The father of two children, married to a banker, told ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Associate Editor, UCHE OLEHI in an interview at Covenant University, Canaanland, Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria, reasons Covenant University is not like the regular institution of higher learning.
Can you please share your academic journey with us?
I would take it way back to 1997 when I graduated from Federal Government College, Odogbolu. I waited five years after JAMB to gain admission into a higher institution. Every year, I had to write JAMB all over again. It was just the cross I had to bear for five years. I didn’t have to write WAEC twice, but I had to write JAMB all over again.
Your parents must have been worried by the delay?
Certainly. It was a serious challenge for them. My mom was mostly affected. In 2002, my mom took ill (I’m her first son and her first child). Obviously, because her son was not making headway, he was not making progress. A couple of her friends checked her up in the hospital and one of them said, “There is a university coming up, owned by Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) would you love to consider him for admission there? She was like, ‘Let’s just try it out.’ She was worried unlike me, because I had this assurance that things would get better. That year (2002), I got admission as a pioneer student of Covenant University. When I graduated in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management, I went ahead to have my Masters degree here and my Ph.D in the same discipline at Covenant University. My NYSC was at Spring Bank, which later became Enterprise Bank and now Heritage Bank.
After that, I got many job offers. I had the opportunity to work with Pricewater, Spring Bank but I declined all of them because I wanted to come back to Covenant University. Though it was not economically advantageous. I used to tell my colleagues when we started, I didn’t come to Covenant University to work for the economic advantage, I came for the destiny advantage. If I had come for the economic advantage, I would have gone for blue chip jobs, jobs like KPMG, Pricewater. I started as a Graduate Assistant.
Don’t you feel privileged to have so many firsts at Covenant University?
I think there is a pioneering grace on my head. People of my type, I believe are not common in a generation. For me, it’s a great privilege.
What year were you appointed registrar?
Before I was appointed registrar, I was the Dean of Students. I was appointed in August/September 2010. That ushered me into the highest academic decision making body at Covenant University, which is the Senate. I was the youngest then at just 29. I was born in 1981. I worked for a year, went back to complete my Ph.D in the same university while I was working as a lecturer. On August 12, 2013, I became the registrar of the university. That’s in summary how my journey began. I lecture here primarily in Human Resource Department.
What does your office entail?
The registrar is the Chief Administrative Officer of the university. Everything administrative revolves around the registrar: procurement, admission, staff equipment, external engagement, maintenance, salaries and compensations, quality implementation, ensuring compliance to rules and laid down guidelines of the university, exams and records.
How do you handle all these successfully?
For me, what I have been doing is ensuring that every opportunity God gives me, I make maximum use of it. I may not have all the competences, we must make mistakes.
It is obvious you would be taking decisions affecting those far older than you are. So, how do you handle such a complex situation?
For me, it’s about carrying everybody along, irrespective of one’s age or knowledge. I also largely depend on mentorship. Somebody was there before, so, I lean on such a person. I don’t downplay anybody’s idea.
You are married?
Yes, I’m married to a graduate of Covenant University (laughs).
Covenant University is really the centre of your world?
Yes, for me it was safer. With the kind of teaching got here, it would be difficult to go out there to look for somebody who has all I needed in a wife. I needed somebody compatible with me. I was looking for both spiritual, social and mental compatibility. We are blessed with two children. My wife works with UBA. We didn’t talk to anybody before she was posted here at Canaanland. God did it for us. And because of the environment we found ourselves, our children also school here. So, in many many months, I may not know what happens outside Canaanland. My wife works here, my children attend school here; it’s once in a while I step out of campus.
We should assume your boss, Pastor David Oyedepo is your mentor?
Although he’s my mentor, Bishop Oyedepo is uncopyable. You can’t copy him. What he has done in my life is the assurance of my future. We have this consciousness we are not ordinary, a consciousness we are not second rated. He made us know this all the time. He believes in looking within for solution to problems. I also got absolute dependence in God. He believes there are no self-made men but God-made men.
What are the books that shaped you?
