BY SENATOR TOKUNBO AFIKUYOMI
- I thank the Junior Chambers International,Ikeja for the honour of the invitation extended to me to share my thoughts on a very critical subject as visionary leadership. I also take this opportunity to welcome everyone that has come from far and near to Lagos that is working. Let me also say how delighted I am to be sharing today’s platform with the likes of,Debola,Yemi and Chude. Groups like Ideation Hub Africa, Enough Is Enough. Budget IT,Pendulum and others are pioneering great initiatives to hold leadership accountable and offer a better vision for the future.
- This conversation is coming at a time in our national life when Nigerians are even yet to fully agree on what type of leadership we require to get us on to the path of development and real growth. Well, while the jury is out to decide, I shall offer my thoughts regardless as requested by the organisers of this event.
- I have spent the last six years of my life away from active political activities to rededicate myself to my God-given divine assignment of parenting and studying to know why private and public institutions succeed. I have also devoted a great quantum of my time to reflecting on Nigeria’s leadership challenge. During this period, except for the time I devoted to the APC election primaries, State and Presidential Elections, I was enrolled for Postgraduate Studies at the Surrey Business School where I had the opportunity of interrogating the subject of corporate governance deeply. I opted to run the programme full time so I could have the quality time to interact with business leaders from different parts of the world who were also enrolled for the programme. During this period of self-imposed sabbatical from active political engagements, I have declined a number of invitations to speak on the Nigerian leadership and political crises whether at gatherings like this or in media interviews.
- I have always been fascinated by the mission of JCI, which is to provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change and its vision to be the leading global network of young active citizens. What this great country offered me and many young men and women of my age then is what sits at the heart of the mission of JCI.
- Nigeria offered us opportunities. This great country offered us opportunities to take a shot at leadership in our prime from our secondary school right into the University days. At the age of 24, I ran election into the Lagos Mainland Local Government Council. This great country offered me particularly an opportunity to become, perhaps one of the youngest members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives of our time at the age of 29 and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at 35.
- Our country, Nigeria also offered me the platform in 1995 to become one of the winners of Time Magazine’s Global 100 Award. Interestingly, I was the only recipient of the Prestigious Award from West Africa.
- Through the opportunities offered me by this country, I have been an outspoken advocate and crusader for knowledge-based economy for this country. What our young people achieved in our time makes me proud.
- You can therefore understand why I cannot but be worried when the critical chambers of the Nigerian Parliament have now become a resting place for retired and tired former governors, former this and former that. I chuckle in mixed grief when I see these tired men taking a nap during critical debates sessions in the national assembly.
LEADERS WHO ENVISIONS THE FUTURE
- It was some visionary leaders who entrusted us with leadership in our prime. It was the likes of Chief Anthony Enahoro, Papa Alfred Rewane, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Dr. BekoRansome-Kuti, Professor Wole Soyinka, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Professor BolajiAkinyemi, Gen. AlaniAkinrinade (Rtd.), Admiral NdubuisiKanu (Rtd.) and the great one, Bashorun M. K. O. Abiolawho entrusted the likes of my humble self, KayodeFayemi, Dele Momodu, Dele Alake, Tunji Bello, BayoOnanuga, KunleAjibade, DapoOlorunyomi, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, ChimaUbani, OsagieObayuwana, OlisaAgbakoba, Nike Ransome-Kuti, Ayo Obey, Femi Falana, ShehuSanni, Revd. TunjiAdebiyi, ObyEzekwesili, Pat Utomi and others with the enormous leadership responsibilities to lead the fight toget the military out of our national life while they provided the needful guidance.
- This brings me to the most important meaning of visionary leadership. Let me offer what I consider a working definition of the concept itself. It is a process of painting a mental picture of a preferable future and how to get there. This process involves a rigorous and consistent attempt to replace the mental pictures the current realities may have etched on the people’s minds or collective consciousness. There is an amazing biblical account of how God illustrated this all important task of leadership in the life of Abraham. God knew years of inability to get his wife to conceive must have left a picture of bareness on the mind frame of Abraham.The biblical account is that one night,God appeared onto Abraham, called him out of his tent in Genesis Chapter 15 Verse 5, asked him to look at the stars in the sky. That was the turning point for Abraham.
