Entrepreneurship is undoubtedly one of the flagship programmes of the Kwara State University, Malete. It is one programme that has continued to expose students to countless opportunities in the world of work, thus making them job creators, rather than job seekers. In this interview with Babagana Amodu Abba, AdegboyeMumeen, TemitopeRasheed Salawu and AyomikunOlagoroye, the Acting Director of the Centre, Mr. Sunday Ojo, opens up on the giant strides being made by the Centre. Excerpts:
To start with, who is Mr. Sunday Ojo?
I am the Acting Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Kwara State University, Malete. Before now, I had been a member of the Centre right from inception. The Centre began as the university began in 2009, then I was a Programming Officer at the Centre and Programme Officer of the Enterprise Creation and Skills Acquisition programme, which is the flagship of the Centre. Few years later, I became an Assistant Director, the Deputy Director and now in the last 18 months, the Acting Director. So, I have learnt the rope over the years.
Would you say when you started working with KWASU that was when you started moving into the world of entrepreneurship?
That may not be correct. I hailed from Kabba in Kogi State. I happened to live my early life with my Aunty, who happens to be a business woman. She was into selling of rice and beans. She buys in bulk from Lagos and then sells to retailers. Being a young boy with her, we were just two; herself and I. So, I learnt the art of buying and selling. I can say I was born into the world of business. If I were not schooled, I would have been a proper businessman. Going to school, becoming a scientist, then I went into the line of science, but as God would have it, of course, this is in born, it is something I have learnt over the years. So, when the Centre came up in 2009, I was the first staff to be recruited. The Director of the Centre then, Dr. Muritala Awodun, happened to be a friend, a colleague and a brother. Despite being a scientist, it was easy to learn from him.
What university did you graduate from?
I happen to be a product of the Better by Far University, that is University of Ilorin, both at first and second degrees and now I am writing my PhD in Zoology. I am a Parasitologist, as a discipline in Zoology.
Do you feel entrepreneurship is better than looking for job?
Yes. I would be very honest with you. Going into the world of entrepreneurship is the very best but it has its own challenges. For example, having the right kind of knowledge required to deal with people, being able to raise funds to finance your business because it requires personal savings. Truth be told, entrepreneurship is the very best but getting a paid job, you know you have an end in mind which aim is to raise funds for your business or to acquire necessary experience or create a niche for yourself. Experience, niche, base and again to raise funds; all these at the end of the day, would come to play in your ability to do well in your entrepreneurship.
Why is registering business entrepreneurship necessary?
If you look at the slogan at the Centre, it is “Producing tomorrow global business leaders today.” You can’t be an entrepreneur without having an enterprise. Since we are creating global entrepreneurs, the starting point of being an entrepreneur is having an enterprise. If you look at how the programme is designed, GNS 203 is done at the point of entering 200 level, you do Innovation and Product Development. If you create a product or service, you need an enterprise to take your product to the market, hence the next stage is registering your business.
Since we came to creating entrepreneurs then, there is a need for us to make them register their enterprise. Having an enterprise is the beginning of being an entrepreneur, having created your own product of service which you intend to market to people.
Some students don’t want to do business, why making the business registration compulsory for all?
I can tell you going into business is situational or circumstantial. Everybody wants the easiest way out, works under somebody, comes out and gets paid. It is good however these things are not more in place. That is the fact. I am sure you have an uncle or aunt who has been out of school trusting for job, they are not there. Therefore, there is need to create job where others would work. They are green, they don’t know what it is out there. For the first day, they enter the NYSC camp, they would know that the way to go is business and not the other way round. I am sure you know that at the end of your programme in KWASU, we give you certificate for participation in entrepreneurship. As soon as students hit camp, I receive loads of request for their certificate that has been left behind. What they have learnt in five or four years of their life they would be taught in two weeks. All that they would be told is that there is no job and that is the reality. Mark my words; becoming an entrepreneur in life is circumstantial. For example, I told you about myself, though I have the gene in me, I was trained all along. However, I happen to be a scientist, circumstance brought me back to entrepreneurship.
Rumors have it that the Centre is exploiting students through CAC payment. What do you have to say about this?
