My background is full of wonderful experience.
My parents, Otunba Olukayode Adebayo and Mrs Oluremi Sogbesan, after my birth, travelled to England. So, I was left to stay with my grandmother, Princess Eunice Adefuleji Sogbesan, nee Banjo, a disciplinarian, a hardworking, highly intelligent virtuous woman, whose life was full of impact to the society.
I am the first child/son of my parents.
At some point, my mum left my dad, because of many squabbles, and he took another wife who gave him five children. My mum returned later. She has a total of eight children.
My name is Olusegun Oludapo Sogbesan and a prince of Ago-Iwoye.
Lack of intimacy with my parents affected me so badly
My father, who is late, was an engineer and he hailed from Ako-Matole village in Ago-Iwoye, Ijebu North Local Government Area (LGA) of Ogun State, Nigeria. He was once vice chairman of the LGA. My mother, still alive, is from Ogere Remo.
I was trained by my grandmother among so many children who lived with her, including my cousins.
My grandmother had two children - my dad and my aunt.
From what she told me, when my parents got married and they were about to leave for London, because my dad was the only son, she prayed that before they left, God should give them a male child whom she would hold as a consolation for their leaving her and God answered her prayer with my birth.
She took over the affairs and the parenthood of my childhood even up to my teenage years.
Practically, she trained me before she retired. My university education and the rest were by God's grace.
When my parents returned from England, I still remained with her.
I had little or casual contact with my parents. It was not intimate.
As a young child, when my parents came back, I expected them to do so many things for me. But what happened was the opposite: I did not receive any attention from them, and I felt that I was not needed by them. They were carefree about me.
Alll my (efforts) to make sure that I was close to them did not work.
My mother would be the one that would even report me to my dad for things I could not explain and he would beat the hell out of me.
There was an incident I would never forget, no matter what happens. My clothes were collected and I was left naked. Her point was that I was not supporting her whenever there was an issue between her and my dad.
It was my uncle, Adesina Adebanjo, who gave me his jacket to cover my nakedness for some time before my grandmother came to take me back to Ago Iwoye.
And that was when it dawned on me that these people were not my parents.
I asked my grandmother to tell me where my parents were. Because, (many times) I would be beaten for little things or no reason at all.
It seemed as if they just did not want me around them
So, I asked my grandmother to tell me the story of my life. I was ready to hear it, even if it was negative; perhaps my parents were dead or something like that. But she continued to tell me that those were my parents. She said that the fault was from her; that she took me up when I was tender. In fact, according to her, I did not crawl but started walking at the age of seven months and that when my parents came back, they told her that she should slow me down, because I was quite fast.
I did not believe my grandmother and many times I would hide somewhere thinking about my life because I believed that I did not have parents because those ones they called my parents did not show me any parental affection and care.
Decision to end it all, the actions I took and how I was rescued
Things became so bad that I lost hope in life and attempted suicide, three times.
I felt that nobody wanted me.
I felt rejected.
I had no friends, and extended families, especially from my mother's side, the way they treated me, I wondered what I could have done wrong.
Depression set in.
So, I said, let me just leave these people.
I drank Gamalin 20.
That was the first attempt.
My grandmother, being a religious person, committed to Christian life and prayerful, she discovered, I was rushed to the hospital called IT Hospital, owned by one Doctor Oworu, whose initials were I.T. He is late now. They were able to help me to live.
I continued to try to please my parents, whether they would show me love.
One time, because my dad loved eating snails with drinking gari, I went into the bush and got at least twelve big snails to prepare them for him, hoping to appease him; perhaps he would change his mind about me. I wanted to discuss with him, to ask him why all the punishments, what did I do wrong?
So, I prepared that meal, fried snails with pepper, tomatoes and onions and placed it on top of the freezer (to allow it to cool) because my grandmother had taught us not to put anything hot inside the freezer.
I was happy with myself that anytime my dad returned, I would present the meal to him.
Unfortunately, I forgot to put the snails in the freezer and, as we later found out, my siblings ate them up.
And, of course, when my dad returned and asked for his food, my mum told him that 'your son has prepared something for you, that was why I did not prepare anything.' My mum had seen me preparing the snails. It was tantalising.