- This is what visionary leaders do. Visionary leadership involves understanding how to use similitudes to change the mindset of a person or a people.Visionary leaders first create that mental picture in the minds of their followers. Leaders don’t do the work themselves in the real sense of it. The most important task of visionary leadership is to paint that picture, get the followers to assimilate the new picture of that preferable future and begin the journey of seeking that new destination.
- Visionary leaders are dream framers. They make you see the mental picture of that preferred country or work place in your wakefulness and make you dream of it at night. This is how great leaders have mobilized their people in crises times to fight slavery, dictatorship or economic crises.
- This is the crux of Nigeria’s political and economic crises. Have we succeeded in framing an acceptable Nigerian vision? Or differently put, have we framed an acceptable Nigerian dream that should serve as the compass for our nation. Even the bible says in the book of Proverbs Chapter 29 verse18, “where there is no vision, the people perish.”I am sure there are equivalent prescriptions like this in the Quoran. But I love the translation of thatverse of the scripture that says, “where there is no vision, the people cast of restrain.” This is true for both countries and companies. Vision sets the boundaries of acceptable behaviours.One of the reasons companies are succeeding and countries are failing is vision. From the moment you are employed into a corporate organization, you are told what the vision of the company is. You are told how it’s mission for achieving that corporate vision has been framed. This determines the acceptable behavior within the company. This is what shapes the corporate culture.
- Let’s not get it twisted. It is not so complicated as it seems. This is the difference between the Nigerian Breweries Plc. and Nigeria as a country. One has a vision, the other has not even agreed on an acceptable vision for herself as a country. The vision of Nigerian Breweries is at least known to the vast majority of its employees. This is why the company has survived since 1946 to date.So no surprises that it is posting a Profit After Tax of N10.45 billion in the first quarter of 2016 therefore reporting 11% growth in a season of “technical recession” while Nigeria has just lost it’s place as Africa’s largest economy and the highest recipient of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Sub-Sahara Africa.
LEADERS COMMUNICATE THE VISION IN A COHERENT AND CONSISTENT MANNER
- Visionary leaders don’t just craft the vision, they sell it through the power of effective communication. To the best of my knowledge, most corporate organisations have what they call, their Brand Bible or Brand Manual. It sets out the organization’s Unique Selling Point (USP). It contains what the brand stands for and how their brand is communicated long term. This is why Etisalat, GT Bank, Unilever, Total and others will succeed and the country within which they operate as businesses will continue to falter unless something is done urgently.
- From the moment you are employed as Head of Corporate Communications or PR Manager at any of these organisations, the first tool you are given is the Brand Manual. It enables you understand how that brand is to be communicated. You are either given a Messaging Document or you craft one to enable you deliver the message of the brand coherently and consistently. This is because the framers of the corporate vision understand that vision is useless unless it is effectively communicated. Just compare Nigeria’s experiment with trying to communicate one single piece of policy to how corporate organisations approach the task of communicating their vision and policies. You can never hear the Vice President in charge of Marketing and the Head of Corporate Communications in corporate organisation sing discordant tunes on one single company policy.
- This is one thing the administration of President MuhammaduBuhari needs to get right very quickly. Corporate organisations have fewer financial resources than Nigeria as a country. But when they want to sell their vision, their policies and product, they hire certified communications professionals from branding, advertising, public relations, experiential marketing, internally and externally to do the job. I have used the phrase, “certified professionals” intentionally. Just the way, a country cannot hire a Journalist to be her Attorney General and Justice Minister, I am persuaded that PMB must entrust the task of policy communications into the hands of certified marketing communications and policy communications professionals. Nigeria is blessed with some of them and I know that for a fact. From Magret Thatcher to Tony Blair, down to Barack Obama, examples abound of how these leaders have changed the course of history and the lots of their people by framing and selling visions and policies coherently and effectively just like burger!
- The PMB administration needs to take a lesson here. Never in the history of our countryhave I seen one government singing different hymns from different books at a service as I have seensince the commencement of this administration.
