Ibrahim Waziri Jnr: The HND graduate from Nigeria who earned a PhD in America

Sometime in 2016, Farooq Kperogi shared a story of one Ibrahim Waziri, in an essay entitled “Ibrahim Waziri: From HND in Nigeria to PhD in America.” The story was both inspiring and intriguing. Dr. Waziri earned HND in Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi. Of course he was born in America, so returning to his land of birth was not as much challenging. He did his masters’ degree in Applied Engineering at the Georgia Southern University, after which he earned a PhD in Information Security at Purdue University. He is currently a Senior Consultant (Federal Cyber Risk) at Deloitte; working with US federal agencies to mitigate cyber risks and threats. He also teaches graduate classes as an Adjunct Professor of Cyber-security at Marymount University.

Ibrahim Waziri Jnr., on graduation day at Purdue University.

Upon reading the essay, I informed Kperogi, that not only did he inspire Dr. Waziri to success, he, along with Moses Ochonu (of Vanderbilt University) also inspired me in ways they might not know. Although a focal part of my aspirations since my undergraduate days in Nigeria involved the hopes that someday I would attend universities in Euro-America for postgraduate training, I must state, however, that that inspiration was further buoyed up as a result of my encounters with Kperogi and Ochonu. They have always been intellectual mentors who helped me appreciate the prospects of Euro-American education which activated my curiosity for critical inquest.

That said, Dr. Waziri’s story has opened up another can of worms in the Nigerian education system. I have seen comments on the social media of people asking if Dr. Waziri, could even be admitted into a masters’ degree program by a Nigerian public university without being given some additional senseless hurdles to pass through prior to admission. Needless to say, the norm in Nigeria is that HND graduates are at best advised to go through a Post Graduate Diploma program before they can apply for a masters’ degree program. I know a Nigerian PhD (who started with HND) who could not find a teaching position in a public university in Nigeria. The ‘logic’ that university authorities used against him was simple nonetheless pathetic. They said he could not teach what he does not have; which is a bachelors’ degree.

Meanwhile in England, some people do supervise doctorates yet they do not have doctorates themselves. My father told me that his PhD external examiner in the UK only had a bachelors’ degree, and was not in any way academic. Of course it is always the norm globally that a PhD or a professor supervises a student on a doctoral program, but there are also exceptional cases that must be factored in. My father attended Cardiff University in the mid to late 80s. He earned his doctorate from a thesis entitled “Studies on a freshwater fishery of a city lake.” His supervisor was one Dr. Ron Williams, a Senior Lecturer at the time. And my father said that Dr. Williams only got his own doctorate after he supervised and graduated two doctorates.

Then again, my father’s external examiner was one Richard H. K. Mann, who was from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Oxfordshire. The Centre was under ITE Monks Wood Experimental Station, in Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire. Although he was not academic as he was not working for an academic organization, and he only had a bachelors’ degree because his job did not demand more than that qualification, Mann, nonetheless, was as much an expert on Fish Biology as any university professor. He had written and published research papers on freshwater fishes including the Roach (the fish species my dad worked on) for many years. Therefore, with only a bachelors’ degree, Mann was thus, an expert in his own right when it came to the Roach.

Back home, Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo attained the professorial rank without a doctorate. Also, I used to read some scholarly work of one late Professor Abdullahi Smith (a Briton who later became Nigerian, and who was formerly known as Henry Frederick Charles Smith) of the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). Professor Smith worked at the University of Ibadan before going on to ABU. Smith did not obtain a doctorate yet he supervised several doctorates in history, including, I think, that of late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman’s.

It seems that unlike in Nigeria, in other places around the world, getting the job done effectively is more important than clinging on to narrow parochial concerns such as focusing on ‘paper qualifications’ at the expense of all other elements and variables. When I was a researcher in England, it was not uncommon to come across students on a doctoral program being nominated by journal editors to review submitted manuscripts written by a sundry of authors including professors as co-authors.

With more Ibrahim Waziris, I hope that we will continue to voice out our concerns about the peculiar absurdities that characterizes the education system in Nigeria.



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Mohammed Dahiru Aminu

Assistant Professor | Cranfield University alum | Chartered Geoscientist | Op-Eds Contributor