EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH AGRIPPAH MICHEAL #1 ABC OF CAMPUS LEADERSHIP; HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ACADEMIC DISADVANTAGES
The dots in his leadership trajectory started formally from secondary school where he was made the school chapel prefect. In the university, he traversed diverse facets of leadership at different levels in both religious and secular platforms. Among the leadership positions he occupied in the religious circle are Chapter President, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Christian Students, UNN, National President, Nigerian Veterinary Medical Christian Students, President, Joint Christian Body. He also lead in secular circle as chairman of the electoral committee Association of Veterinary Medical Students Electoral Committee(AVMS) the chairman of sub -committee on sports, AVMS convention 2008. In the process, he had myriad of experiences and garnered lessons from them. For you edification, JOSEPH DINWOKE of the BROJID WORLD sojourned to his residence to tap wisdom on campus leadership.
Today, we serve you the first part of the lengthy and revealing conversation. In this part of the interview, he explains why he toed the path into campus leadership despite that his parents sent him to school to study, traced his leadership trajectory, secrets of effective work with people in leadership, how to deal with the temptation of money and women in leadership , why many student leaders have academic crisis and wisdom for them.
Good morning pastor Agrippah. This is Joseph Dinwoke from Brojid World. Please may we meet you?
Thank you very much. My name is Agrippah Micheal Chimezue. I am from Umu ajima Efere Mbutu autonomos community Isiala-Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia state. A am from a family of 21; I am the first from my mother (the second wife), the sixth in the family and traditionally the second. I am just the young man you are looking at.
Your parents sent you to school to study. Why did you involve yourself with fellowship and campus leadership?
(Laughs) Well, the primary purpose of every man in the university is to study actually, but the purpose of every man on the earth is not to study. A man who has identified with the purpose of God for his life and his reason for being on earth first considers that purpose before the sub purpose. Now, I see schooling as my primary purpose of coming to the University of Nigeria but I see service to God and humility as the primary reason I am a human being. See, if I were not a human being I would not have been a student of this school. So, my primary purpose for being here, I had to face that is my academics, and my primary purpose for being alive, I had to also face it because life is limited. People die and if you die without fulfilling your purpose on the earth, you will not give God excuse that you were studying. Because I already had this wisdom, I was trying to combine living out my life purpose and my purpose of studentship.
Sir, please trace your leadership trajectory in religious cycle?
It will be very long if I have to start o! But I have to help you and make it as brief as possible. I was neither a leader in nursery school nor primary school. But leadership for me, apart from little leadership I was doing in the home with my siblings, began when I was made Chapel Prefect of my school. You know back then in those days we were doing school fellowship though in a way that is not very noticeable but I never knew that the teachers were taking cognizance of that. I was surprised when I was invited to the staff room and what they were interviewing me was on religious matters and about, being punctual and regular to the assembly ground. Few days later, they announced the name of the school prefects and I was called as the Chapel Prefect. That was where it all began. Unfortunately as a chapel prefect I was not really born again; I was only playing church then. So I got born again after I had served as the chapel prefect.
After I got born again, I lead the EFAC (Evangelical Fellowship in Anglican Communion) group in my church as the President and the leader of our prayer team both at the church and zonal level those were few leadership experiences I had before coming to school. I also, assisted a pastor in the ministry then before coming to school.
When I was coming to school, I told God that it’s going to be six years on campus with Him, for Him and my academics. You find out that in that statement God came first before my academics. It was already a covenant I made with God before I started coming. So, when I got here I joined the family called CASOR(Christ Ambassadors Students Outreach) and started fellowship and we passed through the foundation school and in my second year I was elected into the office of follow-up, leader and in my third year I became foundation school principal. Because I had a challenge – I repeated third year – in that second missionary journey, I was made CASOR President.
In my fourth year, I had already handed over and was made the Chapter President of Nigerian Veterinary Medical Christian Students, UNN. That same fourth year, we went for a convention and held elections and I was made the National President of Nigerian Veterinary Medical Christian Students which I served for two years. Towards the end of my fifth year, I was made the President of Joint Christian Body, (JCB) UNN.
Were you involved in secular leadership?
Yes. In school, I was the Chairman of the electoral committee, Association of Veterinary Medical Students Electoral Committee. By God’s grace, it was the first time Vet organized an election that was completely free and fair. The lecturers commended it and were very happy. In 2008, when AVMS UNN hosted the national convention, I was the chairman of sub -committee on sports and in 2011, during vet open week; I was a member of the committee that planned it. Because I was very much occupied with fellowship work, I did not participate much. I was playing more of advisory role to most SUG executives.
In the course of your leadership at different levels, you had to work with people as leaders. Those are human beings with different ideologies and background. How were you able to work together with them?
