Mr Fred Akintunwa is the Founder/CEO of Feghas Solutions. He spoke with Demola Akinbola on a wide range of issues about himself and the ICT industry. Excerpts…
Can you tell us about your parentage and childhood?
My father is Mr Moses Adefegha Akintunwa and my mother; Mrs Felicia Taiwo Akintunwa. I was born in Ile-Oluji. My father was a cocoa merchant specialising in the sales of cocoa produce. In the course of this business, he worked with various organizations handling the exportation of cocoa produce. My mother was simultaneously a teacher and a tailor. She taught in several primary schools in Ile-Oluji town and the districts. I was born into a polygamous family as the eldest of six children born by my mother. The total number of children born by my father was 13 with me being the fourth child. Despite this large number, we all lived together as one in a very big family house. We usually had a get-together every December, involving food, games and singing. During this occasion, we would wear matching uniforms and shoes and take a lot of pictures to preserve the memory. On weekends, my friends and my siblings went to the farm with our neighbours, visited family, friends and participated in the needed social activities. In all, my childhood was a very memorable and beautiful experience.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU LEARNT FROM YOUR PARENTS?
My parents instilled a lot of values in me that are still speaking for me today. One of them is integrity as my father always believed in telling the truth just as it is. My father’s business as a cocoa merchant called for several and extreme measures to cheat others but he never succumbed nor compromised his integrity to please others or himself. Another is contentment, my parents taught me to never want someone else’s belongings or property. In my mother, I learnt focus, dedication and commitment even during troubled and dark times. She assured me that though it might be a dark time, soon the day would be full of light. She taught me to hold onto my vision and not be distracted. She always said ‘the sky is not my limit but my starting point’. Most importantly, I learnt from my parents that except God, life is worthless.
WHICH SCHOOLS DID YOU ATTEND AND WHAT ARE YOUR QUALIFICATIONS?
I attended McGee Memorial Primary School, then went to Holy Saviour’s High School in 1981 and finished in 1986. I didn’t pass all the expected result in WAEC at once and was forced to relocate to Lagos where I sat for WAEC again at Unity Secondary School, Olodi-Apapa. Then, I entered Federal College of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta and this was my school of choice, as it seemed like the greatest level of education considering no one in my family had passed this level. I was in my third year at the College of Education when I had a redirection of destiny by meeting a young medical doctor from Ondo town by name Dr. Ogunsulire Ajike and her friend Ache Idachaba who graduated from University of Ilorin and was undergoing NYSC in the college.
How I met them was quite funny; I joined the Taekwondo team in school and sustained a serious to my hand. I was rushed to the sick bay where I met Ajike as medical doctor on duty. We started talking while I was being treated in the clinic and she challenged me. She made me realize I had more to offer to this world and I shouldn’t limit myself. This forced me to pursue a degree in the University of Ibadan during my final year in the College of Education. I wrote JAMB again and I passed it at once and got into the University of Ibadan to study Computer Science. I graduated well and further pursued a Masters’ degree in Business Administration at Satellite Campus of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. Learning never gets old so I went for further training in Owner Management Programme (OMP) at Lagos Business School (LBS) of Pan Africa University, Lagos. I also attended Stanford University; USA participating in a seed program for West Africa called Stanford Seed.
WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR CHOICE OF A CAREER IN ICT, OR IT JUST HAPPENED?
The first time I came to Lagos was after my secondary school. I met one of the major mentors in my life; Mrs Adunola Akinyemiju. She advised me to do higher education by sitting for University JAMB but inferior complex and lack of self-confidence caused me to fail the examination. I later wrote entrance examination into College of Education via JAMB and passed. I chose this path due to reasons I mentioned earlier and my lack of confidence/ exposure. During the choice of course to study, I had a strong intuition to study Computer Science/ Computer Mathematics. I really enjoyed this course during my time in the College of Education that when I was to choose to enter University of Ibadan, I had to choose Computer Science.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND WORK EXPERIENCE?