They called me, I was even happy. I thought I had put it inside the deep freezer. I opened it and nothing was there. For almost five minutes, my head was inside the deep freezer. The next thing, I had a bang on my back. She said that I was wicked, that I deceived her to not prepare food for my dad. I got beaten. I cried and said it was not me (who ate the snails). My grandmother came and I told her I could not find the snails I prepared. As I rushed out of the house, I fell on a sharp, broken bottle which went deep into me. Blood was gushing out and I took the blood, licked it and said whosoever that placed me in this (problem), this is what would happen. Thereafter, I went and jumped into a deep well but one Igbo man rescued me. He was a palmwine tapper. He saw me as I ran towards the well. How he rescued me, I did not know, but he did.
The third time, I was at the College of Education, Ijebu Ode, where I was reading biology/chemistry. I came back home late one day: we had two practicals in biology and chemistry.
So, when I got back to my father's metallurgical site, another one in Ijebu Ode (you will read presently about the one in Ibadan) - because I had to work early in the morning before going to the college - I was so dirty and my dad said I went to play football. I said I did not play football, that I just returned from school. He said, no, another student of our school returned around noon. I told him that the person he was talking about was an arts student (which is why) he returned earlier. I let him know that I had two practicals and I was tired. He said that I was running away from the work at the site. I told him that was not true and that he could go and investigate and he would find out I was telling the truth.
I was really tired, trekking the long distance from the school at Igbeba to Osimore Street. I needed food and water. I told him, 'Please stop all these things. If you do not want me as a child, please let me just go for you.' My dad grew annoyed and threw a pipe at me. That was when I left to stay at my dad's friend's house and decided to hang myself on the ceiling.
But I was also rescued and that one said I should never try to kill myself again.
It was thereafter that I encountered Jesus on my way to Damascus, Oke Ita Methodist Church, Ago Iwoye. The day was 27 August 1987. And (there was) a total turnaround in my life. The Lord gave me speed and I give Him praise.
All that I lost, He replenished and blessed me back on the path of righteousness.
My grandmother was my angel
I want to bless the name of the Lord for my grandmother. Each time I remember her and that she is no more alive, I get emotional. She was the angel God sent to me and each time I remember her words toward me - that I would be great in life irrespective of what happened or would happen to me - and that challenges would come and I would overcome them; that I was born great. She always told me to be careful of women and not engage in any battle because of money, land and the like. All what she taught me while I was growing up has been my guide. I have never tasted alcohol in my life, I have never smoked and I did not even have a girlfriend until when I decided to marry. All this has helped me in my commitment to the work of God.
As I am talking now, I still remember so many things that went into my training from my grandmother.
She was just the person who moulded my life with the hand of God.
I was in Primary One to Five at Wesley Primary School, Mososi, now called Mososi Methodist Primary School, in Ago-Iwoye, where my grandmother was a teacher. When my grandmother was posted as headmistress to Ajebo Primary School, in another town called Ajebo, I could not move with her and she really suffered during that period. Though, later, God helped her and she returned to Ago-Iwoye as headmistress of Imere Moslem Primary School, which is how I had to complete my primary school in that school and obtained my First School Leaving Certificate.
Through my primary school days, it would be difficult for me to take second position.
It was only when I moved to Imere Moslem Primary School, that, to retain being first, I had to work harder than it should be, because of the Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) introduced into my new experience.
But it did not work because they had other brilliant students. I can remember Alhaji Femi Bakre, now managing director of a bank.
I was about ten years old when I was admitted into Ago Iwoye Secondary School where my grandfather was the chairman of the Board of the Governing Council but I did not have a tight relationship with him, even to his death. Even though he was a good man to the society, to his community, and the extended family, he had some issues with my grandmother which he transferred to her lineage, including me.
I was here till Class Three.
I moved to Aiyepe High School, Aiyepe Ijebu. Aiyepe is a Muslim community, so to say. With the Olowolegbons, Shittus, the way they did their things, every Friday, we sang and danced to the mosque.
Because of the new language, Arabic, and other things, as well as the help from our Pakistan instructor in IRK, with the help of her husband; they loved me so much - because I was doing well in mathematics and other things, they brought me close to themselves. They taught me more of the Islamic way of life. I was practically a Muslim and I was enjoying it.
Because of my experience and certain things that were happening to me, I felt that Christianity was a scam.
