May 25, 2003 - Fairfield Now: Sola Ogungbe was influenced by U.S. Peace Corps members who had worked at his high school in Nigeria

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nigeria: Peace Corps Nigeria : The Peace Corps in Nigeria: May 25, 2003 - Fairfield Now: Sola Ogungbe was influenced by U.S. Peace Corps members who had worked at his high school in Nigeria

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Sola Ogungbe was influenced by U.S. Peace Corps members who had worked at his high school in Nigeria

Sola Ogungbe was influenced by U.S. Peace Corps members who had worked at his high school in Nigeria

Sola Ogungbe: Living a life of hope

By Barbara D. Kiernan M.A.'90

The Ogungbe family on a
recent visit to Fairfield, from Nigeria.
Sitting in the living room of a friend's home in Lagos, Nigeria, Agbolade "Sola" Ogungbe was flipping through some magazines when he happened upon Fairfield Now. "That's my university!" he recalls exclaiming to himself with amazement. Soon afterwards, the mystery of the magazine's presence became clear. Sola's friend, Matthew Ogunsiji, was also a graduate of Fairfield's Graduate School of Corporate and Political Communication. But unlike Sola, he was not among the University's "lost" alumni.

Using the Internet, Sola quickly got himself "found" - and then some. Not only did he ask to be put on the mailing list, he also expressed a desire to visit Fairfield in May, when he would be in the States for his daughter's graduation from Suffolk University.

Visit he did. Dressed in a colorful caftan and wearing a Yoruba cap (the traditional ethnic covering for Lagos), Sola was delighted that two of his former professors, Jim Keenan and Ted Cheney, were on hand to welcome him, his wife, Debo, and his daughter, Folabo. Then the stories began.

Influenced by U.S. Peace Corps members who had worked at his high school in Nigeria, and fueled by his adventuresome spirit, he decided to attend college in the U.S. At the time, the government encouraged students to come, and Sola found himself one of 300 Nigerians pursuing bachelor's degrees in New York City. He received his B.F.A. from the New York Institute of Technology.

By now married to Debo, whom he had met in Nigeria, Sola enrolled in GradComm for a two-year program, which he completed in 1980. "Generally it was and is very nice here in the United States, and it was tempting to stay," he says. "But the purpose of education is to pass it on, to make an imprint and have an effect on other people's lives. My services were needed back home, not only to uplift my people's spirits, but to encourage the younger people in my nuclear family not to drop out of school."

Upon his return in 1981, he spent a required year in Nigeria's National Youth Service, and then secured a job working in the U.S. Embassy's information department. First he oversaw the distribution of State Department newsletters, and later founded an in-house magazine, Crossroads, to highlight U.S. programs in Nigeria. "My experience and education in the U.S. were what qualified me for it," he recalls.

Apparently so, as today Sola serves as Cultural Affairs Specialist (Public Affairs Section ) in the American Embassy in Lagos, gauging the tempo of the country while planning events such as a U.S. speakers program. He is heavily involved in the Aug. 25-27 visit to Nigeria by President Clinton.

"Working for the American Embassy is definitely dangerous at times," he says. "Until last year, our country had been under military rule for 30 years. I claim my nationality as Nigerian but I work for the U.S. To many in my country, that equates with being CIA."

He says he got used to living in danger years ago, much like a police officer must do in order to function. Most difficult was living under a military regime that was noted for unjust hangings, torture, imprisonment, wide-scale corruption. "Under the military, Nigeria's infrastructure was broken," he says. "The middle class was eliminated, and we became a country of rich and poor - nothing in between."

Yet he remains hopeful. Last year's elected democracy has made life easier in some ways, and the problem of corruption is being addressed and brought under control. Breaking into a wide, hope-filled grin, he adds, "No risk, no gain!"

Sola has begun spreading his message of hope in yet another way. Last year, he was ordained a minister following two years' training at the Methodist Theological Institute in Sagamu, Nigeria. Serving a congregation of 1,000 regular worshipers (including his GradComm friend, Matthew Ogunsiji), Sola does his preaching in both the English and Yoruba languages. He offers his services to the church at no charge because he is already blessed with a well-paying job.

Two other GradComm alumni are also in Nigeria: Lawrence Fejokwu, a publisher, and Ogunsiji, a lecturer in communication arts at a polytechnic. "We are now three," says Sola. "It's time to start our own alumni group - Fairfield University Nigeria Branch."

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Story Source: Fairfield Now

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nigeria



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