[17:58:32] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Okay Gbenga, This is a bit tricky, since I know you very well already. But since i’m sure the audience here will get to learn a lot from you, lets get kicking with it.
[17:58:40] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
[17:58:47] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Present circumstance and future aspirations?
[18:07:51] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: 🙂 My name is ‘Gbenga Sesan and I’m an Information Society researcher. I live and work in Lagos, as Program Manager of Lagos Digital Village and manage a few other “caps”. I’m completing my postgraduate studies in ICT Policy & Regulation and spend quite some time writing, speaking and travelling. All these are related to my career vision, which is to build an “impactful” and world-class career in the application of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) – for individuals, organizations, nations, regions and international entities.
[18:11:22] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: I consult widely on ICT issues and I’m presently involved with a number of such efforts. My present research projects include topics such as Internet Governance, eAdvocacy, Youth and ICT Policy, and ICTs and PEACE. I’m also serving on a number of committees, including the Presidential Task Force on ICT Harmonization, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s African Technical Advisory Committee and the World Summit Awards’ Expert Panel.
[18:12:36] Adeolu Akinyemi says: I can almost hear thunder reading this. I knew this was going to be heavy not overweight, guess i’m also in for a little surprise.
[18:16:59] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Surprise? Well, I doubt that. I am also co-hosting the 180 Degrees “concept” with Adeolu Akinyemi, and the idea is to help other people (especially youth) discover the need to live their dreams and to take the necessary action towards that task. Speaking of the future… mmmmm, it often feels more real to me than the present 🙂 I say that because I see the future as always beginning with the arrival of the next moment (second, minute, day, etc)… but speaking strictly in terms of the “next few years”, I plan to proceed with my postgraduate study. I have a standing admission for a PhD with a focus on the role of Information and Communication Technologies in Economic Transformation. I’ll be studying a few Asian transitions and will then see how Africa can move on from where we are at the moment.
[18:18:15] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Wow..
[18:18:50] Adeolu Akinyemi says: I know you have won a lot of awards in your few years – precisely 7 days more than mine. Can you tell us about a little of your achievements and which you are most proud of?
[18:22:29] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: The one I’m most proud of is quite tough, but let me just mention the ones that readily come to mind. The first was in 2001, the Youth Fellowship award from the International Telecommunications Union. Others are Ten Outstanding Great Ife Alumni (TOGA) Award (2002), Frontier of Technology in Nigeria Award (2002), Nigeria’s Information Technology Youth Ambassador (2001 – 2003), Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) in Nigeria Award (2003), Excellence in Information Technology Award (2004), Digital Bridge – Africa Champions Award (2004), Stockholm Challenge Champion (2005), Best Use of Technology Award (2006), and the International Telecommunications Union/NOKIA Foundation Youth Education Scheme Scholarship Award (2006). I also remember the publication (2004) that listed me as one of the 35 “Icons of ICT” in Nigeria. I guess the favourite one is yet to come :))
[18:24:14] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Mouth watering…only you? Tell me how have you managed to bag all these? Was it easy? What were your challenges, and how can we benefit from your experience?
[18:28:10] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: All of them came while I was walking the garden of life, while I was walking from the point of unconscious existence to the realm of conscious significance. I think it is important to note that awards are never a target, but they are often a possible expression of the appreciation of what one is doing. It’s like the people who honour you with the awards are saying, “we’re watching you and are inspired by your footsteps”. One of the most instructive things that we must note as young people today is that life has a way of rewarding diligence — it may not be through plaques or awards that have names, but when what we do is able to make another life better, there is always some form of “reward”.
[18:28:49] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Word!
[18:31:47] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Like every other young person, I had the option of just “rolling” through life and doing the usual cycle: go to school, graduate well, get a job, settle down, die… but I though it was important to use my skills to solve the problems I could percieve around me. My first challenge happens to be what started the whole “revolution” in my life. 16 years ago, I was kept from touching (talk less using) a computer because the teacher felt (as expressed in his words) “it is not for people like you”. Now, that was not funny. I had enough inferiority complex to deal with (my friends said I was too short and dark, and a lady said my brain was as small as my physical size!) and the teacher made it worse. But as I continued, I realised that I could either sink or swim — and I chose to swim, albeit taking one stroke after the other.
[18:32:14] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: One major way of overcoming that challenge was by sitting down and having a meeting with myself…
[18:32:50] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Oro!
