BEING THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS LEADERSHIP LECTURE
‘LOLU AKINWUNMI, frpa, fnimn
CEO, PRIMA GARNET AFRICA GROUP
PAST CHAIRMAN, ADVERTISING PRACTITIONERS COUNCIL OF NIGERIAN
PAST PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF ADVERTISING AGENCIES OF NIGERIA
MY FASCINATION WITH THE LEADERSHIP SUBJECT 3-4
GLOCAL LEADERSHIP 4-6
UPDATE ON THE NIGERIAN LEADERSHIP SITUATION
AND THE NEGATIVE PR IMPACT ON THE NATION 6-8
HAVE WE THEN RUN OUT OF LEADERSHIP POTENTIALS? 9-11
THE CHANGE CAMPAIGN AND ITS AFTERMATH 10-13
WHAT MAKES A LEADER? 13-26
– Vision (13-14)
– Knowledge (14-15)
– Courage (15-16)
– Integrity (16-22)
– Humility (23)
– Strategic Planning (23-25)
– Focus (25)
– Cooperation (26)
– Accepting Responsibility (26)
HOW DO WE GO ABOUT PREPARING NIGERIANS
FOR LEADERSHIP ROLES? 27-28
Let me thank the executives and members of the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations for inviting me to deliver the keynote address at this Leadership Lecture series. I recall with some nostalgia that a few years ago, I was on this same platform with the late Prof. Dora Akunyili who had been invited to speak on the Nigerian Rebranding project; as the then CEO of the project and also the Chairman of APCON, I had been invited along with the late Dora, who was my supervising Minister for both positions. And from the quality of people that your association has invited in the past as keynote speakers, I consider it a great honour to have been invited to deliver this paper. My hope is that at the end of the day, we will have heard and contributed enough to help this country move in the right direction in the area of our leadership expectations and brand projection.
MY FASCINATION WITH THE LEADERSHIP SUBJECT
The subject of Leadership has for long held a big fascination for me. I have spoken within academic environments like the University of Lagos on two occasions on the subject of leadership, and two years ago was invited by the NGO, Impact Your World, to deliver a paper on “DEVELOPING (NIGERIAN) LEADERS OF INFLUENCE” to a Unilag audience. Prior to that time in 2010, I had set up a policy advocacy platform known as PLAN, Promoting Leadership & Accountability in Nigeria, with the objective of “committing to promoting and supporting the best leadership ideals within all levels of governance and the private sector in Nigeria, offering PLAN as a reliable and trusted public advocacy platform with a single objective in mind: encouraging accountability and good governance and making Nigeria a better place for all Nigerians”.
In addition, PLAN has as mission the objective of “being at the forefront of promoting the culture of good leadership and accountability within all levels of governance in Nigeria. We are committed to continually offering credible ideas and initiatives on our advocacy platform for PLAN to engage leaders and players in all sectors of government and the private sector in such a way as to make them more responsible and accountable to Nigerians. I believe that working closely with responsible Nigerian leaders, individuals and groups, and offering the necessary support, will ultimately produce an enduring culture of good governance, leadership and accountability for the benefit of Nigerians and Nigeria”.
To give some fillip to this vision and activities, I went ahead to set up the blog/web site, loluakinwunmiobservatory (www.loluakinwunmiobservatory.com) and have been actively involved in public advocacy, targeting civic responsibility and socio political and economic issues that will help build the Nigerian state. It’s been a very exciting period for me.
GLOCAL (GLOBAL + LOCAL) LEADERSHIP
Most times when we discuss the subject of leadership, it is easy to slide into the convenient zone of just political leadership, and this is particularly so because the leaders in this category are the most exposed, from the President, the Vice President, the Legislative and Judiciary leadership and all the way down to the states and the local governments. In our type of political dispensation, they are the poster children of the leadership class.
However, leadership at a global or local level transcends the political class. We have business leaders, religious leaders, military leaders, academic leadership, trade union leadership, civil society leaders and even students’ leaders. In all societies, it is the confluence of these leadership groups that helps chart the right course for any nation’s development. Inevitably, political leadership is at the fore because it controls the power and other vital resources of influence.
