Knowledge acquisition, my life-long obsession

Fortune University is Not To Make Profit – Jimoh Ibrahim

The name, Jimoh Ibrahim is synonymous with different things in different words. In the world of business, he is synonymous with adventure and monumental successes, while he is also synonymous with rare brilliance and insatiable thirst for knowledge acquisition in the academic world. Jimoh Ibrahim is distinctly synonymous with decency in the world of politics.
The man of many parts in an interview speaks with Femi Salako, the publisher of Triangle Magazine on various issues which bother on his University of Fortune, business successes, insatiable quest for knowledge, his vision for education in Nigeria and his position on politics. He also speaks on what makes him embark on pursuit of five different degrees in ivy league universities and what motivates him to embark on building of a world class university. He also talks on the major qualities he plans to ingrain in the students of his Fortune University. Excerpts :

What gave you the motivation to start a private university?

The University of Fortune was conceived out of the desire to build human capacity and offer a response to some challenges that have led to some level of decadence in the educational sector in Nigeria. We intend to create practical, applicable knowledge in degree programmes such that students after graduation can be on their own and make a fortune for themselves. Everybody has got destiny, allocated to everybody from heaven and that destiny can only be realized by adventure in knowledge. That’s why we made our motto to be ‘University of Fortune, Where Destiny is Driven by Knowledge’. The school will help you to fulfill your destiny. First, you must realize your destiny before you can fulfill your destiny. The university will make you to realize you have a destiny and the help you to set the parameters with which you can achieve the destiny. It will be the first university in Nigeria that will make people to feel that they got their destiny, no matter the course of study at the University of Fortune.

For some years now, your focus has been on acquiring more education in some of the best institutions in the world. Is there a connection between that and your decision to start a university here?

The trajectory of my recent educational development is premised on the desire to upgrade my knowledge. I reached a stage in life that I am now comfortable. I don’t want to be the richest man in Nigeria or the richest man in my village. I just want to be comfortable. I don’t like poverty around me and I think I have cleared that as much as I can. The next thing is how can I improve my knowledge so that I can realize the remaining of my unfulfilled destiny? I realized it would require a break from business in pursuit of education. It was a risk but I thought even if the business collapses and I come back with more knowledge, I can pick everything up from pieces and rebuild the business. I realized my degree from the University of Ife was about 30 years old (I left Ife in 1990); that’s too old. For new knowledge, I decided to look at the best universities in the world – the top three rated universities. ,I got the offer for Masters’ Degree an M.Sc in Program Management from the University of Oxford. While a student of Oxford, I applied for MBA at the University of Cambridge and was admitted. So, I found myself combining the degrees of Oxford and Cambridge together. I got both degrees in 2017. Since I had three Masters’ degrees with me (Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge), I decided to apply to the three universities for my PhD. I was invited for an interview at Harvard in the United States; I got an offer (a five year course) and I resumed but my desire was to be in Cambridge because their PhD is data processed and empirical evidence based. (Again remember that i got ITP/LL.M from Harvard in 2000 class, that was twenty years ago) while Harvard’s is lecture content, grading based. I was in the US for about five months and one day while receiving lecture in class, I got an offer for my PhD in Cambridge and two days later, I left Harvard. When I arrived at Cambridge, I realized that I was the only one admitted for Doctorate in Management Science. I have finished the second year of the study. It’s a four year program So, am in my third year starting from June this year. Meanwhile, in between these periods, I also realized I could re-do my Ife first degree ( rember it was 30 years old now) So, I applied to the London School of Economics of the University of London for BSc in International Relations (not Law which i did in Ife) and I’m currently in the final year of that and I will be finishing that one next year. That means I would have completed all the degrees So, next year, I will have Bsc (International Relations) LSE, University of London, MSc Oxford, MBA Cambridge, ITP/LL.M Harvard, PhD Cambridge and I am also doing another PhD in War at the University of Bukinham. So, this gives me enough understanding of the university setting; the quality of degrees to be awarded, how teaching is done, how marking is done and I think the University of Fortune will benefit a lot from this experience.

The name of your school is University of Fortune. Will it cost fortune for students to attend?

