How To Lead From Wherever You Are

Posted on April 2, 2021

BY BABAFEMI OJUDU

It’s been a tough time since COVID-19 broke out in 2020 in Nigeria. I’ve lost good friends. Some who have recovered are still battling with post Covid – syndrome. As a result, a lot of folks are reluctant to travel or attend public gatherings unless it is extremely important, which is quite understandable.

Despite these considerations, I am here today because I love this country and the youthful population with all my heart, and because of the great hope I have in you all to greatly transform Nigeria.

I’ve met and interacted with a few of you here, Saminu Maiguru, Enoch John, Friday Gutul, Mohammed Abdukadir, and Abdulahi Adamu. I had cause to ask then where are the women and I was told they are back home planning and putting finishing touches to today’s event. Who best plan and manage than women?

You all just reminds me of my youthful vigor, youthful passion and youthful creativity. Through you, I have seen this country’s future. And with a little guide here and there, like what I am here to do today, I am most assured that you will deliver a desirable future – one where Nigeria is a first world nation.

I want talk to you today about the future of Nigeria. Such future that can only be possible by a new kind of politics.
In our political history, since the formation of Nigeria, there have been three major eras.

Each new one being the result of the toil, sweat and blood of each generation. First, we had the colonial era. The age of the British rule, where men in the category of my grandfather and father fought in their generation and came out victorious. This generation then handed down to us an independent nation.

Next was the era of the military rule. The next generation, my generation, threw ourselves in with our entirety and fought. A fight that had me arrested 15 times and locked up in prison for nine months wearing only one piece of clothing; that had my newspaper company operating in the dark running from pillar to post, as we had been declared wanted by the military government; that had my colleague Kunle Ajibade jailed for life for a coup he knew nothing about. A fight that killed many of my friends and colleague Bagauda Kaltho whose village is just about two hours from here in Bauchi State; a fight that had people like Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Wole Soyinka, Dapo Olorunyomi, Bayo Onanuga and a host of others, run for their lives and take asylum in other countries.

We eventually came out victorious and did not just put in place a democracy, but saw it through to some degree of stability.

Now, It is your turn to fight! And I believe the charge, after Independence and Democracy is Development!

The onus/baton is on you all to hand over a developed nation, in the league of a first world nation, to your children.

I’ll be attempting in the next couple of minutes to crack open the conversation of the kind of political leadership that is required of you guys to birth the Nigeria of the immediate future.

I will start with the unadulterated and concise definition of leadership, as it was originally intended. “Leadership, to put it simply, is service. Service to your people,your community and to build resilient communities, relationships and individuals.

Both words can be used synonymously.

And service in this context can be simply put as doing everything and anything necessary to make the lives of the people better.

The purity of the word ‘leadership’ has since been diluted, especially in this part of the world.

When the word leader is mentioned, what immediately comes to people’s mind is someone in a position of power. You think about Prestige and associate it with Privilege and Money. Right or Wrong?

But the actual words, ‘servant’ is the last thing you will most likely think about when the word leadership is mentioned.

A common aspiration of everyone here today is to run and win an elective position or get an appointment. Am I right? But what you really want, if you’re going to plug into the fight of your generation, is to lead; which means, to serve and you don’t necessarily need a position to do that, at least not immediately.

As a matter of fact, it is your service when you don’t have any position that will pave the way for you to get bigger platforms and positions of government to serve better.

Position/Office is not leadership, as we all wrongly believe it to be today. Don’t we have many people in top positions today who are not leading but only enjoying the perquisite of office?

Positions and office are just platforms and opportunities to lead/serve.

This implies that as a true leader, the more power you get, the more resources and money you have access to, the more privilege you get, the more you leverage on that to serve even more. And that, my friend, is what creates greatness for an individual and the nation alike.

Position without service is the root of Africa’s underdevelopment today. It is what gave birth to the incompetence, corruption, poverty, poor economy, criminality, neglect, insensitivity among others.

