By Florence Amagiya
Born in a family of seven, Charles was not oblivious of the inherent challenges that laid ahead of him. The Spartan discipline his catholic parents impacted on them only helped to sharpen his aspirations. Hence as a toddler, he knew that there was no alternative to success without education. Though his childhood dream of becoming an engineer was first ignited by his father who was working as an engineer with the then PWD in Lagos.
This ambition got to a head when an uncle of his graduated as an engineer from the University of Lagos, and in no time, recorded tremendous success in life. Charles was left without an option but to replicate these achievements of his dad and uncle in no record time.
Despite the twist and turns of life, he scaled through his major science subjects being pre-requisite to study engineering at the tertiary institution. In a jiffy, he became a proud recipient of Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degree in engineering.
Upon completion of his compulsory NYSC programme, he was retained by the firm, and that opened new window of opportunities for him. He acquired certificates in virtually all aspects of engineering and concluded it with a Ph.D. in engineering.
Currently he’s an International Professional Review Advisor of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in the UK, a body that organises an interview that qualifies chartered engineers. He is also responsible for giving career advice, setting up a panel that scrutinises and mentors professional engineers. Here in Nigeria, he’s a member of the professional development board charged with the responsibility of growth among engineers.
He also doubles as the present Chairman of Prevention Investigation and Accident Analysis Division Committee of Nigerian Society of Engineers (PRIFAC) which monitors failures in Nigeria, and checks the professional commitment of engineers to projects, health, safety of environment, and quality.
Despite these intimidating credentials , Dr. Mbelede who hails from Nemo in Njikoka local government area of Anambra state carries humility as a breastplate. He’s the President, Knight of Saint Mulumba, Lagos Archdioceses and married to a seasoned banker. The marriage is blessed with children. Enjoy it:
Childhood starts from the family. It is a function of the kind of family background a person grows up in. My mother and father were core practising Catholics. When you grow up in the counsel of your parents, you are compelled under the law to comply with their footsteps.
They tend to channel your life, choice of career and subsequent events as time progresses. My father was a staff of the then P.W.D (Public Works Department) in the engineering industry. His kind of job and career influenced my decision into becoming an engineer because he was my role model.
I am the last son in a family of seven, made up of four boys and three girls. My elder brothers also influenced me positively. I was not born into a very wealthy home. My father was just a civil servant while my mother was a business woman. However, we were able to scale through school and lived within the benchmark of an average family.
Incidentally, among my siblings, I’m the only one who read engineering. Though my elder brothers grew up separately, one with an uncle to the family and another with a teacher.
Only my younger sister and I were constantly under tutelage of our parents, perhaps being the last boy. I must admit that the interaction helped me to build a very close relationship with my father which subsequently guided me while growing up.
Engineering cuts across science and technology. I’m science inclined but my brothers preferred the Arts. That explains why I happened to be the only one that plied the engineering route. As a toddler, I was skilled in drawing.
Ironically, I studied electrical engineering for a funny reason. I had a cousin back then who was a student at UNILAG (we grew up in Lagos). Whenever he came home, after my father had given him money, he would also ask for a token from me, and I would give him because I was good at saving. After he graduated, he came to the house one day with a 403 saloon car.
I was surprised at the sudden turn of events in his life. He took me out and bought gifts for me. Out of curiosity, I asked what course he studied. He told me electrical engineering. He worked with the then Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) and that single wonderful situation, coupled with the fact that my father was an engineer, made me decide to study electrical engineering.
I made enquiries as to which subjects I had to pass in secondary school to enable me study engineering. They listed physics, chemistry and mathematics and I eventually made credit passes in them.
It is advisable for every aspiring child to have a role model who would positively influence his or her life particularly with regards to career choice.
I did my industrial training with an engineering firm ‘’TAKAS ASSOCIATES” and it gave me a broad based background of career pattern and prospects.
I came across a lot of people with BSc., HND, Ph.D., international chartered engineers and even expatriates. I saw their career approaches, the kind of houses they lived in and cars they drove and that also shaped my opinion on engineering. At the completion of my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), I was re-absorbed into the firm.
That singular privilege opened a new window of opportunity for me. I began taking professional courses in order to broaden my horizon, give me an edge and enhance my career. I took professional exams with a UK school and it was easier for me to qualify earlier than my contemporaries.
The opportunity was open for me to widen my scope. So I ventured into other areas like cost engineering, water engineering, building engineering, healthcare engineering and also project management. Now, I can boldly say that I became a multi-competent engineer. The 21st century engineering is at a cutting edge of modern technology. It is advisable to try fitting in by venturing into all categories so as to avoid limitation to one.
I’m indeed very happy that I was presented with the opportunity to study engineering, otherwise, it would have been a regretful life for me. Engineering is a world-creating profession. It cuts across basically everything that you see today.
It is simply harnessing scientific knowledge for the improvement of life for mankind. Therefore an engineer is regarded as a bridge between man and society enhancement.
I have a wonderful family consisting of four boys and two girls, all four boys are into engineering, one of the girls studied accounting because my wife is a banker, working in a new generation bank, and the other is a lawyer currently doing her masters degree programme in the United Kingdom. It is evident that because we have been able to counsel them and lead by example, they decided to follow in the same line.
I just had my 25th wedding anniversary. I got married early because I saw the need to grow with my family hand in hand. My first daughter already has a master’s degree. As a young man, I decided to settle down early so things become easier.
I thank God for his blessings upon us. I can gladly say that I was influenced by her Yoruba background also. Looking back now, I realised it was a very good decision because there is nothing worthwhile I would have done then than waste my precious time. My first daughter is married now, and I am a proud grandfather.
LIFE IN GENERAL
Virtually everything I do, think or say revolves around engineering. But I have a few hobbies: reading, playing football, squash, travelling (going on vacation with my family). As a Christian and staunch catholic, I tend to keep my faith in check.
It has helped me tremendously in guiding my day-to-day activities. I don’t take just any decision without considering the odds and gains, whether it’s the truth or otherwise. That has helped my sense of judgement, my career and my interaction daily, and also in interacting with intelligent people. With all due respect, I can count my friends in the same age bracket with me.
While growing up, I was advised by my father to mingle with people of higher intelligence, that it would move me to a higher position in life.
Thanks be to God, I am blessed and highly favoured. My lovely wife works in a bank and it is not just an easy journey. Engineering for me has been a well deserving profession. I have a farm with engineers, project managers, training students and it basically contributes to reducing unemployment.
I am a core resource person to the Nigerian Society of Engineers and several other professional bodies. I can gladly say I have contributed my own quota in making the society a better place.
ADVISE TO THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Rome was not built in a day. I started my career as an engineer in a farm and got business experience there. Interaction with a better class of people can make you grow in life. ‘’Show me your friends and I would show you who you are”.
As an alumnus of Lagos State University, I did a lot of programs that widens the horoscope of an entrepreneur. So start small and you can achieve more. The gain of professionalism is being able to practice and make the most of what you are.
COPING WITH BUSINESS AND THE CHURCH
In the Catholic church, you are encouraged to be a member of the society and contribute to it. I am a member of The Order of The Knight of Saint Mulumba.
You devote your time, talent and treasure because you are a soldier of Christ who is meant to serve and not be served. Contribute to charity because it is the main bowl of knighthood. To be a qualified member, you must be married, be a confirmed and baptised Catholic and within a specific age bracket. Of qualitative education and standard financial background also be ready to contribute.
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First published in VANGUARD