• We need a new generation of leaders with conscience, he says
By Tope Adeboboye
Across Nigeria today, “economic recession” is the general refrain on every lip. And you can never accuse the millions of people mouthing the phrase of indulging in undue exaggeration.
In truth, wherever you turn these days, you see blatant hardship pummelling many homes. Among families, meeting basic needs has become a herculean endeavour. The number of malnourished kids roaming the streets multiplies by the day. Firms are daily folding up, with thousands of workers getting laid off. From Maryland to Maiduguri, a cocktail of anger and hunger ravages the souls and the stomachs, and frustration takes a permanent space on the faces of millions of Nigerians.
Expectedly, many are those that have unleashed their rage on the nation’s past and present rulers, insisting that the leaders’ actions and inactions are the main reasons for the penury in the land.
No short-term solutions
Pastor Sam Adeyemi, Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, Oregun, Lagos, didn’t totally object to such postulations. At an interaction in Lagos, he noted that Nigeria slipped into recession because the ruling elite – irrespective of political platform – failed to empower Nigerians after making a fortune from oil. And he added that the recession might be with us for some time.
“The foundation was long-term, so there is no short-term solution to this recession,” he asserted.
Could the suggested sale of some national assets be of any help? Pastor Adeyemi wasn’t too excited.
“If you have been doing a lot of investments and then you run short of cash, you can dispose of a property to get some cash to spend. The only problem with it now is that if they sell those assets, nothing is coming down to Nigerians. The ones they sold before, what did we get? We cannot point to the hospitals or the world-class roads that were built. So selling national assets is not about Nigerians. The reason is that the elite class is running out of cash to spend.”
How to survive the recession
But the pastor, who has written many books on successful living and leadership, insisted that successfully sailing through the nation’s current economic uncertainties was quite possible. And he explained how.
“Circumstances change, methods change, but principles never change. You still have to build your lives on the basic principles of God’s creation. The starting point is always the mindset. A human being cannot rise beyond the quality of his thoughts. The major difference between a poor man and a rich man is the way they think. Where a poor man sees a problem, a rich man sees an opportunity.
“It’s here that you see Christians always praying for money to come, which is very ridiculous. But you find out that the people selling chairs, selling food, providing houses for rent, they are the ones that are collecting money. You must have the ability to identify people’s needs and you must have something to sell. Everybody in our church hears that all the time.
“What happens during a recession is that people readjust their priorities. People may not be able to afford luxuries anymore, but there are basic needs that must be met. Recession or not, people must have food. They may slow down the rate at which they buy clothes, but people will wear clothes. People will still buy aso ebi for ceremonies. That’s part of our belief system. People must find somewhere to sleep. If you are offering product and services, you will always be on the side that money flows towards.
“One important thing; a time of recession is a time to adjust one’s taste. If there is a reduction in income, there is got to be reduction in spending. We must always keep the spending lower that the income. Proverbs 21:20 is key to my breakthrough. It says: ‘There is much treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but the foolish man spends everything.’ After someone explained that verse to me, my life changed. Since then, I don’t spend all my money anymore. If income goes down, I cut down my spending. That is what government must do also. They should reduce the spending so that we will believe that there is a recession.”
Our concept of leaders is wrong
To the pastor, one major mistake that Africans make daily is thinking that leaders refer to only those in political positions. Nothing could be farther from the truth, he said. So, who are the leaders?
“The discussion worldwide has moved from leaders to leadership, because leadership happens at all levels,” he stated. “Where do you put the massive influence that parents have over their children, the massive influence that teachers have over their students?
“Worldwide, leadership has been reduced to one word – ‘influence.’ The ability to influence one or more people to achieve a goal. Once you bring the definition down to influence, then the scales will fall off our eyes and we’ll realise that leadership happens everywhere. The child that persuades his friend to go buy sweet with him is leading that child. The ability to move someone from one place to another, that is influence. That is leadership.
