By Ndukwu Chibundom Kaosisochukwu - May 18, 2022


Another strike has fallen upon all University students in public universities in Nigeria for the past few months, with threats of it being extended for more months, even indefinitely.

Now, in case you are not Nigerian and happen to bump into this blog post; or are a Nigerian student in a private university, blissfully unaware of what is happening to your mates on the other side, I feel obligated to say what the strike is all about. It is, simply put, something that people have described as an annual festival in Nigeria in which students do not go to school for months – and then spend the few months that they are allowed to spend in school being shoved faster than they ought to by a school management that generates almost impossible curriculums just so that they can make up for the lost time.

The last time that we as students had such a long expanse of time to spend at home was in 2020 in which, as a result of the strike and the pandemic, we ended up spending almost a year at home – no kidding, and then ended up cramming four semesters in one year (aka two years in one year) last year in the university that I attend, just to make up for the lost time- again, no kidding.

And when we were just about to settle back to a normal school session after the hectic year that we had last year, boom, even before the year began, before we had spent a good month in school this year, another strike came upon us.

All I can say is; I do not want to think of what 2023 or the late quarter of this year, depending on whether or not an indefinite strike is going to be embarked on, would look for me academically. I think I may have a panic attack.

And by the time the strike began, our able government (get your PVC fellas, let's change things), as always, advised the students to engage themselves in quote-unquote productive endeavours. Now, I fully support and am a part of the group of people who agree that forcing students to go out of their way to learn skills during periods of time that they should be in school is nothing short of an insult to the entire academic system. However, the fact remains that we have to choose between either doing that or spending the entire time killing our brains by doing nothing. 

So, even without the ‘helpful’ advice that we have gotten, the knee-jerk reaction for students during a strike, at least since I became a student, has been to go and learn a skill. The last strike that we had, I used it to learn wig making and I have to say that during a short time after that, my wig making skills helped me make some cash in school.

Now, the moment I heard that there was going to be another strike, the first thing that I did was to sit and think of what I wanted to achieve during this strike. This time, I decided that learning new skills was out of the question for me. I had done that before, and I instead, chose to harness and work on the few skills that I had presently.

I decided that a huge chunk of my time was going to be dedicated to two things, reading, and writing. Hence, I was going to go back to studying productivity books, a habit that I had abandoned as a result of the hectic academic session that we had, was going to develop the habit of reading spiritual books, and I  was going to learn how to train my brain to memorize faster, develop my writing skills, write more stories, begin blogging, exercising and work on my typing speed to increase my productivity.

At that time, though, I believed that the strike was going to last for only a month. But it has been raging since February so I was very much in the wrong with my belief. However, I did have every intention of exerting myself, but not in the way that would be evident in the short term. 

What this meant was that I had no intentions of going after certificates, had no intentions of going for physical internships as I had resolved that I would do that later in my academic life, and was going to set virtual internships aside unless they were by firms and companies that had something to offer that I was interested in. I decided that I was going to be functional in the organizations that I worked for in school in whatever activities they were going to be doing online during the strike period, but other than the book clubs that I had founded, was not going to go out of my way to look for new positions in new organizations.

I know, I know. If you are the sort of person that values the certificates and the internships and whatnot, and there is nothing wrong with that, I still do, you might think that I have been wasting my time ever since the strike – I mean, no internships? No new skills learnt? No certificates gotten from webinars and workshops? None? None at all? As a law student? The abomination! What are you going to post on your Linkedin then?

And for some time, I did believe that you had to be lazy not to be actively looking out for those kinds of things. For a while, I thought that this was the right way to go about things, and I still do to some extent now. But I had had a few experiences that made me snap in my head one day and decide that I was tired of what I termed the "Law (or University) Student Rat Race”. I was done with it, done with the fact that I kept doing stuff that I neither liked nor even got any value from because I wanted to get that, you know, shiny certificate to post on Linkedin just to get people to send me already suggested comments from Linkedin ‘Congrats on your new post!’.

Now, before I begin my rant, I believe I should share a few things about myself. Now I believe that I am something called a Type A personality, as most law students and lawyers are said to be. This means that I am very career and productivity-oriented, a bit of a workaholic, and I hate having nothing to do, hate feeling lazy and unproductive.

