot of sacrifice, waking up as early as 3am for a trip to Lagos from Ondo. On many occasions, I was the first person to be in the classroom. I stay in Lagos for the week to return to Ondo afterwards.
Why did you still feel you needed to have a PhD after all your failed attempts but numerous achievements?
The idea of bagging a PhD has always been my ambition. And I was not willing to let it go because it was my desire to achieve it no matter the risk. I know I was aging. If the brain is still very sharp and functional, one could test it.
My hypothesis is that if someone I met in West Indies in Jamaica in 1990s at over 86 got his PhD, we took photography and shook hands together. Thereafter, when I revisited Jamaica, I saw him doing some post-doctoral programme. And I felt that is a human being. I have also read in some American newspapers of some very courageous American scholars who got their PhD at over 80 years. The Bible said that at 70 years you should prepare for the grave, but that is not my portion because I know that my Lord is very kind to me, generous and faithful. So, he will give me long life and with that, one should continue to do what he is doing to assist and develop some minds in the society.
There are many students in schools that want to be well educated and I have taught in many of these universities. I have seen so many things I could do if I have a PhD. PhD is a research programme into an aspect of a discipline to come out with some findings and contribute to knowledge as well as teach students who will acquire knowledge. One cannot go to the grave without giving out the knowledge acquired to these young minds. So, it has been my policy to give out the knowledge acquired. Even this afternoon, I had two hours lecture with students of Wesley University, where I do part time teaching aside teaching full time at Elizade University.
What inspired your coming into journalism and what sustained it?
It is a long story also. When I was very young, my father was a court registrar and he subscribed to many newspapers – West African Pilot, Daily Times, and Daily Service. After reading the papers, he would just pile them in his bedroom and I would go there to read. I developed the likeness for journalism from age 11 and throughout my years in the secondary schools, becoming a writer at the age 13. I was writing articles, letters to editors and they were published in the Daily Times and Daily Service. So, I said to myself, I will go into journalism.
Also, as a primary school pupil, my headmaster used to tell me that, with my spoken English and the way I write, I would be a good journalist. I put that in mind too. Each time I went to my headmaster’s house, I always read a quote in front of his room, which says, “University education is my ambition.” I memorised and made it my motto.
I developed that attitude from my childhood to be a journalist, so it was not by accident that I became a journalist but by deliberate plan, which was carefully executed through the grace of God. When I completed my General Certificate Examination (GCE) London, in Ibadan, my brothers and friends said there were vacancies in post office as clerk, with 14 pounds salary. I rejected it because I was looking for the job of a trainee-reporter. After trying in some newspapers, I was lucky to get an opportunity with Southern Nigeria Defender in Ibadan owned by Dr Nnamdi Azikwe. That was where I got my training on the job, because at that time, there was no university offering journalism degree in Nigeria. All the greats that included Jakande, Bisi Onabanjo, Jose had on the job training like I had with some of them, later enrolling at Regency Polytechnic in London, which was the highest they could go at that time. They were beautiful writers, columnists, editors and I felt that I would emulate them.
Luckily, when I left Southern Nigerian Defender, I joined Nigeria Tribune in 1961. And in 1962, I got a job with Daily Times and it was the appointment at Daily Times that rekindled my interest in university education, because late Alhaji Jose came up with the policy that only university graduates would become editor at Daily Times. And my plan was to become an editor one day if God permits. So, I went to the University of Lagos. I left Daily Times to go to Western Nigeria Television (WNTV/WNTS) and later moved to Drum Magazine and then Editor of Daily Sketch. All these employments were based on my first degree. Later, I had to do my second degree. I did my first degree in 1972, Masters degree in 1990 and my PhD in 2022. In all, the journey has been very interesting.
What advice do you have for young professionals?
First, they must be determined to be successful and to accomplish set goals in journalism. Secondly, they should not seek to be rich quickly. Some people want to be rich quickly and want to be multi-millionaires at 30. A good journalist should not think of that. If not, he or she would run against the ethics of the profession.
You have to be determined to succeed as a journalist, accomplish and be at the zenith of your career through ethical means. Throughout my career, I never took bribe or gratification. Journalists are not rich people, but they have influence and pride. If you have influence and people respect you, that is enough which is better than money. If you are very rich when you are not a businessman, it is questionable. Why can’t you remain in your profession and tell God to prosper you, which is having enough to eat, spend, to cater for yourself and your family.