EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW #2 HOW I EMERGED DISTINCTION STUDENT DESPITE ACADEMIC CHALLENGES -AGRIPPAH MICHEAL
This week, we bring you the concluding part of Brojid World conversation with a quintessential campus leader, Agrippah Michael. In this second part, he shares good, bad and ugly lesson he garnered through leadership on campus, his unusual tale as a fresher was admitted few weeks before exams, his romance with books, how he became a distinction material and why he love life on campus. Please sit back and enjoy it.
Could you share with us your unusual experiences as a fresher?
The word unusual reminds me of certain experiences and encounters I had before and after I had got admission to study in the UNN. I never applied to study Veterinary Medicine which I now graduated from. I had wanted to study human medicine and my interest was in making sure I reach the unreached, help the needy especially the poor who are always sick because of malnutrition. When these people are confronted with such problems and diseases, the challenge is always that there is no money to go to hospital. So, many of them end up dying in the process. But I had reasoned that if God make me a medical doctor and I have my hospital, I could use it as a means to reach out to people. But when I wrote JAMB (UME) and Post UME, my score was not up to the cut off for human medicine. So, was encouraged to shop into Veterinary Medicine even though I never knew about it.
But the challenge I faced or my unusual experience as you said was that I didn’t get admission when others got it. I came in quiet late. I came in very very late. Lectures had already gone half of the semester before I came into school, 24 February, 2006. But the session began in October, the previous year. So, they have already had lectures from October until February. It was prior to exams. I came into school three days before matriculation. You know UNN then; they will always allow their matriculation to linger. They will do their matriculation a few weeks before exams start. I was advised to differ the admission but I said no because I know that God who gave me the admission will see me through.
What actually happened was that my admission was delayed because I leant from reliable source that my name and other last eleven names that faculty of Veterinary Medicine sent to admissions was lost in the process and the people never reported to the faculty that they lost the name until it was very late – three days to matriculation. The Dean then, Prof Oboegunam, went and asked why. I guess he went because his relation’s name was among the eleven names. So he was moved to know what was going on and they told him that the list was lost.
I saw that the enemy was already fighting but I don’t want to always mention the enemy because I don’t like giving him the glory. My entering into the university was a battle. I stayed about six years after secondary school writing JAMB and sometimes my result will be seized and some other times it will be released as incomplete result. But God helped me when it finally clicked. Now, it’s to enter into the university I have met the university requirement, meet the requirement of faculty I was shopping into. Suddenly my name was nowhere to be found. But finally, God helped me.
Before I came to this school, I had been serving God in my own little way. When we came to write post UME, I learnt from the Scriptures that God told Joshua, “Whenever the sole of your feet shall tread, I shall give you as an inheritance. That Scripture came and I remembered it. I know what had transpired in my life; so I picked the sand of UNN and said, “Lord I have entered this land and having stepped my foot on this ground; I am claiming this land as an inheritance. I believe some of those decrees plus the prayer that me were making and His grace were what the Lord saw and remembered us. Otherwise if the Dean’s relation was not in the list and he was not bothered about it, I am not sure if I would have been a student of the UNN; let alone graduating.
You know what it means that your mates have had lectures for three months; you don’t even know where to start. It was not easy; but I trusted God. I had a friend’s brother in the same class then. So I approached him and started copying notes, running around and he would teach me. So, it was very stressful having few weeks to battle with something that people had already done in the past few months.
Finally, God helped me. The exams came and I passed. I had one or two challenges especially in mathematics because I was not a very good student of mathematics and coming to UNN to meet Maths. 111 scared me to death. That was the course I had an F and every other one was pass. Some were As; some Bs but was more of pass because the preparation was not much before exam.
Virtually every experience we have in life teaches us lessons. Sometimes the lessons are good or bad. Please do you mind sharing with us some of your experiences going through leadership from where you started?
Well, I would say as an ‘emerging leader’ (am more comfortable with it because I have not arrived). The experiences so far has been good, bad and ugly. I will start with the good. Being a leader in whatever capacity I have served is the best thing that happened to me because God gave me the opportunity to know Him better and meet people.
Everything about life existence is about God and your fellow human being. No wonder the scriptures says, “Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your might… and the second like it that you should love your neighbor as yourself.” So from that Scripture, I learnt that the two most vital personalities in life are God and the other person. So, leadership experience brought me closer to God and closer to people. In being closer to God, I have got to understand that God is a personality that you cannot just say you know. The more you have known him, the more you discover how you don’t know Him and how you need him more.
For the human being, they are very very serious species on the earth that if you are not very careful with them you will even miss out in your purpose. My encounter with people as a leader has taught me that life, apart from God is all about people. That was why I said, if you are not careful with them you will miss out in God’s purpose for your life. Because most of the people you will meet are people who God has strategically positioned to help you get to where you are going to in life.
Apart from the fact that I was used of God to impact people as they say, some people said that they learnt from me. Others people say I am an encouragement to them. Some say that they are looking up to me and a lot of fellow youths came to me for mentoring. It has given me opportunity to learn. One of the things is that in every single opportunity I had to interact with any young person (male or female) I have the disposition of learning from the person also and it has helped me.
