My strength and motivation has been God and His grace has been my source ― Engr Bankole
Engineer Dr Ilesanmi Olorunfemi Bankole: an accomplished Engineer, Minister of God and MD/CEO, Sanol Engineering Consultants. In this interview with Rotimi Ige shares his memorable experience and success story as he turns 50.
How does it feel turning fifty?
For me, turning fifty is a beautiful experience of course, I don’t feel fifty, just like Joshua in the Bible said at eighty he is still as strong to be able to take up the giants and I still feel equally strong at fifty by the grace of God. I feel fifty is just a number and I’m so grateful to God for turning fifty.
What was growing up like? Was it a story of a child born with the proverbial silver spoon? Can you recap some of the memorable occurrences in your youthful days?
Well I was born into an average family. My father was a printer and my mother a petty trader; we never lacked but we also didn’t have excess. Looking back, I can say that though growing up would have been in splendour and even with the proverbial silver spoon, but due to the fact that I grew up in a very large family of seventeen children: one father with many wives. With that there was really no silver spoon even though there was no wooden spoon: For me, it was just average youthful life because I was not the adventurous type. I was a calm boy from a decent and disciplined family knowing where I was coming from; I had to conduct myself in a manner that will not put my parents’ name into disrepute.
Your decision to study engineering, was it by choice or accident?
Well, I never planned to study engineering. I actually wanted to study medicine as a child but in my final year in the secondary school I discovered that I never loved any type of job that you cannot plan your time or programme. I wanted to be able to work within a speculated timeframe, close and go home. Becoming a medical doctor will not afford me that opportunity, so I changed from medicine to study Land Survey at the polytechnic level where I did my National Diploma at the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, after which I proceeded to the then Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti where I studied Engineering. That took me out from the medical science and I am glad I did.
As a well trained engineer, what will you ascribe to the incessant building collapse across the country?
I think there are so many reasons for building collapse in the country. One of the reasons is the fact, that there are so many quacks parading themselves as professionals and the average Nigerian does not really know the difference between an engineer and somebody who claims to be an engineer. As a matter of fact, many people call themselves engineers today. You even see a roadside mechanic calling himself an engineer; somebody who works at the site can also call himself an engineer; even an experienced carpenter or foreman with technical school certificate calls himself an engineer. This has gone a long way to confuse a lot of people to think that an engineer is just anybody who works in a building or site. Another reason is that, most clients, in an attempt to cut corners, instead of paying professionals, rather engage somebody who can just take little money from them and does a shoddy job and sometimes it seems that some of these clients do not seem to know what it entails to engage an engineer or what is required. They settle for these quacks and in the long run they pay dearly for it. I also think that government policies and even poor implementation of such policies are not helping matters at all; by extension, poor enforcement of such policies also contributes to the problems in the industry. For instance, when drawings are prepared, though government policy says that such drawing must be supervised by a qualified professional government has failed to device a means of ensuring that it is actually done. This is also part of the problems. The use of substandard materials is also a factor contributing to the incessant collapse of buildings. Standard Organization of Nigeria and other relevant agencies that regulate building materials also need to step up their game. There is also the situation of corruption in the building industry. For example, where you think you have a 50kg bag of cement, you discover that you only have 35kg or 40kg therein. By the time you start mixing your concrete, you assume you are mixing 50 kg bag of cement whereas everything there is 35kg and it would not achieve the same strength. You might not even know until your test is conducted only to discover that your test result shows that the strength you have attained is at variance with what you are expecting. This also is one of the causes of building collapse across the country.
Foundational issues, too; a lot of people do not do foundational test on the soil on which a building is being erected. For example, erecting a building on clay without using appropriate foundation leads to building collapse.
Being a Pastor and an Engineer, how do you combine these two jobs together along with your role as a father?
Whatever is your passion, you can accommodate and plan within your schedule since it is your passion, there will always be grace to accommodate them. I believe I have the call of God to be a pastor and also the call of God to be an engineer. Over the years, I have seen how being an engineer has helped me as a pastor, because everywhere I have been, I have being involved in building projects. It is like any church I enter, the building becomes possible. It is like God sends me to these churches to just help in their building development and I think He has been faithful. The role of a father and husband are natural roles that go with any profession, irrespective of your position. The father-husband roles is part of the roles anybody has to play in life in combination with whatever roles we have. Having this as my watchword has really helped me in maintaining a healthy family.
How supportive has your wife been?
Wow! My wife has been very supportive and encouraging in the ministry. She has given me all the necessary moral, physical and spiritual supports.
How will you rate the contributions of indigenous engineers towards technological advancement of our nation?
Given a level playing ground, Nigerian engineers can surpass their expatriate counterpart in construction and consultancy and other areas in the industry. However, this does not mean that we should wait to be given the level playing ground. We should also work and fight for it; we are equally competitive. Any indigenous Nigerian engineer can operate in several engineering fields, whereas most foreign engineers are just specialists in one or two fields. I am a bridge, highway, building and structural engineer and I would operate perfectly well in all these areas, but in other nations or other places one can only be in highway and not know what structural engineering is. We are more than competent as indigenous engineers, many are trained both locally and internationally too.
At fifty, would you say you are fulfilled?
Well, at fifty I would not say I am fulfilled but I just want to say that so far, God has been faithful and he has helped me to accomplish the few things I have laid my hands on. I can only measure my success relative to where my colleagues are. I cannot compare myself with other people who are in different areas. Professionally, I would say I am fulfilled and in service to humanity. God has helped us to impact lives and change lives through encouragement in our own little way to people around us.
If you were not an engineer and pastor, what other aspects of human endeavours would you have loved to engage in?
For me, I enjoy being an engineer and pastor. I have not really thought of what else I could have done. May be, an author would have been okay and I also love to be involve in charity work by helping the less privileged, giving out scholarships to students, free medical treatment and financial assistance to those in need. All these I have been doing over the years. This is one other aspect I would have loved to do from the onset as my key priority in life is changing destiny.
What have been your strengths and motivation over the years?
My strength and motivation has been God and his grace has been my source. I am somebody helped by God; I draw my strength from what God has been doing, and from great leaders and mentors He surrounded me with.
What advice will you give upcoming engineers?
My advice to them, is to, first, get the relevant experience and not to make money their first aim. A lot of young people want to succeed in life without getting experience; having money without experience will not help them. The relevant experience they acquire through patience will help them to become professionals and successful. They should be focused, seek for more knowledge and be humble enough to learn. They should not compromise quality and also ensure they maintain their integrity no matter the pressure on them.