- Never must PMB be sold a lie that most Nigerians hate him. On the contrary, Nigerians love him. Nigerians are just confused by the confusing signals from his own government. You cannot have your Finance Minister stand before the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and assert that we are technically in a recession (whatever that meant) and the day after, your Minister for Budget and Planning comes out to say we are not in a recession. This administration needs to get it acts together. There is an urgent need to design effective communication architecture to reach the hearts of the people. I am not one of those who believe the Buhari administration does not have an economic policy. I think it is most unfair to even imagine it. The tragedy of government has been in its inability to shape consistent and credible narratives to win the hearts and minds of the people.
- In Human Resource Management, they say the job description dictates the hire. In government, it is not so. It is only in government we get it twisted.No one has put it better as Bishop Hassan Kukah in his recent interview published in the Daily Sun of 25th June 2016 where he said, “This is the only place where too many ill-equipped and ill-prepared people have stumbled and fumbled their ways into power. The result is what you see.”
VISIONARY LEADERS GET THE VISION WRITTEN
- “Write the vision and make it plain, that he may run that reads it.” Habakkuk Chapter 2, Verse 2 is a worthy biblical prescription every leader needs to take seriously regardless of faith. Visionary leaders make a discipline of writing down the vision. This is how national vision gets passed down from generation to generation. The term American dream was first used by James Truslow Adams in his book, “The Epic of America published in 1931.” This book was published at a time when Americans were suffering under the Great Depression. The American dream describes the acceptable way of life. It is said to be rooted in the Declaration of Independence and the belief that every man and every woman shall regardless of their birth, achieve their full potentials. The American Dream also speaks to the positioning of America in the eyes of the world. It speaks to how America is to be positioned and revered as God’s Own Country and the City on the Shinning Hill.” Decades down the line and right in the midst of one of the most bitter political campaigns ever seen in the history of America currently going on in the US today, the American Dream remains the dominant theme across the isle.This is why Americans can repudiate their leaders but they will never repudiate their country as some of our own citizens do.
- I understand the current frustration of our people. You only need to think of the total collapse of the Naira against currencies like the British Pounds Sterling, Euro, US Dollar, Ghana Cedis, Benin/Togo CFA, Chinese Yen and others to understand and appreciate the enormous sufferings of our people in this present times.Let medirectly appeal to our youths, never put down yourcountry in a feat of anger and frustration on social media. You can repudiate leaders you disagree with, but never repudiate your country. Foreigners are reading and they will treat you, your friends,family and others in the manner you have described your own country.
- But it is the duty of visionary leaders to ensure the vision is written down. Ask an average Nigerian who is educated, what is the Nigerian dream? He may end up regaling you with the Nigerian nightmare.We have not succeeded in selling even the Vision 2020 we have framed to gain the buy-in of the Nigerian people. The document states that, “By 2020 Nigeria will be one of the 20 largest economies in the world, able to consolidate its leadership role in Africa and establish itself as a significant player in the global economic and political arena.” True to that prediction, we not only became one of the largest economies in Africa, we surpassed the prediction of the pundits by emerging the largest. But have we been able to consolidate our leadership role in Africa? Have we been able to establish ourselves as a player in the global economic and political arena? And guess what, we have just lost the title as the Largest Economy in Africa.
- We had a glorious opportunity to achieve this from the time this administration took over in May 2015. The whole world wanted to do business with Nigeria given the tremendous brand equity of trust President Buhari came in with. Nigeria was given its deserved place at the table. I know President Buhari, I can say without any shadow of doubt that he will never steal. But we began to waste that goodwill that heralded this government into power.
- The moment we turned the appointment of Ministers into rocket science and putting together an economic team and sound accountable economic policy to hit the ground running as if itsquantum physics, the world began to doubt the preparedness of this government. This was worsened by Ministers of the same government contradicting themselves on simple Elementary Policy Statements and Electoral promises.
- Our woes were compounded by the fiscal policy we chose to embrace and our chances blighted by the kindergarten-like fashion our Central Bank was making policy summersaults almost on a weekly basis. Indeed we have made the IMF, World Bank,Fitch and JP Morgan look like heroes because,we were warned!
