‘Self-reinvention is critical to reviving economy, others’
Linus Okorie is the Managing Consultant, New Vision Consults. He is an attitude and leadership development consultant, with over 20 years of experience. He is the founder and president, Guardians of the Nation International (GOTNI), a leadership development non-profit organisation working with 15 brands. Okorie is also the West African representative of Adair International United Kingdom. He is a radio and television presenter and host of “Leadership Clinic” on AIT. Ahead of the Emerging Leaders Conference 2016, scheduled for tomorrow and next in Lagos, which he is championing, Okorie, spoke with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, on how the summit will impact Nigeria’s economy and the youth population, who are desirous of a positive change. Excerpt
What inspired emerging leaders conference 2016?
Our country has experienced such a huge a loss in terms of human and financial resources as well as so many other things that can make a nation great.
I was 19 years old and a college student at a university when the idea of solving this challenge facing our country hit me. And I said it would be nice to start preparing those who will take over the leadership of this country in every sectors of the economy. I said to myself that it would be appropriate to start the journey for leadership development very early in life. Those were the questions that I asked myself and that led to the establishment of the vision that is today known as Guardians of The Nations International.
For many years, we have been in the business of grooming human capital for this country. It will interest you to know that we have had over 100,000 young people who have benefitted from this initiative across Nigeria so far. It will also be interesting to know that this year; we set up the first comprehensive leadership centre in Nigeria. It is in Maitama, Abuja. This means dream actually come through.
Anybody who can dream 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 Emerging leaders conference is part of the overall goal targeted at building leaders for Nigeria. It is usually a once in a year event that would have 1000 leaders from all sectors of the economy emerge. So, every year we host 1000 young people, those who are making a big difference in all sectors of our country – young people in the states that are doing great things already. I am not talking about those people who have not found themselves yet because we have programmes that deal with those kinds of people. But for this conference, we are looking at entrepreneurs, professionals working with organisations doing great things already. We are talking about business owners, I mean entrepreneurs. We are talking about change makers. We are talking about people who are in love with this country, though working with organisations already or running their businesses and that believe that collaboration is the way to go.
The fact is nobody succeeds without synergy. Instead of young people struggling to achieve success, when they come together, they learn more, grow together and become outstanding. That is the reason we set up the emerging leaders conference as a learning system.
The merging leaders’ conference is a learning system that provides an opportunity for those who want to grow to actually grow. It is a two-day intensive session. Every time we gather in these two-days, we bring in leaders from all over the country to inspire us as a people. So this year we decided to choose a theme tagged: Self-Reinvention: The trigger for economic boom. This is timely because it falls into a time the word recession is hitting on everybody and this has created fear amongst young people. The fear of uncertainty is in the air. So, we are saying that don’t allow this fear to grip. We have come to realise that most times like this, businesses succeed when they tarried and bring up solutions. So, we say that time like this, can we instigate trends, collaborate and build together. This is where somebody from Sokoto will meet with someone from Ondo and collaborate to do something together. So, we are saying: can we do something together so that by 2019 we can change the language of the leadership?
This conference will define conversation in this country. The conversations that we have seen before now in this country are very petty, not big ones. Not ones that can stretch our minds and put us in the part of growth. We have seen that the possibilities are high for young people to change the pattern of doing things in Nigeria. We are looking at under 45 years old that would be gracing this conference as a chance for us to change the face of this nation.
From the previous editions of this conference, what are the success stories?
It will interest you to know that in each of the sessions we have had, we have heard great stories because we track them. For instance, I came to this conference, I met Mr. A, this is what we are working on. I came to this country not loving and believing in Nigeria, but I am the man behind the success of Nigeria now. I came to this conference and these are what my leadership ideas are. I have refused to take bribe in my organsation; I have become the change agent in my place. I came from the village to attend this conference with no money; today I have set up a small farm in the village and growing my farm collaborating with other people to achieve our goals. These are the stories that have been emanating thereafter. In fact, one person came to Manchester by train to London to meet with me just to say thank you because she attended one session and that has become a foundation of what she’s doing now in Manchester. So, the testimonies are amazing and 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 crystalise, the networks must have come together and by the time you know what is happening, you will see people from this conference, already taking leadership positions in our countries.
So if our world view is positive, it definitely affects the way we do things. So, this comes as avenue to provide a stimulating platform for people of this country.
