Preaching efficient leadership culture through literary engagement
Femi Adelegan, retired public administrator is President/CEO of Terrific Investments and Consulting Co. Ltd, and the author and publisher of notable publications including Africa: The Game Changers and Dynamics of Power (2014); Nigeria’s Leading Lights of the Gospel (2013); Governance: An Insider’s Reflections (2009, 2012); The Press Secretary (1998); and Editor of From The Treasures of the Heart (2006). For most of the 1990s through the turn of the millennium (1994-2000), Adelegan served as an image manager and spokesman to four successive governors of Osun State, Nigeria. He also served (2003-2010) as Chief Private Secretary/Special Adviser on Policies, Programmes and Plans Implementation to former Governor of Osun State, prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. In this encounter with KABIR ALABI GARBA, Adelegan spoke about his love for writing and why issue of political governance dominates his literary engagement. Excerpts:
YOUR flair for writing has enabled you to author some books on governance, what are the motivation and the attraction?
I would say that I have been privileged and lucky to have had the wonderful opportunity of serving personalities, who gave me wide latitude to perform my official and professional functions while serving in different governments, and I was fortunate that they also trusted my inherent capabilities. The bosses are Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Navy Captain Anthony Udofia (retd); Colonel Theophilus Bamigboye (retd); Colonel Anthony Obi (retd) and Chief Bisi Akande. Working with these people provided the opportunity to acquire a rich blend of knowledge, experience and maturity that I have continued to share with the public, thus, demystifying what governments and political actors do. I must also state that my umbilical tie with family of educationists is also a notable factor. I developed my flair for writing through continuously scripting, and also reading whatever literature comes my way. I have served in governments first as a press secretary, and later, as a speechwriter. My duties involved huge paper work that requires writing all of the time. Above all, I have always asked for God’s wisdom, because I believe that it is the Creator that gives wisdom to people to achieve their goals and objectives.
Yes, the talent is in-born, but how did you hone the writing skill which has now blossomed?
I meditate a lot, and in the process, lots of fundamental issues arise, which I consider important enough to be published for public consumption. Like I have said, coming from a family of educationists, my father was a 1951 graduate of the University College, Ibadan, and my mother was a school headmistress, impacted my flair for writing considerably. Over the years, I developed the habit of reading widely, issues pertaining to political governance, international relations and similar fields. My training in journalism and administration, wide exposure, and public service experiences have combined to serve as critical influence, having served in various positions as a participant-observer in five different governments. I served as Chief Press Secretary during the turbulent military era when the emphasis was more on management of crises. I have been involved in continuous writing, reading and research, and these have made me develop the art of reflecting deeply and logically; through scripting. I had the responsibility of writing former Governor Oyinlola’s speeches, public lectures and papers, among others. And you know this involves deep research and reading. I was also in charge of Diaspora liaison, relations with foreign embassies and also supervised the investment promotion desk for the governor who was passionate about developing Osun State. During this period, most of the difficult and sensitive tasks that had to do with paperwork got assigned to my desk. Among others, I was very involved in the process leading to the establishment of the Livingspring Free Trade Zone, and the Livingspring Minerals Promotion Company, Osogbo, which were successfully achieved. Osun State was the only state government in the whole of Nigeria that was able to bid for, and win mining sites all over the country, in a thorough exercise conducted by the Bureau of Public Enterprises. Also, the Osun State Airport project. The week my dad, who was critically ill passed on in May 2007, I was in Abuja, on the order of Prince Oyinlola, shuttling between the Federal Ministries of Water Resources and Aviation, to do a last minute follow-up of approvals for release of funds for the Osun Airport project and the rehabilitation of the Ede-Osogbo water supply schemes. There was also the Centre for Black Culture project. I really have cause to be grateful to God for the confidence reposed in me by my successive bosses and the divine enablement to cope with responsibilities.
What are the issues that have militated against the development of Africa?