I have also discovered that every individual in the course of my interactions with them has had one or two things to teach me even though I never told them that I was actually learning from them.
Still on the side of the good I have also seen the opportunity to grow. I was not born like this. I was a village boy and grew up in the village. The only time I left village was when I went to Aba for extra-mural lesson in preparation for WAEC and JAMB. But when I tell people who I was a village brought up, they doubt it. Because of leadership, I have been refined and that’s one thing I have to emphasise. Being able to take responsibility is an opportunity to be trained. So, I have learnt I have grown and I am still growing. That’s the good side.
Then on the bad side. You cannot be a leader, especially servant leadership and nothing leaves you. If you are to serve God or people with a servant heart, something must leave you and a lot of things have left me. My time was not my time anymore; my money was not my money anymore. It may surprise you to know that I didn’t have a savings. Leadership on campus made me not to have any savings as I planned to. Not because I didn’t know how to save but being a leader and meeting people with challenges and you have the heart of a leader, you must solve it. The one you would have saved is no longer there with you. But I don’t give a damn. Why? Because the best investment in life is investment in people.
The ugly. The ugly may be traced to my limitations as a human being. I’m not a superman and I know I have made my own mistakes. So, the ugly experience though is not really ugly is that I spent more years than expected in school. Instead of six years, I spent eight years even though there is a God factor to the number eight and the years I spent here.
You said that what you call ugly is not really ugly. Why do you say so? Are you saying that it’s good that people stay in school beyond expected year of graduation?
No. I haven’t said that. I couldn’t have said that and of course. I shouldn’t say that because everybody is not me and if I am really a leader, I have to be sincere and aspire to be a balanced leader, I must learn to tell the truth. It’s actually not good to spend a day beyond expected year of graduation. It’s not good. But for champions and men of destiny, the story is different. VIPs (Very Important Personalities) in life always arrive late because God takes time to prepare them through diverse experiences; good, bad and ugly because of their destiny.
I said that the what we call ugly is not actually ugly because for me, it was a blessing in disguise.
I was born at the eight-hour, the eight-day of the earth month 1983. There is nothing to hide about my date; nobody will come and add or remove from my age. I don’t know why some people will hide their age. On the eight year of my life, I cannot tell what actually happened but I can remember that I was in primary three. By the eighteenth year of my life, I was still in secondary school; I was a chapel prefect at eighteen or thereabout. My brother, I spent eight years in the university. I have seen a wife that I will marry and I gave her eight year gap. We never planned it just happened that. When JCB turned 28, I was the 28th President. Before you came for this interview I had an encounter with God. I have been praying and asking God to please give me specific direction for my life – a clear-cut direction on my purpose on the earth. Either coincidentally or divinely arrange, today is 28 day of February 2014 and God told me, in my dream this morning early: “Go and make disciples of nation, can’t you see that you have the grace of fatherhood?”
Why did I take time mentioning eight? It’s to tell you that my spending eight years in school was not by accident. It never affected me because one: I became better. Two, I wouldn’t have been a distinction material in Veterinary Medicine which lecturers use me to encourage those who have problems in the faculty. I know a lecturer that has vowed to God and to me that for generation that will pass through him, he will always tell them my story to encourage them. He told me that I should know that every generation that will pass through this course (vet) until he dies will get to hear about what God did in my life. So it was not just a failure; it was evangelism means that God wanted to use to preach. Possibly generations that will come after I have gone there is something God wants to pass across to them. Most of the times when problems come our way we don’t seem to understand the thing God wants to do. God helped me to understand that it was not just a package of challenges coming to me but it was actually a blessing in disguise. When I made distinction in fourth year a lecturer called me before the result was released and told me, “Agrippah, you are a wayo man.” I said, “Sir, Wayo is on the negative; how can I be a wayo man?” he asked me before his fellow lecturer, “How can you reconcile a young man who failed twice in Vet. with the kind of grades and scores you are having now. It has never happened in this faculty.”
If I am not the first or the second, I won’t miss the third position in the department of parastiology for that year. So, God actually opened door. You know, in Vet. What qualifies you to come and do masters and aspire to be a lecturer is that you must make a distinction or at least a B. So, the problem actually opened a door for me. If I say I want to be a lecturer now, that door is already opened. I will just go and do my masters and make sure I do it well because everything about parastiology is in my head. If I didn’t have that experience of repeat, I am not sure I would have gotten that.
That reminds me, and I want to encourage people: challenges are not meant to kill us; they are meant to make us better. There is something I wrote on my wall and I want to read it out to you. (He moves close to his book shelf as the reporter follows him. He started reading…) Sometimes what appears as a failure is actually a blessing in disguise; a wonderful pack of testimonies , an opportunity for exploits, depending on your perception of and reaction it.(He moved back to our interview sitting position and continues…) This is one of the wisdom word God gave me in my wilderness experience in the UNN. Most times what people see as a problem is a stepping stone for their success. It is said that setback is a setup for a comeback. In my own life, it was exactly true. The Bible said, “All things work together for good to them that love Him and are called according to his purpose. But most believers wouldn’t want the ugly side of the “all things work together for good.” I am a living reality of the fulfillment of the scripture. It actually worked for good in my life both the good and the bad and the ugly all worked for good.