If you consider nations like the U.S., three groups share leadership: the politicians, the military and the industrialists in an alliance known as the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. The MIC is an informal alliance between a nation’s military/arms industry, and the political class with the single purpose of influencing public policy. The military-industrial complex in a country like the U.S. typically attempts to marshal political support for continued or increased military spending by the national government.
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address first used the term MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX on January 17, 1961. Eisenhower warned that the United States must “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex,” which included members of Congress from districts dependent on military industries, the Department of Defense (along with the military services), and privately owned military contractors (e.g., Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman). Eisenhower believed that the military-industrial complex tended to promote policies that might not be in the country’s best interest (such as participation in the nuclear arms race), and he feared that its growing influence, if left unchecked, could undermine American democracy. This group still largely determines serious political leadership and policies in the U.S. and the West.
Given our active military past in governance, it still plays a dominant role in leadership issues in Nigeria, where post military era, the civilian President after the Abdulsalam era came from the ranks of the military in the person of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. It is of course worse in places like Latin America where the military continues to wield such strong influence. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the military often has more cohesion and institutional structure than most of the civilian institutions of society.
The UK and some middle European nations are slightly different, where the Monarchy still plays a key role in leadership. Religious leaders in contraptions called Democracy mainly rule the Arab lands in a form of Dictatorship.
And so what do we have in Nigeria? Full Democracy? Militrocracy? Civilian Dictatorship? Let me leave the answer to this question to the period when we will be discussing this paper.
UPDATE ON THE NIGERIAN LEADERSHIP SITUATION AND THE NEGATIVE PR IMPACT ON THE NATION
Let’s face it, Nigeria’s big challenge has been the leadership issue, and sadly, it was not always so. There was a time in this nation where we had effective leaders in the persons of the late Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello and the others. That was a Nigeria that was poised to become great, and where strong values ruled in the public and private sectors. Unfortunately, things fell apart, the military and tribalism came in, we fought a bitter civil war and corruption rode on their backs. Since then, we have been unable to put it all back together again.
From then till now, the nation may have thrown up a sprinkling of leaders with some promise, but largely we have continued to produce generations of inept and corrupt leadership.
Sadly, most assessments have often blamed the political leadership. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I earlier stated, the political class has been in the limelight because of its frontline position. In truth, the failure spreads across all categories of leadership. The business leadership is a big failure and as we could see in the mess they especially made of the financial services sector, where individuals stole from the banks they owned or managed, monies that would drive the economies of many African nations.
Religious leaders? Many have departed the strong spiritual and moral paths of their various callings and are promoting ventures targeted at simply making money and creating influence. Where they should have been voices of caution and restraint like the prophets of old, they have been seen hobnobbing and collaborating with such effete leaders for personal gain.
We have seen the best military in the continent and one of the most disciplined in the world become utterly corrupt and ineffective. Latest revelations have shown how military leaders totally emaciated the services by simply stealing the budgets for military effectiveness and exposing troops to fatal dangers from better armed adversaries. Worse is the complete politicization of our armed forces.
The academia? Lecturers are busy harassing girls young enough to be their daughters when they are not selling handouts or being engaged in other forms of PP. Vice Chancellors now spend more time as guests of the EFCC for misusing funds meant for academic pursuits. There was a time our University of Ibadan was rated on the same scale as the University of London, and Nigerian graduates from our Universities were seen as prized possessions. But today, our Universities are very poorly rated, and are turning out graduates with limited knowledge and value.
The Trade Union leadership? Where are they? They have become so compromised that these days when they finally speak and dare call for public demonstration, no one takes them seriously. The Civil Society leadership is struggling; its ranks have been infiltrated and many have fallen for the allure of the filthy lucre.
The Judiciary no longer appears to be the last hope for the common man; more like the first hope for those who have enough money to buy injustice. We have been served shocking and embarrassing accounts of unbelievable compromise. I doubt if any nation will invite our judges to help out the way they did years ago people like Justice Ajibola, when the Nigerian Judiciary had a strong sheen.
How about the student union leadership? That category no longer exists; we still hear their harmless cacophonies, but its only after their leaders have been settled by politicians. Sadly, Aluta no longer continua!
So what do we now have? The political class that is most times vacant of vision and rudderless, and struggling to be relevant. While the class indeed boasts of some men and women of integrity, the remnant is largely made up of opportunists and rent seekers, whose strongest contribution during a period of grave economic recession has been the song “Ajeku Iya Ni O je”. And so we have a nation that is struggling to remain afloat, but cannot find a strong leadership to hook on to.