During my first year at the university, I came a bit naïve and not so aware of things. And by the time the pandemic came and I began my productivity journey, one of the first things that I practiced was something called Digital Minimalism, in which I drastically reduced the amount of time that I spent on the internet, most especially on any social media except Youtube for my ‘Study with Me’ videos and relaxation.

By the time I came back for my second semester of Year One, I found that I had missed out on a lot of webinars and moot court competitions and whatnot. Since I still believed that all I had to do was work towards my grades, I was not an active member in any organization except for one.

But then, all around me, people were doing stuff, stuff that I could not do, stuff that I was confused about, stuff that I was beginning to realize that I should want to do.

Of course, now that I am very much actively involved in those things, I realize that I greatly exaggerated the knowledge of the rest of my peers and felt depressed for nothing, but at that period, I felt grossly inadequate as a student, confused and stupid at times even.

And so I did what I still believe was the reasonable thing for me to do; I began to participate. I made friends with the right people, and spent a lot of my time in the faculty- the faculty was essentially more of a habitation for me than my hostel. And by the end of the second semester of my second year, just a few months after, I had become an active person in moot court, even became lead counsel for some cases (law stuff kindly ignore if uninterested), had joined several clubs and taken executive positions, had done my first physical internship and had applied for some virtual ones, had participated in a Model United Nations Conference, had participated in several essay competitions and had gotten awards in few, had become a part of the executive in both my faculty and my fellowship. 

Essentially, I was on a roll. If there was any activity to be done that I felt was worthy of note for you know, my ‘CV’ or just to feel as though I was doing something others were not doing, something that would make me stand out, I did it. My CGPA was also decent and I had also begun a part-time job in writing that promised good pay.

Now, I also had several burnouts during my second year in the university, did literally no fun activities as the little time I had outside of school activities were solely dedicated to my academics, and I generally operated at a very low energy level. I had also completely abandoned exercising and other leisure activities that I was engaged in. One time I complained to my friend that I could not wait for the year to end so that I could have even a little bit of fun and he was like, “Why not do it? it only takes a few hours.” To which I truthfully replied that I just did not have a few hours to spare. 

I was performing amazingly in my second year at the university. But I was not the top performer, especially when it came to extracurricular activities.

And that lay the problem, or at least what I thought was a problem. Type A that I was, it greatly bugged me that I was not the top performer and the ‘great’ thing about today’s world is that if you are not the best performer in any aspect of life that you are interested in, the world just has a way of shoving it in your face that you are not. As for me, apart from the peer pressure that came with seeing my friends doing things that I was not doing, the real madness began when, acting on the advice of a senior colleague, I opened a Linkedin account.

Now, Linkedin is a good space, and it is good to have the pleasure of creating the best profile out there and talking about all the great things that you have done. You worked for it. If you choose to share your successes with the world, I would be stupid to bash you.

But the thing with Linkedin, at least the thing that I noticed was that even if I did not follow these people, the algorithm was carved out for me to run mad with the feeling of suboptimal performance. 

Yes, I had a good CGPA and was the executive of several organizations but so what? This person in my timeline interned in five of the top law firms in his first year, won a scholarship, won first prize in ten essays, started his or her organization, has thousands of followers and thousands of studio pictures wearing a suit with hands folded tightly on his or her chest and an expression that screamed top performer and this other person over here in my timeline? Well, he just graduated with a 4.99 CGPA in law. First-class has levels, my dear.

And at first, any time that I saw someone say anything negative about Linkedin and the performance obsession or toxic productivity that it tended to create, I was always the first to see them as lazy and unserious with their lives at best or just plain envious of other people’s accomplishments at worst. While they were busy complaining about the pressures of the app and the toxic productivity culture that it promoted, I was busily screenshotting the profiles of other students that had amazing profiles and trying to get to know what and how they got to where they were, asking questions, doing research and whatnot, essentially trying to find out ways to copy them, to be just like them. Yes, I had done a few things but then so what? I was not good enough. I did not have twenty experiences and job positions. I had not gotten hundreds of thousands off an essay competition. I was not the best compared to my peers over there. And I wanted to be the best. 