As if it was not enough, a student like myself, in my original set who has graduated and is now a Vet Doctor said, “Agrippah I wish I were you.” “How do you mean? You wish you were someone who repeated a class when you are already a doctor?.” I asked him. So, for somebody to be wishing to be who people have termed a failure is still a mystery to me. So that was why I said that what was called ugly is not really ugly.
Lastly, I became the Joint Christian Body President precisely in July 2012. God told me that he is going to leave me as a remnant. One of those days, I was going to Vet Mountain(acclaimed UNN Prayer Mountain) and tears were down my check and God told me, “I left you here as a remnant with time you will understand.”
I was brought to leadership at a point that UNN was turning to a den of demons and confusion. A time came in the UNN where students and lectures were dying like chicken. People were hanging themselves; lectures were dying in their numbers. When we counted the number of death for a semester it was over fifteen deaths for a particular semester. That’s the ones we know about. It’s in the midst of this sacrifice of people’s life to whatever alter in UNN that I was called up to be the Leader of JCB and JCB has a spiritual responsibility over this land. If I tell you that I was not afraid, I will be lying. But God said certain things to me. He told me what to do and we did. To the glory of God people are testifying today that UNN experienced God and that God answered prayers. I brought this issue of JCB up to show that I saw what was divinely arranged, by God concerning my staying in school that time. God would have raised another person, no doubt, but for the fact that he choose me meant that he actually ordered it before it happened.
I see a lot of books in your shelf and you have talked about reading here and there. Do you think your investment in books worth it?
I told someone three days ago that if he checks my books both “home and abroad” and it is not worth up to N100, 000, I have failed. You are what you read. Leaders read. My mentors, Pastor Ebenezer, my Pa Kingsley, are actually the people that made me to start reading by force. I went to collect books from pastor Ebenezer and he was bold to say, “I can give you money but I can’t give you my books” the money I will give you can help you buy books; skip meals and buy books. That statement entered me.
How do you make out time to read those books despite the voluminous materials that is characteristic with your faculty…?
(Cuts in) Passion! Already I had told you that I had a glimpse of my future and I know where I’m going to. So, for a man who does not know where he’s going to anything looks like it. But if you know where you are going to, it will help you understand the path that leads to the place. I know that there is a seed of greatness in me that one day, I believe God, it will come to the surface, if Christ tarries. I also know that one of the secrets of great men is that they read. Daniel said, “I understand by books.” Paul was talking to Timothy, “Remember to bring the parchments” talking about his jotter that means these men used to read. Jesus Christ in the Bible says, “Have you not read?” this means that He was a bookworm. Jesus reads! Because he couldn’t have been asking them if they has not read what he himself had not read.
I partitioned my life into many areas personality building, finance, marriage, professional, religion and family. I buy books in these areas.
Now combining them with vet was not easy o! There are people who I know even if you give them the whole day and weeks and months, it’s not enough to finish what is in vet. Combining reading of my academic and non-academic books plus leadership was not easy. God helped me and passion drove me.
Were you in love on campus?
Do you encourage people to be in love while they are on campus?
Yes but with a clause.
David Oyedepo of winners chapel met his wife in his second year but didn’t get married then. They courted for six years. He is a great man today. Even if no other person believes in him, I believe in him; he’s not my pastor and I am not a winner but I believe in the grace he has. I found my wife to be five years ago but the relationship started three years ago.
Age is important. You cannot be sixteen and even twenty-one year old, that we have on campus these days and you are already saying that you are in love talking about marriage. For what?! I mentioned age because there is an emotional aspect of relationship that may disrupt your academic work, unless you are mature.
I say yes to love on campus if you are mature. Some people believe that you could relate as friends at this stage. But when you say that you are in love and start talking marriage, I think it should be left till when you are mature in mind, age and pocket. If not that I have a lady that has been trained, brought up by a pastor and the mother trained her in two dimensions – to fit into a rich husband and poor one. So, she never opened her mouth till today to say buy me this and buy me that. assuming I got involved with wild girls; now that she has a would-be husband she can say, “My hair.” Where am I going to get money for hair every now and then? (General laughter)
So, relationship should be left for mature people and only when one has discovered and defined one’s purpose in life.
Usually, when people don’t have the money, they get frustrated and even steal when the girl starts crying and complaining about heart-break. I don’t want to enter into the heart breaking business and I don’t advice young people to ‘buy from its shops’. While on campus, focus on praying and study to define their life’s purpose first and then develop in mind before going into marriage relationship.
From our discussion so far, you seem to know and have experienced a lot about leadership. Is there any way you are making your wealth of knowledge available to other emerging leaders?
Yes. I am currently working on a book entitled, On a path to leadership: A letter to Emerging Leaderswhich will be out very soon. There I share my experiences and lessons.
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