From Cafeteria to Classroom: The Story of Professor Fayomi, a Cafeteria Cleaner Turned Professor

Professor Fayomi

By Ayo Ajayi

His story was humbling and equally challenging. He did not despise the days of little beginning and coupled with diligence and sacrifice, Professor Fayomi Ojo Sunday is today sitting with kings and not mean men.

The 37-year Kogi State born, Bells University of Technology Don and No. 50   from Top 500 authors in Africa computed by SciVal actually began his successful career at Covenant University in 2007 after a casual visit to Canaan Land with his fiancée (now his wife). They had concluded their compulsory National Youth Service in Abia State and returned to Lagos for a greener pasture.

At Canaan Land gate, they saw a vacancy advert for Cafeteria pastry, cleaners and stewards pasted there, which his fiancé suggested they apply to, pointing to a cleaning job. “Cleaner!” Fayomi exclaimed as he protested further, “Not me and you” because his plan then was to get a teaching job in a nearby secondary school.

His fiancé however applied on their behalf and persuaded him to attend the interview. They were both employed and told to resume immediately.

“One funny thing happened that day”, Fayomi recalled. “The first assignment given to me was to clean a cold room that had been abandoned for seven months. The moment it was opened, everybody around the vicinity ran away. The stench was terrible because it contained rotten fish and tomatoes. Immediately I saw that I told the supervisor to allow me to come the next day for the cleaning and he agreed. I actually said that in order to run away (laughed).

“But I went to tell my fiancée who was employed in the pastry section what I told the supervisor. I even blamed her for putting me into that mess. Unknown to me, she went to the supervisor and told him my intention was to run away, that was why I took the excuse to come back the next day for the cleaning.

“Olboy, the supervisor was furious, he insisted I must remove my cloth and clean the stuff that every day. Well, seven months abandoned cold room was cleaned by three of us. And I told myself, ‘I think God wanted to use that to humble me’. That is if I could do that kind of job, He was ready to take me to any level.”

After about a month on the job, on a fateful day, Fayomi was to resume for an afternoon duty but rather than reporting at his duty post, he went to the Human Resource Department of the University. Fortunately, the employment interview was ongoing. He introduced himself to the Head of HR who queried if he was invited for the interview as he was not properly dressed for such.

Fayomi said, “Rather than sending me away, he went to report me to the panel that I was disturbed and that I said I was a graduate of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. Guess what? It was Dr Atayero (now Professor Atayero, the former CU’s Vice-Chancellor) and Late Professor Cleophas Loto with some others who were on the panel.

“As God would have it, Professor Loto was the Head of Mechanical Engineering Department, who also studied Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and he needed a Technologist in that area. He told the Head of HR to give me a form to fill not knowing I was not properly dressed. I quickly called my fiancée to get to my sister and bring me a clean shirt and trouser for the interview. At the end of the day, I was the only one employed as a Technologist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering that faithful day. That was when my Manager and Supervisor knew I was a graduate.”

When Fayomi resumed at the department, he was fascinated by the way some faculty members were treated with respects and supported with incentives as academia. He loved the way they were motivated and he sought to know what it takes to enjoy such privileges. He was told that they were the few who had published in high impact journals.

“One day, I approached two of that faculty that were doing well to teach me how to write papers. Do you know what they told me? They said, ‘Are you jealous. This is not your line, just face where you belong.’ “As Technologist” Those words touched me greatly. I was down, but I remember I got a book by Dr Frederick K.C. Price that I cherish so much titled “How Faith Works.” I went to my office; finish it, went back home that day intoxicated. I asked myself, ‘Is any good thing meant for one person? It is meant for everybody.’ Then I told myself that day, ‘Regardless of what I may be going through, I am going to walk the talk. I am going to make sure that my background is not stopping me from reaching the top.

In 2010, by divine orchestrations, he was linked with someone in South Africa where he ended up at Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa, to further his studies in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering.

Fayomi by then had married his fiancée but left the young lady in Nigeria with three months old boy for South Africa. He, however, promised to return to make her happy.

For Fayomi, studying in South Africa was not without its attendant challenges. Challenges including finance and accommodation but he braced them all to excel. He hinted “there are times I won’t have enough money to eat well just because I have to send stipend for my wife and my old mother to survive”. At some point, I slept in the laboratory for 4 good year inhaling chemicals because the cold in the shack I rented was terrible. Wahoo, let me gist you he said, there is this unforgettable adventure I will never forget in a hurry, I was waiting for God for supply because I was so rich in my pocket “Have you ever observed when you are hungry and sleep won’t come” (Laugh), so I picked up a book by Late Archbishop Idahosa “If I Be a Man of God” as soon as I read the first three chapters I slept off till next day.

Friends, setbacks are springboard he said, and they come in different forms. I knew it won’t be easy and no one will give me chance. I have to brace up to the challenge ahead. I am by privilege a book eater and God has used many great authors through their materials to transform my little life. Some setbacks can be confrontational despite doing what is required Fayomi hinted.

I was told by fellow staff at a time that where did I see in the history of our institution that a Technologist was converted to a Lecturer. I replied that though it had never happened before history can be written, and we are the ones to write history.”

The reply I gave the fellow did not go down well with those at the helms of affairs but that is the truth. “I found out that if those people who were talking about history remains in the helms of affairs, which mean I will never progress. So, I prayed that God should make way for me, and He answered my prayer. Suddenly, there was a change of guard in the University system. A new Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and some other key officers were brought in. So, I took advantage of that to apply for study leave without pay. You know what? In two days, approval was given. That was how I returned to South Africa to complete my PhD.