And seeing the ineptitude of the leaders, ordinary Nigerians have simply followed suit in very bad behaviour and odium like 419, credit card fraud, drug trafficking, international prostitution etc. It would be unfair to entirely blame these hapless Nigerians; in the absence of clear, strong leadership examples to follow, they have simply tried to do better than their crooked and badly behaved progenitors.
What have these meant to a nation that so strongly desires to look good and be appreciated? It has of course been a PR disaster. All of these developments have helped to define us negatively as a brand. Sadly governments have approached remediation wrongly, often attacking effects rather than the causes, with various stages of failure and disaster, believing that simply throwing dollars at it would resolve the issues. I will say a bit more on this soon.
HAVE WE THEN RUN OUT OF LEADERSHIP POTENTIALS?
Certainly not. A very serious attempt was made to methodically correct this for the first time under the late Dora Akunyili’s Rebranding project. I should know because I was the pioneer Secretary of the Federal Government ad hoc Committee inaugurated to fashion a policy and strategy to correct these ills. It was a very hard task for the eminent 26-member group, but the assignment was concluded, presented to the government and the report adopted for implementation. But a major faux pas had been committed in the group’s nomenclature even before the Committee was inaugurated. The government had titled the project with the word “Rebranding”, and this had immediately coloured the assignment, and would play an obstacle role throughout its duration. Why? Nigerians immediately associated “Rebranding” with the various efforts undertaken by previous governments whose attempts focused more on the deployment of media communication as a panacea to a more fundamental challenge.
So what made the project under Dora Akunyili different? It was for the first time a social mobilisation and civic responsibility project that was very fundamental and was not going to depend solely on advertising, PR etc., unlike the previous attempts. This project was going to work from the grassroots up to reshape the way Nigerians think. We were going to introduce these change agents into syllabuses of schools from kindergarten to Universities, involve the media as advocates, the civil service, military, judiciary, national assembly, diplomats, businessmen and women…all Nigerians. The scope was huge and ambitious and unlike previous attempts, was for the long term and not immediate; we envisaged a period of between five and ten years for the campaign.
The government then adopted the recommendation of the adhoc committee to set up a Rebranding Project Business Support Group, which would manage the long-term project. I was appointed the pioneer CEO.
Unfortunately the project was deliberately starved of funds by the same Jonathan government that set it up for reasons I cannot disclose here.
The emergence of the Buhari candidature offered Nigerians a great hope for redemption. Given all indices, age and history should have worked against Buhari in 2015 as it did in previous elections. But Nigerians had had enough of the last administration, and the 70-something year old retired General suddenly looked attractive. Of course being paired with a younger Professor Osinbajo helped and the South West massive media machinery did the rest of the rebranding work for candidate Buhari. Nigerians for the first time in many years were full of hope because of the blemish-free history and records of Buhari and Osinbajo, especially in the area of anti-corruption and other ethical issues.
THE “CHANGE” CAMPAIGN AND ITS AFTERMATH
The 2014/15 APC’s successful electoral campaign was based on the hugely impactful concept of CHANGE. Translated in primary terms, it was a clarion call to all Nigerians to join the party in voting out the ruling PDP and in effect bringing about a substitution in government and governance.
Secondarily, there was the APC promise that if this could be achieved, then the new government would initiate changes in every key area of governance. And the APC was not lacking in its offerings of key change areas and possibilities; from impunity to accountability; from corruption to honesty; from poor infrastructure to reputable infrastructure; from lack of accountability to accountability; from the darkness of NEPA to the brighter days of more efficient power generation and management; from wastage to efficient resource management…it was an endless and compelling list.
The expected change would re-orientate the way Nigerians think and act. It would be fundamental because the intention would be to work hard towards bringing the nation back from the precipice and its people back to the days when we had and enjoyed wholesome values. Without this, any effort to change the society any other way was not likely to be productive. It would not be enough to clamour for more stable power, a more productive economy, a crime free society, a corruption free environment, social services that worked etc. Even with all these, if the basic values of the people were wrong, then the entire result would be unstable; the foundation had to be made right again. This was one of the key objectives of my proposed project.
