GRASS TO GRACE: I STARTED LIFE AS A HOUSEBOY, NEWSPAPER VENDOR – Dr. Johnson Edosomwan, Ex-Consultant to UN - Paul Ukpabio's Blog

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

GRASS TO GRACE: I STARTED LIFE AS A HOUSEBOY, NEWSPAPER VENDOR – Dr. Johnson Edosomwan, Ex-Consultant to UN



At 17, he went to America with a broken heart. Having lost his father at age 2, Dr. Johnson Edosomwan was left to grow up in the hands of his sick mother. The future appeared bleak until he found a silhouette of hope at age 10. 

Today, he is identified with leadership and development in America and some other continents. An author and editor of about 68 books with more than 16 certifications in several academic disciplines, Edosomwan is a recipient of over 175 awards and citations. 

An international development consultant, who consulted for the United Nations, among others, he spoke with PAUL UKPABIO about his sojourn in America and why he had to return to Nigeria after living abroad for decades.

How would you describe yourself?

I see myself as a visionary leader, entrepreneur and innovator. I am lucky to be among the respected intellectuals around the world; a pioneer in several academic disciplines. As a highly accomplished leader, I seek to dedicate my skills, knowledge and best business practices to making the world better. I have served as Chairman of Johnson A. Edosomwan Limited; the Johnson A. Edosomwan Foundation; JJA Consultants, Inc; Innovative Best Business Consultant (IBBC), Radio Companion and the Continuous Improvement Company. I have been a pioneer in leadership and management development, quality, productivity, re-engineering, customer satisfaction, innovation and technology management, diversity management and much more. As an executive coach and principal consultant, I can say I have worked and helped more than 6,000 organisations in numerous countries. I am also credited for the development of over 425 performance improvement tools, including the EBAT performance excellence tool.  

What was growing up like for you?

I grew up in poverty, not knowing my father who had died when I was less than two years old, and my mother became ill soon after. I worked as a houseboy, going to school hungry and borrowing books for my classes. Where did you grow up? I am not ashamed to tell you that I was born into a poverty-stricken family in Benin City, Edo State. So, I grew up in Nigeria.

I was, however, saved from poverty and misery at age 10. By age 17, I moved to the United States of America. When I got to America, I had just $1400 in my pocket. Gradually, I worked as a dishwasher, at other times as a housemaid, a newspaper deliverer and other such work that was readily available.

You said you were rescued at 10, how did that happen?
I was discovered by a Good Samaritan who took me in and cared for me.

In what ways would you say that your background influenced the person you are today?

Christianity, which I learnt first of all from my mother, influenced my life with hard work, prayers, service to the community, honesty, integrity and sound moral standards. I have tried very hard to maintain these values in all seasons of my life.

Why did you decide to travel abroad?

I always knew that development was key to progress, and the engineering knowledge and ability in me opened new doors just as technology did. Seizing the opportunity that America created, I became a pioneer in leadership and management development, re-engineering, quality, productivity, customer satisfaction, innovation, technology management, diversity management and much more.

Exactly what were you doing in your first two years abroad?

I was going to school. But don’t forget that, like I said earlier, I had to fund my education by working as a dishwasher, house cleaner, security guard, and newspaper deliveryman. That was how I was able to earn enough money to begin my initial studies. Eventually, I earned scholarships and was able to attend Ivy League universities.

I studied at Miami-Date Community College and the University of Miami in Florida. I later earned a BS and MS degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of Miami and also went on to receive a Doctor of Science in Engineering Management and Economics from the George Washington University and a Professional Industrial Engineering Degree from Columbia University. I am also today a recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University.

What was your overall initial experience abroad? Were you convinced that you could make it over there?

It was not about whether I was convinced that I could make it abroad, I was sure I could. I knew I would. I was determined to succeed. There was nothing else to do but to succeed. And I thank God that He gave me the opportunity to impact on lives.

How did you decide on a career?

Well, I can say that my early life decided that for me. Having struggled through early life, trying to find a way out of poverty became a set goal for me. And to do that meant growing and living on strategic development standards.

At what point did you eventually get a breakthrough?

That was while I was still in Nigeria. My breakthrough or life turn-around came when I was able to build a savings that accumulated to $1400. With that, I was able to migrate to the United States of America, with a grand hope to seek and get the golden fleece that education offers.


What motivated you to set up your first company?

What motivated me to set up my first company in America was the desire to create something good for my family and get myself an opportunity to serve others.

How has marriage been?

(Smiles) I would say that I have been well favoured by marriage. I am happily married to Mary Edosomwan, an accountant who has been a partner of substance to me. Our family life has been blessed by my Christian ministry whose contributions include planting churches for the salvation of souls and implementing programmes to help the needy around the world. The ministry has at different times hosted TV and radio programmes. Some of them are ‘Life Solutions,’ ‘Extraordinary Connection with God,’ and ‘Sunday Worship Hour’ on radio. I regularly feature on One God TV, ‘Wisdom for You.’

Is your wife a foreigner?

No, she is from Nigeria here. My wife, Mary, was specially prepared by God for me. She has been a great supportive strength to me and my ministry.

From your CV, one notices that you have worked virtually everywhere in America and outside America. How did you find the time to do all those things written in there?

It was dedication. It came natural to me because I always had time for things that involves development. I always had time for things that I know would benefit everyone. Like I said earlier, I knew that with education, I would be more positioned to make a better impact, so I studied. And when the opportunities came for me to serve in leadership capacities, I readily offered myself.

