To be fully effective, one must learn to look beyond, step out of comfort zones, and be part of a network of people who are impacting the world.
Ever since we started Jenta Reads, God has linked me to relevant networks that are shaping me into the great leader I ought to be. Last year, I was selected to be part of The Kectil Program which trains young leaders from developing countries. I have successfully completed the training and I’m now a part of the Kectil Alumni Network.
On the 4th of November 2018, I received an email informing me that I have been selected to be an Emerging African Leader at the Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE). CSAAE is an organisation that is helping youths build the capacities, competencies and character to facilitate development, end poverty and make Africa a better place. It was founded by an amazing and dynamic catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Dr. Godswill Uchenna Agbagwa. Quite honestly, I have never met a catholic priest like him. He is bluntly honest, deeply passionate, outrageously futuristic, and doesn’t take no for an answer. If Padre, (as we call him) were to be a CEO, he will be in the class of men like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs- the men that make things happen. A tall man with a gentle face and an engaging personality, Padre is the man that leads CSAAE. It is therefore no surprise that CSAAE has stood out amongst her contemporaries. A man of high standard, Padre believes in disruption of the wrong status quo and getting the right things done, no matter what it takes. He often says “excuses are the foundation for poverty and failure in life”, and I believe this. Padre repeatedly told us that, “CSAAE is not an empowerment scheme, neither is it another Nigerian NGO. CSAAE is a place where leaders are built for the future. The previous generation has failed, hence it is necessary for a new generation to be raised. Raising leaders should be intentional.”
The Emerging African Leaders Program (ELP) is a 3-years capacity, competency and character building fellowship for select students from Universities across Africa, and in this case, in Nigeria. According to Fr G, “ELP is not just raising leaders, we are raising leaders who will lead from the very top. Anyone can lead from anywhere, but we want to raise those who will lead well from the highest ranks in society. While everyone is a leader, a Governor has more influence than a Principal, Dangote has more influence than the man selling provisions in your locality. We are raising you to lead from the top. You’re the Presidents, Governors, Chief Justices of Nigeria, Richest Men of the society and the most influential men and women that the society will have”. Divided into five categories: Emerging Business Leaders, Emerging Political Leaders, Emerging Judicial Leaders, Emerging Religious Leaders and Emerging Media leaders, the Emerging Leaders Program sets any fellow on the path of greatness and guides them to success.
The 2018 Annual Emerging African Leaders Foundation Conference (EALFC) held from Wednesday 21st November to Friday 23rd November at Top Rank Hotel, Garki Abuja. And I was fully present. After attending such a conference as this, one cannot help but be ablaze with a strong desire to make a difference. We were trained not only to be successful, but to be successful in an ethical and moral way. The major highlights of the foundation conference for me were the speeches given by our speakers which included Rev. Fr. Dr. Godswill Uchenna Agbagwa, who reiterated how he came to establish CSAAE and was so passionate during his presentation that I really believed he would have shed a few tears if he had continued with his story. There is no doubt that this man of God loves Africa despite being a catholic priest (which means he will never have children of his own blood). Although he lives comfortably in the United State of America and does not owe Nigeria any debt, he has committed his life to raising leaders FOR FREE; Dr. Cosmas Maduka, the billionaire CEO of Cos-Charis Group, an Elementary 3 drop out, is a testimony of faith, resilience and wisdom. This man is an explanation of the maxim “greatness is for everyone who cares to believe in their dream and pursue it”; Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, the phenomenal Human Rights Activist, richly humorous and eloquent with words, who loves his country more than he loves himself; Lara Owoeye-Wise, Special Assistant to the deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, is distinguished in every sense. Lara is a model for excellence and passion. Our anchors- Leah Babatunde and Vanessa Offiong were exceptional too.
From the conference I came back home with 3 basic lessons.
First, leadership is an intentional act. If our country must change, we must rise to the challenge and raise intentional leaders who will get into every sphere of our society and disrupt the status quo. If we cannot have doctors by accident, why should we have leaders by accident? I am glad that CSAAE is transforming my mindset. I look towards extending this to Jenta Reads Community Initiative and Book-Troverts.
Secondly, dreaming BIG is part of the success formula. All three guest speakers, Dr. Cosmas Maduka, Mrs. Lara Owoeye-Wise, and Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, told us how they knew what they wanted to be from a young age. Lara started admiring the TV even in the days when newspapers made the waves. She was so passionate that she would usually record speeches on tape recorders and play them at night. Dr. Cosmas Maduka was radical about his belief of becoming a successful business tycoon. Back then, he even received a heavy knock on the head for saying that he would purchase a certain car within a few years. Also, he narrated an incidence of how he got rebuked while on transit by his mother for boldly saying that he will make his first million naira before a particular age. His mother even alighted from the car because she dared him not to repeat the statement and he did. Sadly, she had to travel on her own (I’m still regurgitating this story). Prof Odinkalu also had his own share of drama with his dad because he wanted to be a lawyer. Prof insisted and today he is a very successful lawyer. The truth is that no one really becomes great except he or she has thought and planned to be great. Success is intentional.
Furthermore, it’s all about Making A Difference (MAD). Your life purpose, dreams, and life goals are nothing if they aren’t aimed at making the world a better place. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes with making a difference in someone else’s life. Look at it again! What is the world all about if we cannot to make it better? The Great Commission which I believe in was the first one given by God to man, “Go and cultivate the earth”. We are not doing well yet if we aren’t making a positive difference in the lives of others. Being rich, successful or great is nothing if it does not lead to making a positive difference. Our call is MAD, and MAD we will! I have been set on fire, a fire for a new Africa, a fire for the Nigeria I dream of, where everyone can dream and their dreams can come true.
Life is fast and hard pressing. Conferences like EALFC helps one to refresh, refocus and refill our minds for more adventures. For the next years of my life, I don’t plan to miss any Emerging African Leaders Foundation Conference. In fact, I have already begun plans for EALFC 2019 which is slated to hold in Port Harcourt and CSAAE Midyear Summit which by God’s grace will hold at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, come June 2019. You’re all invited.
I’m excited to be part of the CSAAE Fellowship and as we progress, I will write more blog posts about the lessons learnt and how I’m putting them into good use. And oh, watch out for my CDP. I guess you’re probably asking “What’s CDP?” You can check HERE and you’ll find some existing Community Development Projects inspired and sponsored by CSAAE. It won’t be Jenta Reads Community Initiative, it will be better. We do hard things, right?
Emerging Business Leader at CSAAE.
…Together we can make Africa A Better Place!