One thought that hit me hard as I sat with nation builders at GEMSTONE Festac network last Saturday is that leadership is the mindset of assuming responsibility. Fela Durotoye was the one who sank the spear of this familiar yet profound truth into my heart once again.
I have often found the reality of this truth to be responsible for the progress that has happened in my life thus far. And where I have not taken this truth seriously, I have experienced an attendant stagnation.
One of the most important writings I have read in my life that continues to inspire me to a higher level of living is the GEMSTONE creed. Even if you are not a member of the network, I enjoin you to read, internalize and practice the creed. It reads:
“This day I hereby commit to live a lifestyle of leadership and excellence and to do all within my power to transform this nation into a most desirable nation to live in.
To this end I will:
1. Make a Positive Impact On Everyone I Meet and Everywhere I Go.
2. I will Be A Solution Provider And Not A Part Of The Problem To Be Solved.
3. I will Be a Role Model Worthy Of Emulation.
4. I will Be My Best In All That I Do Particularly The Things I Am Naturally Good At.
5. I will Do The Right Thing At All Times Regardless Of Who Is Doing The Wrong Thing.
6. I will Value Time And Make The Best Use Of It.
7. I will Care And Show Respect Through My Words And My Actions.
8. I will Consciously Build A Great Legacy Starting Now, Today And Everyday.
9. I will Live A Life of Integrity And Honour.
10. I will Make My Family, Nation And God Proud.”
GEMSTONE members are united around the common vision that Nigeria will be among the world’s most desirable nation to live in by 2025 (11 years from now).
Sounds like utopia? No. I’m one of those foolish enough to believe because I have never seen any great dream or conviction that hasn’t been ridiculed. And nothing I have found out can stop people who believe.
It is my firm conviction that the history of every nation is about a few men not the ‘masses’. If a selected few believe and remain united in their belief, their unity of faith will surmount every obstacle. And no where do I share John Stuart Mills’ conviction more strongly that “One person with belief is equal to ninety nine persons who have only interest.”
There is a whole world of difference between belief and interest. Belief will take responsibility or action to ensure things happen. Interest merely watch things happen. What category will you belong – Believing Nigerian or Interested Nigerian.
If you have read the gemstone creed and have decided to be a believing Nigerian, let me share the four areas that career success catalyst, Jimi Tewe (picture with me above) encouraged us to focus on, taking a cue from Rwanda’s national transformation model:
1. National Identity
We must cultivate and maintain a strong sense of national unity and pride where everyone sees themselves primarily as Nigerians. We must no longer continue to tolerate divides along ethnic, religious or geopolitical lines.
We must relate in a spirit void of prejudice, egoism and careless sentiments. We must shun in Chimamanda Adozie’s words, “the myth of a single story” about others. The Ukraine- Russia tension over Crimea is largely because of a people who do not share a national identity as Ukrainians.
2. Establishment of Institutions and Laws of Governance
This is pretty obvious because we are a nation awash with many institutions, laws and a constitution that is constantly disregarded but upheld only when the root of sinful self interest is seeking to find more space. What we need is not a review of the constitution as much as a commitment from the political class to be held accountable to the rule of law.
When the people hold their leaders and themselves accountable to the rule of law and no loophole is allowed to circumvent what is binding, then we are showing signals of readiness for change. We must all seek to be law abiding citizens, not as a matter of force but as a matter of conscience.
3. Citizenship Participation in Governance
Nigerians must no longer be indifferent to the issues that concerns them. Being a citizen is not just about benefits. An abiding sense of patriotism is also needed. I can’t agree more with Martha Gellon that “Citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it”.
We must take responsibility to be informed about what is happening in our nation so we can make informed decisions. We must seek to understand policies, the political process and the principles of good governance.
It is lack of information and a belly serving mindset that makes people give their vote when offered a few cups of rice and a few naira notes. That is not responsible citizenship. To vote for a man without adequate information on his character, achievements and integrity is a disservice to nation building.
4. Economic Empowerment
The borrower will always remain a servant to the lender. One of the greatest ways to liberate Nigeria from modern economic slavery that is spelling our doom if not curtailed, is to catalyse the economic renaissance of our people and nation.
We must design the form of capitalism that works for us. Government must commit to creating an environment, both in policy and infrastructure where entrepreneurship can thrive. Enough of paying lip service to SME development when their very actions have set up local businesses for perpetual infancy. It must become easy to do business in Nigeria. We must pay attention to infrastructure development, efficient tax systems, low interest loans, death of rigmarole and excessive bureaucracy in registering and running a business.
Let’s not also forget that economic empowerment begins with education. We will remain poor as a nation as long as we continue to treat with disdainful indifference, the utter decay that has become our educational system. Investment in knowledge is the primer of lasting economic renaissance.
As nice as this ideas seems, they are not exceptional to what is already in public discourse. But who is willing to defy the odds? Who is willing to do right thing at all times regardless of who is doing the wrong thing? What areas will you embrace responsibility for? Here is where the rubber meets the road.
Asked by a participant, why so much talk about nation building with little results, Jimi replied and i agree with him, “Talk is not enough. Yes! But without talk, there will be no inspiration and without inspiration, there will be no action.” Hitler started World War 2 with inspiring and rousing speeches about German supremacy and his people acted on it. May God gift us with men of oratory who can rouse and rally Nigerians to positive and creative action.
This bring us to the reason why national transformation will remain an outlandish idea for us except it is resting on the wings of a transformed citizenry. Our own personal transformation precedes Nigeria’s transformation. When a critical mass of us attain personal transformation, our changed lives will witness like the apostles of old when it was remarked that they were men who turned the world upside down.
Talk will achieve its purpose when all have embraced the counsel of Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And so we must not cease speaking for change and we must take massive action.
Bill Clinton mentioned, “In the 21st Century, the wealth of a nation will not calibrated by what lies under its feet but by what lies between the ears of its people.”
And what lies between the ears of the people? It’s their knowledge, beliefs, values and shared sense of identity and purpose. This is what we must seek to recover, acquire and deploy as a nation if we will ever come near the banks of the greatness that is possible within us.
Always remember – Godliness makes a nation great but sin is a disgrace to any people. I pray the power of resurrection we are celebrating today will make this change happen in our lives and nation. I believe that as long as we are ready and willing, God will aid our nation building efforts.
To a better You and a better Nigeria.
Happy easter celebration.