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Linus Okorie On Wednesday the 13th of February, 2013 At the GOTNI Leadership Centre Abuja Time: 9: 30 am Interviewed by Mr. Immanuel M
A very good morning to you all, today we have here a Distinguished Nigerian in the person of Mr. Linus C. Okorie. He is a leadership capital development consultant and the Founder of the Guardians of the Nation International, GOTNI. GOTNI is a non-profit leadership development organization which operates from Africa, having its headquarters in the Federal capital city of Abuja in Nigeria. It is a great honour to have you today sir. “It’s a pleasure to be here too.” Sir, going straight to the matter at hand, in our continent today, so many reasons have been said to be the cause of Africa’s underdevelopment and in our country Nigeria in particular we have heard all sorts, from
corruption to mismanagement and even education. You however are giving us a different and more proper perspective which is the deficit of leadership capital. Could you please explain your stand point? “The truth of the matter is that nations of the world that have been able to inspire their people to levels of development and growth are those that have had their leaders share in developing the leadership content that enabled them use those principles of leadership to drive growth. For many years the African continent has been hit with such a deficit of quality leadership capital. Most leaders that have had the opportunity to lead their countries have been filled with a lot of self-interest.
I do not understand how a continent so rich in natural resources and blessed with great wealth cannot afford to have real rich citizens. My thinking is that it has to do with the quality of the leadership capital that is in place. If Africa must join the developed continents, we must be able to integrate leadership development into our systems. Bringing it home, Nigeria is referred to as the giant of Africa, in terms of population and the energies and talents we possess. We can lead the committee of nations in Africa; we can inspire followership across Africa if things are working within our borders. But where there is deficit of leadership capital, there is no progress, we take two steps forward and 3 steps back; such an economy is not sustainable in terms of development.
So what we encourage is a situation where our leaders begin to develop proper leadership skills: I am talking about selflessness, the ability to serve, a passion to make a difference, the ability to run and drive a vision. That an African leader can come to power and set a focus and not derail, that his country is his priority, that he ensures everything is working in every sector of the economy, that’s what we need. Isn’t it alarming that Mo Ibrahim for a couple of years hasn’t found any African leader after being head of state, worthy to receive 5 Million dollars for providing good leadership in the continent of Africa? It’s a shame. So if we must begin to make a change in Africa, it is important that we start early to begin to pay attention to the true meaning of leadership, to educate the young ones on its true meaning, to take leadership education very seriously so the future leaders can start early to learn what it takes to build. I believe that the way to go.” You run a non-profit organization Called Guardians of the Nation International GOTNI; what is GOTNI about? “It all started about 16 years ago, I read a leadership material and saw how one distinguished person was able to mobilize his country men and women to transform his country and I saw sound leadership skills being displayed. I began to think, what if African leaders can do the same, what if anyone who finds themselves in leadership can forget about themselves and begin to think about how to add value to society? So my mind began to think about the possibilities if we begin early to groom leaders for the African continent, using Nigeria as a starting point. It was in that pensive mood that GOTNI was born. It was born with a desire to see a new cadre of leadership in the African continent, so
people can emerge and become leaders because they have learnt early that leadership matters. In the past years we have been advocating for leadership development, we thought; if we can inspire the young ones to develop leadership qualities early enough, they can make a difference over a period of time. And if they are taught principles of integrity, vision, sacrifice, taught how to use power for the sake of the common good, over time they would be able to transform whatever sector of the economy they find themselves in. that is how this organization was born. In the past 20 years we have been involved with over 20,000 young people at various levels and through our different programmes, and we still have a long way to go in inspiring the entire nation to think leadership for problem solving. And we are beginning to make things happen along this line, our assurance is that Over time we will have groomed leaders who in the future of Africa will set the pace for what true leadership is and this will spur quality development across every sector. Singapore did the same, they had almost the same independence period with Nigeria and
almost the same economic power, but they did something different. They took their very
From what I’ve gathered you have been a proponent of this cause for the past 17 years, how has it been? Do you think Nigerians are more aware now than before as regards the need for leadership development, and most importantly from your perspective; are we ready to engage in this change? “At the time we started, people didn’t have an understanding on what leadership was about, it was still far back in the military era. Some people even thought our ideas were not workable given the context, but I am amazed at the level of awareness growing within the country. People are beginning to link non-performance on various levels to the deficit of leadership capital. They are beginning to see lack of quality leadership as a developmental challenge, but the reality is still yet to hit the nation in full. Yes, people are thinking about it, complaining about it, but not many are actually doing anything to address the core leadership challenge facing our country. Sometime ago they introduced the peer review mechanism where African leaders can be responsible for getting each other to work effectively, but it doesn’t stop at that.
