Growing up in Nigeria, John Ojeisekhoba and his 18 siblings often went without shoes because his parents sometimes couldn’t afford them.
Now when he gets ready for work, Ojeisekhoba laces up his high-gloss black uniform Oxfords.
Ojeisekhoba (pronounced Ojes-ko-ba), 42, is chief of Campus Safety at Biola University in La Mirada and a longtime reserve officer with the Garden Grove Police Department.
His journey from humble roots in Africa to a prestigious career in U.S. law enforcement is the stuff of Hollywood.
A clue to Ojeisekhoba’s success hangs on a wall behind his desk in his Biola office.
It’s a picture of his late father, Moses, former police chief of the Nigerian state of Kwara (population 2.6 million).
In a country known for government corruption, Moses Ojeisekhoba, who died in 2000 at age 86, chose a life of honesty and integrity – and taught his children to do the same.
It’s an ethic that has paid off big for John, the twelfth of 19 kids and now a father of five children himself with his wife of 13 years.
In Nigeria, Ojeisekhoba always dreamed of starting a new life in the United States – the “land of milk and honey,” as he called it.
In 1993, he had his chance.
That year, Ojeisekhoba and 35 Nigerian teammates were granted two-week visas to compete at an international track and field competition in New York. All but six defected and did not return to Nigeria.
Ojeisekhoba, a world-class long jumper, was previously denied a visa in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993. Even though Biola offered him a track and field scholarship, he was one of the half-dozen athletes who returned home.
Fellow Nigerians thought he was crazy.
But Ojeisekhoba’s decision to return home paid off big when, in 1995, he once again applied for a visa to come to the U.S. This time, the U.S Immigrations officer immediately granted it.
His integrity impressed the officer.
“God and family values got me here,” Ojeisekhoba said. “That, along with huge support from my lovely wife and family, Biola University and the Garden Grove PD. They drive me and inspire me to do my best.”
Although years removed from his personal best of 26 feet 2 inches in the long jump (the world record, by Mike Powell, is 29 feet and 4 ¼ inches), Ojeisekhoba still cuts a tall and lean figure – thanks to running, weights and some CrossFit.
At Biola, he oversees 17 officers and a staff of 90 in ensuring the safety of the private Christian college’s community of about 7,500 students and staff members.
For 8 1/2 years, Ojeisekhoba also has put in at least 20 hours a month as a reserve Garden Grove police officer, doing everything from patrol, delivering the incarcerated to Orange County Jail, working parades and DUI checkpoints, and checking up on registered sex offenders.
“I enjoy helping people,” Ojeisekhoba says of what he enjoys most about law enforcement. “It’s important for me to engage in service to the community.”
A stack of DVDs about surviving an active shooter situation on campus sits on a table in his office.
A thick binder labeled “Tactical Map Book” fills the seat of a chair.
On a shelf is Ojeisekhoba’s 2012 Reserve of the Year awarded by the Garden Grove PD.
In addition to his chief and reserve police officer duties, Ojeisekhoba, as an adjunct faculty member at Biola, has taught more than 1,300 female students self-defense awareness and prevention.
UP THE LADDER
After Ojeisekhoba immigrated to the U.S. in 1996, he completed a year of undergraduate studies at Biola. Then, in 2000, he earned a master’s degree in International Business and Intercultural Studies.
While at Biola, he worked a series of jobs including custodian, painter, campus cafeteria worker and bookstore clerk. He also served on the staff of the housing department.
The law enforcement bug bit Ojeisekhoba while he was working as a part-time student officer for the Campus Safety department. Seven months after graduating in 2000 and after serving a short (and unloved) stint as an insurance underwriter in Los Angeles, Ojeisekhoba was hired as a campus safety officer at Biola.
Wanting to be a chief like his father, Ojeisekhoba earned another master’s degree (organizational leadership, in 2004, from Biola) and met his goal of becoming chief in 2009 – a promotion that came too late for his father to enjoy.
“He would have been very happy that I chose this route,” Ojeisekhoba said.
Ever the go-getter, Ojeisekhoba just began working on his third master’s degree – this one in emergency management.
And, this coming March, he’ll spend four months at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Training Academy to achieve Level I status – the highest.
He also finds time to run J&O Emergency Management & Security Consultants (joemergencyandsecurity.com).
Ojeisekhoba said he has no plans to leave Biola and enjoys being involved in the two very different worlds of college and municipal law enforcement.
“America has given me so many opportunities,” Ojeisekhoba said.
“I’m so thankful.”