Each time we meet and sit down to talk, it is about leadership. The first time we interviewed Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi, he was the governor of Ekiti State.
Each time we meet and sit down to talk, it is about leadership. The first time we interviewed Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi, he was the governor of Ekiti State. My late friend Dimgba Igwe and I were interviewing him for a spanking hot new biography on Babatunde Raji Fashola, The Nigerian Dream which is now ready and staring me in the face as I write this column. There will be a date for its official presentation.
The second time I met Dr. Fayemi, I was gathering materials for another biographical project in which he offered me great and exclusive insights into the business icon I am writing about. Unknown to me then, Fayemi was on the cusp of resigning as President Buhari’s Minister of Solid Minerals Development and throwing his hat into the political ring to re-contest for the office of the governor of Ekiti State—an office he lost a political season ago to the irrepressibly loquacious Peter Ayodele Fayose, the neck-brace- wearing-lame-duck governor of Ekiti State.
When Fayemi lost to Fayose, he left with dignity, like the gentleman that he has always been, not challenging his defeat in court, but going back to the drawing board to re-strategize. Four years after, Governor Fayemi is back to prove that the true test of a champion is not how many times you fall, but being able to rise from the canvas and fighting back like Anthony Joshua who famously knocked out Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th Round to win the IBF world heavyweight belt after a fall.
In the encounter with Fayemi on March 25 this year, he was full of words of encouragement for my persistence and determination to
travel this difficult and lonely road of biographical writing. About the man I am writing about, Fayemi said in his cool, assuring voice: “I am not sure that given his reticence that he is ever going to write about himself. And it would be a huge disservice to just glimpse off (his story) on the pages of Forbes magazine or Newsweek or TIME. It doesn’t tell you anything. You can’t glean this from one or two pages of feature story in a popular global magazine. It requires an in-depth study and I believe you are doing a service not just to Nigerians and Africans but to humanity by trying to cobble this biography together.”
What an encouragement from this man of letters and a former journalist! Fayemi was full of laments for the tragedy of past Nigerian business giants whose businesses died with them because they didn’t leave behind good corporate governance structures, didn’t build enduring brands, their legacies were not preserved and no books were written about them such as you find in the Western world where there are books on legendary business founders like John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Sam Walton, Ray Kroc and Bill Gates among other global business giants. And this is the vacuum we are trying to fill and be the leader of this literary genre.
“For me, leadership is not political leadership alone,” Fayemi said, as we explore the whole gamut of leadership. “There is the tendency to restrict leadership to those who are presidents, prime ministers, governors and all that, particularly in this country. But I think that would be a wrong definition of leadership. Leadership for me is influence.”
He points out that Nigeria has a couple of business leaders who are so influential that they hobnob with presidents and world leaders. Where they can reach, “some presidents can never reach, and where they can enter, some governors will never be able to enter. In their own quiet way, they affect lives and communities with their philanthropy. They are able to achieve influence in an understated manner.”
In Fayemi, you find a genial soul with a cerebral mind, a gift of the gab and native wisdom steeped in the lore of his humble Ekiti origins. He laughs a lot, particular when he cracks a joke or comes up with a Yoruba proverb which he attempts to translate into English. One of his proverbs: “Your yam will never grow in the eyes of
your enemies.” In the eyes of his enemies, his yam has grown and he is having the last laugh which is the best laughter having won an election a second time to return as the governor of Ekiti State.
As a man who has been lucky enough to serve as a leader in two high-profile positions, first as a governor and next a minister, I asked Dr. Fayemi: How is leadership as a governor different from leadership as a minister? And what leadership lessons has he learnt in the two positions?
“Leadership is influence as I have already indicated. Leadership as a governor is executive. Leadership as a minister is delegatory. That simply describes the difference. The first leadership lesson I have learnt is that you must do everything that is people-centred. Don’t see leadership as a title. It is not an office. Because you are going to leave that office one day. And that title is going to leave one day. Anyone who finds himself in a position of leadership should see leadership as impact and influence. Because that is what people would remember when you are no longer there. In our setting, we have a messianic approach to leadership. I have also learned that no single person can turn around society. No one person knows it all. You need the collective to make a difference. Yes, you need to be firm as a leader, you need to show direction, you need to have vision and you need to be driven. However, you also need people. And that is why you must be people-centred.”
World after World Cup
On Twitter (Mike Awoyinfa @ pressclips) I posted this message on the World Cup which I believe is relevant to all my followers in this column:
Now that the World Cup is over, this is the time to plan your personal World Cup for the next 4 years. What goals are you aiming to score between now and the next World Cup? What are your objectives, plans, vision and strategy? Think beyond football. May God help you.
66 Years of Solitude
By Monday, I would have travelled 66 good years of solitude and the fulfilled dream and freedom of a writer and a roving reporter, on this small, beautiful planet of ours which I landed on July 23, 1952. There is nothing like life, a good life. Being alive. Breathing. Waking up. Having a soul. And God’s engine inside of you. Moving. Driving yourself and finding your destiny. I give God the glory. All the glory.