Participants at the quarterly public policy engagement and debate programme of the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), the Big Ideas Podium, have made a strong case for transformative leadership in every sphere of national life as the only option to pull the country out of the woods.
The event which held on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in Enugu attracted a large pool of professionals from all walks of life – the academia, the Bar, Labour, organized private sector, public sector, the media and others.
In his keynote speech titled: “Building Transformative Leadership for Nigeria,” the guest speaker, Dr Otive Igbuzor, a foremost leadership development expert, who was the Country Director for the British aid agency- DFID; but now Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Abuja, stressed that It has been documented that the progress, development and fortunes of many nations are tied to the type and quality of the political leadership that they have had and continue to have.
He agreed with the legendary writer of blessed memory – Chinua Achebe that the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership; that there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian Character; that there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else.
According to the leadership development expert, there is a twin paradox pervading the Nigerian situation – one, there is the recognition that Leadership is crucial for the development of organisations and nations and that leaders can be trained; two, there are abundant human resources to produce excellent leaders in Nigeria; however, it is regrettable that despite these unambiguous facts about our country, “there is no systematic way for developing leaders for governance, business and civil society in Nigeria. Therefore, one big idea that can push Nigeria forward is to build transformative leadership; besides that, there are very few organisations especially in Africa dedicated to building transformative leadership”
The Big Ideas Podium guest speaker believes that ‘leaders are ordinary people who accept or are placed under extraordinary circumstances that bring forth their latent potential, producing a character that inspires the confidence and trust of others’
“There is therefore an imperative for government at all levels, the business community and civil society to develop a strategy for building transformative leaders and operationalise the strategy with emphasis on supporting training programmes; mentoring; inter-generational dialogue; youth development and a more nuanced leadership selection process”, he posits.
Speaking further, he said “the goal of transformational leadership is to ‘transform’ people and organisations in a literal sense – to change them in mind and heart; enlarge vision, insight, and understanding; clarify purposes; make behaviour congruent with beliefs, principles, or values; and bring about changes that are permanent, self-perpetuating, and momentum building”
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of AfriHeritage, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, said the subject of the day’s keynote speech – leadership – is the base issue for Nigeria as it is for all countries. Leadership is so important that nothing else compares, it serves as a catalyst for cathartic change, social integration, and transformative development. When leadership is bad, it creates dysfunctions that can destroy the factors that underpin positive change, social justice, national prosperity and peace.
According to Professor Okeke-Uzodike, “In 2018, Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world. In fact, in some respects as shown by some key indicators, Nigeria remains one of the least developed countries in the world.”
He believes the country’s leadership has a responsibility to explain to the people why average citizens are getting poorer, less secure (physically and economically), living shorter lives, dying in our hospitals of manageable diseases or routine diseases/ailments, and generally less happy while those in leadership positions are gloriously spared of the same problems.
In their contribution, the two lead paper, the discussants – Stella Okunna, a professor of mass communication and Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka; and Professor Aja Akpuru-Aja a former directing staff of the National Institute for policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, all agreed with the keynote speaker that building a transformative leadership for the country was the viable way to go, but concluded that Nigeria must come up with a clear-cut youth development strategy in order as a way of laying a good foundation for transformative leadership.