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‘Just be a person of significance ’

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

This is an excerpt from a keynote I delivered yesterday at the 50th birthday celebration of Dr. Benson Chidi ONYEBUEKE, a top executive in an oil company in Nigeria. I believe you will be richly blessed by the edited talking points on living a life of purpose. The original title is: ‘Where is the elite consensus in Nigeria’s development crisis?’ But the published excerpt (half of the original keynote) here contains some pieces of advice for the celebrator and the power elite in Nigeria. Remain blessed as you read on…

The relevant point here is that my brother, Benson Chidi Onyebueke, PhD, the celebrator is part of the elite in Nigeria. He is a technocrat by virtue of the knowledge power he has. He should be made to be part Professor Osinbajo would like to form ‘the elite consensus on what Nigeria should be in any context. The Vice President has been disturbing whoever cares to listen about the question of ‘elite consensus’ on Nigeria’s development. I am persuaded that there are many members of the elite corps here who should consider the question the Vice President keeps posing on the ‘elite consensus paradigm’.

‘Be a Person of Significance’
In any case, I would like to offer some pieces of advice on how I think he should be a Person of Significance when the clock crows tomorrow and he finds the morning after this ceremony. That should be the deliverable from all my rigmarole on his role as part of the elite trying to form a consensus on Nigeria he would like to see in ten years when he will, by His grace, clock 60.

I mean here that he should begin to number his days as the word of God tells us. Be not afraid of numbering your days. And here is why: the original version of that scripture is:
‘Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’ (Psalm 90:12). Which is by considering the shortness of our life, and by meditating the heavenly joys – by fearing God and keeping His commandments…

‘Don’t Give Up on A Life of Significance’
I want us to learn a great deal from a remarkable author, speaker and a cleric of significance, John C. Maxwell. He is the motivation for the message of today. He inspires me from his 2015 book: ‘Intentional Living: Choosing A Life That Matters’.
I may not have read every book John Maxwell has written, but I found ‘Intentional Living’ to be different from every other book I have read so far.
I love to read biographies and autobiographies of successful men and women, and then try to dig out the leadership lessons from their lives. But Dr. Maxwell did this for this generation in Intentional Living.
He told his life story in a very personal way: it seems a lot like a memoir but then he also wrote about the leadership lessons from his life. He didn’t stop there, but then went on to challenge us with ways to apply those leadership lessons to our own lives.

John Maxwell calls you to live an ‘Intentional Life’
“Living intentionally will motivate you to start asking questions and begin prioritizing whatever is important to you. … Can I make a difference? Whom should I help? How can I help them? How can I add value to them?  According to the classic… An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to the mission of significance.”

If you feel that your life lacks intentionality, Maxwell’s book will help you make the changes necessary. If you feel that your life is intentional now, the book will help you laser-focus on the most significant things you can do to take your impact of significance to a whole new level. Hear Maxwell:

“Most people want to hear or tell a good story. But they don’t realise that they can and should be the good story. That requires intentional living. It is the bridge that crosses the gap to a life that matters.
Maxwell says, “If you want to live a life that matters, don’t start when you get good; start now so you become good.”
He teaches us that, Purpose is the rudder on our boat. It gives us direction and keeps us going in the right direction when the wind is blowing and the waves are crashing against us. It provides calm and confidence in the midst of the storm.
So, another lesson believers in elite consensus building context can take away from here is this:

Don’t Read the Book of Lamentation on Nigeria Anymore’
Every day, we read from the book of lamentation on our country, Nigeria. We complain everywhere we go. We curse our leaders in the social media every minute. We complain about poor service delivery from civil servants and even service providers from South Africa and other lands every day. We all complain about how both the APC and the PDP cannot deliver Nigeria from extreme poverty laurel that our country’s leaders have just snatched from India and acquired for us.

We complain so much about the unethical practices of various professional groups including the celebrator’: engineering, and mine: journalism, for instance. So many keynote speakers in Nigeria have been delivering seminal papers on why we should be an ‘entrepreneurial nation’ like the Western nations where manufacturing remains the key to growth and development. The power elite, (including the ruling elite) have never been tired of telling us about the expediency of quality in education as the only weapon of country and global competitiveness. The list in our lamentation book can’t be exhausted in this note here.

But the question is: when will intentional living challenge us to find creative ways to achieve significance to rebuild our country’s broken walls – from Katsina through Lagos to Yenagoa?

When can and when will the celebrator and most of us stop demonising the APC and PDP and other political groups and join them intentionally to rebuild Nigeria as a world power?

When can we the elite stop complaining about the change we want Nigeria to be and intentionally organize ourselves to wrest the country from the dealers who masquerade as leaders and start advertising walking to us as equivalent to working?

‘Go Back to Your Old School’
My brother, Chidi, the man of the moment, as you mark your 50th birthday, do you know the state of your alma mater, especially, Obiaruku Grammar School, Delta state where you did your post-primary school education? Do you know whether they have qualified Mathematics, Physical Sciences and English language teachers there? Do you know whether the school can still produce future scientists and elite corps members like you in its present state? What can you and other successful old students of the school do to make it a reference point in Delta State – without blaming the ruling party there first?

When will the economic elite stop blaming MultiChoice and DSTV over the multinational’s crazy appetite for increasing their bills and intentionally create competition that will crash their killer bills?

When will there be elite consensus among legal practitioners on the protection of rule of law and sanctity of obedience to court orders even the country’s attorney general does not believe in?

When will there be elite consensus within the country’s mainstream news media about the crisis of reporting democracy that we are likely to lose because of absence of (investigative) journalistic legwork that can topple bad leaders such as Richard Nixon (U.S) and Joseph Estrada (the Philippines)?

It has been established that the major rallying point in elitism centers on the effectiveness with which economic elites are able to influence political outcomes and fashion the destiny of the rest of society. When, therefore can we expect the economic elites in Nigeria to live intentionally to influence a political order that will produce a good leader who will take Nigeria to a country the iconic Nelson Mandela wants us to be. Recall the legend said of us:
‘The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence…’

As my brother Chidi begins to number his days and applies his heart to wisdom, I would like him to note that as God the almighty has given him the grace to be part of the influential members of the power elite, he should begin to maintain a sense of urgency for making a difference every day. But as the legendary Maxwell counsels, every generation gets an opportunity to make a difference, but the people of that generation have to seize that opportunity. Yes, that opportunity to be a difference maker; that grace to adopt the right mindset to seize ‘significance opportunity’. It has been tested that opportunities I am talking about here, do not multiply because they are seen…they multiply because they are seized.

What is more significant, a prophet of purpose Rick Warren, author of a classic, The Purpose Driven Life, reinforces the teaching of Maxwell when he counsels in his 2002 best seller that people should live a life of purpose be seeking to be more significant than prominent. According to him, some people are prominent in this life but they are not significant while some are significant but not prominent. The highpoint of Warren’s message is that God is looking every day for significant, not prominent people – to rebuild the world.

So, citizen Benson Chidi, Onyebueke, as you mark your 5oth birthday as en executive director in an oil and gas company, it is marvelous in our eyes. But my gift to you is: don’t join the club of people who like to wail about Nigeria’s broken walls. Be a Nehemiah, who was not part of the elite corps in Israel of his time but rallied willing people to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. As you rise from here today, join those who are building the elite consensus in your area, in your place of work, in your village, in your old boys association meetings – to be the change you want to see in Nigeria.

Continue to be more significant where you are now. All you have to do is make a difference with others wherever you are, with whatever you have, day by day. That is how to live a life of significance. Even if you are not as prominent in the eyes of men, you will be significant in the eye of God the Almighty. That is more important.


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