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‘Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy will help put governance, leadership in development agenda of Lagos’

By Tobi Awodipe
08 October 2022   |   4:15 am
Asides immortalising a great leader as you have pointed out, the governor realised that the challenge of leadership and governance has plagued this country for several years.

Ajibola Ponnle,

Ponnle Ajibola is the Lagos State Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Pensions. In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she revealed the idea behind the establishment of the Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy, how the initiative will help to develop the public sector, and why young people must take advantage of the opportunity.

Beyond immortalise the late Lateef Jakande, what other reasons propelled creation of the Leadership Academy by the Lagos State Government?
Asides immortalising a great leader as you have pointed out, the governor realised that the challenge of leadership and governance has plagued this country for several years. Whilst this situation can be attributed to various factors, it is essentially traceable to these two factors. It is obvious that if the issues of leadership and governance are not addressed, this country will continue to suffer for it. This is what gave birth to the Lateef Jakande Academy. 

It is intended to help the state put governance and leadership in its development agenda, because it is believed that solutions to governance issues will substantially solve all other major problems. At a broader level, this Academy is meant to establish a leadership development programme for young Nigerians to further develop their leadership skills in public administration and governance, provide an opportunity for them to become familiar and participate in the processes of policymaking at the local, state and federal levels; and identify, train and motivate a cadre of leaders who will continue to position the state as a leader and develop the workforce.

How will this leadership academy positively influence the public sector and what potentials do you see for the candidates?
In conceiving the Academy Fellowship Programme, it is believed that the programme will support the immediate operational needs of the public sector and prepare government collectively for the sector’s longer-term transformation. LJLA Fellowship programme is anticipated to support the leadership of the state and in turn have a positive impact on public service values, practices and outcomes, because it is the quality and the capacity of leadership within the public service that will determine the future of the State.

To that extent, the fellows of the academy have unlimited potentials in terms of having opportunities to effect positive change having had the privilege of undergoing training in leadership, governance and public sector administration, which are the essential factors required for the growth and development of the public sector. The Public Sector will be enriched by such individuals to drive its development and cause transformation in its processes.

Are you impressed with the number of applicants received for the academy so far?
I am quite impressed with the level of response from applicants. We explored all media avenues, including conventional and social media platforms to request for application for the programme and the response was encouraging for this inaugural programme. We received 3,312 applications on the academy’s website. All applicants were taken through a series of thorough and rigorous screening and selection process, which was carried out by an independent consultant adjudged to be one of the best in the industry. 

It is important to know that a full day assessment centre was conducted, developed and customised for Lagos by the consultant. At the end of the exercise, only 30 candidates made it through, representing fewer than 10 per cent of the candidates that applied. The essence of the screening exercise is to ensure that only the best candidates are identified and admitted into the fellowship programme. The fellows will shadow different cabinet members on a rotational basis of three months each.

How has it been championing this initiative, has there been any challenges?
It has been an interesting and fulfilling experience championing the objectives of the establishment of Lateef Jakande Leadership Academy. It is an initiative of the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and he is very passionate about it.

There has been no serious and visible challenge, except to state that he is making a bold statement with LJLA that public service should be taken seriously and he is leading in this regard by offering this platform for young, vibrant, innovative, service-oriented and value-driven individuals who will be trained and absorbed in the public service in the state and across the nation.  

After completion of the fellowship, are there plans to retain the candidates in the public service?
After completing the one-year fellowship programme, we hope fellows would have been able to identify their preferred leadership style and sense of purpose to serve the nation. This, we hope, will be the outcome having gained considerable and intensive experience in leadership and governance through the customised public sector leadership programme, sessions with assigned mentors and leadership coaches and one-on-one interactions with private and public sector leaders.

Will this be one-off or are there plans to continue the programme for the foreseeable future?
The focus of the fellowship is to develop the next generation of leaders and this cannot be achieved as a one-off programme. So, the fellowship programme is designed as a yearly programme to offer opportunities to young Nigerians for leadership positions, by equipping them with the requisite skills to foster commitment to public service and instilling in them the ethics and values of purposeful leadership. This will be done through a combination of methods, including direct mentoring, personalised coaching and on-the-job training.

For this reason, the academy will be backed by law, which will guarantee its sustenance and continuity from one administration to another. It will be an enduring legacy of this governor. In the long run, I am confident LJLA will be one of the crucial platforms that will continually motivate, mentor and produce young Nigerians that will enable us to reach our country’s full human capital development potential.

What would you tell the youths out there who shun the public service?
Public service is a life of commitment; it is meant for anyone who wants to make a difference, which requires putting public interests first, ahead of personal interests. In this regard, LJLA represents one of the innovative ways, amongst the myriads of other avenues, to attract youths into public service. 

It is a demonstration of our belief in the young people and what they are capable of doing given a conducive environment. We are doing our best as government to invest and encourage our young people to unleash their potentials and it is left for them to take advantage of the opportunities government is creating.   

What would you tell the selected candidates?
I want to use this opportunity to congratulate the successful candidates for this programme. They have demonstrated brilliance, resilience and competence in addition to other salient requirements needed for the programme. Whilst they have been selected on merit, I want them to consider their selection as a privilege and so much is expected from them. They must therefore demonstrate the confidence that has been reposed in them.