November 24 – 26, 2017
Keynote Address by Rev. Fr. (Dr.) Godswill Agbagwa (Founder & President, CSAAEINC)
Professor Pat Utomi, Former Presidential Aspirant and Founder of Centre for Value Leadership
Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN and Nigerian Bar Association Nominee for Supreme Court Justice
Mr. Tony Okpanachi, Managing Director, Development Bank of Nigeria, Abuja
Mrs. Kosoko Adesola, Lagos Television
Mrs. Flora Gabton, Managing Director, GAPEthics
Mr. Jamiel Pajol, President, Dynamic Youth Assembly
U.S. and Nigerian Board of Trustees led by Professor Obinna Chukwu, Director of Quality Assurance, University of Lagos
U.S. and Nigerian Emerging Leaders Program Mentors led by Dr. Patrick Nwakama, Pharmacologist, U.S Food and Drug Administration, Washington.
Members of CSAAEINC Network of Effective African Leaders led by Ms. Chinonso Nwagha
Members of CSAAEINC Emerging African Leaders Program led by Ms. Priscilia Igwe, Ebonyi State University.
Staff and Members of CSAAEINC
Invited Participants to the 5th Emerging African Leaders Foundation Conference
We have gathered here this morning to discuss an issue of utmost importance to our survival. I am talking about political and government leadership. Yes, and unfortunately, our survival as human beings, to a large extent, depends on the government. Tell me one thing essential for our survival as humans that is not controlled or regulated by the government. Is it the air we breathe? Well, although oxygen is delivered freely from God, its quality is controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency. Is it the water we drink? Without clearance from National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), I cannot have this bottle of water. Most, if not all of us, could not have attended this conference had the Ministry of Transportation not permitted our various means of transportation to operate in Nigeria.
But at a time when our survival is threatened because the air we breathe is not clean enough; because there is not enough clean water to drink and sufficient food to eat; nor can we afford good medical care when ill; not to talk of accessing reliable electric power and quality education; we cannot but blame our government that controls these necessities of life. At a time when we go to bed with one eye open due to insecurity, cannot move smoothly from our home to work because of deplorable roads, and are derided abroad as second-class citizens. We cannot but blame our government for all the woes. At a time when our police can shoot us for “N20 rogers”, our lecturers can rape us for “A and B Grades”, our judges deny us due justice for pieces of silver, we cannot but blame our government.
But why has our government failed us? This is the question that this conference must answer today. Not to preempt the speakers, I can certainly say that lack of resources to afford these basic needs is not one of the reasons, because our country is rich in natural resources. Across the Niger, the much sought after crude oil flows like a river beneath the earth. Our lands, from the North to South, East to West are fertile. Our climate is suitable for our crops. Our weather is a boost for energy. I am also certain that lack of human capital to convert our resources to consumables is not one of the reasons. Because globally Nigerians are respected for their brilliance, skillfulness, ingenuity and hard work. I dare to say that our government has failed us because our government leaders lack the virtues, effective leadership skills and creative spirit to get us what we need with what we have.
Let us begin with virtue. Virtue is the power to do good. No one is born with it. It is acquired through one’s efforts and constant practice. But once acquired, it sticks and becomes second nature. The core leadership virtues that our leaders lack include integrity, accountability and most importantly, solidarity. Solidarity is the commitment to common good, that is, the good of each and every one of us. Without the virtue of solidarity, it is not possible for a leader to be effective. How can a custom officer take bribes to allow the importation of fake drugs into our country if he is committed to our common good? Why would our high-ranking Government officials take so much money as salaries and emoluments when 70% of us are living below 300 Naira a day. Why would a government leader steal millions of naira from the national treasury that could end hunger for millions of Nigerians, if she is committed to common good?
My dear youths and future leaders. Do not seek public office if you cannot break away from the vicious cycle or undesirable habit of selfishness and commit to the common good. As you prepare to take over the leadership of this country learn to think community. According to US President John Kennedy “think what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you.” Put the Nigerian community first before yourself. That is why at CSAAEINC, one way we are inculcating this virtue into our future leaders is by challenging them to initiate community development projects no matter how poor or busy they are so they can through efforts and constant practice acquire this leadership virtue of solidarity. Solidarity is the cardinal virtue of leadership because with it, all other core leadership virtues can easily be acquired and practiced. Integrity is the quality of being honest and fair. And for government leaders, it is being honest and fair to citizens. But we know that our leaders are dishonest and grossly unfair to us because they are not committed to the common good of the society. Accountability which is the ability to account for one’s actions and responsibilities, is another core leadership virtue. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property. But the looting of our national treasures and diversion of our national funds by our leaders are proofs that our leaders are not accountable. How can they, when they are not committed to our welfare?
Lack of leadership virtues and morals is the biggest reason why we are poor, hungry, sick and underdeveloped. But many of our leaders also lack effective leadership skills and I hate to say too “dumb” and anachronistic to navigate 21st Century Nigeria out of poverty and underdevelopment. Our government leaders today and in the past four decades lack the mental capacity to see clearly the realities of today and the creative spirit to anticipate tomorrow. They live in the past and have continued to recycle antiquated policies and practices that never work. The reason for this is obvious. They did not prepare for leadership and no matter how long they have been in government, they are incapable of thinking outside the box and too afraid to try new ideas because they have none. They see themselves as born to lead when in fact leaders are not born but make themselves through learning and experience. That is why CSAAEINC engages future government and political leaders in a variety of effective leadership skills acquisition trainings such as book reading, film viewing, leadership workshops, one-on-one leadership mentoring and leadership building experiences to mention but a few.
The inability to work with a diverse network and the unwillingness to cooperate and develop relationships of trust with people different and even better than a leader is at the root of government leadership failure in Nigeria. Too much unilaterism, tribalism and nepotism kill team work and leave out the best as well as useful opposition behind. The ability to leap beyond social group interests and forge a common consensus anchored on justice, peace, freedom and human dignity is not biological. It is a skill or trait that can only be acquired.
My dear youths and future leaders, the time to prepare for effective leadership is now. The time to acquire the skills and virtues is now. We must no longer sit and watch as our survival is threatened by the lack of effective leadership skills and moral courage by our own country men and women. Government and political leadership are key to our collective survival. We must all get involved, but the time to prepare for it is now. As the renowned economist, Paul Samuelson said in his theory “Vicious cycle of poverty” – a country is poor because it is poor.” We can help break the cycle of poverty by correcting the defects in governance and leadership.
This conference kick starts our 2017/2018 Emerging African Leaders Training Program, a three-year program aimed at nurturing a new crop of African political and government leaders imbued with the morals, effective leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit to facilitate development, end poverty and make Africa a better place. I can assure you that at the closing of the conference today, our future leaders would have been exposed to the problems and prospects facing them; provided with the effective leadership skills to tackle these problems; and immersed in the virtues of highly effective leaders.
I therefore invite you all to sit back, relax and learn