Healthy competition?

At a time I thought that it was, but not quite.

This was because, I was so interested in getting and being, performing, and over-performing, that I did not even notice that I had begun to work on autopilot. I jumped into every opportunity that I saw without even thinking, taking the time to ask God if it was the right way for me to go or even seeing if I enjoyed what I was doing. I believed that despite the fact I had not yet found an area of interest in law that appealed to me, I still had to grind, still had to do things that I had little to no interest in, because that was what the top performers were doing.

If I missed out on something that I would have been able to get, I beat myself up. If I noticed that something had happened that I would have played a part in, I felt bad. If I noticed that some of the top performers had secured a position, even though I didn’t have much interest in that position, I got angry at myself for not getting the same. I was obsessed with doing and doing and doing, regardless of whether I even knew what it was that I was doing. 

Why? Because that was what I was told I had to do. I was told that good results were common but what stood out was having that jaw-dropping resume. I was told that I had to keep performing, had to keep getting more of everything. More positions, more awards, more titles. I aspired for things I did not even like, ignoring the fact that I was abandoning so many things I liked doing as a result.

And thank God that I had gotten a few experiences that made me reevaluate what it was that I was even doing.

First, because I was in some organizations, I began to notice a certain phenomenon among students.

All of the top performers wanted to be a part of something. Every single one of them wanted to lead an organization. But I realized that what a lot of people wanted were the titles but not the knowledge to be acquired from the position or to even to do any work at all.

By the time that I started joining organizations, receiving appointment letters and whatnot, I began realizing that probably up to half of the student organizations that I was a part of did little to nothing, and a lot of them had executives who were just executives by title. Most of the time, an organization died when someone managed to secure his or her way to the top with no intention to do anything with the position he or she has acquired.

And I feel ashamed to say this, but there was a brief time that I kind of liked those kinds of organizations. Because I was already doing so much, they were my avenues to doing even more without actually doing more. There were some that I would get appointment letters and certificates of appreciation from after the tenure had passed without having done any single thing there, not because I shirked from my duties – in fact, I hate when people do that and hence strive not to- but because there were no duties for me to perform in the first place.

But did I use the names of the positions and the pictures of the certificates to garnish my Linkedin profile and posts? You bet I did. 

And at first, I thought it was a rare phenomenon until I asked about some other organizations, curious to learn all that was being done there, only to hear someone mention something along the lines of, “Well, we are not very active, you know.” I would see even the highest of leaders of the student organizations doing nothing but identifying as being leaders. I would see people struggle to get positions not because they intended to do anything, but because they wanted to bask in the glory of getting those positions. Now, this did not happen in all organisations, some had shown themselves to be very effective and functional. But the number of organisations that were like that was alarming. As I said before, many people only wanted the glory of the title and nothing more. 

In fact, I had participated in an online internship in which people just wrote their names as present for the zoom meetings, sometimes even begged someone to help them with it, without actually participating in anything, just so that they could receive that shiny certificate to display on their social media. 

And I realized that I was not the only one that was caught up in this web, I was not the only one doing things that I did not want to do simply because it was being done by the quote-unquote top performers.

I have come to resent that mindset. What is the purpose of doing things, and engaging in activities if you are not getting any value from them? What is the purpose of acquiring titles that you do not even enjoy having? What was the point of letting school pass through you if you were not even having a good time while doing so?

Now the strike is before us and another wave of madness has set in, just slightly different from that which I noticed during the academic sessions. Now, every young student is under the pressure of acquiring skills, not just any skill, but certain preferred ones like digital affiliate marketing, UI/UX, copywriting, forex, crypto, graphics design, and the likes. There are dozens of both paid and free webinars and advertisements that seem to urge students to perform, get, learn, and make them feel as though they are wasting their time if they are not busy learning a skill or two.

And then there are the internships. Not every faculty takes this as a priority, but for my faculty, this pressure begins to mount up whenever there is a break, a strike, or a holiday, a feeling that you have been wasting your time if you are not engaged in an internship or a certificate course at the moment. Some even engaged in three virtual internships running at the same time, a physical one, enrolling for ten courses, and are still looking for more. 

