For Elkanah O. Mowarin, the President, Independent Television and Radio Programme Producers Association of Nigeria, it is never too late to achieve your dream. He didn’t see his age as a barrier when he went to study Mass Communication at University of Lagos (UNILAG).
The Chairman of EOM Communication Group of Companies graduated with a first class in the 2014/2015 academic session emerging the best student in his department. He had a CGPA of 4.78. During his days as an undergraduate, he scored a C once and As in his remaining courses.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with the gentleman about his success.
Congratulations on your success.
Thank you very much.
To be candid, I did not go to UNILAG with the mind of graduating with a first class. I just wanted to be a serious student and make the best use of the opportunity. However, concerning my emergence as the best graduating student, I am astonished. I feel glad about it. I feel encouraged and I ascribe all glory to the awesome God. I gave my all to my studentship at UNILAG.
It was perhaps the toughest time in my life, but I have every reason to be grateful to God that I succeeded.
How did you do it, graduating with a first class even at your age?
I give all the glory to God. When I got into the University of Lagos (UNILAG), all I went there for was to acquire knowledge. I just wanted to add to whatever I had and get more knowledge about the media.
When I got in there, I saw a great learning environment. I also saw beautiful, social environment because it is not all about academics but for my age, level and what have you, I couldn’t be involved in certain things like playing. I went there with a purpose of having a good result, not necessarily a first class. I had a goal and I asked myself how I could achieve it. In other words, what is the process, who and who do I need. I live in Lekki, but had to get an apartment close to school. I got a mini-flat close to school. I went to lectures every day. I never had make up test because some of our lecturers could come to class and give us a test. I took down notes, embellished my notes from the internet and from textbooks. I was actually at UNILAG to work out my dreams and goals.
I usually ask myself who and who do I need. It dawned on me that I needed to align myself with people who were ahead of me. I got in touch with two students who had first class ahead of me. I was paying them in quote and unquote. They were handling my tutorials. They had gone through the same course, they came after my regular lecture hors to my apartment. We took it all over again and broke it down.
They had a pattern they followed that gave them that grade. As an individual, I was out to make the best of the opportunities that the university provided. I can’t imagine the quantity of coffee I drank. It required a lot of serious commitment, reading as well as researching.
There were instances where you would reach out to the lecturer, ‘Sir, I am here to study, what does it take to connect to your course’ and they will give reference materials to study. If there is anything you don’t understand, you can go back to them. That is the essence of the lecturer/student relationship.
I invested time and energy. I was committed. I bought lots of books. From the human perspective, it was about setting a goal and applying myself. I was focused and I was environmentally blind. I was not giving attention to this and that. I am a public person, I am an entrepreneur, I have been around for a while. I have been completely out of the social space because I was focused. So many people were shocked when they heard it was four years of commitment without losing focus. I thank God for everything. It was basically about purpose, vision, objective, self application and hard work.
What motivated you to go for a degree in Mass Communication in UNILAG?
Let me state that before coming to the University of Lagos, I have been into media marketing for more than 20 years and I said to myself, I cannot just be in media marketing without getting the necessary certification to support my expertise. That was what informed my going to UNILAG. We know Nigeria is a country that is very much concerned about certificates. I started in UNILAG for four years as a full time student. I was in class every time I should be there.
How did you spend your leisure as an undergraduate?
University of Lagos is an emporium of excellence, especially the Mass Communication Department which is overdue for upgrade to a School of Communication. Though the primary assignment of students is to come and study, there are social programmes put in place to enable students to catch fun. For instance, we have the costume days and other recreational packages. In terms of socials, we went to Lagoon Front, we engaged the natural look of the place. Besides, the lagoon is the botanical and zoological garden. We also went there to catch fun. We also had a great time in the presence of God. The Communicators for Christ Fellowship was there. I can say that University of Lagos offers a rounded experience of academics, social, physical and otherwise.
Where did you study mostly?
At my entry level, I studied mostly at the Faculty of Social Sciences. We burnt candles. I even taught my classmates. As I stated, what I was studying is what I have practiced for more than 20 years. The degree programme was more of trying to get academic perspective to it. As time progressed, we studied also at Arts Block. Sometimes, there would be light out in school and we had to study under the street light near the road. With time, I got an apartment somewhere close to school. I spent most of my time at my apartment studying. I also used the university library.
Did you find it easy to relate with the young ones despite your age and status?
The truth of the matter is, I am a very simple person. For the better part of my life, I have been a media communicator. It is instructive to note that a media person is a person of all times. He is a man for all seasons and for all ages. A media person or communicator should be able to relate with everybody across age, gender and religion. So, that foundation is there. As a result, it was not difficult for me to blend. By my upbringing, I am a very humble and easy going person. I can be strict but I am not arrogant. I have to appreciate my parents for raising me up as a good child. I believe with my age also, I have been able to understand that pride and arrogance do not make any sense.
How were you running your business while you were away?
Honestly, it is one of the things entrepreneurs must connect with. You don’t build businesses around individuals, you build businesses around structures.
The businesses I run, to a large extent, are on auto pilot. I have trusted people who were so gracious, wonderful to hold the forte while I was committed to my studies.
