Lagos — At the golden jubilee convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos few days ago, a lecturer couple in the faculty of Science wowed the gathering as they both bagged PhD same day, with the wife emerging as the best graduating student.
As graduating PhD students of University of Lagos (UNILAG) were filing out to take their respective seats within the expansive UNILAG multipurpose hall, Temitope Oluwaseun Oguntade (31) and her husband Bamidele Olusegun Samuel (39) were the cynosure of all eyes. The couple's identity which was initially unknown to many spectators was exposed by the master of ceremony, who in his announcement drew the couple out of their facade and turned them to instant celebrities whose picture paparazzi couldn't resist.
Interestingly, Temitope and Bamidele aren't just soulmates. The duo is also lecturing at the institution's faculty of science-albeit in different departments. The couple's glamorous outing was at its peak when Temitope's name was pronounced as the best post graduate student of UNILAG golden jubilee convocation. According to the panel of examiners, Temitope's thesis was indeed the best among others submitted for the award of PhD certificates. It was an honour that was not lost on the couple.
"I am very delighted that after many months we have put into the programme, we have succeeded in getting to the end of it. It is also a good thing that after all these efforts, we are completing the programme with such a great honour coming to our family," Temitope's hubby said.
Temitope, 31, had researched on dermatophytes, isolated from patients at two tertiary health institutions in Lagos State. She said she was prodded to carry out the research exercise having discovered that certain skin diseases in patients, are known to have been treated at one time or the other but resurface barely six months after such ailments appeared to have been cured.
"You see, it has been observed that over time, when people have skin diseases and they approach a dermatologist for treatment, we realized that after tests have been carried out and after using prescribed drugs and it appears as if the disease has gone, somehow these skin diseases resurface barely eight or six months after. So, the question now is, is it that the skin diseases have become resistant to prescribed drugs? What could be the cause?" Temitope said.
Her inquisitiveness led her to discover among other things, that virtually all the dermatology centres in Nigeria only carry out diagnosis through the conventional laboratory methods. But according to Temitope, the world has moved beyond that stage, as it has now become a norm to apply both molecular and conventional methods while carrying out tests on the affected organisms.
"Although the molecular laboratory method appears expensive, it is no doubt the most accurate. I used both to arrive at my findings. Because when you rely on the conventional method alone, you find out that often times, the dermatologists apply the wrong drug for a particular fungus or organism. Of course there are tendencies to assume that certain fungi look alike when tests are carried out, but the truth is that, no matter how similar they may be, they are not the same, and you can't simply detect the error through the conventional method but through the molecular method," Temitope emphasized.
For tests that need to be carried out in three stages, Temitope soon ran into troubled waters as there was no dermatology centre in Lagos where she could get all the three stages conducted.
According to her, the first two stages which include DNA extraction and the PVR could be carried out in Nigeria but the third and the most critical stage can't be done anywhere in the country.
"There are equipments for the first two stages everywhere in Nigeria, but for the third one, there is not. The excuse being given is that, it is too costly. But I'm not sure it is costly to the extent Nigeria can't afford it. While I was doing my research, and I got to the third stage, I had to send the samples to Maryland United States, for the tests to be carried out. Initially I had thought of travelling over there but I realized that the cost was simply outrageous but since I got to know that I could send from here through mailing, I was happy to explore that avenue.
"So, anytime I collected my salary, I would convert it to dollars and use it to load the card, and after I must have conducted the DNA extraction, and the PVR, I would simply collect the samples, pack them into a bag and head for the courier service (DHL). Through DHL, it would be delivered in three days. And immediately they received it, they would alert me and ask that I payed in their money. Immediately they got confirmation of payment, they would carry out the tests and send the results back to me," Temitope said.
It was an exercise that cost Temitope and her spouse fortunes but which eventually paid off. The panel of judges, who sat to examine the 48 PhD theses submitted before it, rated Temitope's the best.
And when asked if she had been motivated to carry out the exercise through the means she adopted so as to be conferred with the best graduating student award, Temitope could only explain her ignorance of the criteria adopted. According to her, all she wanted to do was to finish the programme, earn her PhD and continue with her life.
"All I wanted to achieve was, to complete the thesis on time and have a rest of mind. But the fact that I have best graduating thesis however makes me feel on top of the world. It has been a long time I relaxed; now I think I can dance Azonto tonight. I got married during the whole process of the PhD and I have not really enjoyed my marriage. Now I want to start enjoying it. I have the feeling we are going to start another honeymoon tonight," a very elated doctor of botany, said.
Temitope perhaps has every reason to dance Azonto. Dayo, the couple's two-year-old son has been at the receiving end of his parent's passion for academics. Even at birth, Temitope hardly had time for her son. "I remember that, the day I was to put to bed I was initially at the lab," Temitope said. "I got home around 8pm and went into labour by 10pm. And after I delivered the baby, I went back to the lab. It was not easy," she added.
That fact was corroborated by Temitope's hubby. A marine biologist with speciality in eco-toxicology, Dr Bamidele said his wife could not even exhaust her three month maternity leave before returning to the lab. To him, if there is anyone they both owed an apology, it is their son who did not receive much of their attention.
One other significant constraint the couple said they had to contend with, was funding. At his end, Bamidele had carried out a study on Heavy Metal Contamination of Ologe Lagoon and Bio-markers of Oxidative Stress in Pachymelania Aurita. The study which was meant to determine the impact of industrial effluent and domestic wastes being discharged into the lagoon on the ecosystem especially in the industrial area of Agbara, Ogun State, gulped a lot of financial resources just like the one carried out by his wife. And considering there was no grant for the researches, they were left with no option but to take loans.
"Yes, it cost us a fortune to get two PhD reports prepared at the same time. In some instances, we had to resort to taking loans. We took loans to finance the research exercises. I can't give the actual cost nor can I give you a rough estimate. All I can tell you is that the theses cost us millions to prepare. There was no grant for us either from government or the industries," Bamidele said.
In the opinion of Bamidele, in an ideal society, theses of this magnitude ought to have been funded by government and industries concerned.
He added that in fact, the industries have so much at stake in this regard than government, because it helps them know the level at which wastes and effluents emanating from their factories are impacting on human and environmental well being.
"The industries also have key roles to play. In fact, they are the largest beneficiaries of researches like these. But they are not funding them. And because they are not doing so, employments are not being created," Bamidele lamented.