However, if adequate care was not taken, the CHANGE concept could very easily remain just that… a concept. It was therefore imperative that the new government kept the public engaged on the concept and promises of Change as the APC did during the election campaign and also know that real change would not just happen; it would have to be initiated and then sustained.
There was a gap though. While Lai Mohammed was an enthusiastic and efficient propaganda chief for the APC, he was not responsible for the development of the “Change” concept. The idea reportedly came from a U.S. team that had reportedly worked with the Obama campaign. And so when Lai became the information Minister, it must have been difficult for him to hit the ground and start running with “Change” because he was not likely to fully understand its context within a follow up programme. It became a serious dilemma for him and the government and the APC.
Which was why when Lai Mohammed finally rallied, he came up with another version of the “Change” doctrine titled, “Change Begins With Me”. It was of course different from what APC promised during the Presidential campaign, which was about the government taking ownership and leadership for the promised renaissance. Lai’s new “Change” on the other hand pushed the responsibility to Nigerians with his “Change Begins With Me”. Of course it was not going to work and people pushed back and didn’t embrace the campaign. Worse, even this new position could have been better conceptualized, articulated and executed on whatever media it flighted. It was, simply put, a poor showing for the government.
But it needn’t have been so. Help and support were available and were freely offered to the government via the new Information Minister. As soon as the APC won, I developed a 31-page document titled, “TIME FOR CHANGE”, in which I laid out what “Change” was about and how it should be further developed and integrated into governance at all levels, and how the new Buhari administration would take over the ownership. How did I know this was what to be done? Because the concept of “Change” as developed for the APC was similar to what we did under the Rebranding project under Dora Akunyili.
First I did a congratulatory letter to the Hon Minister outlining what we had done under “Rebranding”, offering what we had done under “Rebranding”, and advising that all he needed to do was study the document and tweak it for adaptation where necessary, after all if it was not broken, why fix it? I offered help and support. Sadly I did not receive any response, assuming the Hon Minister was probably too busy. I then had this offer and some of my comments published in two major newspapers, “THISDAY” and “The Nation”, convinced that the Hon Minister would either see them, or have his attention drawn to them. My big concern at this point was to ensure that time-bound “Change” was adopted as quickly as possible before the party and government lost it.
In fairness to Lai Mohammed, we did connect sometime later in 2016 at his instance, but for his version of “Change”. I shared a synopsis with him on how we could co-opt the private sector because I knew government would not be able to fund any serious “Change” programme. During the Rebranding project, I had secured some firm support from corporate Nigeria, and was willing to share this with Lai Mohammed, under a specific arrangement. I already had a strong proposal on this within a PPP collaboration titled, “Rebranding Project Business Support Group”, something I would have initiated under Dora Akunyili. Unfortunately, him being a very busy man, I didn’t get any further response from Lai Mohammed.
And so we can see that 2015 offered us credible candidates in Buhari and Osinbajo, and a strong renaissance platform using “Change” if well articulated, initiated and executed timeously. Sadly it didn’t turn out this way, and the rest of it is, as they say, is history.
Back to our substantive issue.
WHAT MAKES AN EFFECTIVE LEADER?
Nigerians cannot give up on our leadership quest, especially the political leadership, because from this platform will flow the changes we so much need to heal and redirect the nation. But first, it is imperative that we even have a consensus on the qualities of leadership we so much desire. So, what qualities do we want to see in our leaders, so that we don’t always end up with the kind of “Ajeku Iya Ni O Je” pantomime and others like it?
Great leaders find balance between foresight, performance and character. They have vision, courage, integrity, humility and focus along with the ability to plan strategically and catalyze cooperation amongst their team. They are bold and courageous and will admit when they err. Let us consider a few attributes:
Hear Jack Welch, one of the most admired business people in the world, and the legendary CEO of General Electric, on Vision: “Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
Great leaders have vision, the unique ability to see into the future. They have a clear, exciting idea of where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish and are excellent at strategic planning. This quality separates them from managers, who are implementers. Having a clear vision turns the individual into a special type of person. This quality of vision changes a “transactional manager” into a “transformational leader.” While a manager gets the job done, a great leader taps into the emotions of his/her people. Even the Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”; without vision it is impossible to have successful leadership. Please consider the leaders all over the world that have made the most impact globally and helped develop their countries and organisations from Angela Merkel of Germany, Bill Clinton of the US, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Deng Xiaoping of China etc. They operated and still do with very strong visions. Each of these leaders, and the one who will lead successfully must also be committed to driving their vision relentlessly.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, how many of such leaders have we produced in this nation?