You are a minister of God. What led you into ministry life?

I guess that my early life had a lot to do with that. My mum brought me up to know, believe and trust in God. That belief and trust was what I held on to into adulthood. Serving God came naturally to me afterwards.

To what extent is your wife involved in your work?

My wife is involved in most of the things that I do. We serve the Lord together in His vineyard.

How about children?

Yes, we are blessed with two adult children.

You have over the years been associated with management and development, but now politics. Why politics at this time?

My vision is to unify and transform the Federal Republic of Nigeria into a world-class democratic nation where every citizen contributes and lives peacefully in safe and secure communities free from corruption, poverty, violence, regionalism and tribalism into a modern nation that provides access to jobs, clean water, clean air, electricity, infrastructure, education and health care; into a forward-looking nation whose multi-dimensional and robust economy eagerly awaits the coming technology age; and into a prosperous nation that will make our citizens and Creator proud.

Which party platform are you going to contest under? How will your party outdo the other established parties?

I have founded the Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP) in order to vie for political office in the country. The Nigeria Democratic Congress Party plans to unite and transform all aspects of Nigerians’ lives from A to Z, beginning from 2019. The motto of the Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP) is ‘We the People Unite for Progress’. NDCP stands for equal rights, justice for every individual, promotion and encouragement of a free market economy based on a democratic system of government, family values, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, community, men, women and youth empowerment and human rights in a federal system supported by states and local governments.

What do you hope to do differently from what Nigerians have been seeing?

I along with other members of the party will reassess the educational system and incorporate world-class best practices from multiple disciplines that support the jobs of tomorrow.
I intend to establish vocational training and train-to-work programmes across the country; offer free trade and technical education and encourage tuition reimbursement at universities; implement a single-payer universal healthcare system for all citizens; reduce healthcare burdens on families by offering national assistance for the elderly and persons with disabilities; implement regulations requiring businesses to accommodate persons with disabilities; fight corruption and strengthen institutions to hold everyone accountable to the full extent of the law.

I also intend to increase productivity and transparency of government institutions; re-engineer government work processes to reduce waste and increase efficiency and productivity; provide world-class military training for our troops; invest in modern defence and cyber security systems; cooperate with other nations and world organizations; strengthen positive, mutually beneficial relationships; create fair and equitable tax and financial plans that encourage foreign investment.

You have lived abroad for long and now intend to lead as President? Are you sure you have acclimatized enough with the Nigerian political terrain?

Nigeria has always been home to me. I was born here, I grew up here and the blood runs in my veins. Even while abroad, I was always coming to Nigeria, getting involved in one way or the other.

What are the things you love about Nigeria?

I love the people. Our ways of life are distinctively peculiar to us.

You have to be a Nigerian to understand us fully. How much of Nigeria do you know?

I have moved around the country a lot and have seen that we are not only a special people, we have also been naturally blessed in our habitat.

What do you really think is the problem with the country in terms of development?

I can sum that up as leadership problems which, unfortunately, has hindered the development of the country. I know that if we get the leadership factor right, Nigeria will be great once again.

Do you think it is a problem that can be fixed?

Yes, it can easily be fixed. As a matter of fact, that is what has led me to offer myself for leadership of this great country. We have to fix our problems for ourselves and for posterity. If we can teach others to do it, we can as well do it for ourselves.

There are developing countries around the world with peaceful environment and procedure. Nigeria can be turned into a developed country with an overhaul of economic growth, environment and infrastructure, community women and youth empowerment, education and health care, good governance and foreign policy. These I have enumerated in my manifesto.

If you were not a development consultant, what else would you love to be?

I would have just loved to serve God. But I have also realised that when you serve man, you are already serving God. And when you serve man and revere God, giving God His rightful place, you become a better person.

What do you do for relaxation?

I worship the Lord and I minister to people physically and spiritually.

Which fashion accessories appeal to you?

I love to wear Nigerian native attires. However, I dress to fit the ceremony of the day. My dress sense also depends on the weather. That is why when I am abroad, I am mostly in suit.

Which memory of life has refused to go away?

That was in May 2014, in Fairfax, Virginia, when my citation was being read at a ceremony where the Board of Trustees of Virginia Union University conferred on me the highest honour—the the honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree for ministry, leadership, accomplishments and contributions to humanity and to the world. I was there with my family and tears welled up in my eyes.

Why?

I was humbled by what was being read out as my citation. It was that day that it dawned on me that I had contributed to development works in several continents with over 175 awards to show for it; some of them being ‘Men of Achievement in the World,’ ‘Who’s Who of Intellectuals,’ and ‘Who’s who in Distinguished Leadership.’ I didn’t even realise it. All I have believed in has been to continue doing good.

We learnt that you are a prolific author. How many books have you written?

I have authored and edited over 68 books.

So where do you live these days?

I live more in Nigeria, though I also have a home in America.

What occupies you the most these days?

Travelling around Nigeria occupies my time. I use that to bond with the people and to introduce true service to them. I also spend my time now coaching senior executives in several organisations worldwide, assisting foundations, giving to the poor and helping houses of worship succeed. I believe the greatest contribution one can make is what one does for God and for humanity.

Are you into sports?

I usually enjoy tennis. I love fishing too. I see it as a form of sport.

Any regrets?

It was difficult growing up without a father and a mother who became ill. I walked almost 11 miles to school and at times had no food. I borrowed text books from my classmates to do homework, but the favour of God was with me to see me through. Those were my down moments in life.

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