And because of this pressure, there have been times that, even though I have set out my priorities for this strike, I begin to feel a bit inadequate all over again because I know that I am not doing a lot of things that my mates are engaged in. But I have tried and am still trying my best to fight this mindset.

I know that just like I used to feel, there are certain people out there who are under this pressure to do something, anything, so as not to feel lazy and unproductive.

And I want to say this, it is necessary to spend this time doing something productive – in fact, if you have not been, then I am shocked at how someone has been able to spend about 80 plus days doing absolutely nothing. But if you are not among those who honestly enjoy doing what they are doing, who are learning these skills and participating in these internships because they are honestly curious about them,  but are among the group of people that are not very thrilled with what they are doing, stuck in the web of the pressure of having to perform, then I have a bit of advice for you. Step back. Breathe. And think.

If you have been engaging in something, learning a particular skill for a while, or any other thing and you hate it but are still doing it because you think that the best of the best are doing so, I think it is time to leave. There is courage in knowing the time to stop and leave something that you do not enjoy doing. You have no one to impress and you have to realize that this life is not one big competition.

If you are about to enter into something not because you think you would enjoy it or because you are genuinely curious about it but because of social pressures, then don’t. It is not worth it. Go and engage in that which you would enjoy even though it appears to be less glamorous than the other.

And, despite all that I have said, do ensure that you are productive, but use your own measure, not that of any other person or a system. No one knows how much longer this strike would last, and if you have been using it as an opportunity to one-up your peers, you need to slide back and realize that you are probably not much better than the person that has been wasting away his or her time.

If you have abandoned something you enjoyed because it did not appear as glamorous as what you saw on Linkedin, or because you felt that it would not make you look much different from your peers, then go back to that. Life is short. Do that which you enjoy.

But if you have been doing all that and loving every ride of the way, fuelled intrinsically and not extrinsically by the pressure of social media or peer pressure, then go on. Reach for the stars but remember that the ideal person that you want to become should be the only person that you measure yourself up against.

This is difficult to do, I know. Social pressure is difficult to resist and I know that the only reason why I have been able to be as laid back as I want to is that, due to the strike, I can prevent myself from seeing that which I do not want to see, can simply switch off my phone and do not have to see those achieving feats physically as I would once the session begins. But please note, and this is something that I am working on making my mantra,  that never should you let yourself be swept up, forget your achievements, and feel like a failure because your level of success is perceived objectively as lower than any other person. You are running your own race, on your own track, and spending your time trying to be like some other group of people is a terrible way to waste life.

Recently, I saw a flier that asked, ‘What are you doing with your ASUU time?’ and I have to say, after a relatively long time, I am finally using it to do what I actually want to do, not just what I feel pressured to do, and being very productive at it too.

I hope you have been doing the same as well.


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  1. Impressive Write up, I believe this is one awakening that happens to most high flyers.. Kindly think about making the work less bulky to capture interest. Thank you.

  2. I simply love your style of writing. Long? Yes. But I love it just the way it is. I found this so enthralling and captivating that I simply devoured the entire story, while sitting at the airport and waiting to catch a flight. Do not stop sharing your thoughts. I am happy you are not part of any rat race. Live your life and not someone's own. May God keep blessing you!

  3. Chibundom that's true I almost wanted to jump into that web of pressure in my 2nd year while preparing for my professional exams but thank God for my Mentors in medical school.

  4. Impressive write-up. Keep up the good work.

  5. A very nice piece@Chibundom. I do agree with you that it's important one engages in productive activities that suites ones fancy. Don't do stuff out of peer pressure that you derive no value from.
    Continue the good works. Cheers

  6. Awesome piece,I must say.Enthralling and Captivating too.Quite long,yes.But I just had to finish it.I like the way you think.Well done,@Chibundom

  7. Thank you. Not just because I want to say Thank you but because I need to say it. Thank you. This means everything to me right now.

    1. I am so happy that my write up has gotten to help you the way that it has. You have inspired me to continue writing and sharing all the little bits of knowledge that I have gained on my self growth journey. I hope that you keep getting the encouragement you need to break away from societal standards and run on your own course.