Leaders need to be very knowledgeable, having sufficient access to facts, information, and possess skills acquired through experience or/and education, which is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. They must be sufficiently educated so that they can find it easier to manage the grasping of complex issues as the world becomes more complicated. It remains very curious that in Nigeria, the private sector, universities, etc., insist on very qualified candidates, but we lower and even crash the standards when recruiting for political players and leadership.
Now I am not by any means insisting that leaders must be university graduates. But where this is not so, they must have shown a strong propensity towards the acquisition of knowledge and regular updates; they must be curious, hold the acquisition of knowledge seriously and promote scholarship.
The depth of knowledge Western leaders display always fascinates me when they discuss all issues under the sun. They handle complex interviews and debates with ease. They can easily debate budgets, the economy, education, global warming etc. Not only is this good for us as a nation, it makes governance better to manage.
Sadly, all you have to do is listen to the quality of utterances and debates from our leaders and you will know why we are where we are. As a deliberate policy, the entry and operational bars must be raised, so that each region can present its very best, and we can then reduce the current promotion of mediocrity.
Hear Winston Churchill on Courage: “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.”
One of the more important qualities of a good leader is courage. Having the quality of courage means that you are willing to take risks in the achievement of your goals with no assurance of success. Because there is no certainty in life, every commitment you make and every action you take entails a risk of some kind. Among the key leadership qualities, courage is the most identifiable outward trait.
Courage is especially critical in politics that we practice in Nigeria because of the need to manage diverse issues associated with big risks. A courageous leader will take a key decision after considering all issues involved and most times the greatest benefit for the greater number of people. It involves even doing things your people may not like or approve.
In your opinion, have we had such leaders?
Zig Ziglar was an influential speaker and motivator, and hear what he had to say about integrity, “With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”
A critical value for strong leadership is integrity and if you look at our nation, it is in very, very short supply. It is only in Nigeria that staff that have been helped by the company will be planning on ways to supplant the same company. See our leaders everywhere? People who were supposed to run banks emptied the same banks with one hand while holding religious books in the other, people completely without shame or conscience. Integrity has to do with honesty and trust. The core of integrity is truthfulness. Integrity requires that a leader always tells the truth to all people, in every situation. Truthfulness is the foundation quality of the trust that is necessary for the success of any government.
We as a nation have been very unfortunate in this respect. Men and women trusted with the management of national resources turn around like vampires sucking the very lifeline of the nation. Worse is the fact that we celebrate such odium, award them national honours, give them recognition in the society and our churches and mosques and present them as role models. See how badly we have fallen!
Talking of morality and integrity in politics is incongruous, well almost. The conventional wisdom is that these cannot, or more like should not go together. The Harvard Business School would however later justify a contrary position when it introduced a major business course on Integrity and Morality in Business, underscoring the need for businesses to conduct their businesses with integrity. In addition and significantly, Michael C. Jensen, the Jesse Isidor Strauss Emeritus Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School would deliver a major paper as part of a term course on the subject. In an executive summary, the erudite professor said the following:
- An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honour their word.
- Integrity is a state of condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound and in perfect condition. Lack of integrity in an individual, organisation, group and in a nation comes at a huge cost.
Some of the key concepts also include the following:
- The personal and organisational benefits of honoring one’s word are huge—both for individuals and for organisations.
- We can honor our word in one of two ways: by keeping it on time and as promised, or if that becomes impossible, by owning up to the parties counting on us to keep our word in advance and cleaning up the mess our failure to keep our word creates in their lives.
- By failing to honor our word to ourselves, we undermine ourselves as persons of integrity, and create “unworkability” in our lives.
- Integrity is a necessary even if not sometimes sufficient condition for maximum performance.
- There are unrecognized but significant costs to associating with people and nations that lack integrity.