Each time I have travelled out of Nigeria, I wonder why Africa, and particularly our dear nation, has not developed significantly like the First World where things work and there is order. I would say leadership and good governance seem to be the strongest factors militating against Africa. The continent requires competent, patriotic and selfless leaders to move it forward. They must be leaders with mission and vision, who could articulate the development agenda to the advantage of the citizenry. Lack of adequate infrastruture that are critical to quality of lives, armed conflicts and militancy, hunger, political instability, lack of respect for the Rule of Law and illegal capital flight are some other issues. I believe there is a compelling need for the redistribution of wealth through workable policy initiatives. We should start to learn how to shun ostentatious display of wealth and extravagance in a continent where starvation and relative lack of welfare services are staring Africans in the face. Unfortunately, our efforts at diversifying the economy are yet to start yieding encouraging dividends. We must evolve policies that would radically reduce spendings on overhead in favour of infrastructural development, while the private sector must properly take the lead in growing the economy of Africa, supported with good policies and reforms. With good leaders and good governance, Africa can record monumental breakthroughs, and these issues are adequately treated in my publications.
With the perceived poor reading culture, do you think writing and book publishing is commercially rewarding?
It is a matter of satisfaction for me that my books are being marketed by reputable foreign publishers. But I still have to be better known to make tremendous impact. It takes some time to record the feat of selling in millions and only a few known writers could easily record that level of achievement. You must be prepared to attend book fairs and the likes in some major capitals globally, and participate in functions where generation of literature is encouraged. I believe I will get there soon, by God’s grace. Let me say that my books, particularly those on governance have been very useful and are being used as text books in tertiary institutions, and in government training institutions.
And I will continue to write because the urge comes naturally and my wife knows that whenever I am on my computer, I don’t allow distractions so that my thoughts could be coherently written. In summary, I am grateful to God for the gift or skill of writing. As to financial resources, I would say, with modesty that I am an easy-going person who is not carried away by the lust of office. I think whatever influence I had in positions in which I served was a function of my organisational ability, administrative competence and resilence. I also have the spirit of contentment inherited from our parents. I never believed I was influential in any manner, or was the best hand available, or that I was indispensable, and never conducted myself in any way that would injure the confidence reposed in me by my bosses. I kept a reasonable and respectable distance and I was not an influence peddler. I have also always been conscious of the fact that God detests the proud. Public officers must demostrate humility because it is a virtue. They should know that at the expiration of their tenures, they will leave the office. As to financial resources, contractors never passed through my office and my office never had a vote for the award of contracts while I was in government. I also never asked my bosses for favours too often; but I used my writing skills to publish some books, which was a legitimate business and I am grateful to them for supporting my book publishing objectives.
What are the secrets of remaining in the corridors of power for two decades?
There cannot be any alternative to hard work and sincerity of purpose. As for intrigues, nobody is immune to it, even among fellow workers, and the recipe is to prove your worth prayerfully. And intrigues occur in every gathering where people interact. It occurs in places of worship too and they could be products of envy. People would gossip and tell lies against you and do all sorts of terrible things. As an aide to a head of government, people tend to over-estimate the extent of how one could go, to assist numerous people. But once your conscience is clear, you just forge ahead as you are not expected to engage a town crier to talk about your limitations and how many people you have helped. As to the secrets of staying long in office, I would say God, dedication, hard work and a bit of luck were responsible. I say God first, because of my faith and belief that you cannot achieve anything without the knowledge and backing of the Creator, and that every accomplishment is by the grace of God; dedication – because it is a critical determinant of success; hard work – because success demands sweat and determination, while laziness attracts failure; and a little bit of luck, – because there are numerous equally good, or even better hands that were not located for sensitive and important positions that I have been privileged to occupy. I never allowed any challenge to weigh me down, and was ever prepared to ride on every storm that I encountered. And God has always been by my side.
How has the virtues you have spoken about and other influences aided your performances?
First and foremost, I appreciate God without whom nothing is achievable. Basically, my nature and nurture have been very strong factors. I would say I became an observer of the process of governance very early in life. My father, Chief S.T. Adelegan (now deceased) was deputy speaker of the defunct Western Region House of Assembly from 1960-1965, and we were very close. Before the first Republic collapsed in 1965, I was already a teenager and being in dad’s company most of the time influenced my political proclivity later in life. I remember attending some sessions of the Western Region House of Assembly with him, and watched proceedings from the public gallery with his driver, especially during the post-emergency period in the Western-Region, when my dad acted as the Speaker. I remember having the privilege to meet with high-ranking government officials like late Chief S.L. Akintola, Chief Remi Fani-Kayode, who was then deputy-premier, and other great Nigerians. Fortunately, our dad was very much respected as a principled person who managed the post emergency Western Region Legislature competently and got commendations from both sides of the House for being an impartial Speaker. He loved equity and justice and would always say his mind. I imbibed all these virtues from him.