Alumni must be Intentional to make Desired Change – President

Reginald Bassey, CU Alumni President

Q: When did you become the President?

A: We had a change of baton in October 2015. Prior to that, I have served as Vice President, Public Relations for over seven years.

Reginald Bassey, CU Alumni President
Reginald Bassey, CU Alumni President

We considered the last nine years as the building phase of the Alumni Association because primarily we were involved in setting up of structures of systems that works, accountability structure so that it will be easy for any leader to come in and function. So as at last year, we had concluded a lot of structures we are trying to build and it was important we began the process of re-aligning the association and giving it a different outlook. So, the then president, Dr. Oludayo, myself, the Vice President and a couple of others in the executive decided to step down from that role but on the advice of the Chancellor, who made a recommendation that someone who was involved in the building process should remain as the substantive president of the Alumni Association while we can bring in new people to other post, that’s what happen. I took over from the then president who rose in level as the Chairman of Board of Trustees of the Alumni Association while I became the president effective October 1, 2915. So that is the current system now. We have seven Vice Presidents and expanded leadership that involves the Chapter Heads. We have four Chapters: Lagos, Abuja, Ota and UK Chapters. We do have a US Chapter but it is not very well structured because it is a huge country. We do have few activities but virtual and not location based, so we are looking at the future to putting something functional there.

Q: When did you graduate from the University and between when you left the University and now, how would you asses the progress?

A: I was in the pioneer set of Covenant University. I graduated in July 2006, so this year makes 10 years we’ve graduated. It’s phenomenon what has happened in the last 10 years. We are not exactly surprised because, within the first year of coming into the University as students, we saw dramatic changes happened. So that was an indication of what the possibility was for the University and it has not stopped soaring from the expansion of the faculty, staff and the students’ body. The time we were here, we were the only set, we grew to see four sets here but now, you don’t just have four sets, you have postgraduates, you have research staff and so on. It is tremendous in 10 years. I don’t think there is any university around the world that has achieved in 10 years what Covenant University has achieved. So that speaks to the visionary at the top driving the affairs and also competent individuals with capacity who are present in the system to make the system work. Having a vision is one thing and having the right people to make it work is another thing. So we are not surprised at what the University had achieved. That is why we remain connected because this is the mother ground for us from which we can soar properly.

Q- I know you are very much aware of the vision of the university. There is this aspect of the Alumni factor. As the president of the Alumni Association, what role(s) are the alumni playing currently to make the vision a reality?

A: That is interesting because we recently had a few discussions around this. We are very active partners in the process of accomplishing the vision of 1 of 10 in 10. We have outlined areas where we can deepen the partnership. Already, we are involved in a few activities on campus, for instance, we were involved in ensuring that those alumni members that are now the staff of the University got some kind of support from the Association for their research and overseas studies. We are very much involved in any of the activities that will boost their studies. We are also involved in assisting the undergraduates who are good academically but are indigent. We are also involved in seeking to do some physical development on campus. That is in the process. So we are very involved. Going forward, we have identified a couple of areas where we want to identify with the University. The area of research is one. We are proposing to partner with the University to further research and see where we can identify important research activities that solve real life problems and then see how we can fund the research and drive them to a logical conclusion.

Two, we also want to bring the industry experience into the University because the tendency is that the University is doing a lot of work within the four corners of the institution. However, we want to be the extension of the University on the outside, not just implementing the University goals but also to bring the industry experience which we have gathered and it is amazing that in the last 10 years, a lot of us have gathered a lot of experience working in public and private sector where we can bring that to the University and see how we can help develop the curriculum that reflects the essential issues in the society. So that there is no knowledge mismatch where people are studying what is no longer relevant to the society. These and so many other areas we are working to partner with the University to achieve the vision of the University.

Q: You have highlighted programmes that the alumni have decided to do. These are laudable programmes no doubts. But from observation, Alumni all over will always want to do one or two thing but funds are always the constraint. How do you source for funds? Are you taxing yourselves?

A: So far, we have yearly dues. It has not been easy galvanising this. The bigger we get, the difficult it is to galvanise the entire alumni base to contribute financially to the association. But what has happened is that we constantly found creative ways to raise funds that are project specific. For instance, our non-profit organisation called HOPE, we run a yearly programme, what we do towards the time is that we send out newsletters, text messages, publications to members and we do get tremendous support. People are very interested specific; they want to identify with what interests them. Interestingly also, the Chancellor of the University is very actively engaged in the Alumni base and we constantly give him report and feedback and in some way, he also supports and encourages a lot of activities. So far, it is not where we wanted to be, where we get 100% contributions but we are making progress.

Q: Can you enlighten us more in HOPE and the current camp going on?