For me it’s another very simple proposition. We cannot and should not make any distinction between our lives and conduct at home, work, mosque, church or anywhere for that matter. We must endeavour to be seen to be consistently appropriate. This matter of presenting our pious selves at church or in the mosque and promptly reversing to debauchery when we get to our work places is simply improper. And you can see the gross effect it has had on our country and the society. We have seen men and women known and even celebrated for lofty utterances on religion and morality utterly misbehave in their private lives, government service or in their businesses. We have seen politicians, business people and their ilk jostling for prime positions besides General Overseers and leaders of religious organisations promptly going back to their executive seats to pillage and abuse the people’s trust and treasury.
And this society has made it very easy, indulgently easy. A leader abuses trust and steals the people’s money and he or she is celebrated, begged and urged by the same people to please remain for as long as possible. The same family that has shown a track record of wanton disrespect for other people’s money is literally worshipped as the “saviour” of their miserable souls. It is also common to hear defamations like, “after all the man is not an angel”, and of course being supported with the meaningless and vexatious overuse of “achiever”. In Nigeria, everyone who can write his or her name on a piece of toilet paper is an “achiever”. We really are a people to be pitied.
And this is the reason we also experience this dishonourable Nigerian phenomenon in politics. People who should be thankful to God for the opportunity to serve are too busy scheming ways to steal from the nation. Everyone sees his or her work place as an opportunity to access a piece of the “national cake”. Listen to this short story and it will underscore what I am talking about.
A couple of years’ back I had reasons to send my car in for repairs and refurbishment, and so kept the company’s pool car until mine was returned. I was on my way out when I saw my landlady at the drive-in. She wanted to know if this was a new replacement for my aging Passat. And so I explained to her it was a courtesy car for a few days. She then went ahead to “advise” me on the need to “do something quickly”, as in her wisdom, and roughly translated, one “ate where one worked”. I was tempted to challenge her, but concluded it would be worthless; she simply spoke the Nigerian mind; in her mind, she meant well.
And I often scoff at the facile justification that poverty has produced this in us. One, we are not the poorest people in the world, and we know nations poorer than Nigeria but with an uncommon sense of honesty and propriety. Two, what has poverty got to do with highly placed and privileged Nigerians who are engaged in deals and will do anything for the filthy lucre? Is the bank group MD who wants a cut in the ad budget poor? Is the senior telecoms executive who earns millions monthly poor? Is the CEO of the manufacturing company poor? Is the governor that hides state allocations in foreign banks poor? The members of the state and national assemblies? Members of the Judiciary? I think it’s just a loss and a major corrosion in our value system, which suddenly has placed a premium on the material worth of an individual, resulting in this mad pursuit of money without any correlating effort at hard work.
There was a time in this same Nigeria when people were satisfied with what they earned and were happy to live within their means. There was a time when if we gave money to performing musicians, it was in appreciation of the good music they played, and not now when people “spray” just to show off. It’s even worse in some areas, where money is simply thrown on the floor and people match and dance on top of our national currency. See how correct we have become!
And until we experience a revival again in our values, we cannot experience any change. Until each and every one of us is prepared to challenge behaviours like these, until we each are prepared to say “no” to the most tempting contract or enticement which will compromise us, even at a price; until we are able to stand up and be ready to do things correctly, we will continue to suffer the repercussions individually and collectively.
You think I sound too harsh? If you consider the grief this beautiful country has seen, and is being taken through, then you will agree we cannot say enough on the matter. And I do not leave out the band of foreigners who believe the only way to conduct business in Nigeria or earn a living is through bribery, corruption and a flagrant disobedience of our laws; people who believe anything can be imported without paying the right customs charges, who indeed import the wrong and inferior goods and still dodge tariffs and taxes.
As concerned Nigerians we have a duty to speak about these things; indeed a duty to speak against them. Why? It is central to the reason why many of us became entrepreneurs and have remained so. I believe some of us should show that we can be in business and service without seeking unholy gain, without mortgaging our conscience, without soiling our fingers. Nigerians are not thieves by nature; neither are we dishonest. We have several millions of very hardworking, very honest compatriots.
In the Prima Garnet Group, we have suffered great and painful consequences for daring to do things differently, indeed for daring to do right. Since when did graft, corruption and sleaze become conditions for running a successful PR or Media or Ad agency and enterprise? This disrespect for doing things right has produced a generation of people who are even more corrupt than their progenitors who brought in the European civil contractors and introduced the regime of 10%. And sadly this practice has stigmatised everyone who dares to carry the Nigerian passport. Only God knows the indignities we have suffered in foreign lands for being identified as Nigerians.