But, of course, I later became a born again Christian.
I was an average performer in secondary school. I was above average in post-secondary school which started at Luba Secondary School, Ijebu Ode, where I had the third best result.
Thereafter, I got admission to Ogun State College of Education, Ijebu Ode, actually it was to do another post-secondary school education but I ended up doing NCE in biology and chemistry.
When I encountered Jesus (after my last suicidal attempt narrated earlier), I asked Him to give me an admission to a university and sponsor me. That was my quest then, because most of the people who were my junior in secondary school had obtained their first degrees while some already had their master's and I felt that I could also make it. The Lord answered my prayer and I got admission to the University of Lagos where I got my first degree in chemistry. It was not so easy because I had no sponsors, nothing, but God intervened and the university gave me a scholarship as the best student in the department.
Simultaneously, I earned a Full Technology Certificate (FTC) of the City and Guilds London in metallurgical engineering via Yaba College of Technology.
Why metallurgical engineering
When my father returned from London, at a point when I was about ten years old, he established a metallurgical site in Ibadan. And, during the holidays, my grandmother, because she just wanted me to learn of my parents - of course, that had become so difficult - (sent me to Ibadan). So, each time I got to Ibadan, I followed him to the site with that my uncle (Mr Adesina Adebanjo) who is still alive. There, I joined them to do a lot of things….
At that early age, I learnt how to construct, fabricate and weld. Learning of anything is so easy for me. I do not know; it is just God's grace.
In fact, I built a single-bodied trailer at that early age.
Best corps member
When I was leaving university, I promised myself that I am going to serve God and humanity.
I was posted to Anambra State for the 1991/1992 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme.
When I got to my primary assignment in Adazi-Ani in the Anaocha Local Government Area (LGA) of the State, I saw so many challenges in the town - no electricity, no pipe-borne water, the community was ravaged by erosion, and I was faced with what to do (to help). And God helped me, I was able to provide a solution for electricity; we controlled erosion and (built) many bus stops for the community. I also trained the villagers on poultry farming. They had problem with hatching turkey eggs, so I invented a local incubator using lantern and that really helped them. And, of course, till today, if you get to Anambra State, that community is the highest producer of turkey and they are the best in poultry. I also invented plastic recycling machine, plastic washing machine. I built five for the place of my primary assignment. I also built soap making machine of different types as well as overhead cranes.
So many things I was able to do attracted the attention of the NYSC and the state government.
By God's grace, I became the best youth corps member in the LGA and the state. I also got a national award.
To God be the glory. God has been faithful to me. He has been wonderful working with me.
A tradition of acquiring knowledge
By God's mercies, I have post-graduate degrees, professional qualifications, and professorial appointment in two different bodies of knowledge.
I am a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Fellow, Institute of Strategic Management Nigeria. I am a chartered chemist. I am a chartered waste management technologist. I am a chartered industrial economist. I studied project management. I started from master's degree. Two PhDs from Nigeria, three from Europe. I have PhD in Strategic Management Business Innovation.
I have stopped counting some of my qualifications for certain reasons. In fact, I stopped acquiring certificates just last year. It is a tradition that every year I must earn a certification. I felt that now that my first son is doing his PhD in strategic management, I should consolidate on what I have.
I am a consultant and visiting professor to Garden City Premier Business School Port Harcourt and a director of City Legend Business School Abuja.
I am, by God's grace, a global facilitator. I move across Africa and Europe.
I am also the international coordinator/founder of Nexcon Africa. Our primary goal is to redefine the African economy.
How Onitsha Business School came about
As a professor in business evolution and strategic management, I asked the Lord to guide me on what to do and how to give back to the society.
It is necessary that we look at the need of the society and one of them is the serious gap between university education and the actual needs in the society.
To bridge this gap, we identified the importance of business schools in most of our commercial cities.
And, that is what led to the establishment in 2010 of the Onitsha Business School.
The School is a member of the European Council of Business Education, United Nations Global Compact…and has partnerships with so many institutes within and outside Nigeria.
How has the reception been?
As the Igbo people would say, the beginning of a thing is always difficult.
It has not been easy especially considering the value system around Onitsha. In the past, strangers and non-indigenes found it difficult staying around because of the challenges of the environment. But somebody needs to address that and set a path for changing the narrative and conversations about Onitsha.