best of young people, invested in their leadership capital, gave them a vision of what their nation could be in the future and they in turn began to dream big dreams in their little corners. It was the coming together of those dreams with a capacity to achieve it and necessary actions that gave birth to today’s Singapore. So our countries must go back to teaching leadership very early so we can create a fresh crop of leaders that can make Africa work; this is our primary objective.”
What we need is the emergence of a movement across the continent that begins to expose the lack of leadership culture in place and begins to encourage young people to participate in the leadership process. Over time what you will see is that the leadership education will penetrate every segment of society. This is why GOTNI is focusing on young people at different levels, high schools, youth corps members, young professionals, taking leadership even to the grassroots, to local communities. So we are trying to pick up momentum but there is still a lot to be done.” All these years, what has been your driving force? What has kept you going? Many individuals have started pursuits similar to these and after a few years we stopped hearing about them but you have been consistent, so what has been the hope that has kept you going? “You know leaders are dealers in hope, when there is no leadership hope is gone. What keeps us going all these years is the hope that we have that if we continue with what we are doing, that if we get it right, the millions of people in Nigeria for instance that have suffered over the years would
experience wealth and development. The hope that one day we will fix this country, is the driving force, for when we look at posterity, that one day our children unborn will be able to have what they need to build upon; that is the success we hope to achieve. Why do we invest heavenly in infrastructure that we never get to see? A great man once said that we are blind until we see that nothing is worth the making if it doesn’t make the man “ why buildest these cities glorious while men un-buildeth go?” at the end we would be the ones to suffer if we do not develop our leadership capital, and even if we don’t, our children will. So why don’t we fight to create this change for the sake of the children of Africa. Do you know how many lives are lost as a result of bad leadership? How many deaths, how long will this continue? The fear that if we fail to keep going, it will be disastrous for Africa, keeps us pushing whether we are recognized or not, supported or not. Someday we hope that we might be able to see that young man whom we once taught leadership become a minister of the federal republic and is able to create policies that will influence lives for good.
What if we have been able to train one young person who might be president of one of these countries someday, what sort of legacy will that person leave behind, can you see what I am talking about?
So its things like these that keep me going, for the fact that I am doing what is eternal and adding value to the world.” Now Coming to a more recent issue, Your organization GOTNI, is planning a conference for the month of April: you call it an Emerging Leaders conference, it is quite an interesting title which creates some intrigue in our minds, so when you say ‘EMERGING LEADERS” What do you mean, who are these emerging leaders, and what informed this concept. “It will interest you to note that in every society there are young people that have been able to distinguish themselves in terms of providing mentorship to their peers, that despite, the conditions they have been able to rise to positions where people look up to them as reference. So it was our aim to create a brand of such young people that are doing great things in every part of their society. So we came up with the idea to host 1000 young people with a passion to make a difference within their spheres coming together as change makers. Can you imagine the result of such a gathering? It is a place where the level of networking that would take place will be a leadership development process, where ideas will explode. This is a
If we get it right, we would be able to export leadership to the world and this is what excites us; that in doing good, we are building cultures all over the place that can sustain development. A great friend and mentor, professor John Adair in his last visit to Nigeria said to me “Linus, the greatest task that is before us is to be able to groom good leaders and leaders for good” and he said “Linus, you are in the heart of solving your nations greatest problem” that gave me joy.
huge opportunity for anyone who is a change agent for this country, an opportunity for government institutions to find young people to partner with for their programmes, an opportunity for everyone to identify with: companies, communities, Nigerians in diaspora, for everyone. The conference is actually collaboration between the punch newspaper and GOTNI and this is one partnership that would host events that would bring about a paradigm shift in the economy of our country.” Back to the Conference itself, I’m aware that you have hosted various conferences as far back as 1999, which have been building up to this one so there must be a clear direction. So what is the objective of this emerging leader’s conference? And for this conference what should we expect to see? What do you have planned for us?