It should no longer be assumed that in Nigeria it is impossible to conduct business without bribing or doing something dishonest. I was Media and Client Service Director in 1988, when the CEO of an outdoor agency came to receive orders for a new business. He didn’t think his visit was complete until he had requested to see me and offered me “something” from the business. I was disappointed that he would do this. Didn’t it occur to him that if I wanted a cut I would have sent for him before awarding the contract? I also felt pity for him; he epitomized my people who have come to believe that except you give something illegal back in business or a transaction, it isn’t complete. I simply counseled him not to do this again as no one needed anything from him. Now why can’t we all have the same attitude?
We once worked for a major very well known multinational company, and the contact person was a friend and former schoolmate. Now I knew for sure his salary and conditions of service were very good; and yet he would expect us to give him kickback. Of course we didn’t and it soured the relationship. We would eventually lose the premium business. In my discussions with the head of the new agency later, I was informed this thief would calculate the cost and value of a campaign and ask for his cut upfront, and it hardly mattered to him if the agency was paid in a month or twelve months. And if you look at such agencies, they never grow. Why should those placed in positions to make things work for other Nigerians be the same ones who throw spanners in the wheels? What manner of people are we?
And I have never understood newspapers and magazines doing supplements and citing some people as “men and women of integrity”; and I think it’s only in Nigeria that this happens. You would read the entire supplement and not see the reasons why they are being so celebrated. The very idea of a public and noisy celebration of this virtue is in itself an antithesis to integrity. Rather, let Nigerians identify such people. Let us emulate them. Let them tell us how they have been able to do it. But heck, it should not be because they could afford to pay the price of full page supporting ads in those publications. I have been approached a few times with these empty and fake accreditations, and I have never even dignified any of them with any kind of response. Some of the same people they celebrated as “men and women of integrity” in the past have turned out to be common thieves and felons.
I could go on about this odious malady, but enough; discussing it leaves a vile taste in the mouth, and pollutes the air.
Humility is the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance, and is a required leadership quality. Humility gets results. Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell and author of the book Execution, explained why leadership characteristics, such as humility, make you a more effective leader:
“The more you can contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen, and admit that you don’t know all the answers. You exhibit the attitude that you can learn from anyone at any time. Your pride doesn’t get in the way of gathering the information you need to achieve the best results. It doesn’t keep you from sharing the credit that needs to be shared. Humility allows you to acknowledge your mistakes.”
Great leaders are those who are strong and decisive but also humble.
Humility doesn’t mean that you are weak or unsure of yourself. It means that you have the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened. It is a very rare attribute of good leaders because it requires the containment of one’s ego. It also means that you are willing to admit you could be wrong; that you recognize you may not have all the answers and will always need help during such moments. And it also means that you give credit where credit is due, which many people struggle to do.
- Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its goals, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue them. It may also extend to control mechanisms for guiding the implementation of the strategy. It involves discipline and knowledge and is in various stages:
- Analysis of the current state.
Here, you dissect your organization’s external and internal environment. You may conduct a SWOT analysis, which is an examination of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You will also carefully examine the specific external environmental factors, such as your rivals, the power of your suppliers, the power your buyers or customers have, whether there is a viable threat that major clients or customers can effectively substitute your product or service, and whether there are any barriers to entry into a new market.
- Defining the future state
Here, you will develop an organizational vision and a mission statement that describes the future of your organization – where it wants to be, its essential values, and what it wants to do. After you have defined the organization’s vision and mission, you can begin to formulate a detailed strategy to achieve them.
- Determination of objectives and strategies.
Now that you have defined the organization’s vision and mission, you can develop a set of objectives that will lead you to the overall strategic goal or vision. For an example, an objective may be to increase the agricultural yield of specific food products within a nation by at least five percent over a period. Think of achieved objectives as building blocks in constructing your goal or vision.
- Implementation and evaluation etc.
Great leaders are outstanding at strategic planning. It’s another one of the more important leadership strengths. They have the ability to look ahead, to anticipate with some accuracy where the country is going. The late Obafemi Awolowo was a strong strategic planner. Because of increasing global competitiveness, only the leaders and nations that can accurately anticipate future markets can possibly survive. Only leaders with foresight can gain the “first mover advantage.”
