|Prof. Kola Sonaike|
In this interview with JABU Voice, the new Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Kola Sonaike speaks on his vision for the school and other interesting issues. EXCEPT !
Can you give us a brief background of yourself?
I was born into a Southwest family in Nigeria; actually I come from Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State. I was born in Jos because my father was a meteorologist who worked all over Nigeria and I started my early education in Lagos where I grew up. I had my elementary school in Lagos, and my high school education was at Ado-Ekiti. Then I went to University of Ibadan to study Petroleum Engineering. After graduating I joined Exxonmobil production Nigeria based in Lagos. After four years I was transferred to the field where I worked for a year then I had the opportunity of working in the United States of America for some years. I came back to head the outfit in the East where I was the Operations Manager for Eastern Nigeria for three and half years. Then I was transferred back to U.S where I worked until I retired in 2006. I retired voluntarily though by that time I had been in the oil and gas industry for 30years.
Later, I decided to go into academics by the time I retired. I had a number of degrees while working for the company by the time I opted to retire. I had five degrees including one doctorate.
In January 2006, I decided to go into academics; I joined American Intercontinental University in Houston where I worked for 13 years. Eventually I got this offer and I came here in September 2019.
You said you had five degrees when you retired, can you mention them?
My first degree was from the University of Ibadan where I studied Petroleum Engineering. My second degree was from University of Lagos (UNILAG) where I studied Business Administration Bachelors, then I went to University of Ibadan where I got a masters in Industrial and Labor Relations. Then I got another masters at university of Ibadan in business administration and I got another degree from the university of Port Harcourt and that was a PhD in Management.
Then I got a DBA in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from the University of Phillips; and I\’m working on a doctorate in theology which I\’m rounding up very soon which will make my degrees seven in total.
How was your journey to JABU?
I had been in Christ Apostolic Church about 60years; I was originally influenced by a friend of mine to join the church. I had committed myself to CAC since then and I became an Elder when I finished youth service and later on through prophetic utterance by my assembly Pastor then, Pastor Abraham Olukunle Akinosun who is the current CAC President, he was the one who recommended me and I was ordained a CAC Pastor in February 1998.
Then in the U.S, God used me to plant a lot of assemblies and I have never been paid and that is my vow with God. So that was how they knew about me and some people followed my career. Actually, three years before I was notified I got the revelation from God that I was coming to JABU. By the time I got the revelation, the time of the current VC was up but they did not advertise the job until two and half years later, then I applied and six months later, it was approved, then I came to Nigeria and I started 1st September, 2019. I didn\’t know JABU but the Holy Spirit got me ready for JABU.
What are your achievements so far in the University?
I have been standing on the shoulder of giants, the previous Vice Chancellors did a great job and I have been standing on their shoulders. The Registrar, Deans, HoDs, I have relied so much on the people I met here, so anything that can be called achievement has been a joint effort. And truly since I came, everywhere I went to everyone has been helpful and it has been a joint effort.
In the course of staying in the University, what are the challenges you have faced so far?
Having been away from Nigeria for so many years, I haven’t been in a situation where is no light. Electricity is no big deal, in Nigeria we still flare gas to generate electricity, I am so shocked in Nigeria we still have cases of electricity challenge. But I have never been disturbed since I got prepared for that before coming to Nigeria.
Another problem is malaria, which is caused by anopheles mosquito, whenever you are outside Nigeria for more than six months, you lose your immunity, for most of us in Nigeria, and our body is used to it.
What are your plans for Mass Communication Department?
When I came, I bonded quickly with the HoD because my elder brother was one of the first Professors of Mass Communication, unfortunately he passed on in 2006.
So as regards Mass Communication Department, I think the first thing is the radio issue which I signed the license some days ago and once everything is put in place, we can go ahead and broadcast.
Universities are run by donations and we plan on writing letters to sponsors like CNN, Voice of Africa and so on so that we can have equipment and broadcast. We want to go into Television production. I am interested in all these things because these are things that showcase the university and add to the community development. All these are in plan to be carried out for the department.
The unbundling of the Mass Communication department by the NUC, what is the university plan for the department?
They didn\’t make it compulsory. These are segments that they believe every university should have. The school has it in mind and we are going to have all the departments. We may not grow into everything immediately but we will grow into it. We are a university committed to obeying the law and we will not lay back as regards this also. The departments are very important and we will go into it.
In relation to your achievements, how were you able to clear the salary arrears in just a few months of your appointment?
I worked alongside the Bursar and we reviewed some things. I came from a culture that does not tolerate owing of salary as this will lower the morale of staff members. As for the past leaders, it was not as if they were intentionally not paying. The day-to-day expenses of the university were being seen to. So we had to prioritize some things. We add to our salary at the top burner so that workers can be motivated.
Students enrollment is also a factor, and to the grace of God we have experienced some intake of students, and Nursing, Medical Laboratory Science has been approved for the university. By the time we are fully into it, students population will increase and this will enable us have enough funds.
How has been the student enrollment for this academic year?
According to the Chairman of the Admissions Committee, we have about 600 freshmen and we are still expecting more. We are also embarking on rigorous signing of memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the university and other schools that are not universities but their products will like to come to universities. That is also a source of population growth. We also have conversion students, we are putting lots of things in place to ensure continuous enrollment of students.
We have a vision to admit a minimum of 1000 students per academic session we are working towards it. And this year God has helped us, we have 600 students and we are working hard towards the realization of the vision.
What is the NUC rating of the University?
Their impression is very good. They recognize JABU for being the First Entrepreneurial University in Nigeria. In this sense, entrepreneurship means adding of value and that is what the institution is recognized for. And whenever I get the chance to talk to students, I tell them that as entrepreneurs we are meant to add value, make changes and multiply as we are recognized as the leading entrepreneurship university in Nigeria.
The NUC also sees us as the first university to get approval for Center for Distance Learning, so NUC views the institution positively and in relations to commencement of the Nursing department, we are looking forward to growing into a Medicine department where people can study to become medical doctors. We are looking aggressively at expansion; hope to have departments like Engineering and Music.
Research is known as the main stay of any university, is there plans put in place to promote research in JABU?
Personally, as a way of encouraging research I pledge to give prize to two professors or senior lecturers who made more publications during the year. We are doing everything to encourage all faculties to publish. We have slang in academics “publish or perish” it is through your publication that you get promoted in the university, so we are encouraging research on all fronts. We have lots of research going on in other departments like Law, Management, and others.
Like this year, several lecturers have presented papers for research and the university is supporting it.
What is your message to students?
To have the privilege of studying in a school like this, learning the word of God and Academics, those who are here should thank God; it is a rare privilege, so they should not take it for granted.
Secondly, Students should work hard, the gifts of God in our lives are not the same, some students only read for few hours and they assimilate and some need some hours to read and assimilate the same thing. So students should know the category they fall in.
If you read a book two to three or three times you retain a lot without knowing. So, students should read continuously. That’s the nature of academics. Don\’t do like others, do as God has created you. Hardworking does not kill, study hard and then you will come out excellently.
So that’s my advice to the students, utilize the time you have now and do not take it for