Emeka Agbayi


Diploma in Organisational Leadership




Oil and Gas



By Emeka Agbayi

Love and a Long Journey to Oxford

What would it be like to study in one of the best schools in the world? To be taught by world-renowned experts? To rub minds with some of the best and brightest students? Those questions always haunt me. But not anymore. In 2016, I had the good fortune of being admitted into the postgraduate masters level Diploma in Organisational Leadership programme of Oxford University.

The journey was a long one and began about three years earlier, when I first made contact with the university, but was undecided whether that was what I wanted at that time, and if I could take it on then, given my work schedule. The programme business manager did offer to hook me up with a past Nigerian beneficiary of the programme, just to stimulate some interest in me. He eventually did, but my intense schedule made it difficult to follow up on that contact. And I let go.

Then in 2016 I applied and got admitted into Oxford University, but my visa came out late and if I travelled I would arrive in Oxford two days into the first module. The course administrators were understanding and kind enough to give the peculiar concession that I could join the class one day late and no more. I was told that the reason had to do with the synergy and bond that would have started forming and would likely leave me out on a limb. I realized how true this was when I eventually joined the programme in 2017, following a deferred admission. The friendships made endure for life. Already, our cohort has formed a WhatsApp group and are still in touch with one another, exchanging ideas, being of help when necessary.

My first trip to Oxford is a story of its own. The flight from Lagos to London was, to say the least, the one way not to run an airline business—or any business for that matter. In fact, the airline had already acquired such a reputation for bad service that it was quite an uproar when I announced in the office that I was traveling to London with that particular airline. My colleagues felt that I had gone nuts: what could possibly be the motivation to fly this airline. True, it was affordable, which was a major attraction for me, but it was not necessarily the cheapest.

First, we were almost stranded at the airport. Then we flew several hours late with nobody offering any explanations. Three days into the course, I got sent a text message. They were suspending operations and wouldn’t be flying me back to Nigeria. That was it. No alternatives. No refund—to this day! So, while my colleagues were in class, I was preoccupied looking for a reasonably priced one way ticket to fly back to Lagos in 48 hours! The experience helped me better appreciate the far reaching consequences of the dearth of leadership in my country, Nigeria, and the justification, if I needed any, for taking a course in organisational leadership.

But that did not put a dampener on being at Oxford University. Far from it. Being familiar with London from earlier visits, I was immediately taken with Oxford much more than I have been and ever will be with London. Indeed, it was love at first sight. I fell in love with the reassuring, staid ambience of Saïd Business School, the professionalism of the course coordinators, and the after school dinners in the colleges that provided avenues for camaraderie and for further encounters with Oxford. Being an art curator of sorts, I was enthralled by the Museum of Natural History. I was spoilt for choice at Cosmo restaurant and intrigued by the thought of cutting edge research and innovation going on within the ancient and solid stone structures that line the streets of Oxford. I was fascinated by the range and diversity of the experiences and nationalities of my course mates. And I was smitten by the depth and cosmopolitanism of the Saïd faculty.

Indeed, it was a long journey—one well worth the time, money and effort expended on it.


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