Five years ago last Thursday, I lost someone very dear to me, our eldest brother, John Olukayode Akande. This came just four years after we lost our dear father. Our state Governor, John Olukayode Fayemi was thrilled when he met someone who shared the same names as him during our father’s funeral service. Bros Kay led us in a way that anyone would like to be led. Not because it was always the most pleasant experience or because he was soft but because even when he had to take painful decisions, you were always convinced that it was for the best.
Like one of my brothers said recently, he was a natural bridge builder and a unifier, bringing parties back together in love. Quoting my brother further, “bros Kay didn’t throw his weight around but you knew you dare not look him in the eye when he was upset with you, which of course didn’t happen very often”. He epitomized humility and always sought peace with progress. And here is where I would add one more thing. He had a way of always making you know that you matter.
Like another brother of mine said, he made each person feel like the most important person in the world. Bros Kay was always ready to offer you a warm and reassuring smile and to lovingly grab you by the hand in your down moments, no matter what he may he going through himself at the time. For some reason I seem to have felt his loss even more this year than I did in the preceding ones. Perhaps in part because I miss our long chats, analyzing every minute detail of elections and their participants and other such significant events.
I will not stand here and tell you that I know for sure where he acquired his leadership traits from but I can hazard a guess that he honed some of them while captaining his House (Freeman’s) and the school cricket team while at Igbobi College; where he is remembered as quite a hero. His well known love for cricket and golf which he often watched on television until the wee hours of the morning didn’t always go down well at home. I can tell you for free that the day the popular South African cable TV network introduced dual view was one of the happiest days in his household! Even heroes don’t claim to be perfect. After all, our imperfections are among the things that make us lovable.
Leadership is a topic I often find myself drawn to talking about. Perhaps because of the sorry state of our country which has continued to expose just how much our so called leaders lack leadership qualities. As we saunter towards what could arguably be described as the most pivotal election in our nation’s history, there cannot be a more appropriate time to pay attention to this most crucial of topics as it indeed affects everyone of us. Every Nigerian needs to know that he matters. For years now, we’ve been fed daily with gory news of wanton killings. So much so that human beings are beginning to sound like just numbers. The question that has remained on everyone’s lips is, “what’s the value of a Nigerian life?”
It must have been about 13 years after my mother passed away that I learned from one of my older brothers that my mum had on her dying bed, asked bros Kay to always look out for me. Though we were the last two to see my mother alive and he was the one who drove me back home on that fateful day, bros Kay never once mentioned it. But then again, he didn’t need to. He was always there for me. Quietly, he fulfilled his promise to his late step mother and for that, I will always be grateful. Many I time, in my low moments, I would visit him not because I believed he could wave a magic wand that would solve all my problems but because I knew that by the time I left him, I would feel so much better about everything. By then the world would somehow feel like a better place and I would be so much more hopeful about the future. I would leave with the spring restored to my steps, fully assured that everything would actually be alright. I always somehow felt like with him around, nothing could ever remain that bad.
As we prepare to elect a new President in some months from now, my earnest prayer is that we will elect a leader whose love for the people will never be in doubt and who through demonstrated competence and sincerity, will restore the average Nigerian’s trust in government – which will in turn restore so much hope in all Nigerians that no matter the tribe or religion – or what any of us might be going through – we will all be utterly convinced that our tomorrow will be alright.
Aside from the skills and competencies that an effective leader needs to succeed, there are two critical virtues that he or she should possess. First, a leader must have compassion. He must feel for the people and empathize with what the generality of Nigerians are going through. He must genuinely share in their pain; so much so that he is moved to do something about it. Compassion is not necessarily evident just because one utters some nice sounding sympathetic words. A compassionate leader will go further to see what he or she can do to bring relief to those he or she leads. In a nutshell, a leader makes people feel they matter. Apart from the tragic civil war, Nigerians have never had it this bad. Nigerian lives are lost on a daily basis to terrorists, bandits and herdsmen but sadly, even more are lost to hunger. Two, a leader must be sincere because this is the only way in which trust in leadership can be regained. And when a people trust their leader, governance becomes that much easier because the motive behind every decision is not subjected to unnecessary scrutiny. Furthermore, the leader is then emboldened to take tough but ultimately beneficial decisions.
To our dear egbon, the one some others called “Salama”, may you continue to rest in perfect peace. Your legacy lives on. And to those whose turn to lead God says this is, we’re counting on you to write a new chapter for our country by doing over two hundred million Nigerians well and doing us proud. That’s all we ask. Remember, this is our turn too.
Changing the nation…one mind at a time.
Dapo Akande, a Businessday weekly columnist is a University of Surrey (UK) graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. An alumnus of the Institute for National Transformation; with certification in Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence from Case Western Reserve College, USA and author of two books, The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. Both books are used as course material in Babcock University’s Literature department. Dapo is a public speaker, a content creator and a highly sought after ghostwriter.