- Visionary Leadership is about goal-setting as a strategy to inspire countries to do bold things. The best example that comes to my mind is JFK and his moon-landing goals. It is instructive to note that country goals can be the most obvious problem thatour country faces such as Infrastructure, Power, Education decay, Corruption, Economic recession and others.
- Visionary leadership can systematically engage these problems by:
- Measuring the problem for example, when and how long will it take to repair all the roads in Nigeria.
- To set a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). We can then say all the roads for construction, rehabilitation and repair can be done by year 2025.
- Put the resources together; create an implementation team on regional basis to which pieces of the work can be delegated to, as states, local governments and area council teams.
- Execute with accountability, not in the manner of the opaque quasi disclosures that we have today. BudgetIT puts that very clearly in a recent tweet asking ‘is this how to fight corruption’?
FIRS Data – Not Released
Details of state bailout – opaque
Details of =N=332 Billion Capital Project Fund-unavailable
- This is where we are today, compare to where we ought to be as highlighted above driven by visionary leadership. Visionary Leadership makes things happen.
30. JFK gave that great speech in 1961, Amstrong landed on the moon eight years later. Our ideas as set out can be applied to any big problem.
- Perhaps it is appropriate and imperative that I share with you some of my dreams and vision of a restructured and future Nigeria.
- The future of Nigeria demands that we Restructure – End of Story. As you all know, sometimes you need to restructure your house, your finances, your business and even your dates for those who are unmarried, readjust your travel and your day. Why must we then not restructure our nation?
- Friends, those who say we should not restructure are not visionary. They are either mischievous or intellectually lazy or simply naive. Let me also put on record that I fully endorse the call by Senior Politicians like AtikuAbubakar. I do not accept such initiatives are opportunistic.
- Visionary leadership in my view will put our country, Nigeria on the path of a truly united, strong, economically prosperous nation that works for all.
- A nation that fulfills the genuine aspirations of her founding fathers and offers opportunities for the fulfillment of the dreams of the younger generations.
- The vision for the future of Nigeria demands that we restructure this country now to abolish Presidential System of government and adopt Parliamentary system.
- That we make the Right to vote a sacred inalienable Right of all Nigerians including those in the Diaspora.
- Our Constitution must guarantee Independent Candidacy for all elections and our Electoral Law must insist on internal democracy by participating political parties, after all you cannot give what you don’t have.
- We must further restructure to abolish our Bi-camera Legislature at Federal level and adopt a Unicameral System. Bi-Cameralism has become anachronistic and unfashionable like Military Coups.
- Our Federating units must now be Regions, the State System has become unviable, unsustainable and corrupt.
- Let us abolish the State Assemblies and replace them with Regional Assemblies. Let the parties present candidates to become Regional Governors and not State Governors.
- Let us have Mayors and Councillors at our cities and communities not imperial chairmen at our Local Governments. Afterall in some countries, Mayors are positioned bigger than governors.
- Fellow Compatriots let us restructure to embrace Fiscal Federalism, Regional and Municipal Policing as well as Revolutionary Resource Control System that gives majority of the wealth back to the communities and regions where it is created and earned rather than to the Federal Government. That unfairness must end.
- I can go on and on but am bound by time discipline.
- In conclusion:
- Forget the window dressing of our current situation as a “Technical Recession”, we are in a recession. It will take visionary leadership exhibiting some of the traits I have explored in this paper to get us out. It will take visionary leadership not only to get us out of recession but also to take us into that place called, “there,” It is up to President MuhammaduBuhari to rally our best brains to help define that place called, “there” for Nigerians and make a clarion call on Nigerians saying, “let’s go there!”. I am an incurable believer in the Exceptionalism of the Nigerian Spirit.There is a cry from the labourroom of history; a New Nigeria is about to be born. Only visionary leaders can midwife this child of destiny.
- Our young ones need to be Bold and Courageous and change the narratives of our country for the better. What is required is the Audacity of Vision.
- Thank you for your listening attention.
- God bless JCI Ikeja,
May you continuously grow from strength to strength
- God bless Nigeria.