Monday, May 7, 2012

Untold story of Gbenga Sesan

Well, all I can say is that we are in for a swell time today. I need not tell you that your life will NEVER remain the same once you finish reading this interview, but believe me, something is about to happen in your life. With me today is a young man I find difficult to introduce because he is into so many things. He is too much and I have been watching him for over four years now.
Those who know him will agree with me that he is a man of impact. I won’t describe him, I will let you find out about him In His Own Words and you will reach your own conclusion at the end of the day. Come with me into the world of Gbenga Sesan! :)
May we know you? 
My name is 'Gbenga Sesan and I'm a social entrepreneur with keen interest in the role of new technologies in development. I work for Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and lend my energy to a number of other efforts that seek to empower youth, developing economies and underserved people groups.
What was growing up like for you? 
I was born in Ondo State, Nigeria, on the evening of July 27 the year Nigeria hosted the Festival of Arts and Culture. I share the same month of birth with my brother and two sisters while my parents share the same month of birth (April). Growing up was very conservative, especially with my dad being a teacher at the time.
My mum was a nurse and she travelled a lot, and I clearly remember my dad always correcting every error in the letters we sent home while in boarding school. I learnt about avoiding the act of comparing myself with others early in life -- as my dad would always ask me to remain conscious of the fact that being rated in the first position in a subject did not mean one scored the "highest mark obtainable".
I learnt, early in life, about the need to run my own race and only compare myself with the "best possible me". I was your average stubborn young man but I was quite shy and couldn’t look anyone directly in the eye. I got into trouble a lot because I hated to be told what not to do, but was also very conscious of my academics because I had to face a panel of two (my parents) each time my grades showed near signs of moving in the unallowed direction.
I grew up on questions – wondering why what I saw on TV was way different from reality, among others. Quite curious, I asked questions all the way to the computer laboratory in my secondary school where I was denied access. That, along with many other experiences from my childhood moved me closer to what is now my career direction today – helping to connect others with the same opportunities I missed while growing up. I also had access to a combined library of Medical Sciences and History (from my parent’s collections) so reading was always something I enjoyed – and I still do!
Wow! Everyone reading will agree with me that you have a very comprehensive profile, lol. Tell us, are you married? 
Yes o, and her name is Temilade. Like me, she's very interested in development and she's actually completing her PhD program at the moment, with a focus on Renewable Energy Policy and Implementation for developing economies (especially Nigeria and Kenya).
Hmmmmm. Efico husband and Efico wife, your children have no choice than to be eficos too. :) Now, we will like to know the day that changed your life. 
I saw a computer for the first time during my third year in secondary school and the inability to satisfy my curiousity about the “machine” was a very big challenge to me. Instead of getting discouraged, however, I made up my mind that I was not only going to touch a computer but I would teach others how to use it to prevent the kind of embarrassment I faced each time I tried getting closer to the “magic beast.”
One of the days I tried to enter the computer room, I was told, “[computers are] not for people like you, you’re too small to understand” and I became angry enough never to look back until the tool became a valid force for my personal progress. I think that was one of the days my life changed!
This got me thinking man. The first time I saw a computer was when I was about seventeen years old. Didn’t even hear of it throughout my secondary school days! Now Mr. Sesan, the journey so far. How did you get started and how has it been all the way? 
Eight years after that first encounter with a computer, I met Late Dr. James Sotomi who gave me the opportunity to complete my fourth year university internship at his company, Neural Technologies Limited. I was able to learn enough to start me off in my career such that by the year 2000,
I had completed my first task of helping people use Information and Communication Technologies for development. I organized a training session on website design with a friend, Ogemdi, and about sixteen young people graduated from the training course with a glow similar to the one I had some five years before then.
“Maybe I’m impacting my generation” came the thought each time I spoke to youth about making use of ICTs. From speaking with young people, I got the opportunity of moving on to help my nation and continent around the same issues of bridging the digital divide and using ICTs for accelerated development.
Each time I consider what Nigeria and Africa keep losing as we clamour for wealth from mineral resources while ignoring the potential benefits of investing in the Information Society, I am inspired to take another step towards helping the situation in my own little way. Maybe that explains why the British Broadcasting Corporation put it this way in 2003: “Nigeria … appointed a youth as an Information Technology ambassador … and while he has no personal computer himself, he holds the dream of helping over 4,000 young people learn new ICT skills within his two- year tenure”.
When people ask me why I do what I do, my response is, “I am an angry young man who is worried about the gap between what is and what can be.” I am inspired by an increasingly clear picture of the future and motivated to take action because I now know that life becomes easier to live when you move in the direction of your dreams – especially when it helps others achieve theirs too.
Interesting enough, the journey has now been chronicled in my book, "In My Own Words," which will be presented to the public on September 9 (09-09-09) and will be available for pre-order on at least 1 month before the release date. So far, it's been an interesting journey and I can't wait to apply the lessons I've learnt over the years in the next few.