If you are not carful with people, you will miss out in life. From the story of creation in Gen 1: 26-27, God created man in his image and gave him mandate of dominion. So, everybody that God created has the same mandate, the same right. No man is supposed to Lord it over another man. So when you have two creatures with the same mandate, no one will want to be dominated. So, it’s an error as a leader to assume a leadership position and see yourself as Lord or trying to become domineering towards the other people. So, what I did was what Jesus demonstrated in the scriptures – servant leadership.
You know when Jesus was washing his disciple’s feet; he told them that he was actually doing it for them to follow His example. When I picked that scripture, it actually entered me and has taught me that leadership is about service. If you want to be a great leader, you must be a great servant. There had been times of disagreement but I never quarreled with any of them. At every point in time I had served, I always tell myself that I am not leading this people as their master; I’m leading as a servant and it is has always been wonderful.
However, some people are so difficult to deal with most of the time in leadership especially in Vet fellowship which comprises so many schools and people with different upbringing. Actually, that was what prepared me for JCB because it’s the same thing – different denominations, different doctrines, and different beliefs coming together as one. Some of them may be coming from the churches where they are feeling that they are better than other people already by the way they are trained and what their church stand for. If unfortunately one of those leaders has such notion, what are you going to do? So, you have to be a servant in deed. Humility was what helped me. I never gave instructions and lorded it over people. What helped me was maintaining the disposition of a servant to them and to the people.
Generally, there are temptations that are common among youths and you are not an old man. Some of such temptations have to do with lack of money, hormones that are alive and active. How were you able to resist such temptations?
If I tell you that it was easy, I will be a liar. Two things I was told by elders in the faith an old man in my village was that I must beware of money and woman. I like reading and I discovered from my reading that if you want to be a leader that will not betray trust and integrity, you must be very very careful with money and women.
Now how are you going to handle that in, as an example, a situation where you are the Oga and money comes to your hand directly and nobody holds you accountable and you don’t have money to sustain yourself as a student? What are you going to do? It’s you, the money and God. That’s where integrity comes in. Integrity by my own definition is who you are in the secret. It was not easy. There were times we made mistakes, not stealing because I believe in the principle of not touching the money at all even though out of need you may have collected money and replaced it but maturity in leadership shows that it’s not good to collect money from fellowship and then to replace later. I have four words special to me in my own personal dictionary – integrity, peace, love and humility. They are virtues I am trying to develop that have helped and guided me.
Now coming to sex. I have hormones. I am a man. I have urge for sex, even as a leader. Now, how do you handle sexual urge? That’s where Christian character and discipline comes in. That’s where being a child of God comes in because Christianity is not about going to church and lifting holy hands and people are singing and dancing and you are carrying yourself as a Presido. You are still a man.
How I was able to handle those things was that I realized that any little mistake I make will influence those that I’m leading. So, I always consider the fact the people I am leading. What will be the effect of my actions on them? What determines what you do is your level of relationship with God. So, the fear of God and the fear of what God is going to do if I do this thing also constrained me. What if I am on top of a woman and rapture takes place? It’s not as if I never had temptations. It was there; it used to come. I have had sisters in fellowship who loved me so much and my usual way was not run away from them but to be very careful though I was not a discipler many sisters. There are brothers today who like discipling only sisters. All their disciples on campus are sisters. I Iike such people who have such grace but I don’t have it. I have some sisters that I mentored but I am careful not to mentor them in to my room. Even the lady I told you is my fiancé does not know the color of my bed uptill now. Not that I’m forming a strong man but I’m being very careful. If a man has a great destiny he has to be careful because what you do with your today determines your great destiny. A sister said that she wants to wash my clothes when I was CASOR President. There is nothing wrong with a sister washing your cloth but there is everything wrong with a sister coming to my house to wash my clothes. I hope you got the difference?
(The reporter) Yes sir.
So I told her the clothes that are dirty have been washed and that I will tell her when other ones get dirty next time. Unfortunately for her, my clothes never got dirty until she graduated. So, she never washed for me.
(General laughter initiated by the reporter)
They could be admiring you saying presido you look good; you are this and that. Some of those things as a human being may also try to touch you somehow. One has to be very very careful in handling the opposite sex.
Lastly see them as your sisters. I can’t see the sight of me having sex with my blood sister .By blood, Jesus has linked us together. If she is a child of God saved by the blood she is related to me by blood. If i see her as my sister I can’t imagine doing that with her. As a leader, you have the responsibility of building them and not to break them.
Please does being a leader or campus pastor result to academic failure?
But there are many cases where people who are involved in fellowship have plethora of academic challenges?
From personal experience and observation as a leader I think there are two or three things to it. Number one is mismanagement of time. A leader who has decided to accept the responsibility of leadership knows that he doesn’t have the time that everybody has. Even though he has 24 hours, he is no longer like an ordinary student on campus. An ordinary student will go for lectures and come back and sleep five hours and wake up and read. If he cares, he goes to church; if he doesn’t care, he stays back. Nobody disturbs him. It’s possible he’s not even a Christian let alone being born again. To both God and Devil, he doesn’t give a damn. If he operates by the principle of hard work which is universal, God will not stop him from passing because he’s not a Christian. So, if that unbeliever works with the principle of hard work with or without recognizing God or going to church, definitely, he is going to make first class if he has a first class brain and is able to write what will fetch him first class. The other believer wouldn’t say that because he is God’s favorite and fail to work hard then God will pass him no, God works by principles. Time management and hard work are important.