True leadership is not measured by how powerful or how wealthy you are as a politician. Not by how many people are at your beck and call. It is measured by how much of a servant you are, how far you are willing to go and what you’re willing to sacrifice to make the life of the masses better. It is measured by how many problems you are willing to solve. It is about envisioning a better society and making that vision, that dream a reality.

A community’s problem is lack of potable water, a leader comes up with a scheme to give everyone water; a community with inadequate school materials and teachers, the leader do not just only provide schools and materials but make it affordable or completely free and even goes further to affect what is taught and ensuring everyone who passes through such school become useful to the community.

Leadership is not about how many cars you own, how many houses you built around the country and great locations around the world. It is not about the number of your concubines or children sired and neither is it about your being able to fly around in private jets and first class when the people you claim to lead are not able to go from one place to the other on the road.

Leadership is about taking the society from the point you met it to another point. It is not about just winning the next election or getting the next appointment.

No no my dear young people.

Leadership I repeat is about building resilient communities and individuals to empower every sphere of influence in Nigeria to make our beloved country great with your choice of positive leadership skills.

It has been proven over and over again that the grassroots only understand the language called ‘money’ during campaign.

That is not necessarily true if you have been, over the years serving your community(that is doing things to make their lives better).

The better alternative to using millions/billions of Naira or dollars and playing dirty/crooked politics during political campaign is to genuinely serve your way into the heart of the people, who would then in return propel you to the top, so you can have bigger and better resources to serve them .

Now, I’m not talking about high-service or the means-to-an-end kind of service that politicians do in their communities few months to the election.

Trust me, the grassroots can see through that.

They know it’s only a strategy for you to earn their vote. The moment they spot that your service is genuine and you continue over a long period of time with no expectation whatsoever in return, they will root for you. They will beg you to run for office and may even contribute their hard-earned money for you to run.

Why?

Because you are leading already and they are certain that if you have access to the resources of the state, you’ll further use it to better their lives.

How else can they trust your intentions after they’ve been deceived so many times?

Manifestos are useless to the Nigerian grassroots, who constitute the majority of voters. What they want is to consider how genuine your previous manifestations have been or how you can manifest (give incentives) on the spot.

My coming here is not by my making. Someone from no where had been chatting/lobbying me up on social media, making friend with me and thereafter came the invitation,then a visit of five of your members whose names I earlier mentioned to my office in Abuja. Without those efforts I won’t be here today. If that is no service , if that is no leadership what is it?

Such is the nature of leadership. Leadership is the ability to make things happen for the purpose of furthering the goals of the community.

True leadership adds value to people; meet needs, solve problems and build resilience when people are losing hope.

That is how you earn people’s trust while the false one takes value away, impoverishes people and leave their lives worse than they met it. The one who thinks leadership is only about power and prestige cares less about making people’s lives better. Those are the ones derisively referred to in the Western world as “Africa’s big man”, they are those Fela Kuti in one of his scatting ridicule of purposeless power referred to as ‘ VIP, vagabonds in power’ or in another ribald ‘big man haw haw’.

Leadership shouldn’t be parasitic. Rather than feeding the people, leadership shouldn’t feed off them. Rather than serve, leadership shouldn’t want to be served. Rather than give, leadership shouldn’t take.

Just as I’ve said earlier, an office does not make you a leader, it only gives you the opportunity to lead and serve mankind.

At the end of the day, the reality is that we are all leaders. Once we tie leadership to a position, it excludes the majority and the kind of challenges we have in this country. Only a majority with the ‘servant mentality can collectively solve them.

We are all leaders; we all have the opportunity to serve where we are. Who are you serving now?

Can this party chapter ascribe something praiseworthy to your name? Can your immediate community point at anything and say, “If not for you and your initiative, things would have been tougher?”

Whose needs are you meeting now?

What problems are you solving within the party?

Have you developed a skill to a high degree so you can serve with excellence?

Have you considered recommending and building a website for your party’s Ward for instance?

What about something as little as digitalizing the party’s paper and biro minute-taking or initiating a WhatsApp group, Facebook/Instagram page for the party at the Ward level?

What about initiating party outreach to the closest University to your Ward or organize meetings with professional associations to discuss reasons why they should join your party?