I can’t wait to read the book, in short I will be one of those to pre-order. I have always asked people this and I am going to ask you too, what has been the role of dreams in your life? I'm a dreamer, of the order of those who dream with their eyes wide open. Anyone who knew me while I was much younger would tell you that I've always talked about four things: personal development, nation building, regional cooperation and global relevance. I didn't use those exact words in primary/secondary school but my friends would probably remember my talks of Sesan Manufacturing Company :)
As I grew older and discovered more of my skills and passion, I began to speak more accurately about the things that have now formed the core of my career. My classmates in Ife will probably remember when I started talking about "Global Synergism", using my initials (GS) to describe how I would travel the world discussing technology issues.
And if you ask my wife, she'll tell you the dreams are getting sharper because if I stop dreaming, then I'm no longer useful on this side of the planet. At 9:29am on Friday, October 22, 2004, I drew up a summary of my dreams at the time into what I called a "Personal Mission Statement" and it has served as a fulcrum for other dreams to date.
Do you have any regret in following your dreams? 
None whatsoever, even if only for the pure fun of watching them become reality.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt in life? 
I've learnt that: (a) A baby will never walk on its mother's back! (b) 1 minus 2 is impossible until you know the answer. (c) Today is a snapshot, tomorrow is in the full-length movie. (d) 20 friends for 20 years? No way! (e) Don't take that job, build a career! (f) The whole world only stands aside for those who know where they're going. (g) Nigeria is a land of opportunities - only for the prepared!
The detailed explanations of these lessons are in the 9th chapter of my new book, "In My Own Words," and they are lessons that have seen me through much of life.
What a lesson those are! Well anyone reading this, my question is why won’t you get that book? Just mark your calendar for the pre-release date and make sure you get your copy immediately it goes live. ;) Do you have Role Models or Mentors? 
Walda Roseman, Wole Soyinka, Philip Emeagwali, Pat Utomi, Tunde Bakare, among others
Interesting! What about books? What roles have they played in your life? 
In books, I find what life tries to take too much time teaching me. Even beyond the fact that my parents kept a rich library and that you can't be around my wife and not read, I have learnt so much from books that I find it easy to recommend books to people when I want them to understand a point (or principle) better. With books, I'm able to acquire knowledge that might cover a period of 80 years in 80 hours; which is what happens when I read autobiographies (my favourite).
What are the books you will recommended for our readers? 
(a) Autobiographies of Nelson Mandela ("Long Walk to Freedom"), Wole Soyinka ("You Must Set Forth at Dawn") and Barack Obama ("Dreams of My Father") Others are: (a) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey) (b) Business at the Speed of thought (Bill Gates) (c) The World is Flat (Thomas L. Friedman) (d) A Whole New Mind (Daniel Pink) (e) In My Own Words ('Gbenga Sesan) ;)
What a rich list that is. What would you have been doing if you are not doing what you are doing now? 
Acting. My childhood friends and those who knew me in Ife would not be surprised to read that :)
That means the acting world has lost a gem, lol. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now? 
In 5 years, I will be handing over the day-to-day running of my involvements to protégés whose expertise will allow me focus on generating new ideas for developing countries while also advising on tested models in my area of expertise. In 10 years, Temi and I will be mostly writing, speaking and travelling.
It has been interesting so far and we are getting to the end of the interview. I know you have a VERY busy schedule, so tell us how you catch fun in spite of your schedules? 
I watch movies, listen to Temi's theories (it's funny enough how she calls my attention when she's about to discuss a theory) and travel quite often (transition has its own soothing effect on my mind).
I can testify to the travel part because I know all the inventions that it took to have this interview after pursuing you for over two years, lol. Now, in your own opinion, how can Nigeria be great again? There's a huge wall between Nigeria and greatness and just like Samson in the Bible, each young Nigerian needs to find a spot where their applied energy can bring down the pillars. And in contemporary speak, we need to locate the "stress points" (just like Michael did in Prison Break) so that we can drill tiny holes, apply little pressure and break down the walls.
When each of us take our places in ICT, Oil & Gas, Accounting, Politics, Governance, Medicine, etc, we will fix our sphere of influence; and when we do that, we expand the perimeters of change. Then, it'd be a matter of time before things that fell apart now "Fall In Place". The truth is that when we shine our lights, even as individuals, we literally give others the permission to dig in to find theirs for appropriate revelation.
Great one there. In rounding up, any advice for our readers? 
Find your place, make it work, spread the influence and work with others. This is not the time to be ordinary because as the world gets larger and more integrated, the probability that you are easily spotted (or discover opportunities) reduces. It's presently 0.0000000001477104874446090 for each average individual because the world's population is 6.77 billion!
But for those who dare to stand out, you're not measured as 1 out of 6.77 billion, but THE GUY WHO... or THE LADY THAT... It’s the reason why we think literature and Soyinka’s name (or the other WS) comes to mind, or you spend 1 second thinking about microfinance only for Muhammad Yunus to keep ringing in your head. Name your spot!
WOW! I hope someone can print this out and read and re-read over and over again. I am sure everybody has been blessed by this interview. This is one of the best I have ever seen anywhere in the whole world, no kidding. There are more to come as Nigeria is blessed with so many wonderful people.
Keep coming back as we are set to unveil another Naija Role Model soon. Keep living your dream because we look forward to having you as a guest on Naija Role Model in the nearest future.
God bless Nigeria ;)

1 comment:

  1. Definitely bookmarking this page :)