‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a social enterprise that connects underserved people-groups with ICT-enabled opportunities. He was initially trained as an Electronic & Electrical Engineer at Obafemi Awolowo University and then followed his passion for teaching. His consulting experience includes assignments completed for numerous institutions, including Microsoft, Harvard University, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Freedom House, amongst other reputable organisations.
‘Gbenga Sesan was born in a remote village, Akure, in Nigeria. He attended college at the Federal Government College, Idoani, Akure. The college had just received two sets of computers, and Sesan, who was in his third year at that time, was too excited to try the new age technology devices. However, a teacher rebuked him and said, “Sorry, you can’t understand how to use them because they are not for people like you.”
Right at that moment, Sesan decided that he would learn to use computers and teach others this invaluable skill who were as unfortunate as him. He considered the discrimination unfair and unjust because two other students whose fathers worked as professors in one of the federal universities were allowed to use the school’s newly acquired computer sets. After all, they already had prior knowledge to use the device. Simultaneously, the teachers remained adamant not to allow or help anyone to use the newly acquired computers.
With this burning desire to prove his teachers wrong, he immediately enrolled in a Computer Training School after Secondary School in 1994 before completing his Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the Obafemi Awolowo University.
In an attempt to hone his computer skills, during his third year, he was to undergo an industrial attachment; he chose to work with Neural Technology Limited, a Lagos-based company that enabled him to acquire and perfect his skills in website designing, amongst others.
“When I returned to campus, I was really excited about teaching others, and I started teaching website designing to students for two thousand naira. For the first 12 students I taught, I was able to pay for my accommodation and a few other needs. After that, I got involved in departmental politics, and became the Chairman of our Electronic Club because of my agenda which they knew was to teach computer skills”, Sesan said.
Sesan found himself as the computer veteran of the college, even before he graduated. Just after his graduation in 2001, he participated in a competition. The idea behind the competition was to discover young Nigerians who were adept at technology and would be on par with experts worldwide. He emerged victoriously and became the first Youth Ambassador at the Information Technology Nigeria. As fate would have it, one of the tasks assigned to him was to travel across Nigeria to teach the locals how to use computers.
“In fact, when I was invited to the Federal Government College, Idoani, after my presentation, the same teacher who had told me I didn’t know how to use computers was actually the one who gave the vote of thanks,” Sesan reminisced.
Sesan saw this as just the beginning and knew he could pave the way for opportunities for more people like him, and has, since then, continued to strive towards excellence. Over the years, he continued his education and has studied at the Lagos Business School, New York Group for Technology Transfer, Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and Santa Clara Universities. He also holds a diploma in software application, certificate in venture management, and project management certification from the Lagos Business School.
Paradigm Initiative Nigeria
At the time, he was spearheading a project called Lagos Digital Village at his previous job. The project deeply corresponded with his dream and he decided that he needed to act on his plan right away to help the youth. He soon resigned to focus on his dream, the Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, PIN that he started online.
Sesan started this initiative as he thought we cannot keep waiting on the Government to create jobs as the Government already has a lot on its plate. However, he reasoned that in an ideal society, Governments don’t create jobs, the private sector especially the small and medium enterprises do. Governments can only help with improving the environment to boost business growth in the end.
“PIN works in the space between youth, technology and improved livelihood. For example, we currently have a project in Ajegunle, Lagos, in which we train people in technology and entrepreneurship, connect them with internship opportunities, and, as much as possible, get them to begin work with their skills”, Sesan explains.
In the end, Sesan concludes that we are in control and are the only ones that can make or break our futures, “Decide your tomorrow today, and equip yourself towards living that dream. We must realise that we represent a generation that can say NO and YES: we must say ‘no’ to the ills around us, and ‘yes’ to hard work that gives you the opportunity to solve problems — and be rewarded for it. The whole world will stand aside for you if you know where you are going.”