“Again, our concept of leadership here makes a leader superior to the people that he is leading, which defeats the essence of leadership. The overall essence of leadership is service. It is meeting needs. It’s solving people’s problems. That is the essence of leadership. That is what Jesus said about leadership. He told his disciples, ‘anyone who wants to be first amongst you must become your servant; anyone who wants to be the greatest must become your slave.’ He said even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to give his life as sacrifice for many.
“The true mark of true leaders is sacrifice. But we have a structure of leadership in our part of the world where being a leader makes you superior to the people you are leading and most of the resources are used to sustain the leader.”
Individuals as influencers
Pastor Adeyemi also explained the modalities for this year’s edition of the Excellence in Leadership Conference which he’s hosting between November 2 and November 4. He informed that a number of successful individuals in different callings from across the globe would be speaking on the theme, ‘Maximize Your Influence’ at the three-day conference.
Besides the conveners, Pastor Adeyemi and his wife, Nike, other speakers at the conference are Bill Hybels, convener, Global Leadership Summit Chicago; Julian Kyula, co-founder and Group CEO of MoDe group – a finance and technology firm in Nairobi, Kenya; Mo Abudu, a TV producer, human resources management consultant and entrepreneur; Folorunso Alakija, Africa’s richest woman; Chude Jideonwo, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of RED; Agu Irukwu, Senior Pastor of Jesus House for All Nations, London and Abimbola Olashore, CEO, Lead Capital.
“Our objective is to let each person realise that we are not as helpless or as powerless as we think we are. We all have capacity to influence and I want to teach people how to do it because some of us have tried it.”
Why political leaders won’t change
Besides being a cleric, Pastor Adeyemi is a motivational speaker globally renowned for grooming young men and women. On October 20, he and his wife, Nike, would be organising a leadership conference in New York. You wondered why he hasn’t been training Nigeria’s political leaders on the nitty-gritty of effective leadership.
“It’s practically too late to teach someone what to do by the time he rises into a big position in government,” he replied. “Their character is set, their values are defined and they are adults already.
“Again, Nigeria is practically crisis in motion. They come under so much pressure. They manage crisis all through. It’s difficult for them most times to read any book or to attend any conference or to learn anything. So the best time to influence a president is long before he becomes president.”
How Nigeria fails its younger generation
But the pastor was unequivocal in his submission that Nigeria has failed woefully in its treatment of the youth.
“It’s a big shame that Nigeria has not invested in the younger generation,” he lamented. “It’s wicked. There’s no part of the world that wants to progress that treats its younger generation the way Nigeria does. That is why serious-minded countries take their educational system seriously. In every country that is developed, education is free, and of high quality, until at least you finish secondary school.”
He regretted that Nigeria has practically no arrangement to prepare its citizens for leadership. “What structure is there for preparing people? Leadership is a skill. Leadership is learned and leadership has become a school curriculum elsewhere. I have a post graduate degree in leadership. All over the world, people have PhDs in leadership. Where are the degree programmes on leadership in our universities? Leadership is supposed to be part and parcel of your upbringing. So where is it in our primary school curriculum and secondary school curriculum? Two major things make a leader: character and competence. Where is that deliberate grooming of the character and deliberate cultivation of skills and expertise in leadership?”
To fill such gaps, he said he set up the Daystar Leadership Academy in 2002, noting that it has since trained about 30,000 people.
We can change the equation
He regretted that while 32-year-old Mark Zuckerberg the co-founder and CEO of Facebook, had used his creativity to amass enormous fortune, becoming the sixth richest man in the world, Nigerian youths daily invade same platform, hurling abuses and curses on one another.
But he counselled that even such shouldn’t discourage people from trying to influence.
He noted: “Jesus said you’re the salt of the earth. Salt does not have to be the same quantity as the food before it sweetens the food. What you need is the potency, the ability to affect people. A small number of us can change the equation.”