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INTERVIEW: “How I survived miscarriages, divorce, cancer to win best Phd Thesis Award”

At the just concluded 54th convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Aminat Ige-Ariyibi was the cynosure of all eyes as she walked to the rostrum to deliver an emotional valedictory speech as the overall best graduating doctoral thesis award winner.

Mrs Ige-Ariyibi, in her late 30s, who lectures at the Lagos State University (LASU), bagged a PhD in Mathematics.

In an emotion-laden narration, Mrs Ige-Ariyibi recounted how she went through “several episodes of miscarriages, eight courses of chemotherapy to a bad case of chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM)”.

In the middle of her PhD Programme, Mrs Ige-Ariyibi battled cancer, was divorced, suffered depression, armed robbery attacks, and had surgical operations, but overcame it all.

But when she announced that she was remarried to the “most adorable man”, Nasir Ariyibi, who is the Director of Health Services at LASU, the entire hall became ecstatic.

“While the programme was winding up, I started a mentorship community, and the beautiful part of it all, while on the programme I got married. This time around to the most adorable man I think of. A man who supports my dreams and ambition,” she said.

In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs Ige-Ariyibi speaks about her educational background, journey with Mathematics, and her career trajectory from the banking industry to academia.

Aminat Ige and her husband, Nasir Ariyibi

From banking to academia

As an undergraduate student, Mrs Ige-Ariyibi said she always looked forward to teaching at the university after school but as fate would have it, her first major career was in banking.

She said: “I taught briefly at Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH) Ikorodu, now Lagos State University of Science and Technology (LASUSTECH), then I moved to Sterling Bank.

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“While at Sterling, I had my people reminding me of my ambition to teach, including my supervisor during my M.Sc programme at UNILAG, he was reminding me that I had the goal of going deeper into Mathematics, so I applied for a doctorate degree.

“Taking a doctorate in Mathematics, I need to teach to refresh my brain and to also help young researchers grow. At that point, I had to yield to the call of the former VC of LASU, Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun, to teach at LASU.”

She left Sterling Bank officially in 2018 for the academia and started from scratch – from graduate assistant, regularised to assistant lecturer, and later promoted to lecturer II.

“And very soon, I am looking forward to getting promoted to lecturer 1. I would say it has been smooth so far and I look forward to more promotions in the future,” she said.

Honorary title for impacts

As an academician, Mrs Ige-Ariyibi is also the Yeye Oge of Akesan (YOA) Kingdom, an honourary title conferred on her by the first king of Akesan, Oba Abayomi Fagbohun.

Akesan is a small town in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State.

According to her, she combines both the academia and the traditional title so “beautifully because the title of YOA came as an honour for my contributions to the youth and the society.”

“Majority of these contributions were educational based. So, they don’t contradict each other. In fact, in corporate settings, aside from your core organisational goals, we have something called Corporate Social Responsibiity (CSR).

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“My call to serve and my contribution to my kingdom and my community is part of the CSR. It is my love for the people that made me accept the title. And I have been living well up to it,” she said.

She added that she has been able to motivate and inspire a lot of girls and women with the title, because “education does not end in the four walls of the classroom, and being in academia gave me a better leverage.”

Significance of PhD, plans

Giving insights into her project, Mrs Ige-Ariyibi said with a focus on functional analysis, her PhD introduced a completely new metric type space, O-metric. According to her, O-metric is going to change the world of Metrical fix point theory and Metrical topology.

“These are mathematical concepts I won’t want to bore you with the details. My PhD research result is going to expand the scope of the application of functional analysis to real-life situations,” she said.

She added that going for a post-doctoral in an Ivy League university is her next plan after her PhD.

“After post-doctorate, I will take on the career from there. However, I have launched a mentorship community, called the Brave Hearts Mentoring Hub. I have always had the idea and I was planning to finish my PhD to start fully,” she said.
Education background

Mrs Ige-Ariyibi explained that her educational background, from primary to tertiary institutions, contributed to her academic success.

“I attended Federal Government Girls College, Omu-Aran, Kwara State before I returned to Medal Merit High School, Igando in Lagos to complete my secondary education. I bagged my first degree in Mathematics from LASU and my primary education was at Temijid’s Nursery and Primary School, Akesan,” she said.

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“My interest in Mathematics deepened in secondary school, where I had interactions with Mr Olajide who was my Mathematics teacher then, so that school contributed. I must confess, that my primary school, Temijid’s built a good foundation for me. So yes, the schools I attended contributed,” she said.

“Even LASU was rugged, we always say that if you survive in LASU, you can survive anywhere. In LASU, you have to read. Resilience and perseverance were those things we learnt at LASU.

“Apart from your personal goals of doing well at school, you also want to do well for your parents. In my university, the bountiful opportunities that are available for scholars in Lagos, from bursary to scholarship helped me. So yes, they contributed positively to my success.”

Welfare of lecturers

In her valedictory speech, she advocated for the increased welfare of university lecturers.

“It is not unpopular that university lecturers are poorly rewarded and students don’t want to be like us when they grow up. I therefore appeal to President Bola Tinubu and the governor of my state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other state governors to look into the state of their academics and bring us renewed hope.

“The private sector is not left out. They are the highest beneficiary of the products of our institutions,” she said.

She, however, commended the government for the scholarship awards available to eligible students, describing them as “life savers”. Mrs Ige-Ariyibi is a beneficiary of the Federal Government and Lagos State Government scholarships for tertiary institutions.

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