How do you follow up with discoveries from previous sessions?
It will interest you to know that we are in the world of data. Without data, how can you make progress? What we do is that we have a baseline form, which people fill when they come for the conference because thereafter, we want to know where they are, where they are coming from, organisations they work for. So, within the year we always follow up on people to know where they are. And people responds. It is amazing to know the kind of feed backs that we get from people who have attended this conference before. Different people are coming; in fact it will interest you to know that 20 people are coming from my village. They attended the Abuja conference. What I am saying is that the conference has now boundaries, so many people are coming and we shall track them and we will make progress.
Have you ever sat down to ask why are the youths are not achieving their purpose?
Part of what I do for a living for about 23 years is to look for the prosperity of young people. What I realised first of all is that the policy making system has failed the Nigerian people. This is because the university system created one that has made it impossible for young people even in the first place to pursue their original calling for life. There is dichotomy. If you go to Polytechnic and not the University, they say you are inferior. Apart from that, parent now say my children must be a doctor, lawyer whether the skills are there not. So that has frustrated a lot of young people.
What also happened is that if you create a system where certification is equal because every course in live is important, where anybody who wants to study dancing steps can find a school to get that done with the best resources, there will be development. But we have seen mis-management of the potential of our young people over time. So, on a Monday morning, people go to work, kitted up in suits, especially those bankers, but they hate to be in the banks. Those in the classrooms as teachers, also are tired, they didn’t plan to end there. That is why they abuse the young people they are supposed to be leading.
In politics, those who have no passion for it are the ones there, who see politics as an avenue to make money instead of rendering good services. No country can make progress like that. There is need to allow the fish to swim, the bird to fly among others. That is the statement of policies that can change all of that. That is the kind of thing I am advocating for, that if we can have something of that nature, and then add leadership education to it, then you have a system of discovery. So, no child goes into the universities without a particular discovery. So we can actually build from there. Ideas take about 10 years to develop and mature. So, those who want to do business should go to the business school and get equipped.
Those young leaders who pursue their dreams early are the ones out there making waves now. Those who have positioned themselves early are the ones that will definitely make impact. The Nigeria that will prosper will be one that everybody is bringing value. Right now, only less than 10 per cent of Nigerians are bringing values to the table. A lot of people are working because they need to be at work, but they are neither bringing value of developing it.
What usually happens is that we see lots of people go to Abuja with brief case to do nothing and when they leave the city, they return with money, I see that changing very fast. Not even now that things have become a little bit difficult. That is why any young person that is not thinking now and create value in the market place may not be able to compete favourably well.
Do you have any collaboration with the government or how do you get funding for this programme?
One of the things I have seen these years in the pursuit of this dream has been challenges that are confronting young people in getting their dreams fulfilled, especially in this industry. This is because people tend to believe that it is either sport or entertainment that should attract funding. We have made progress with what we are doing. Some organisations and individuals who believe in what we are doing have been supporting us. But let me say that if you don’t have the kind of heart that we have, you might not stay long in this industry because every year that we are having this kind of event, we have millions of Naira to spend in the process. Public partnership can take 50 per cent, the remaining 50 per cent, I had to crack my brain.
So this year, Ford Foundation is collaborating with us, Heritage Bank, Channels Television and Newsvision. What we planned to do is that areas their collaboration cannot cover, we shall have to subsidised. This is a conference that would make youth to think out of the box. This is not a conference of N60, 000 or what have you but N10, 000 own.
In the future, we see the impact of what we are doing becoming clearer to everybody such that Nigerians would fund this kind of dream from the beginning to the end.
What is the outlook of this conference?
Let me announce to you that as I am talking to you now, we have 10 hectares of land at the Oguta Lake to set up the first African Leadership Centre. The first phase is already set up in Maitama, Abuja. Last week, we had the chance of training 85 young people, with 50 per cent of the coming from the village. When they came into the classroom, they were afraid to come in. It was like if I put my legs in the classroom, I am going to fall. This is because they have not been exposed to such. But do you know something, after two weeks of engaging those young people, one of them within the course of the week when they were going some fracas emerged on the way, some group of guys attacked them, one those we trained was about pull off his shirt to fight, but at that spot, when he remembered the training he had that leaders don’t fight, he became a peace maker and settled the case. So they came back the next day in class to narrate what had happened, that is the power of mentoring.