A lot of books. I have about 3,000 books in my hard drive. Some of my students have probably ‘stolen’ some (laughs). I read John Maxwell, if there’s any book written by John Maxwell I haven’t read, maybe he published it yesterday or this morning. In terms of leadership development, John Maxwell’s books have really influenced me. And I listen to a man called Peter J. Daniel. He’s an Australian mogul, life coach and writer. I read a lot of books by Donald Trump and Richard Branson. I read a couple of books on leadership. I listen to Pastor E. A. Adeboye a lot. I cherish his simplicity in communication without sounding verbose or ambiguous.
Having read this much, are you an author?
Yes, I have a book. I also have unpublished works. My first book is entitled, Grace of God. The first day it was published, it sold 700 copies, the next day about 800. I have been trying to push the book. I don’t sell it anymore. I give it out anywhere I go. The reason I have not published more books is that I don’t want to write without credibility like many authors. I want to communicate my experience.
There are complaints you cage your students and punish them severely when they misbehave. So how do you give this a human face. How do you handle those who can’t cope here?
Covenant University is not a rehabilitation centre. We screen students before admission believing they are capable of adapting to our rules and regulations. The training and leadership system here is thorough. The way you process gold is not the same way you process bronze. For us, the university has a responsibility to God, and parents, Nigerian society and the world at large, to produce a new breed of leaders. So, it couldn’t be the same. We have core values. Number one, spirituality. Number two, is integrity. You must be total in your character, what you say must match what you do, what you do must match what you believe. You must be responsible. You can’t just sneak out of campus without permission. If one’s parent comes and asks for the child, who would be held responsible? Hard work is also our core value; sacrifice, extra mile. Sacrifice is key here. You must go the extra mile.
Generally speaking, the cost of attending a private university is on the high side, and Covenant University doesn’t help matters?
If I could graduate from Covenant University at the time I did, parents who want the best for their children can afford our fees. It wasn’t as if my parents were the director-general or permanent secretaries of this world. They were middle level civil servants. Parents have to plan. Many of us need to learn the law of delayed gratification. Covenant University is relatively affordable, if you consider our facilities. Today, you have a Covenant graduate running one of the most visited job sites, PushCV. It is currently the number one job site; Career 247 is number two, Jobberman is now number three. PushCV.com was developed by a graduate of Covenant University.
Covenant University has a mobile learning portal where all our students have a mobile tab, where they can learn and have social interaction. It was facilitated by Covenant University graduates in partnership with telecom giant, Samsung. Who does that? We have some of our graduates flying for airlines, yet we don’t have aviation school here. Most of our jobs here are related to physical development, IT and more are executed by CU students and graduates.
What were you doing the time you were home for five years waiting for admission?
My father is a chartered accountant. He had a couple of jobs. So, I was always following him to do some auditing jobs. And when I got such a job I did it faster than he could imagine. I worked with a cyber café, but no pay, though I go early and close late. Also those years, I gave myself to reading the Bible. I could read for 18 hours. I fasted and prayed 50 days, dry.
I have taken a prayer walk, three hours’ journey. I have walked from Mile 2 to Ijesha, praying. I grew up around the area. You possibly saw me on the road and said, I was one of these mad guys (laughs).
What career path were you pursuing?
I wanted to be an ambassador. I wanted to study International Relations, but I’m now wiser. I don’t need to study International Relations to be an ambassador. I don’t need to study Political Science to be in politics. All I need to do is not be a VIP, but a VAP. I developed the Value Adding Personality (VAP) concept. The perception you are a VAP not VIP suggests you have something you can contribute. Anybody can be VIP by virtue of his status but as VAP, you have measurable contribution.
What’s your ultimate ambition?
For me, I don’t think I have any office ambition. My desire is simply to be given a platform. If you think I should be the security officer of Covenant University, believe me, I would serve in that capacity. You see many people don’t celebrate where they found themselves, that’s why God can never decorate them. You must be happy wherever you are. If you ask me now to go teach students at 100 level, I will celebrate it. If you ask me to be anything, be it up or down there, as far as I’m making some meaningful and measurable contribution in improving the lot of humanity, I would serve.