No. it will not cost a fortune of money to attend. I am not interested in making a profit from the school. This is not a profit making institution. This is meant to consolidate my investments and then satisfy my desires. One thing I can assure you is that money will not be the reason why you will not attend the University of Fortune but you must be brilliant. However, if you are not well qualified, we are going to set up a finishing school and you can be there for one year to prepare you for a degree. We are going to attract a lot of international funding for students of University of Fortune. Those funds, you can draw from them if you don’t have money but the tuitions will not really be something you cannot afford.

So, when is the expected take off date of the university ?

That, we don’t know for now because I will not open it until I am satisfied with what we have on ground. We won’t take off and then continue to build important structures. I do know that building a university is unending large project. If I finish it in two years, we will operate. If I don’t finish it until ten years, we will not operate until that ten years. Most important things will be on ground before we take off. Currently we have 48 buildings under construction on the site; almost all are at the roofing stage. We are hoping that by July, we will commence another 58 buildings and we have a six kilometers road to tar on the campus. All the staff quarters and students’ hostels must be ready. Already, we are roofing 48 staff buildings and if I have my way, I want all the flats fully furnished. I won’t bring lecturers here to come and suffer. So also the students would be just two per room with enough facilities. So, I am not in a hurry because all these will take a lot of time and resources.

There is a growing concern over the state of education in Nigeria. What is your idea of how the sector can be developed?

Well, the problems in the educational sector have to do with the Nigerian society. When the problems will be solved, the solution will have to come from the educational sector. The University of Oxford is already testing human being with solution vaccine on CODIC 19. Isaac Newton of the University of Cambridge thesis brought about the light invention! Which we all enjoying today and what can anyone do without light. Those two case shows to you that a university impacts on the society., as long as the education sector has not woken up, Nigeria problems will continue. You use research to get solutions to problems. Where is the capacity of our higher institutions to do meaningful research? So, we cannot continue to neglect the education sector. We will come back to it if we want to develop as a nation. Look at the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are doing Biological Science in a university, you must have a disease control laboratory. Where are our biological labs? The same thing in our economy, engineering, production. Things will move if we develop our educational sector. In Nigeria, we have less than 50, 000 PhD holders in a population of 200 million. Our population is growing at ten percent. We give birth to an average of more than two million children every year. Where are the PhD holders that will teach our children in schools? That is why university education is very important. Most of our citizens who go abroad to get PhD don’t come back to Nigeria to teach because the atmosphere and reward over there are much better with the situation here. 90 percent of them don’t come back. They are retained there and they continue to contribute to the development of those countries while we continue to suffer here.

What will be the fate of your businesses now that you are focused on education ?

Well, business is there; it’s running. I have banks; I’m not the one that will open the doors of the bank daily or write bank drafts. I have NICON Insurance; I’m not the one that will write cover for people. They have about 46 branches across Nigeria and over 2000 buildings in assets. If they need money they can sell anyone and get cash; and if they have surplus cash they can buy more properties to keep in investment. I have hotels; I’m not the Cook that will make food there. I have filling stations that I have leased out. I don’t think I’m seriously wanted in business. I think I’m seriously wanted in education.

How about politics?

Politics is not a do or die for me and I’m not desperate to be anything in politics or occupy any office. And, what is in politics? Those who are governors don’t live in better condition than me. There is nothing in any government house that can attract me. To me, I want to help people but I’m not desperate. At the appropriate time they will come and ask me to help and I will decide whether to accept to help or help them locate the people who are good enough to help them. It doesn’t have to be me.

What is your assessment of Governor Akeredolu in office so far?

Fantastic! He’s doing well. He has done very well with the resources available to him and he has not plunged the state into debt like his predecessor did. Mimiko took this state to over N200 billion in debt. Again, Akeredolu has not abandoned any of the projects he inherited from Mimiko unlike the way Mimiko abandoned the projects he inherited from Agagu. Look at the OSUSTECH here that Mimiko abandoned for eight years, Aketi is funding it now. Look at the overhead bridge he did at Ore. Look at what he is doing at SUBEB with schools. Nobody is perfect but Aketi is doing his best.

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