With a spirit of service, you can suggest and organize a drive for the Ward to design it’s own solar system for electricity.

You can draw up a proposal to have a Ward office where a section of the office will be a library for secondary school students to study in the evening and during holidays and organise a fundraiser to implement the idea. What of organising coaching for your members who desire knowledge and education in one area or the other.

What of bringing Doctors and Nurses for medical outreach to help test and treat the prevalent illness in your community.

By these ideas and an implementation follow-through, you’re widening your influence and making yourself indispensable, which is the highest form of leadership.

For those that think a huge sum of money is needed to pull off such ideas, consider these few ideas that require no financing at all.

What about organising evening coaching for the elderly who are not educated and tutorials for their children?

What about organising the youths into a cooperative, so that they can benefit from government programs or start a form of revolving loan, saying to them, ‘let each of us start contributing N5,000 on a monthly basis. If there are a 30 people, that’s N150,000. This money can be used to empower each and every one of the 30 each month.

What about proposing the idea that, “Let us bring in a lawyer to talk to us about our rights”. Then the next week, bring in a Senator Ojudu to educate the party on the philosophy, ideology and agenda of the party.

What about volunteering on a party member’s campaign and make actual innovative and intellectual contribution and not political thuggery. But applying yourself to researching, recommending and spearheading ideas that will put the party’s candidate ahead.

What about organising adventures; making everyone contribute money and you hire a bus to take them to the city capital to go watch the parliamentary session at the House of Assembly? It would shock you that many of them have never been to the house of assembly to witness a parliamentary session.

It just requires that you write a letter and apply to the house. They’ll reply you and put you in the gallery and you’ll be recognized as special guests during the session. This may just be the moment that will inspire some of you to aspire to become great legislators in the future.

What about gathering the women in the party and training them on family planning, then equipping them to train other women in the community.

This mindset is one which does not only seek to get from or use the party. It has to be one that also wants to serve and add value. That is true leadership and it’s a good place to start in the quest to transform the politics that’ll transform Nigeria.

Beyond serving your party, you must also widen your scope to serving your community, your city and the nation at large In your own little way. Think about what you can do about the insecurity plaguing Nigeria? What you can do to boot out arrogant and purposeless leadership. What you can do about corruption, about police brutality!

And speaking of police brutality, I’m not talking about protests, I am talking about service.

Your generation needs to resist the temptation to take shortcuts. If you’re going to change the face of politics. Don’t wait for political office; lead from where you are.

Resist the temptation to pursue the self centered desire that sees leadership as power, wealth and prestige. And when those things come, because they certainly will, use them to serve more and more people in bigger and better capacities.

Resolve to, and focus on improving the quality of people’s life. This is the sacrifice that is required of your generation; to put your interest aside, and carry that of others on your head.

If you truly understand what political offices are meant for, it won’t be a do-or-die affair anymore.

Office is not for acquiring wealth, office is for creating and distributing wealth.

Office is not for acquiring power, office is for distributing power.

Office is not for improving the quality of your life, it is for improving the quality of the life of other people.

Service here and now is preparing yourself for greater platform.

As it is famously said, “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.”

No level or form of service is too small. It is a starting point. The more you serve, the bigger the opportunity you get to serve.

When you serve, you gain influence with the people at the top.

When you serve you gain recognition.

When you serve you increase your share and sphere of influence in the community!

Until you are actively engaged in finding solutions to the problems in your community, they will consider you inconsequential and irrelevant.

And if you want to keep the possibility of development alive in your generation, if you want to be able to look your children in the eye after this decade, you have got to reassert your place in Nigeria’s history. And you have got to do everything you can to change the face of our politics.

I will conclude issuing a call to action. A forward-looking conclusion that must start from here and now.
Take the first step right now; write down your idea and give it a timeline of implementation. Don’t procrastinate. Start from where you are. Don’t wait for an ideal circumstance or an ideal platform.
Remember, you’re not-too-young-to-serve.

Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters delivered this talk at the APC Plateau Chapter Youth Forum.

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