When Fayomi returned home in 2015, exactly two years after he went to South Africa; he was already armed with more than 90 publications, most of which were published in high impact journals. The papers were more than enough for him to be in the professorial cadre.

With his number of publications, he received several offers at Professorial cadre position appointment both in Nigeria and China. However, according to Fayomi, he had a covenant to return to Nigeria in order to give back to the platform that gave him the rare opportunity.

One great grace I have humbly enjoyed from God is been sensitive to His leading per time Fayomi Said. When I returned back in 2015, I got a book authored by Dr David Oyedepo titled Born to Win. I digested this book in one day, so I was charged up, to know how to shine in the midst of shackles.

About success, Fayomi said, “God specialised in the impossible! However, success is hard work proven through God grace presence. There is nothing good that God doesn’t want us to have but they are rooted in personal responsibility which entails hard work, time management and God factor. Though there will be a distraction, envy, conspiracy, a setback which are normal to living but they are surmountable”.

His advice to others is, “Know what you want and follow it through. Don’t let others run you down. Don’t run others down. Make positive things out of any negative words or actions of people towards you. Be a contributor in any environment you find yourself by living a legacy. Ensure you impact yourself, grow yourself, build yourself and let God be the Ultimate. The sky is too wide for everyone to fly; we will all get to the top”.

Bells University of Technology World-renowned Materials and Mechanical Metallurgy expert in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering says hard work pays, regardless of age, background and battlefield. Fayomi who was born on March 14, 1984, from Iyara-Ijumu, Kogi State, Nigeria is well known as one of the most soughed after young talented scholar with an international reputation. He has a combination of multifaceted experience and qualification in the engineering discipline. He obtained National Diploma (Distinction) from the Polytechnic Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State (Now Waziri Umaru Federal Polytechnic), Nigeria, Higher National Diploma in (Metallurgical and Materials Engineering) from Federal Polytechnic Idah, Kogi State with (Upper credit), Bachelor’s of Engineering, (Honours) in (Mechanical Engineering) from Bells University of Technology (2nd Class upper). He bagged his Master’s and Doctoral degree in Metallurgical Engineering with Distinction (Cum Laude) from the Department of Chemical, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa. He has a postgraduate diploma in environmental and natural resource management from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.

Professor Fayomi today has to his credit over (350) indexed international and local peer-reviewed journals with strong impact factors, broad readership, and citations in Scopus and Web of Science among others. Professor Fayomi is an External Examiner to several Nigerian universities at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and some foreign universities, among others, is the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He has supervised over 150 international research/industrial projects, graduated 7 PhD and 10 Master degree students apart from the ongoing postgraduate supervision.  

Professor Ojo Sunday Fayomi who was recently listed Among Top 50 in Africa out of top 500 researchers, by scholarly output, over the period 2015-2020 according to the recent listing made by SciVal, an analytical based web that offers comprehensive quick access to the research and researcher’s performance from 231 nations and over 20,100 research institutions worldwide.

Prof Ojo Sunday Fayomi is a sought after inspirational public speaker and lecturer to many industries, universities, and institutes. Prof Fayomi is known to be a reviewer to the high rated publisher of Scientific Journal and Conference in the related field such as Elsevier, Springer, Taylor and Francis, Wiley and others. He is also an examiner to the National Research Foundation, South Africa, Portugal and Co-Chair of one of the most soughed largest gathering of researcher conference in Africa “ICESW”. He is a Co-chairman of Standards and dredgers with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria. He is a member of several engineering bodies such as the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigerian (COREN), Member Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Registered Academic Member Water Institute of Southern Africa (AMWISA), Member Nigeria Metallurgical Society (NMS), and Member Nigeria Association of Technologist in Engineering.

He is an achieved researcher and lecturer, who has harvested several awards internationally, among others, is the Scientific Achievement by South African Association for Advancement in Science Medal Award (A2S3 Medal for Original Research). Fayomi is a Postdoc Research Scholar and an Awardee of the Institutional Best Postdoctoral fellow for Teaching and Innovations at the Tshwane University of Technology. He also emerged as the best doctoral degree award student at the Tshwane University of Technology. He is well-reputed nationally and internationally in the areas of Mechanical Materials Mechanics, corrosion mitigation and additive manufacturing system. He was named the Outstanding African Researcher, 2019, and the Most Innovative Scholar in Composite deposition. Also, according to the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 rating of researchers globally by Elsevier Scopus (Scival), Professor Fayomi was ranked the number one (1) researcher in the world in the area of Composite, Electrodeposition of Materials. Ranked the number one (1) researcher in Nigeria 2019, 2020 in the field of Materials Science and Engineering, he is ranked number 3 top published author in Nigerian in accredited Journal by Elsevier Scopus. He has patents to his credit with the South Africa Ministry of Education and Cooperates affair.

Prof Ojo Sunday Fayomi is a passionate, purpose-driven, self-motivated, and result-oriented natural leader. He is a multi-talented person, perfectionist, and president of Ignite World- an organization founded by him for helping the needy, youth, and family to discover self. Prof Ojo Sunday Fayomi is the founder of a monthly publication called DISCOVERY, which has a network of vibrant conference and inspiration presentations. He has published many weekly motivational and transformational materials by dint of hard work, commitment, and dedication to the vision. As an international conference speaker, he has spoken to audiences in Belgium, Mauritius, United States, Greece, United Kingdom, South Africa, and Nigeria. Fayomi is happily married blessed with children.

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