And, that is just my determination and I know that the people will eventually appreciate it.
So many people outside the State and the town - we have students from across Nigeria - are really in love with what we are doing.
It is like the song in Igboland, Osondu Owendi, which means it gladdens some people's hearts while some people are not happy. It is a normal thing and God is there for us. He is.
But we are still believing that the people around will embrace it better.
We are coping with what we are doing. It is passionately vision-driven.
It is not easy to climb any mountain, anyway, especially where at the end of it, you have hubris.
We will continue to endure and ask God for His provision.
I believe that we are doing the right thing and gradually we will get through.
By God's grace, the School has produced some seventy-five chartered accountants. In the last diet of ICAN (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria), we had the third best result of students.
For SME, we have trained no fewer than four hundred and fifty people in skills' acquisition.
We run professional courses for the certification of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply UK, ICI of Canada, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and several others.
Our MBA and DBA programmes have been wonderful.
Wherever we identify a need, we move in and God makes the provision.
By His grace, we have just registered the Eko Atlantic Business School and it should soon come on board. We have registered Island Business School, also of Lagos. This is also coming on board soon.
We are thinking of establishing business schools across Africa, in Dakar, Senegal; Liberia,Monrovia; Bamako, Mali, because we cannot redefine Africa's economy when we do not have sound thought processes in Africa.
Our drive is to ensure that we liberate Africa in this direction.
Why I stayed back in Anambra State after youth service
I (had intended) leaving Anambra State, after my national youth service. Actually, I rejected an offer I got as African Research Studentry based on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I did not want to stay back in Anambra State but then I discovered that so many things were not in place. I could not imagine then when I saw so many villages and towns without electricity - and where there was any, it was by community efforts; (a few) good roads; the industrial sector struggling; lack of teachers in the educational sector….
And, I asked myself, are these people part of Nigeria? I had experienced free education from primary to secondary school; even my (West African School Certificate Examination) was paid for. I had free textbooks. At some point, I even got bursary awards in higher institutions. We had electricity everywhere in Ago-Iwoye.
So, while my simple plan for the electrification of Adazi-Ani worked, and I won the State NYSC Award, I went to pay homage to the then Governor of Anambra State, Chief Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife who received me (warmly). The money I got for my award, I donated it to Anambra State.
The governor complained bitterly that day that while Igbos were out there developing other people's States and cities, their own domain was lacking development and nobody was willing from other States to assist.
He asked me if I would like to stay back or leave. I asked him what he wanted me to do and he said I should stay back.
And I vowed that I would stay back.
He encouraged me to marry from Igboland.
As a Yoruba man, just because he is an elderly man and a governor, I felt that he was saying the right thing.
Although, after my service, I went to the University of Lagos where I did my postgraduate diploma in computer science, I later got a job from Ilesanmi Publishers where they posted me back to Anambra State.
I have also been married, for almost thirty years to Gloria Chinwe, nee Okeke, from Enugwu-Ukwu, and we are blessed with four children, two boys and two girls. The first one is doing his PhD in strategic management, the second one who read psychology, graduated as the best graduating student from Covenant University, the third one is about to graduate from there, in building technology, and the last one is in the final year in university.
Although the promise made by Dr Ezeife to give me a plot of land somewhere in Ifite has not been fulfilled till date.
But that is not a problem.
(At Ilesanmi), I grew to the position of regional manager and immediately the company promoted me to the national office, I resigned because, by then, I was married and I did not want a distant marriage. So I stayed back.
And, we started growing till where we are now.
Before my dad died, he used to travel to the East to come and see me and my family.
In the case of my mum, we are relating but, the truth is that it is not so cordial.
To God alone be all the glory
I am not a pastor but by the mercy of the Lord and His privilege, I am a Christian leader and patron of many Christian organisations. I am a deacon in my church. I am also a member of the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International.
Faithful is God.
He has caused us to walk through this path. And as the Scriptures say, "the path of the righteous is like a shining light, shining brighter and brighter, unto the perfect day." That is our trust and our belief.
We have never had a better yesterday.
I have many reasons to thank God and bless His name, and to keep serving Him even as I believe that I am yet to give enough for what He has done in my life to impact people for His glory.
Picture Source: Professor Sogbesan.
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