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Nigeria’s Leadership in a New World

Investiture of the 28th Chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos State Branch

Keynote Speech Delivered at the Investiture of the 28th Chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos State Branch

05 October 2023

Protocols

It is a great privilege and honour, not only to join an esteemed group of people like you, but to also speak at this august gathering. I thank you for inviting me to speak at the investiture of the 28th Chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and valuers, Lagos State.

I thank the Chief Host of this occasion ESV Johnbull Amayaevbo, PNIVS, RSV. President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers. I thank the committee for this honour, especially the Chairman ESV Tosin Kadiri, FNIVS. I thank you for taking time to come see me in my office. I also thank the secretary ESV Sholakunmi Babarinde ANIVS

Finally, congratulations to the new Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos State ESV Olugbenga Ismail FNIVS in who’s honour we have gathered here today. I read carefully the document showcasing the work of the NIESV in Lagos in 50 years, and I can tell and feel the weight of history upon you. I wish you the very best in your tenure.

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To the rest of us, I thank you for being here. For me, it is very rare to have the opportunity to speak with those that determine how much loan a bank should give you. I hope before I leave here, I will “tap the anointing” of how you determine the valuation of properties.

Introduction

This morning, I thought to speak to you about leadership. Specifically, Nigeria’s leadership and how it shapes our destiny and that of the continent of Africa.

Three things have coalesced and helped me to arrive at this topic.

First, this week, Nigeria celebrated its 63rd independence anniversary from British colonialism. Second, this is an investiture ceremony. Investitures are all about leadership. Third, and I hope you recognise and know this. The history of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers is an history of leadership.

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But first, because I am an economist, permit me to start with a data that summarises Nigeria’s economic performance since independence. Between 1960 and 2020, Nigeria’s average per capita income (adjusted for 2010 data) has increased by just US $1,000. That is, the income growth of the average Nigerian in 1960 compared to that of 2020. However, Nigeria’s performance is one third of the average global economic performance.

Consider that after independence in 1960, Nigeria was at threshold of history, already considered the leader of the black nation, boasting great civil service and superb military. There is no doubt in my mind that the gap between the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians and the whole world at independence and the reality of today is centred around leadership.

So, as a student of leadership, I am often fascinated by leadership lessons wherever I find them. In all my considerations, two have always stood out for me because they affected me personally.

My first lesson of leadership.

In 1979, I was a very young boy. For many of us around then and now, that year and 1999 should resonate. That year, just as 1999, Nigeria had new crop of leaders after military rule. But that group still had the crop of leaders that led us through independence and were attempting to provide the kind of freedom described in Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom. That is, “the freedom to be free.” Though young, I learnt and experience my first lesson in leadership. It happened because my dad had travelled to the UK for further studies. My mum, through no fault of hers became the sole breadwinner of nine children.

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Perhaps if my dad was around, I would have gone to a more established secondary school in Ibadan, but I was “shipped” to Polytechnic High School Ibadan. That remains one of the best things that happened to me, but it’s not about the school, it’s about how the school came about.

Chief Bola Ige of blessed memory was elected the governor of Oyo State in 1979, combined Oyo and Osun States today. In a single day / policy, he established 400 secondary schools and abolished afternoon schools, and Polytechnic High School was one of them. He equipped these schools, expanded the teaching resources, books etc. We had excellent teachers, and it was free.

Anytime I look back, what that teaches me is that a leader must be incredibly ambitious. Not for himself or herself, but for those he leads – helping them grow. Today’s leaders don’t have such dreams and ambitions. We will come to that later.

My second leadership lesson.

I reckon it was sometime in 2008 / 2009, about two years after I returned to Nigeria after 12 years stay in the UK. I was with BusinessDay as the first Chief Economist and Chair Editorial Board. My office and home were in Amuwo Odofin at the time. I think my wife had asked my driver to get something for her and the driver was at Mile 2. But I remember my wife called me that a “Danfo” had hit the car. Now, I recall I had just spent 80k to repair the car, perhaps about half a million Naira today. So, I was livid.

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My wife, my friend and colleague then Michael Ashibogwu, and myself went to the scene of the accident. Because my driver refused to let the driver of the Danfo vehicle leave the scene, many people had gathered. We insisted the driver should fix the car and he argued otherwise. A policeman nearby joined us, still no resolution of the matter. Like I said, I had just spent N80k on the car and was not in the mood spending my own money repairing the car again.

