(Leadership Series—a platform for new leaders)
I have created this new platform for new leaders to express their vision of great leadership—what the world needs now. I listened to Chief Dele Momodu, Ovation magazine publisher and a Nigerian Presidential aspirant as he shared his vision of the new Nigeria and the next Nigerian leader that we need, broadcast live on Facebook and Instagram. This is an excerpt from Dele Momodu’s off-the-cuff remarks On Leadership based on an interview which I recorded for this column:
Governance is about leadership and leadership is about managing people and resources. If you have never managed one million naira in your private capacity, how are you going to manage ten trillion naira budget? So these are issues that we must tackle. We must stop how we pick our leaders just for elections. We must always focus on our destination.
It is not difficult to unseat a party that has not performed. It’s about getting the candidate that the people can say “OK, this is a good candidate.” Your message must resonate with the people. But if you pick just any of the old politicians who the people feel “they are just the same,” then why should they change the man who is there or the candidate of the ruling party? We must be very serious.
I can tell you that it is very easy to defeat APC today if we get the right candidate. It is very, very easy. For example, if you look at those in APC who have showed up to say they want to be the next President of Nigeria: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Vice President Osinbajo, I started seeing some of his campaign materials yesterday. You can see that even the Vice President is already trying to distance himself from his boss. That tells you something is wrong. And if you look at Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, in the last seven years, both of them have been in APC, and APC was fumbling and yet they did nothing. They did not speak up. For me, that is one of the reasons why I believe APC must be punished. Because our leaders abandoned their people and they just ignored Rome while Rome was burning.
Everyone knows my closeness to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. I haven’t changed my mind about their good qualities. I say the good side of people. Of course every one of us, we have our bad side. But the truth is that they abandoned their people when they were needed the most. The meaning of Asiwaju is that you must be the leader of your people and you must lead from the front. And they have failed to do that. It is as simple as that. So it is not about the good qualities that I saw in him. It’s about the fact that leadership entails leading your people frontally. You cannot abandon them in the days of tribulations. The South has suffered so much. While the North—and that’s one respect I am must give to Northern leaders—try to protect their people all the time, come rain, come shine, our own leaders are so squeamish, they are so timid just because they want to grab power. And that’s a fundamental difference between me and them.
Leadership is not only by grabbing power. You need your people to thrive in any business or any vocation. If you cannot lead your people when they need you, why should you expect them to support you when you need them? It is wrong. And they must be punished for it. Nigeria is the only country I see where someone fails in a particular class and is insisting that he must be promoted to the next class. We must begin to ask questions. What did you do with power? If you are a governor, come and tell us all the things that you delivered in the last seven years. Tell me what the South-West or the South-East or South-South has gained from the APC government. And yet you had very powerful influential leaders in those parties. They kept quiet. So it is not about pandering. The word is not pandering. It is abandonment. They abandoned their people. And that for me is unpardonable. Now the Osinbajo spin doctors are trying to say: “Oh, you know the man is good. But it is because of his boss.” You don’t say that in politics. They are culpable.
You must make use of structures and platforms. Chief Abiola would not have won today if we had a multiparty system and he refused to join the two leading political parties. It would be impossible. Donald Trump is a billionaire in America. America allows private candidacy. But Donald Trump did not make the mistake of Ross Perot by saying “I will win an election without having structures.” You need structures. Today I am the leading candidate who has declared yet, who is reshaping the conversation. In Nigeria and abroad, everybody is excited. The last time I saw this kind of excitement was 1993. It would be 30 years of June 12 next year. We can bring joy back to Nigeria. The reason everyone is talking about me is because I am in a major, formidable political party. Within PDP, there is excitement. Leaders are coming from all over the country, people are coming from outside the country, saying: “Oh, we are happy we have a fresh face.” Nigeria needs that deep breath of fresh air here. We cannot continue to repeat the same mistake and expect a different result.
I am both from the South-South and South-West. My father is from Edo State. I declared from the South-South. I am the only one combining two major regions of Nigeria. And the third, by the grace of God, I am one of the closest to the South-East. There is nobody who has my kind of contacts nationwide. What my profession has done for me was to provide a solid foundation for me to reach out to every part of Nigeria. There is no part of Nigeria today that is not home to me. If I go to Sokoto today, from the governor to His Eminence our father the Sultan, I would have access. If I go to Kano, I have known the Ado Bayeros for over thirty years while I was working for the then Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuade Olubuse II. If I go to Maiduguri today, the home where I would sleep is the house of an APC man. But he is not going to kick me out because we have been friends for over 30 years. That’s what Chief Abiola did. And that’s why I tell people that I have the template of Abiola—the ability to be at home everywhere in Nigeria. If I go to Minna to meet former President Babangida or I go to former head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar, he is not going to say: “Dele is not my friend.” I have been very tolerant. Even those who put me in detention, I never retaliated. I learnt from Mandela who spent 27 years in prison, came out and was able to reconcile his nation and everybody moved on for the betterment of their country. Nigeria today needs someone who is cosmopolitan, who is well-educated, who is well-received everywhere, well-connected, who is charismatic, who is knowledgeable. It’s a combination. The next President of Nigeria must be the CEO of Nigeria and treat Nigeria the way he would treat his own business. He must be a brand manager who can rebrand Nigeria. The negativity against Nigeria today is so much that many businesses are running away to Ghana, they are running away to other countries. Whilst Nigeria has the population, has the human resources, we have the brilliance, yet we don’t have leaders who can rally their people, who can galvanize them into action and make sure we occupy our rightful place in the comity of nations.