By Omodele Adigun
President of The Guardian of the Nation International (GOTNI), Linus Okorie has said the nation’s policy making system has failed the people. According to him, the policy makers create a university system that has made it impossible for young people to pursue their original calling for life. In this interview, he sheds more light on how the nation can reinvent itself for economic boom.
Emerging Leadership conference
The Nigerian nation is in high demand for quality leadership capital.
Our country has experienced such a huge loss in terms of resources, human resources, financial resources as well as so many other things that can make any nation or the citizens great. I was 19 years old and a college student of a university when the idea of solving this challenge facing our country hit me. I felt, wont it be nice for us to start early to prepare those that will take over leadership in every sector in the future. Can’t we start now? Won’t it be appropriate for us to start the journey for leadership development very early in life?
Those were the questions I asked myself that led to the establishment of the vision called The Guardian of the nation International. And for many years, we have been in the business of grooming leadership capital for this country. It would interest you to know that we have had over 1000 young people who have benefited from our programmes across Nigeria so far. It would also interest you to know that this year, we set up the first comprehensive leadership centre in Nigeria in Maitama, Abuja, which means a dream comes true. Anybody who can dream anywhere in this country can achieve tremendous result. It is on the basis of this that five years ago, we decided to start the Emerging Leaders Conference. The conference is part of the overall goal of building leaders for Nigeria. It is usually once in a year event that would see 1,000 leaders from all sectors of the economy emerge. So every year, we host 1,000 young people; people who are making a difference in all segments of our country. Young people in their space who are doing great already. I am not talking about people who have not found themselves yet, because we have programmes that deal with those kinds of people. For this conference, I am talking about entrepreneurs, professionals working with organisations already, doing great things. We are talking about business owners, entrepreneurs; we are talking about change makers; we are talking about people who are thinking and loving this country daily; who might run their own organisations; who might be involved in something, but we think that collaboration is the way to go. Nobody succeeds without synergy. Instead of the young people struggling on their own to achieve success, when they come together, they can learn more.; they can grow more; they can become more; they can become outstanding. That is why we set up the Emerging Leaders’ Conference as a learning system.
Emerging Leaders’ Conference is a learning system that provides opportunity for everyone who wants to grow. So, two day-intensive session, every time we gather during the two days, we bring leaders from all over the world and all over the country to inspire us as a people. So this year, we decided to choose a theme:
The Trigger for Economic Boom.
It is timely because it falls into a time when the world recession is hitting everybody. And this has created fears among young people. The fear of uncertainty is in the air. The fear of uncertainty is everywhere. So we are saying don’t allow this fear to grip you as a young person. If you have a big project that you want to make a difference with, it is possible you make a difference in this economy. In fact, it is a time like this most (parts) of the world make progress; it is when businesses started, people saw big ideas, people saw solution to problems, people cared for their country. At a time like this, can we instigate such a solidarity about the learning process where people can sit to learn? Can we collaborate and build together; where somebody from
Sokoto will meet somebody from Ondo and form a collaboration to do something together? Can we do something together to impact our country in 2019? Can we change the language of leadership? Can we, the young people, do it? This is what this conference provides. This great conference will redefine conversation in this country. The conversation we have in this country is petty conversation, not big issue; not things that can strengthen our minds and put us on the path of growth. My heart is key to driving change in this country. I want to say the under 45 people that are coming for this conference all over, it is a chance for us to redefine the country. I want us to come out of the conference strong; having been inspired, having been motivated and having met our likes. Can we form a momentum that can never be the same again?
It would interest you to know that in each of the sessions we had, we had great stories because we tracked them: ‘Oh I came to this conference, I met Mr A, see what we are working on now. Amazing! I came to this conference not loving this country, not believing in Nigeria. But at the end of the two-day conference, I am the man that is behind the love of Nigeria now. I came to this conference, this was what my leadership idea was. But today, I have refused to take bribe in my organisation. I am leading a change in my organisation. I came from the village to attend this conference with no money. Today, I have set up a small farm in the village. I am growing my farm in collaborating with other young people.’ These are the stories. In fact, one person came from Manchester by train for three hours to London to meet me, just to say thank you because she attended one of the sessions. And that has become the foundation of what she is doing now in London. So, the testimony is amazing. So many of them. It is a continuous process. The result might not happen at the same time. But in the next five years, this knowledge must have crystallized. The network must have crystallized and before you know what is happening, you see people from this conference already taking leadership positions in our country. And what they hear in this conference will form their worldview. And what you need in life is to have worldview that is positive. If your worldview says everything is possible, it affects the way you do things. But if your worldview says you live in the world of impossibility, everything will become impossible. So, this conference has provided such a stimulating learning system for the people of this country.
It will interest you to know that we are in the world of data; data management. Without data, how can you make progress? As an organisation that is interested in the progress of people, what we do is that there is a baseline form that we fill once people come to the conference. We want to know where they are; we want to know where they are coming from; we want to know which state they are coming from; which organisations are they working for. And we have all those records. So, within the year, we always follow up with the people to say where are you now? And people begin to respond, this is where we are; these and these are what we are doing. And it is amazing the number of comebacks-people who have attended the conference before, the number of them who are coming for this conference. In fact, it will interest you to know that 20 people are coming from my village. They attended the Abuja conference and the guys have been calling me everyday: airfare is up; they are on their way etc. I am saying that the conference has no boundary.
But we will track them. And a lot of them will make progress.
Why are Nigerian youths not achieving their potential?
Part of what I do for a living for 22 years is thinking about the prosperity of young people. And one of the things I realised is that, first of all, the policy making system has failed the Nigerian people.
In the university system, they created such a system that has made it impossible for young people to pursue their original calling in life.
First thing is that there is dichotomy. Once you get a polytechnic certification, they say you are inferior. You get a College of Education certification, they say you are inferior. Parents now say my son must be a doctor; he must be a lawyer whether they have the flair or not. That has frustrated a lot of young people in this country.
They should have created a certification that is equal because every course in life is important where anybody who wants to study Dance or Dancing steps can find a school where that is taught with the highest resources that you can imagine. If there is a Film School, not the one in New York, but in Nigeria that can compete globally, that people can go to learn how to produce movies or how to be Director. By their passion, that is what they are called to do in life. Imagine if we open up the system, and people can study Philosophy because that is their calling, not because they wanted to study law and they couldn’t and they throw them into Philosophy. What we have is mismanagement of the potentials of our young people over time. On Monday morning, people are afraid to go to work. Those wearing suits are bankers, but they hate to be in the banks. Those in our classrooms are teachers.
And today, they hate to be teachers. In fact, that is the reason they don’ t even know what to teach those young people. That is why a lot of them abuse those young people. Only few of them are there for their calling. In Politics, people who have no passion for public service, no compassion, who now see politics as means to make money now go to do politics.
No country can make progress like that. Allow the fish to swim; allow the birds to fly. That is the statement of policy that can change all of that. You restore the pride of the people. That is the kind of thing I am advocating for. If you can have that in this country and add leadership education to it, then you have a system where you have personal discovery .So no child has the right to get to higher institution until he or she has discovered what they want to do.