You know you have twenty four hours and out of 24 hours you have some hours to give to your academics and some to give to your leadership responsibilities. As a President, you could be reading your book and they will call you to come that someone is dying in the hospital and you need to pray. The spirit of God in you will not allow you to continue in your reading but for an unbeliever, nobody will disturb him but the question here is when you return from your prayer or evangelism, what do you do with your time. Take for instance, most of the time you come back from fellowship between 9-10 pm sometimes 11pm – 1 am and you have not slept. The day has been so stressful and hectic. What is the leader going to do in that situation? That’s where time management comes in. Remember I said that time management and hard work is important. Also, discipline is a vital factor.
The Leader must suffer himself not because he feels like suffering himself but because he has to suffer the flesh to get it right academically and spiritually. So, one of the causes of poor performance among Christian leaders on campus is lack of discipline, lack of hard work and poor time management.
On the other hand, because of my own personal experience which I am sure is the experience of most people I also see destiny and background in the picture. If I take it away from religious cycle and brings in the circular world into the picture most great men we have today in leadership, politics, business and sciences were mainly school drop outs or people who had certain challenges in life. Bill Gates that all of us are talking about is a drop out. And several other people like that you know Chinua Achebe, Wole Shoyinka got 2.2. Go and read their history today.
So if these things happened to these men. Somebody cannot tell me that because you are a Christian, you are immune to challenges. In fact, your trouble begins the day you accepted Christ. You become Satan’s enemy. But thank God we have got victory in Christ. There is a question I used to ask and nobody has been able to answer that question. The Bible said that God tried Job. He lost all that he had. Now what makes you think that as a Christian, temptation will come to you in every aspect of your life except your academic? People believe that when their mother dies, it’s temptation; if their father loses his job, it’s temptation. But why do we carefully rule out the fact that someone’s faith could be tried from his academics?
Remember, I have talked about other principles which people exaggerate. But people neglect this aspect I’m talking about now. If a Christian makes up his mind to serve God, nothing will make me believe that devil will not want to remove his heart from God by tempting him even in his academics. So, most people you see who have academic challenges are brilliant guys. Most times, every other thing will be moving fine but devil will say since your heart is in your academics, let me tempt you here. It may be Satan’s effort to take away their faith from God or stop the work of God they are doing. So, why do we think that Satan can’t tempt us in our academics and what make us think that if we are tempted academically we are no longer Christians? It’s a question am leaving for people to answer. Before they jump into the answer, let them reason with me that if you are a Christian, you are not immune to attack of the enemy. In fact, that’s actually when you qualify to become Satan’s enemy and he can tempt you from any angle he wants to tempt you.
Another factor that could contribute to student’s academic failure could be their poor background, upbringing and finance. Most students want to read and they are reading. You don’t expect someone who for instance biscuits in the morning and come back from school exhausted and doesn’t know who to beg for food and out of pressure, he sleeps off and could not read that day. It’s a minus from his performance.
People’s upbringing affects them. I came from a secondary school where we never had a physics teacher and I was a science student. The chemistry teacher was borrowed from another school to come and teach us. So, there was no solid foundation. When you see such people in which case at least 40% of the students you see in the university are coming from such backgrounds. So, when they come to university they meet those who went to good schools from primary to secondary and they are in the same class to do the same course and write the same exams. Some of these things contribute to student’s poor academic performance.
Some student leaders on campus never tells you that when they go home, they hawk to get money and the little money they make and were able to save is what keeps them on campus. When it finishes, their minds begin to run to and fro wondering what they are going to do. Many students are like that and some of these students are leaders.
However, I want to say that it’s not good for a leader to fail because the effect of his failure is not only on him. It will affect so many people; most of whom may never be close to understand what a leader goes through. All they see is that their leader has failed. The impression it makes on them is usually fear. Some of them when you tell them to accept leadership position, they say, “No. Is it not this one that became a leader and failed?” What they don’t know is that there are also leaders who did well and still made first class and distinctions. So, these things are unique to individuals. I am writing a book, My Uniqueness talking about the mystery of the finger print of human beings on earth; as every individual’s print reveals his uniqueness in life. In the same way what we experience or encounter in life maybe is unique and peculiar to us as individuals. So, leadership position is not synonymous with failure. There is nothing like once you become a leader, you will begin to fail. Only that certain factors come into which when the leader overcomes them, he may never experience academic failure.
Keep a date with us in the next edition of Campus Cruise for the second part of this interview where Agrippah Micheal 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.