I don’t trade words when people don’t have facts. I know students are lazy and they don’t find out. You are paying online, you don’t pay to us, and you go and register your business online through Remita to the CAC account, not to the centre. I think it is unfounded, baseless and not logical. What we do is to add value to your certificate. What you don’t see elsewhere at times you think it is odd but that’s what makes you unique and special. What makes KWASU unique and a university you must is registering your own business. Hart &Capital said the best thing that ever happened to them was registering their business while they were in KWASU. Meanwhile, check the amount someone else who is not a KWASU student pays to register a business. We help lower the stress. At CAC, you need to have your birth certificate, driver’s license but since students are young and some are not eighteen and they have to register, we find a way to make them lower theirs for KWASU students. It does not make sense that you pay through Remita and we go back to ask the government. However, not only minding wrong accusations from students, before now, we asked student to register on their own and vendors tried to register fake certificate and exploit our students. We have issues of fake certificate which we have seen. Now the centre has taken over that role to assist students in registering their business from this session. If you register elsewhere, it must be acceptable. Reason is that we want to eliminate chances of being given a fake certificate that may put you in trouble later in life.
Does the Centre for Entrepreneurship grant loans to students running businesses on campus?
Right from its inception in 2009, the centre created a fund, called ‘Entrepreneurship Fund.’ It is 50 per cent of what comes to the centre being set aside for every student that graduates from KWASU and is able to submit a viable business plan. There are guidelines that guide every loan; once you are able to meet up with the criteria, the centre is ready to partner with you, give you funds and again help you manage that business. As I speak with you, there are some set of students who are already enjoying that facility to finance their business on campus. I know a particular girl who sells salad. She has graduated now but the bank financed her while she was still on campus. There is another lady who is into catering. Last year, she catered for our secondary students during the GEW (Global Entrepreneurship Week). She will be doing the same this year, listening to her testimony, I was glad; she finished from KWASU last year. She is managing a canteen. She is doing well. I don’t want to disclose her figure. The fund is there and people are accessing it, so if you are interested, feel free to approach the bank. Meet their terms and conditions and then you will be advanced.
Recently, you started a project, called “KWASU Feed,” what is the purpose?
When I took the mantle of leadership of the centre, being a scientist, I realized that for every course that I do, there is a practical aspect to it and entrepreneurship is not different. I can’t say I am an entrepreneur without practising, therefore we choose to incorporate practical into our courses and in doing so, we look at what businesses we can run on campus. Then, what business can we teach our students to lay their hands on easily and we realized that agriculture business is the easiest, most appropriate because everybody is shouting about diversifying the economy and what we have in abundance is land, arable land. You can’t imagine the kind of land KWASU has as a university. We felt that let’s start from there. That was why we created poultry. As I speak with you, Malete community is feeding on our eggs and our broilers and we are now going into crop farming. I don’t have to be an agriculturist before I know how to farm. By next year, we would do crop farming on a bigger scale; what we did is just test-run our ideas and see if it they were feasible and we can say of course, they are.
Food is key, everybody eats so going into food business you can never be wrong. That was why we chose to go into agric business in the centre to enlighten the students on opportunities that are there in agric. Honestly, I can tell you, the next generation of billionaires will be farmers and exposing our students to it tells you we are on the right part. I can tell you the next set of billionaires will be KWASU students, trust me.
Can you talk about the plans of KWASU bakery and KWASU farm?
It is not more a plan, it has already been implemented. As I speak with you, construction is going on at the Entrepreneurship Park. The work is close to 70 per cent to 80 per cent done. For the farm, we harvested our corn last week and yesterday (Wednesday, October 31, 2018), we did the stretching, the cassava is still on. By next semester, God helping us, we don’t want to stop at cropping, we want to go into adding value to our harvest. So, we might be taking in or adding value to our harvest like gari processing. The centre has a lot; we are trying to unfold them one after the other.
What do you have to say about balancing academics with business?\
It is not everybody that is good on multitasking. If you are good at multitasking you can still do well in business and do well in academics, you must be able to balance up. However, it is not everybody that is able to do so. Some put so much time into the business and neglect academics because of the reward they are already seeing. While some are smart enough to balance the two. What I would say is that excellence is when there is a need for you to know how to balance between your business and your academics.
What is GEW?
GEW means Global Entrepreneurship Week. There is a body called Global Entrepreneurship Congress. It began in the US about 11years ago. The movement was to create an eco-system of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship involves the entrepreneur himself, his customers or his would-be customers, the policy makers and the educators like us who will end up imparting this knowledge to people. The congress is like a community of stakeholders in entrepreneurship.