A: Like I said, HOPE is Helping Other People Excel. It is a non-profit organisation of the Alumni that is a spin-off of Project One Million Souls. Project One Million Souls was founded as a students’ led initiative which means that it is only operational within Covenant University and it’s driven primarily by undergraduates. But at the point where we left, we asked ourselves now what? This afforded us the opportunity to have the social impact so what do we do to allow ourselves gather. So the then president said let’s spin-off something on the platform of the Alumni, at that time, we came up with the Helping Other People Excel (HOPE).We registered it as a non-profitable organisation with Corporate Affairs Commission in 2011 and began full operation with a grant from the Chancellor in January 2012. Since then, we’ve done amazing things. We’ve gotten recognitions and awards from Lagos State Government. We’ve primarily been engaged in empowering young people in being change agents because we recognise that we as Covenant University graduates are not a significant number enough to create a solid change we want. So what we do is to take the knowledge we have and empower other young people out there to become change agent so that we have a community-led action on transferring society. Helping people personally become responsible for changing circumstances in their society, so that’s what we have been doing, initially, we adopted two schools, Girls Conventional Facility in Idi-Araba and Lagos Sate Modell College, Meran. We went in there for several months, empowering the children, helping them take personal responsibility and it was very successful. We created a curriculum and called it CITY-Catch and Inspire Them Young and began to run a yearly camp, a residential camp which we started in Lagos and Ota. This involves young people between 250 and 400 and we take them through 10-day empowerment training. In 2015, we changed the curriculum to a non-residential and it was very successful. Currently, on going, we have teenagers between ages 13-19, who are currently undergoing training at the camps in Lagos/Ota, Abuja, Ibadan and Port-Harcourt. We train volunteers who are Alumni and others who are non-Alumni members. Gradually, the influence is reaching out. We have volunteers from Babcock University, Bowen University, UNIBEN, and UNILAG. So gradually HOPE is influencing other alumni to get involved in social enterprise.

Q: Who is Reginald Bassey?     

A: Well, a passionate soul who is passionate to see change in the society, passionate to see every human giving his right place of value. I am passionate about change in Nigeria. One of the major reasons I came back to Covenant University was to be able to change my focus in life to be able to do something that will give me the skills required to drive that change in the society. I came to Covenant University as a matured student; I wasn’t a teenager when I came to Covenant University. In fact I came to the University as a 25-26 year old student. At that time, I was already a functional member of the society because I was a computer programmer at that time and was working in a company using my skills, but the Lord had me come here, so that full string of activities has created what I am today. When I was at the University, I could not understand how people could hear the empowering messages and would not want to do something tangible. So I remember one of the days I went to service and saw the Chancellor speak at Faith Tabernacle and he was on fire that day. He dropped a word literally screaming, `you are not a millionaire because you have a million naira but because you affect a million souls’. I was like ‘whao, this is phenomenal’. That word could not just leave me and I said that we as students can go out and share the values which have been communicated to us here with our communities, starting from our immediate community and to the country at large. A year later, I was appointed the Vice-Chair of the Students’ Council and I saw it as an opportunity to bring up the idea. The chair of the council then, now Dr Olumuyiwa Oludayo bought into the idea and we invited students to be part of it and it exploded from there. The first night we invited students, about 120 attended. The Chancellor and the University were supportive. The Chancellor gave us 15million naira worth of books to distribute, particular to prisons where we visited. It took off greatly and so that passion has remained in me as I go into the society. My first foray was to go into governance. I worked with the government up till last year particularly in the Legislative sector as, ‘Chief of staff to a member of the congress, writing policies, amending laws, drive sustainable changes through policy advocacy and policy framework. Am still passionate about going into politics because when you have executive power, it gives you the greatest opportunity to achieve change within a short term frame and to have a lasting change in the society is by influencing policy. Currently, I am into agriculture because I believe you do not build laws on hungry people; they will throw caution to the wind. So I get involved in sustainable food production process where the country can generate genuine wealth for its people. I want to do that so that by the time I come back to stand on the stage, I should be able to tell people how to do it because I have done it before. These are things we learnt. You do not have to make noise to make moves; newsmakers are those that make moves.

Q: As the Alumni president, what are you bringing on board?

A: Number one is that I want to bring on board a more potent Alumni association. I believe that every community that understands its potentials will galvanise itself properly. Over the years, we’ve tried to galvanise but under my watch, we want to galvanise purposefully. So we want to restructure the association itself and its communities so that we can put them around a common interest that the University can easily leverage on the influence and the networks. If we can organise ourselves properly in the society, then the University can easily throw a suggestion into that community and get value because they are organised properly. So my main goal is to launch an Application that will restructure the alumni so that it is easy to reach the people, easy to find them and probe our database and get value because it is properly organised. It is a proper system that drives change. The second part of my goal is to help the University accomplish its short term vision which is achieving vision 1 of 10 in 10, that’s why we have outlined these areas of partnership and we are driving them.

Q: if you are to be speaking to the whole members of the Alumni Association right now, what will you be saying to them?

A: I will like to say to them, ‘be intentional in whatever you do, be intentional’. Because it is only people who are intentional that can make desired change that they want. Being a part of the Alumni is intentional for me, relating with my University and going into agriculture is intentional for me. So anybody I see, whatever they are doing, I will tell them to be intentional about it, so that you can calculate over the years, measure how much growth you have. That is very important for me and that’s what I have been telling the members of the Alumni Association. That is my core word for today. Be intentional.

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