“First of all the invitation that would circulate will be a search for 1000 people that think they are qualified , that have change programmes, who would go through
professor of leadership, Professor John Adair, Dr. David Oyedepo, the chancellor of covenant university, Mr. tony Elumelu, and so many others. We will also be having ambassadors from countries that have made great progress, coming to communicate through stories how their countries achieved greatness. There will also be networking opportunities and it is our intention to broadcast live, so that individuals who do not have the opportunity to be there can also participate from wherever they are. There will room for social media contributions, reports, feedbacks and more. I believe that the outcome of his conference will spur a paradigm shift in this nation, and this will be a foundation for what will take place in the pan African emerging leaders’ conference coming soon. It is a conference that this country will really be proud of.”
the selection process and qualify. Next these ones will be locked up in a conference environment for 2 days, and be taught and inspired by the best minds from around the world. Individuals like the first
What was your criteria in selecting your speakers and mentors who will facilitate these conference? “For this conference, we looked for people who have great love for this country, people who have contributed to the growth of their institutions, their countries and we hope that they can take these values they have got and pass it on to these young minds. We looked for the quality of their leadership skills, the quality of their stories, people whose personal stories can inspire change. We will also be having young speakers given the opportunity to share their aspirations and expectations for the country they want to see. The objective is to be able to come out with at least four ideology frameworks for this country. No nation can make progress without a co-ideology, we couldn’t establish one during our independence, so we are going to re-create these frameworks so that when you see a Nigerian you can identify him or her with certain ideologies; For example honest and hardworking. Could you imagine what happens if these ideologies become real? Eventually these young ones will be released to go inspire change all across the country.”
I understand sir, that this conference is for 1000 emerging leaders, so If I should think myself as qualified to be an “emerging leader, How do I get to participate? What are the procedures? “If you are inspired to be a part of this conference, if you think you want to make a difference, all you need to do is go to our website and submit your profile, your CV and a letter of intent on why you want us to give you a seat at this conference. Our selection team will go through your submission and nominate those who qualify based on our criteria. For any organization that is working hard to position itself as a leadership brand, this is an opportunity. We have various partnership packages, conference stands and many others.” Sir, I believe this conference is one of the igniting points for your strategic approach to leadership development, so the key question is; after the conference then what? How do you follow through to ensure that the fire keeps spreading and that progress is being made by the various stakeholders that have evolved from the conference point?
“There’s a post-conference plan. First of all we would have all the data of the participants; we have a conference book that will be released afterwards. For our participants, we will know where they are and work with them based on their
locations. We would have a lot of smaller leadership conferences in various sectors and communities where these participants will be the facilitators. These programmes coincide with GOTNI’s timing to raise a 2 billion naira leadership bond to aggressively pursue leadership development all over the country without financial restraints. So there’s a lot coming up after.”
“Now going back to our nation sir, given the need, given that as a nation we must change if we must remain relevant, what is expected of us as, individuals, as institutions, as a government as a Nigerian, what is our responsibility in ensuring leadership capital development?” “I can see the role that anyone can play, all we need is first to change our paradigm, change the way we think, we should stop thinking ‘give me’ but ‘what can I give.’ We must discard the concept of ‘share the national cake’ we must begin to think what quality of service, of mentorship we can give to those around us. Once we have been able to change that attitude, where our concept of thinking becomes about how to make our environment work, it doesn’t matter what responsibility we are given, that we will ensure it is taken very seriously. By this we create a consortium of leaders all over and we find that nation al transformation will be at hand.” On a final note if you were to describe in one sentence the Nigeria of your dream, the Nigeria you hope to see, the Nigeria that you are currently giving everything you have to build, how would you describe it?
A Nigeria where everything works and I believe we can get to that point. It has been a pleasure having you today sir, and believe that with minds like you pursuing causes like this, change is being birthed even as we speak. Thank you for your time. You are very welcome. The Emerging Leaders conference is scheduled to hold on the 26th and 27th of April 2013, at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja Nigeria. For more information please visit the website: WWW.GOTNING.COM, if you also desire to be a part of this change in developing Africa’s leadership capital please visit the website and you would get all the information you need. Change is around the corner, and I hope you’d be part of it.