‘My goal is to ensure every young person knows there’s need to learn to be a leader’
You studied engineering, how do you reconcile that with your job on TV and leadership?
Yes, I got my first degree in Petroleum Engineering and that was over a decade ago. But I did that because of my late father. When I was growing up, I was a gifted child; my father said the only way I could make him happy was to become an engineer and work with Shell. So, I had to become an engineer; unfortunately, my father did not live to see me become an engineer. But I later branched off to study Communications, and later International Business, and now I have PhD in Leadership. My career is what I will call ‘improvisional zigzag’. I’m happy about it though; it shows that one can be more than one thing. The world is evolving every day; gone are the days when a father comes to say, ‘you have to be an engineer or doctor.’ No, you can be everything you want to be.
Lack of mentorship has become a big challenge for young people in this part of the world, what’s your take on that?
I hear that and I agree with you. I also think that many young people have been wired to let things remain the way they are; they are wired to accepting the status quo. We need people, who will not just be subservient but challenge the status quo by asking questions. One of the major problems we have in Nigeria is that people do not even have the confidence to ask why. They think ‘if I ask questions, it means I’m disrespectful.’ No, you are not disrespectful. The first step in solving a problem is finding out why; why are things the way they are? Look at the leaders and ask them why? But once you are not asking questions and not challenging the status quo, you are not going anywhere. In trying to teach people about authentic leadership, they have to be taught to exercise and express themselves. It is not disrespectful to be heard, you have o speak; you have to speak to power.
Sometime, the elders have this notion that young people are not ready to lead?
I do not completely agree with that. I think great leaders are ones, who extend their cycle of influence to everyone’ thereby making everyone feel like they belong. Most leaders in Africa don’t extend their level of influence to allow a young person to see a roadmap of becoming a leader. So, I don’t believe that young people do not have leadership capacity. Anybody born of a woman is supposed to be tutored on how to be a leader. Some leaders are born, but leadership can be learned. In America and Europe, some people, who are not born leaders, emerged as leaders after learning to be one. So, the leaders should allow their influence to prompt the younger ones to aspire to positions of leadership.
Are you saying that Nigeria lacks good leaders?
I’m not saying we do not have good leaders in Nigeria, I’m saying that a lot more needs to be done to broaden our horizon; we have to broaden our mindset. We have to learn that as leaders, you must extend your level of influence and think of how to create the next generation of leaders; we can’t be in office forever. We have to create opportunities for other people, who are qualified. There is something I usually say and that is that we have to begin to govern our nation based on meritocracy. What can you accomplish? What do you know? Once one is evaluated and seen to have the capacity to lead, he has to be given the chance to lead. But when we wake up and assume it is not for them, it will not only affect us but also our children and our children’s children. As a leadership professor, I try to lead by example on a daily basis authentically.
Are you thinking of a movement from the Diaspora to bring this narrative back to Africa?
I don’t know if you have a complete history of who I am; I have done quite a lot for Nigeria in over a decade. Even though I have not been to Nigeria for a couple of years now, I have done so much in educating the people to believe in themselves. It must not be confined to only young people; it must get to the leaders too. We must continue to tell people that if we want to change this narrative if we have to revolutionise our system if we want to solve all the challenges we encounter as a nation and say no more to poor leadership, we have to teach people what it takes to be leaders.
With your pedigree in the US, has any leader in Nigeria approached you in the hope that you could be involved in contributing your quota back home?
Well, I raise my hand up all the time. When I spoke at a forum by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, about a year and a half ago in Washington DC, I kept raising my hand. One problem we have as women is that we are afraid of raising our hands and say, ‘I’m qualified for this,’ because we feel we don’t deserve it. So, I’m very quick to raise my hands. I do not wait for anyone to negotiate for me; I negotiate for myself. We have to learn to negotiate for ourselves before anyone negotiates for us.
Are you saying women are not being taken seriously?
You know that we live in a fast-changing world especially in Africa and it has seriously affected our people. There are this mindset and value that tend to subject women to their sexuality. We tell people that, if you subject women to her sexuality in conversations on position…that makes you a genuine citizen. This did not happen overnight; it sort of happens on a daily basis. Mine is to make sure that we change the narrative so that the woman cannot only be respected, but also be at the table where decisions are made. If you are a woman you must have experienced that in one way or the other.
Any plan to visit home any time soon?
Yes, I hope to be in Nigeria first, then Ghana and possibly one more African country. Actually, I have not been home in a very long time. I have some speaking engagements, but that’s not all. I’m also on the lookout for collaborations with some people in Lagos we are working with at the moment towards leadership. My goal is to ensure that every young person knows that there’s a need to learn to be a leader. We hope to educate them on what it takes to be authentic leaders. You will agree with me that one of the biggest challenges we have as a country is leadership and so, we have to start this conversation with the younger ones on what it takes to lead.
Some are of the opinion that Nigeria has not taken advantage of her human resources, do you agree with that?
That is also true. We are very highly educated; we are qualified. But we need to start believing in ourselves; we can be that change we want to be. We can be what America is; we can be what we go to London or India to seek.
What makes you proud as a Nigerian?
I’m a Nigerian and I’m proud of being a Nigerian. I know that we are working towards having a better country. For instance, Nigerian music has grown beyond everyone’s expectations; it’s hugely accepted in the US. As a matter of fact, I work out every day with Nigerian music on my ears. After studying and teaching, working out for me is awesome and Nigerian music helps me out when I am doing so. Davido, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid… they are all exceptional.
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