An alumni perspective: Black History Month 2020

Alumnus Paul Oluikpe, who left Loughborough in 2007 after completing a PhD in Civil Engineering, says celebrating black history offers hope to young people. Here Paul shares his story and reflects on the importance and significance of marking Black History Month.

Q: Paul, can you tell us a bit about your background?

“I work with the Financial Inclusion Secretariat, Development Finance Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria as Associate Head of the Secretariat. I previously worked in the Strategy Management Department and then the Trade and Exchange Department of the Bank as Head of Policy Formulation and Implementation before moving to the Secretariat.

I hold a distinction in Strategy and Innovation from the Said Business School, Oxford University, a PhD from Loughborough's Civil Engineering Department and an MSc from the School of Business and Economics, from Loughborough as well. 

I joined the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2009 direct from Loughborough University, immediately after my Postdoctoral research on data mining for post-project reviews. 

My current role at the Secretariat involves leading change management, coordinating the stakeholder space in Nigeria, driving the implementation of the financial inclusion strategy, monitoring performance, and communicating outcomes.

My past work experience in the non-profit development sector, particularly with the World Bank, the British Council, Water Aid and the National Autistic Society, UK, shaped my philosophical outlook in terms of developmental priorities for Nigeria, especially around financial inclusion, poverty and inequality.

I bring this experience to the immediate role of advancing financial inclusion to the Nigerian citizen using the levers of policy, regulation and on the ground implementation.”

Q: What are your personal interests outside of work?

“I am a writer, and my genre is prose fiction. I have written three published literary works "The Campus Mafia", "Dead on Arrival" and "The Hooker". 

I am also a pianist, music producer and vocalist as well. I produce Electronic Dance Music, Gospel, Hip Hop, and Afrobeat. I have a personal music studio in the annex behind my house and it's my hobby really, although I've taken this hobby to a new level by getting trained at Berklee College of Music, Boston on modern production techniques.

I get involved in my community in Nigeria, not just through my work with the government, but also my music. I work with and mentor young and aspiring musicians who hold some promise but do not have the resources to place themselves on platforms.

I help produce their music, and give them a voice by linking them up with a promotion network and contacts which I have built over the years. I feel I am giving back to the community by doing this.”

Q: What is the importance of Black History Month to you? 

“I became much more aware of the Black History Month while living and studying at Loughborough University, UK when it was often celebrated in October.

The Black History Month is symbolic and emblematic of the heritage of Black Africans, African-Americans and anyone with a black origin. It epitomises and embodies the history, culture, ordeals, travails, and the odyssey of the black man through history.  

It reflects the joys and the pains of being black, the monuments of achievement and the lowest ebb of our collective fate in the face of adversity often highlighted by racial issues, deprivation and marginalization.

While on one hand the history of blacks is riddled with lowlights of inequality, Black History Month on the other hand offers a glimpse of the achievements of people with black heritage. It showcases the intellectual and inventive capabilities of black people, their contributions to civilization, development, and enlightenment.

The celebration of black history offers hope to the upcoming and young black person, about a future that holds a promise for their rising and provides that pedestal to view things from a more positivistic standpoint.”

Q: Name something you would like people to reflect on during Black History Month?

“I would like people to reflect on the fact that "we have a collective heritage" whether we are black, white, brown, blue, or crimson. We have a shared humanity.

Let's reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the globe, but look at the very fact that during this pandemic, people of all colours have worked together in shared spaces, shared context, mutuality, reciprocity, and collective action.

We saw things from a unified perspective, "the preservation of human life". We can build from this standpoint post-pandemic.

In this pandemic, we have lived out John Donn's lines in the poem "No Man is an Island". He wrote, and I quote, " Any Man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee". These lines underscore our shared humanity.”

For more information about the University’s Black History Month events programme, visit the website.

Thank you to Paul for sharing his thoughts.