The 10th edition of GEW was held last year and KWASU has attended three of such, the only institution after Pan African University, which has done that. I give that to my Vice-Chancellor. That is why we always abreast of developments in the business world. The GEW is set aside to celebrate entrepreneurship, to enlighten, to create a synergy between entrepreneur, between policymakers and educators, because we know the way out of economic problem is entrepreneurship. Why the developed nations advance is because they are really grounded in entrepreneurship while those of us in Africa are still trailing behind. The week is set aside to celebrate entrepreneurship or create an eco-system for stakeholders in entrepreneurship.
What edition of gew is kwasu about to hold?
KWASU is holding its 9th edition. The globe is celebrating its 11th edition. KWASU began in 2009. If this is the 11th edition, that means it began in 2008. In 2008, there was no KWASU; it was in 2009 that KWASU began. The week is celebrate the 2nd week in November. KWASU began its first lecture on December 17, so second edition there was no KWASU. The 3rd edition, there was KWASU, so the very first opportunity that KWASU had, we jumped at it. We can say the week is as old as the university itself. I’m very bold to say till now KWASU is the only university, apart from Pan African University, that celebrates the Global Entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
What are the major highlights for this year’s KWASU GEW?
It is a weeklong activity starting on Monday, the 12th November, with the opening ceremony, coupled with what we call CRAIN competition, Creativity and Innovation Competition, where KWASU students who have ideas throw it open. You would be criticized and the best student will be awarded. The global theme has always been unleashing ideas since inception while our local theme for this year is “Enterprising Leadership.” What informed the theme this year is that we looked at our Vice-Chancellor, who is highly enterprising in his style of leadership. How do I mean? In last four academic sessions, government has not given KWASU a dime as subvention and yet we are not only doing well, we are flourishing, meaning our CEO is highly enterprising and of course with mixed feelings, I am sure we know that this enterprising Vice-Chancellor will be leaving the stage by July, next year. That means by next year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, he won’t be around. He will only come as a guest not as the Vice-Chancellor, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Board of The Centre for Entrepreneurship. This edition is actually in his honor. On the first day, three women will be talking to us about entrepreneurship leadership from different angles. Dr. (Mrs.) Bola Adimula who is a Principal Partner of Adimula Chambers, would be talking to us on enterprising leadership, the view point of a legal practitioner. Being a lawyer that has her own chamber, she would be talking to us on what it takes to create that kind of enterprise.
Another woman that would be talking to us on that same day is Mrs. Omolara Olanrewaju, who happens to be the Proprietress and Coordinator of Mollys Group of Schools. Molly is about the second best set of schools in Kwara state. The woman is a serial entrepreneur, she has Molly Stores, her husband has Olanrewaju hospital, and their family are serial entrepreneurs. She would talk to us on the same issue enterprising leadership, the view point of an educator and a serial entrepreneur. You see, why do we choose women? This is because women are good at multitasking. See women being a mother, a wife, a teacher and now a business owner, being able to control people. If she can do it why can’t a man. Then that same day one of the directors of DIS who are the makers of D-cool waters, Mrs. Victoria Bola Adeyemi will also be talking to us. On Monday, any focused students should not miss it. On Wednesday, it is regulators and stakeholders’ day. We are bringing in regulators like NAFDAC, SON, to enlighten students on what the law says about starting an enterprise.
On Thursday, we would bring in secondary pupils who will be competing, showing their entrepreneurial skills. Last edition which happened to be my first GEW as the AG, before then the best attendance was 22 schools. Last year, I had 70 schools in attendance. This year we are better prepared and we hope to have more. You need to see quality of ideas coming from these young ones showing that over the years, the seed we are sowing is already growing. Students graduating from secondary school now have the seed of entrepreneurship sowed in them. On the same day, the pioneer director of the centre, Dr. Muritala Awodun would be our guest speaker and will be speaking on enterprising leaders of tomorrow. The chairman of the occasion is the Honorable Commissioner for Education, Kwara state. On Sunday is the grand finale, we honor people who have done well in businesses. This year we are honoring women in business. The special quest for the day is her Excellency the wife of the Governor of Kwara state, Deaconess Omolewa Ahmed. She will be speaking to us on enterprising women. By God’s Grace, the Vice-Chancellor himself will speak to us on ‘Entrepreneurship leadership: My KWASU experience.’ We want him to share with us his experience and how he has been able to manage the affairs of KWASU enterprisingly.
Few weeks ago, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University were here, I was part of the team that welcomed them and they were wondering how come the university has never experienced a day strike in the midst of all this. We want to hear from him how he has been able to manage the school. The point is that in the midst of no money, we (KWASU) are doing what other universities cannot do, so he would be sharing with us his experience such that the HODs, DEANs, Provosts, they would probably learn.