Jack Canfield is an American author, motivational speaker, seminar leader, corporate trainer, and entrepreneur. He is the co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, which has more than 250 titles and 500 million copies in print in over 40 languages. In 2005 Canfield co-authored with Janet Switzer The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. Hear what he had to say about Focus:
“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them”.
Leaders always focus on the needs of the nation and the situation. Leaders focus on results, on what must be achieved by themselves, by others, and by the government. Great leaders focus on strengths, in themselves and in others. They focus on the strengths of the nation, on the things that the government does best in satisfying various demands in a challenging environment. The ability of a leader to call the shots and make sure that everyone is focused and concentrated on the most valuable use of their time is essential to the excellent performance of the government.
Let me ask and prepare us for the discussions to follow: Do we have focused leaders?
Napoleon Hill was an American self-help author, and is well known for his book, Think and Grow Rich that he published in 1937; the book remains among the top 10 best selling self-help books of all time. Hear what he had to say on Cooperation, “If your imagination leads you to understand how quickly people grant your requests when those requests appeal to their self-interest, you can have practically anything you go after.”
A leader’s ability to get everyone working and pulling together is essential to success. Leadership is the ability to get people to work for you because they want to. The 80/20 rule applies here: Twenty percent of your people contribute 80 percent of your results. Your ability to select these people and then to work well with them on a daily basis is essential to the smooth functioning of the organization. An effective leader must secure the cooperation of others by making a commitment to get along well with each key person every single day. You always have a choice when it comes to a task: You can do it yourself, or you can get someone else to do it for you.
- Accepting Responsibility
Finally, a good leader must be ready to accept responsibility where there are major failures from policies he was part of. Too often, leaders sacrifice their people especially when they imagine that the political cost is high. Doing this will not encourage loyalty and dedication.
HOW DO WE GO ABOUT PREPARING NIGERIANS FOR LEADERSHIP ROLES?
If we have identified gaps in leadership within our society and have also offered some suggestions on what qualities and values leaders ought to have, what then can we do to raise such people? Inevitably, we must review or values. Leaders are not born; they are made. A man or woman becomes an effective or ineffective leader based on the grooming, how they are brought up, what they are exposed to, the kind of education they have etc. For many people, many of these values are available in their families, schools etc.; however for many others it is not so.
To fill this gap, the nation must embark on a long-term values review. As I said earlier, we had the first opportunity under Dora Akunyili’s “Rebranding” project, which by the way was wrongly titled, given the tasks involved. We had a second opportunity under APC’s “Change” campaign, which sadly was poorly managed. We cannot change Nigeria without going through a disciplined systematic change process, which mandatorily will involve re-education, social mobilisation, civic responsibility etc. The programme will involve everyone from the elementary to the University. As a national programme, it must involve every aspect of our lives and must be run almost like a military or communist operation. There will of course be resistance because few people like the type of change that affects the status quo where they have been benefitting.
What is the objective? To recreate values we lost. To inculcate discipline. To change mindset about many things. To create a level playing field for every Nigerian and throw up those with genuine leadership attributes at various levels. To remove leeches and those sucking the blood of this nation; to remove rent seekers; to establish a new regime as the ancien regime is gradually removed. It will not mean that we will not have crime; even the most authoritarian regimes of North Korea and Saudi Arabia still have criminals. Even nations like Sweden and Canada that are so well run have criminals. But it will reduce the incidence, and as these positive values deepen, Nigerians for example will rediscover the appropriateness of working honestly, shunning bad behaviour, promoting mediocrity and odium etc. Will it be easy? Of course not. Is it doable? Under the right leaders, it is.
Finally, I bring us back to the theme of the lecture; how good governance under an effective leader can be a strong PR impetus for Nigeria. Most of the bad PR we have today is as a result of the loss of values occasioned by bad leadership examples. If we are able to gradually fix these, and it has to be over a period, there is no quick media fix, then bad behaviour should reduce and the incidence of Nigeria being negatively branded will gradually recede, and a new nation will emerge. So help us God.
This is the biggest PR challenge this nation faces; this is the biggest investment Nigeria can and must make.
I thank you all for listening, and God bless you.
‘Lolu Akinwunmi, frpa, fnmi
May 31, 2017