During my NYSC in 1995, I served as the Kano state president of Nigerian Christian Corpers’ Fellowship (NCCF). I later worked with El-Zufa Computers, Kano as System Manager. Then, I got a job in Tropical Commercial Bank, Kano as a clerical officer and after some months, I was transferred to the Kaduna branch as System Administrator. In 2000 I joined City Express Bank as a banking officer where I rose to the position of Head, E-Business. I moved on to Global Payment Services (GPS); a subsidiary of STB/Heirs Alliance Group and worked there for three years as the Head, Business Development. I left in 2005 to start Feghas Solutions Ltd based on God’s direction. We now have Feghas Solution Group (FSG) that consists of Feghas Solutions Ltd, Feghas Homes & Constructions, Feghas Creations & Wardrobes, Seepspring Empowerment
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT FEGHAS SOLUTIONS
It is basically a business solution company that specialises in the production of solutions. Our mission statement is building easy-to-use solutions for individuals and corporate organizations. Our experience over the years has given us the necessary expertise to offer consultancy services. We help clients move their services and products up the value chain and create a transformative experience for their customers. Our services help consolidate customers, distributors and partners using Web-enabled processes and thereby transform key processes within organization. Feghas participated in the construction of the first educational portal in Nigeria. We built portals for Ekiti State University, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba, The Polytechnic Ibadan, Osun State College of Technology, Kwara State College of Education and etc.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE AS AN ENTREPRENEUR IN ICT?
Venturing into ICT, I had a mind-set of ‘nothing is impossible’ even though challenges abound. During my working years as a banker, I pitched the idea of an NYSC portal to a few of my previous bosses and I was discouraged by the comments they offered. Nonetheless, in year 2000 I took it as a challenge, broke all barriers and went a step further to pitch the idea to General S.M Dule the NYSC DG. He totally bought my idea and that began the creation of NYSC portal and the proliferation of several portals in Nigeria. A few persons involved in portal building today got more insight when I shared my ideas with them, and ended up rebranding it to become their style as of today. Being an entrepreneur is the best medium to building one’s self in almost every area, to understanding time management and to giving back to the sector positively. As an entrepreneur, you learn to think about solutions, services as well as people and this has been my testimony ever since I began to innovate and create.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES OR CHALLENGES CONFRONTING ICT PRACTITIONERS AND ENTREPRENEURS?
One major challenge is the lack of skill or knowledge as some might put it. Many can talk but only a few can actually deliver efficiently what they say. For instance, the younger generation, they have a lot to offer but laziness, lack of commitment and wrong use of technology and social media is downplaying their abilities. Also, many people undervalue the use of computers. Computers are seen as simply a device that can perform basic operations such as typing and surfing the Internet. This mentality hinders one from developing and improving self on areas pertaining to computers and there are numerous useful activities that can be undergone with computers. Another challenge is the immediate urge to solve computer related problems without first taking time to understand the root of the problem. On a final note, there is something I always say to young people who claim to not find employment, there are two approaches. One is to develop yourself and broaden your skills by starting even as an intern and the second is to look for problems and create ideas to solve that problem.
WOULD YOU SAY NIGERIA IS MAKING PROGRESS IN THE PRODUCTION OF ICT EXPERTS?
Yes! Nigeria is taking giant steps and making high progress. In fact, ICT developers in Nigeria have contributed immensely to ICT based solutions and software in the world. The process of working without borders using cloud technology has really helped. Many developers in Nigeria now work for international organisations from the comfort of their rooms. If we can continue on this path of human development in Nigeria, there is no limitation to the successes that will be recorded here in this country.
DO YOU SHARE THE VIEW THAT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) WOULD EXTESIVELY REDUCE HUMAN INTERVENTON IN SERVICE DELIVERY AND THEREFORE ELIMINATE JOBS? HOW CAN NIGERIA COPE WITH THIS?
Basically, Artificial Intelligence employs the use of machinery to perform usual and basic human activities. Formerly, technology was developed for human beings to instruct machines to do our bidding. Now, these same machines are doing the work without our supervision and instructions. The world is moving at a high speed towards AI and I believe it would make Nigerians work smart rather than working hard like we usually do. Instead of pondering how jobs will be wiped out, people need to focus on the redesign of jobs and re-engineering of business processes. Automating parts of a job will often increase the productivity and quality of workers by complementing their skills with machines and computers, as well as enabling them to focus on those aspects of the job that most need their attention.
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