[18:35:54] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Yes, with myself. I knew that the way things were going, I would end up as a pathetic loser and another statistical representation of humanity — one out of 6 billion — so I decided to have a big dream, one big enough to help me overcome my complex and of course that would strengthen me to help others overcome any form of limitations placed along their paths. I kept dreaming about various things, began talking to the mirror about how I would not only touch a computer one day but also help others learn how to use it to improve their lives. In 200, I was able to put together a 5-year plan, written down and not just day-dreaming about it. That was the big lesson, whatever we do not plan to achieve, we can never attain to… one line after the other, one skill after the other, it looked like it was working.
[18:40:18] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: I began writing the more… and one day, in 2001, one of my articles won me an international fellowship 😉 I knew that it wasn’t just theory anymore to say that planned efforts do yield results, and that the whole world would stand aside for a man who knows where he’s going. What I feel others may learn is this: dream big, plan towards it, acquire the skills that will help you get there, rise up when you fall, keep at what you love to do… Fortunately, I heard about SWOT analysis while completing my 5-year plan (very rough plan at that time) and decided to apply it on myself, and it worked! What were my strengths (that I could build on), weaknesses (that needed to be addressed), opportunities (that I could maximize) and threats (that I could arm myself against).
[18:42:22] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Hmmm…very instructional words! Tell us, have you every felt like setting aside this dream and facing something else, or has it been a walk in the park of life since you got on the bus of your dreams.
[18:47:16] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: There are always better offers than a dream when you look at the snapshot of the present situation! While walking the garden of life, I have had moments where I’ve had to ask myself if I wasn’t just being idealistic. Some friends — who I’m sure meant well — even told me to leave the then non-lucrative dream and get a life. I can remember 2 major well-meaning “distractions” on this path: one was in form of a job offer that promised about 14 times what I earned at that time; and another was just this year — an offer that promised to multiply my present earnings by 2 and replace the naira sign with a dollar sign.
[18:48:33] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Apart from that, there have even been times when the problem was from me — I failed. But looking beyond the present snapshot into the long-term picture, I have been able to advise myself to continue with the dream. Delayed gratification, deliberate bridge-burning and other “weapons” have been very useful in this battle 🙂
[18:49:40] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Sounds crazy…I guess this is the type of methodical madness they say every dream requires. Really inspiring!
[18:50:01] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Exactly, madness with a method. There’s been no great achievement in life without some safe level of insanity… think of inventors, problem solvers, great leaders, etc
[18:50:28] Adeolu Akinyemi says: It seems the rewards have not stopped, I just heard from a friend that you were elected to be on the presidential committe on ICT. More power to your elbow.
[18:51:13] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Thanks, but that’s more like work and not reward 🙂 I’ve been pounding hundreds of pages of policy documents and have had to discuss with professionals whose years in service can double my age 🙂 But the work is worth it… Nigeria has too much to benefit from ICTs
[18:51:19] Adeolu Akinyemi says: As a parting shot, what final word will you want to leave our viewers with. You presently stand on a podium that will reach millions over time. What do you want to tell them!
[19:00:59] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: Truth is that we are the ones who eventually decide what kind of life we wish to live, and each person will have to decide either they wish to be subject to the dictates of sorrounding circumstances or to live their dreams in spite of the evident issues. Each one of us will always have excuses to give (school, family, money, nation, etc), but if you fail in the days of adversity, its not because you attended the wrong school, sure not because you were born into the wrong family or studied the wrong course, it is because own own strength is small. Decide your tomorrow today, and equip yourself towards living that dream. The problem is that many of us do not even have dreams, or we have dreams and the plans are not written down, or that we have accepted to be like the rest. We must realise that we represent a generation that can say NO and YES: we must say “no” to the ills around us, and “yes” to hard work that gives you the opportunity to solve problems — and be rewarded for it. The whole world will stand aside for you if you know where you are going.
[19:03:31] Adeolu Akinyemi says: Hmmm…Well said. It is my hope that one young person will read this, and write a reloaded version of this interview with his/her life!
[19:04:15] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: That would be a dream come true… improving lives, one person at a time.
[19:05:37] Adeolu Akinyemi says: I’m optimistic! Thanks so very much ‘Gbenga for your time. I’m sure the rewards will not cease!
[19:06:08] ‘Gbenga Sesan says: The pleasure’s all mine, Deolu.