Soon after, a man came in a car, nice car. But he refused to come out of the car (I later realised he was disabled). He encouraged us that we should leave the driver, but I insisted we were not going to leave the driver until he repairs the car. Unknown to me at that point, the man was perhaps the owner of the vehicle, but an “area father”. Within minutes, so many boys came and there and then, I learnt my second lesson in leadership.

As we continued to argue, I think I asked one of the boys that approached me to “listen to me”, and he said to me pointedly “that why should I listen to you, do you feed me”. Invariably, it was the man in the car that feeds them. The boys started beating my driver, my colleague and friends, the policeman. And one man around just winked to me to run for my dear life. That’s how I sped off with my wife.

But that’s not all. I went to the police station in Festac to report the case. We were totally and embarrassingly ignored. Wow, welcome to Nigeria. Lesson learnt.

My second lesson in leadership is that you must make sacrifices for those you lead. Without making personal sacrifices, you can’t be a leader. The man in the car obviously made enough “personal sacrifices” for the boys for them to try and beat anyone contradicting the man’s view.

Conclusion

Today, 24 years after return to democratic rule and seven general elections after, our democracy is evolving and maturing but we are not close to the freedom that politics was supposed to deliver. Let me at this pointedly say that military intervention is not the solution. They created the problem in the first place.

The solution lies in the eradication of leadership of contradictions.

I want you to ponder in your heart for a minute – who is the greatest and outstanding leader that emerged in Nigeria since 1999? I bet you will struggle to name one. What differentiate the leaders that emerged before and immediately after independence of 1950s and 1960s was because they were focused on Nigeria’s political freedom. We trusted them, not because they asked for our trust or forced us to trust them but because they earned it and demonstrated it.

Since independence, our greatest challenge remains freedom – social, economic, and political freedom – raising standards of living, raising the dignity of the average Nigerian, and raising the ability of the average Nigerian to freely choose who leads him or her in a contest that is not only judged to be free and fair in the face of the winner.

So, 63 years after independence, it is poignant that we remember and reminiscent about Olusegun Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Michael Okpara, Chief Bola Ige, Prof. Ambrose Alli and none in the class of leaders since 1999.

Today, the new set of leaders can write their leadership lessons for future generations. What is clear though is that those leadership lessons cannot be contradictory in the way it has been since 1999.

It is contradictory leadership to amass stupendous wealth while the majority wallow in adject poverty. Nigeria has the awful distinction of being the world capital of poverty with 71 million people living in extreme poverty and a total of 133 million people classed as multidimensionally poor. But Nigeria also accounts for one third of every pound spent in Harrods of London.

Nigerian leaders have no qualms sending their children to schools in the UK, US, Canada and everywhere else while the quality of education continue to deteriorate in Nigeria. In the last count, there are still about 20 million children out of school, 20% of the global out of school children are in Nigeria. But Nigeria contributes not less than US $2 billion to UK education GDP.

A feature since 1999 is the increasing number of “Prados” in convoys, more policemen attached to them and their families, while the average ratio of policemen to population continue to decrease. It cannot continue to be contradictory whereby we have “sit at home” on Mondays in the Southeast, extensive oil theft in South South and environmental degradation in the region, banditry in the North Central and North West and the unbelievable scale of mineral resources theft in places like Zamfara. In the Northeast, Boko Haram and its cousins have caused nearly 400,000 deaths and displaced over three million.

They travel to France for toothache and ear infections, after supposedly spending billions of Naira on the hospital dedicated to them while the number of children that die from malaria continues to increase.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, nation rise and fall on leadership. Nigeria will struggle to rise when our leaders are easily blown away by the breezes of corruption, ethnicity, regionalism, and blind loyalty to person and not nation. Our Africa brothers are looking up to us. They are looking up to us because they recognise our size, the potential, and resources. But let’s be mindful that they will not wait for forever if we refuse to rise from our pedestrian and myopic leadership.

I thank you all.

Ogho Okiti

Ogho Okiti

ThinkBusiness Africa

Your daily dose of contexts, commentary, and insights on business and economic developments that matter to you.

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