Prince Louis Omolayo Adekola is one of the 100 Most Influential Young Nigerian and one of the twelve African youths honoured by President of Egypt and Chairman of the African Union – H. E. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi with the Promising Youth Award of the World Youth Forum. In this interview with EDUTORIAL CORRESPONDENT, ADESOLA IKULAJOLU, he shares some of his major challenges and how he rose through them. Excerpts:
Can we meet you, Sir?
I am Prince Louis Omolayo Adekola, a young leader from Nigeria and my mission is to provide access to quality education for people irrespective of age, gender, background and social status. I hold a Bachelors’ Degree in Educational Management and my postgraduate focus is on International and Comparative Education. I am the Founder of the Ambassadors of Africa, an organization – created in 2009 – with the sole aim of building Africans into global giants. I am also the Country Council President of World Merit Nigeria, Artistic Director of Frikanah Theatre Company and my firm Edvant Edge Africa focuses on helping African Universities to establish and manage functional and successful advancement centre/offices so that they can become 21st Century institutions indeed.
What are some of your driving force?
For me, I have always pushed myself beyond my personal boundaries. My driving force has been the understanding of the fact that I am in the world for a purpose and my purpose in life is to provide access to quality education for people irrespective of age, gender, background and social status. This is being backed up by my passion for community development and thirst for knowledge. I always want to know more so that I can ‘be’ more and I always believe in the power of collaboration. So, understanding my purpose, being passionate about the world enough to want to cause a change, building strong networks with other passionate individuals, resilience, commitment, and most importantly, trust in God – these are some of my driving force.
What inspires you the most?
My inspiration comes from the knowledge I have that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Once I conceive an idea, I ensure to spend time analysing it and understanding the solutions that such an idea would provide. I am the kind of person who believes that problems are meant to be solved and only the passionate once get to do this. So, I am inspired by all the passionate people all over the world, both past and present, who have stepped out of their comfort zones to create real-life solutions in their communities and in our world as a whole.
How do you cope with challenges and what’s the biggest you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge that I have ever faced was doubting myself and my potentials. When I started the organization as a teenage-undergraduate student, I had a lot of discouragement from some of my friends and even sold older people who I expected to get advice from. Due to the reoccurrence of such discouragements, I began to think maybe they were right but I was blessed with a good network of friends and a fantastic family; those who constantly remind me how incredibly smart I am. If I had listened to the voices of naysayers, I would not be where I am today.
You were among the Young Most Influential Nigerian, how do you feel?
I feel great actually.
I mean, getting nominated as one of the 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians in 2017 confirmed to me that when you are doing something, whether good or bad, people are noticing. The overwhelming support I received during the voting process, which made me ranked as 4th in the entire country and 2nd under the Personal Development and Academia category, showed to me how much of impact I have made over the years and the extent of love that people have for me and my works. In 2018 again, I was ranked in the Africa Youth Awards as one of the 100 Most Influential Young Africans and I felt really honoured to have received such recognition.
What earned you that feat?
After being admitted to study Educational Management at Adekunle Ajasin University, I struggled really hard with that reality as I wanted to study Business Administration or Banking and Finance at the time. After finally accepting my ‘fate’, I buckled up with my studies and when I went on my first teaching practice, my whole life changed. I was inspired by all the amazing kids I was teaching, however, I was saddened by the terrible education system that subjects students in public schools to harsh learning conditions and obsolete curriculum and pedagogies, the level of poverty in these rural communities that makes the chances of further studies very slim as well as the way people like them had turned out in these communities. I knew I could do something about it; I was not going to look away like many others and so I started to act.
My career counselling/mentorship activities, student seminars, and teacher training programmes in 2009 and 2010 gave birth to the A-Students Project and my organization, the Ambassadors of Africa. Over the years, this organization has positively impacted the lives of over 35,000 people in various African countries and now has teams in over 10 countries. Apart from the A-Students Project, our BrainStorm, KickStart as well as the CoLearn Hub and Community Library projects have gone on to transform the lives of people in many countries in Africa. This and more of my volunteering works with other organizations like Enactus and World Merit earned me that recognition at the Africa Youth Awards and, though I do not know the people who had nominated me, I am grateful.
You were recently awarded by the Egyptian President; can you tell us about it?
Sincerely, it was like a dream.
I was on my desk one day when I received a message on LinkedIn from the World Youth Forum team. Not long after my discussion with the person who had contacted me, I received an invitation to attend the inaugural Arab and African Youth Platform which was scheduled to hold in Aswan, Egypt and I was super excited to attend. Then, I was invited to feature in a documentary about youths from these two regions to showcase the amazing works of young people who are creating sustainable change. Again, I was super excited to be a part of this amazing group of twelve (12). After arriving in the beautiful city of Aswan and honouring several interviews, I joined the ongoing shots for the documentary. On the opening day of the event, which also marks the launch of the Egyptian Chairmanship of the African Union, we were informed that we would be receiving awards on the following day as “Honourees” of the World Youth Forum. We were all stunned and I was completely gobsmacked.
And just like a dream coming true, it happened. On Sunday the 18th of March 2019, at the bank of the immortal River Nile, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the amazing President of Egypt and Chairman of the African Union – H. E. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to receive the Promising Youth Award of the World Youth Forum in the presence of world leaders, the media and thousands of youths from various countries. This award was in recognition of our works towards impacting our communities and contributing to the development of our countries and the world at large. I was the recipient for immense contribution to educational development in Africa especially through the Ambassadors of Africa and Edvant Edge Africa. So, yes, dreams come true!
How do you cope amidst countless responsibilities?
My major strategy is very simple – I do what I ‘have’ to do before I do what I ‘want’ to do.
It is all about setting priorities and managing time effectively. Another strategy I have is to keep my house, office, and system clean and orderly so that I can always switch between tasks without any hassle. It might not seem like much but it works well for me. When I don’t have to several minutes/hours looking for my hairbrush in my house or a file in the office or a document on my system, I get a lot of things done. Another thing I do is to always keep a positive attitude, I give myself affirmations from time to time reassuring myself that I CAN do it, and then I surround myself with the right kind of people. All of these with the support of my incredible teams across various organizations, my colleagues at my workplace and my wonderful family, I am able to achieve my set goals.
What’s your advice to the youths?
First and foremost, never let anyone tell you that you cannot do it.
One of the reasons why many youths don’t get to achieve their dreams is because they keep listening to naysayers and trust me, people will always be out there to discourage you even if you are at the verge of your breakthrough. Secondly, I want every youth to understand that success is only the outcome of goals achieved and another person’s success should never be the yardstick for yours. So, you must stop comparing your weaknesses with other people’s strengths – discover yourself and define your own success. Thirdly, you must realise that life is a journey and in this journey, various obstacles arise. For you to succeed, you should always remind yourself that it is a phase and it would pass; you must be resilient, committed, dogged, and determined to achieve your goals in life.
Lastly, and this is to the young people in my immediate constituency – Africa, although the government owe us a lot, our destinies are in our ends. Youths must do away with the entitlement mentalities and take action towards changing their lives and to developing their communities. Let us connect with our history, celebrate our culture and work together towards creating a better future for our world.