If there was any set back? Yes, it is a natural thing. If you are the head, once you turn your head, things might go wrong. But often times because we build our businesses around the owner, it will be challenging. Unless you build structures and delegate responsibilities, a lot wouldn’t be done. What business people should do is to reproduce your likes, so that when you are not around, the ship can continue its sail. There were some setbacks here and there but I have every reason to be grateful to God and to my colleagues that came to assist me in managing things.
Do you have any unique experience you will like to share with us?
I had wonderful experiences. The first unique experience was my first day in class. I went with a free mind. When I got there and looked around, I saw children who were 17, 18. One or two people that greeted me mistook me for the lecturer who was to take the course. The next surprise was when the first lecturer came into class and turned out to be a former colleague. We have both worked somewhere before. He is a doctor now and was my lecturer too. When he saw me, he said, ‘Oga Mowarin, what are you doing here?’ I humbly told him I was a student, ready to study under him. He said he was not sure.
Studying was quite an interesting experience. Often, I look like a misfit when it comes to socials. For example, they may insist I joined them when they are going on socials, maybe going to Elegushi Beach. Both the academic and social aspect was interesting. I was also punctual but the super punctual kept seat for me. It was a great experience.
What do you want to achieve with your certificate?
It is basically about knowledge and I will continue to study.
Does that mean you will go for more studies?
Yes, sure. The truth of the matter is, the brain is the major staying power of life. The more you keep the brain active, the more you keep it alive. Once the brain gets inactive, it cascades down the system. Once the brain is dormant, other parts of the body will respond to that dormancy. I hope by God’s special grace to combine more studies with more work and more money. Like one of my lecturers would say, as the spirit directs.
What programme do you have in mind?
First, I have to give some attention to my jobs. By virtue of the fact that I was the best graduating student in Mass Communication and a first class honours person, University of Lagos has offered me a job as a lecturer.
Are you accepting the offer?
I have been talking to my supervising professors and trying to see how I can combine it with my business. I am quite a busy person. media marketing and other aspects of my job are demanding. I don’t know how I can combine all. I am looking at the offer. I am humbled by it and I am grateful to the University of Lagos for giving me the opportunity. I am praying about it.
What are the lessons you want the youth to learn about your achievement?
The fundamental lessons to learn is that you set your mind to anything and apply your heart to it. God being on your side with personal discipline, you can achieve it. That is just all. Age is no barrier, your pressure of job is no barrier. Whatever circumstances that you see as hindrances all boil down on you. Once there is a decision by you that you want to achieve this, you will be able to achieve it. Give your all to it, set your mind to it, trust God and it will be done.
From the very first day to the day of convocation, not one day was said of me that I was found with bullet or what have you. It wasn’t necessary. Follow through the lectures. The lecturers will not set an exam from the topic he didn’t teach you. Do a little research on it, ask questions. The simple principle of having an A is this: every course is divided to 60 and 40 or 70 and 30. You have course assessment and exams. A smart student will have at least 25/40, 30/40 in the exam such can have 40/60, that is already like 70 plus, that is an A. It is easy to have an A in every course as long as you take your course assessment serious. Hit the exams too. The lowest grade I had was a C and that was in a course. I had As in others.
There is nothing you can’t achieve as long as you set your mind to it. The first battle ground is yourself. Once you resolve it within yourself that I can make it, then you ask yourself, how do I go about it and apply the necessary steps. There is nothing that cannot be achieved as long as it is legal and feasible.
You were into beauty pageant, why did you rest it?
I was consulting for some people. I consulted for Miss Tourism and others. I didn’t own the brand. I was only complimenting the effort of the brand. I create sponsorship and feasibility. It was a worthy experience, though somewhere along the line there were territorial issues. It was a worthy experience.
How were you able to cope with advances form course mates?
University of Lagos is not bigger than Lagos state or Nigeria. I have related with pretty women, beauty queens, top models, entrepreneurs, celebrities freely without necessarily getting too much involved. The issue of being intimate is a choice, not my age and level. A lot of them saw me as uncle. To a very large extent, I played that role. There were instances where I shed tears. I met a student that couldn’t pay to photocopy her exam timetable. She said she doesn’t have the money. I found myself buying textbooks for students. These are just some of the things. I have seen some students who are brilliant and they don’t have support. I was in the same class with a blind student. If the blind can see the need to be educated, you and I have no excuse.
A lot of young girls come to class half naked, some throw themselves at you, but it is about you also. You must not be distracted. I played the fatherly role and took all as compliments and guided them accordingly. It was a very challenging experience but interestingly, so many of them related with me like a family. They came to my apartment, cooked, ate, cleaned, helped me do this and that. People will always misunderstand you in so many instances. I lived a very disciplined and clean life. I was not involved in any scandal that would bring my reputation down. There were side talks but I had no scandal. I was able to cope with my children. Interesting, it was about me looking for a matured person I can go along with but my classmates were just 17, 18. We were not on the same page.
Are you thinking of giving marriage a shot?
Oh certainly! I have attempted marriage twice. I have been engaged and twice I wasn’t so lucky. The ladies involved, I so much respect. They are fantastic people. I gave it my all and I believe they also gave it their all but it didn’t work. I look forward to getting married someday, very soon too. That is not to take away the love from my daughter. I have a daughter, a very pretty, smart and intelligent girl. She is five years going to six. She is my best friend now.
She acts like a woman. While I am dotting over my daughter, I look forward to getting married some day.