Hakeem Belo Osagie’s Closing Remarks from the Online Webinar: A global Pandemic: Local realities and peculiarities- A view from front liners
This crisis, this challenge that the world is facing is going to confront the political, the sociological, the economic and the psychological realities of each of our different societies or each of our different countries, and you can already see it. Some countries that are more orderly have found it easier to enforce lock downs, some part of the United States you can see. They don’t like lock downs and. You can see the differences between Sweden and Norway in how they approach these issues.
This pandemic will also reveal the quality of our leadership and the quality of our followership.
After listening to our governors and front liners, you can hear a certain analytical approach to the problem, a certain information gathering approach to their leadership and a certain intensity and commitment that they have, looking at that problem, and I think that kind of leadership we are all going to have to exercise not just a gubernatorial level but in our companies, in our educational institutions in our families, because in a sense we are all leaders in one sense or another. It also is going to test our followership, because the fact of the matter is that for Nigerians. We are asking 150 million people to change their behavior and 150 million people cannot be policed by the army or the police force. It’s just not possible. And some of them are going to have to obey or follow simply because they have been told to do it and because they believe it’s a good idea and because they trust in their leaders and therefore the quality of followership is going to determine in a real sense how many lives are lost.
I will focus very much on leadership for my last sets of comments. Leaders are associated with dreams and we talk of the importance of leaders having great dreams. I want to point out to you that there are three types of dreams that leaders have
1. There’s a first kind of leader who had a dream and that dream was to reach a certain position. For instance, President of a university, Governor of a state, head of a bank and once he gets to that position, his dream stop because he has already achieved his dream. You can easily recognize such leaders by the way in which they have a certain inactivity and a certain calm that reflects the fact that they have already made it. We don’t want to be like that.
2. There is a leader who has a dream, but it is in essence a day dream and by that, I mean that you don’t see any of the concrete steps that are necessary to turn that dream into a reality and I think there are many of us in all our societies that are day dreamers and we must avoid that problem.
3. There is a third category of leaders we should all aspire to be and I will describe those leaders as people who have a driving dream: That is their dream drive what they are doing. The put in place a set of steps to realize those goals and they hire and they assemble teams of people that assist them in getting to where they wish to go and that is why you often hear of leaders whose driving dream lifts their countries. Lift their people and lift their organization. We all need to have the lift of a driving dream provided for us by our leaders. Who we select to accompany us on those journeys is critical. We often hear good advisers make good leaders that is nonsense. Good leaders select good advisers. Therefore, it is not accident for example that when you look at say a commissioner of health for Lagos state, he is an excellent adviser, he is an excellent adviser because he was picked by a good leader who could recognize that the service of a person like that were required.
It is very much about who that leader is, how he uses his advisers, how he replaces those advisers when they are no longer fulfilling his dream.
I want to say a few comments about Knowledge and Merit. Which we spoke about at the beginning and which came through in our special guests and panelist talks.
The need for us to be knowledge based in all that we do and to have our decisions based on knowledge. We are mucky area. An area where it is true as there is not enough knowledge as we will like there to be, but that is no excuse for taking decisions without knowledge. A bit of knowledge is said to be a dangerous thing, but the more dangerous thing than a little bit of knowledge is no knowledge at all. So, research checking what we are doing examining the data is crucial to that.
Highlight to that is the vital importance of merits and insuring that we have governments that are based on meritocracy.
I personally believe that merit and ability is even divided amongst all parts of Nigeria. Merits is not genetic and I believe that in every single part of our country but within the state and across the state we would always find able and brilliant people. People willing to work hard and it’s our responsibility as a society to create conditions that incentivize the best and the most hard working to be given responsibilities that they can carry out for the benefits of all of us.
The last point I want to mention to all the Nigerians who are listening to this event is the importance of unity in our country. Yes, we are in 36 states and there’s an understandable concern as to what happens if the state next to me is handling the corona virus in a different way. Do I allow them to come into my state and there is this worry you can hear all over the country as to migration within our country, what that does to our country and these raise all sort of issues cos any Nigerian have the right to live in other part of the country or can he be stopped from moving from one part of the country or not? What I want to say and I want to emphasize this. Is that at the end of the day we may erect barriers that slow down movement, but we either have a solution for all Nigerians wherever there are from our we will have a solution for no Nigerians and therefore Nigerians whether you are in Edo state, you have to understand that what happens in Lagos, or what happens in Borno, what happens in sokoto is as critical to the health of your own people as it is to the health of the people in those particular states. This issue of Corona virus and how we react should not impact on the future unity of our country. Some, when you read part of the newspapers have used the Corona episode to in fact argue that maybe Nigeria is really not a natural nation and it is an artificial nation and have gone on to argue that maybe this is the occasion where we should rethink unity of our country. To them I would like to respond as follows.
There are no natural nations anywhere in the world, all nations started out artificial whether Italy, USA, France, United Kingdom or China. It was leaders with driving dreams who assembled governments comprised of people from all over that country united them and gave them a reason to believe that we are better off together than we are separately and all of us leaders whether in government or in the private sector we should constantly give our followers and people in our country reasons to believe we are better off solving our problems united than divided. People like myself who is 65 years of age and who are part of the independent generation of Nigerians those who never saw colonialist in power, only saw Africans in power. We should be in the process of handing over. I am delighted that younger people like Gov Sanwolu, Governor Obaseki are themselves holding on to the reins of influence and power. That is what it should be like. One generation handing over to a younger generation and I do hope that that message and that activity continues because Nigeria is a country in which the bulk of the people are under 35 years of age and we cannot continue to be ruled by people such as us who may even be in extra time in the soccer match that our lives are playing. If we are not in extra time, we certainly very close to the end of the second half and we are lucky that we have younger, brighter and more capable people to take over from us. To all of you that have been here with us today, I thank you very much for your participation. This Virus we would conquer, we would conquer it united, we would conquer it using knowledge, we will conquer it being active and in years to come I am convinced that we would look back to this particular stage in our live and say we came to grips with this problem and we conquered it. Thank you very much, God bless and stay safe.
His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria;
His Excellency, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria;
His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo state, Nigeria;
Mrs. Hamda Ambah, Managing Director, FSDH Merchant Bank and
Dr. Alero Ann Roberts, Senior Lecturer and Consultant, Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
Prof. Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Director, Center for International Development, Harvard University; and
Dr. Jaya Wen, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School.
Chairman, FSDH Holding Company