Chinua Achebe, Nigeria’s award winning novelist, in his book `The trouble with Nigeria’, declared that the populous black nation’s problem was `simply and squarely a failure of leadership’.
He argued that there was nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. He was quite assertive – once Nigeria can get the right leadership, it would become one of the greatest nations on earth.
Indeed, Nigeria does have a lot going for it. It has the largest population in Africa. It is blessed with a very fertile soil. It has some of the most educated, creative and intelligent people on earth. It also has vast oil and gas deposits that have brought it massive wealth.
Most analysts have agreed with Achebe that all Nigeria required is the right leadership. They say that the right leaders will lift Nigeria and Nigerians from the current hapless and helpless predicament to greatness that will make the nation a leading world power.
Addigu Legas, a leadership and good governance expert, argues in the same vein.
“Without effective leadership, it is virtually impossible to achieve and sustain effective administration, achieve goals, sustain quality and deliver basic services,” he says.
Legas, a lawyer, went further to say that the increasing complexities, constant change and the push for higher levels of productivity required effective and ethical leadership.
Like the duo, Dr Tag Ali, a former Sudanese State Minister of Administrative Reform, once argued that leadership would continue to be the challenge for the future.
According to him, any reform effort is doomed if the question of effective leadership is not sufficiently addressed.
It is, perhaps, in response to this Nigeria’s leadership challenge that Gov Nasir El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State in 2018 initiated a leadership development programme to nurture leadership abilities of young Nigerians for effective public service.
The one-year leadership programme tagged “Kashim Ibrahim Fellows (KIF)”, named after the former Governor of the Northern Region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, comprises of four components – work placement, education, community service and fellowship.
**Kashim Ibrahim Fellows During Campus Outreach at Kaduna Polytechnic for awareness creation on Hepatitis B Virus, as part of Community Service**
El-Rufa’i had, at the inauguration of the programme, explained that the KIF was aimed at creating a network of young Nigerians expected to rise to top leadership positions in the public sector.
“The overall mission of the programme is to raise the next generation of leaders, who will most likely be absorbed into the Nigerian public sector, having had a first-hand experience of its workings and challenges.
“We owe our youth a duty of devising and sustaining deliberate pathways to build their capacity for leadership roles in the public service,” he added.
The 16 pioneer KIF participants, who would be rounding off the one-year programme in the first week of July 2019, have spoken very well of the initiative, with some of them describing their experience as “life changing”.
Some of them told newsmen in Kaduna recently that the programme had completely changed their orientation and perspective about effective leadership and public service.
One of them, Michael Medubi, a 35-year old Civil Engineer from Kogi State, described the programme as “priceless and a golden opportunity to learn and create a new network”.
Medubi explained that the work placement component offered unparalleled experience, having worked with senior administrative officials in different ministries, departments and agencies, where he acquired first-hand experience.
He also said that the education programme component provided an intensive learning and experience on the principles and characteristic of leadership, global challenges and dimensions.
**The fellows during a rally at Sheik Abubakar Gumi Central Market, Kaduna, to sensitize people on the dangers of Hepatitis B**
According to him, the community service aspect, designed to teach the fellows how to give back to the society, had been very impactful.
“We were able to carry out two community services. The first one was in December 2018, where we sensitised secondary school students on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for a whole week, established SDGs club and carried out some school renovations.
“The second was in June, tagged “KIF against Hepatitis B Virus”, which was also a week-long sensitisation campaign on the dangers of Hepatitis B Virus and how to prevent one from contracting and spreading the virus,” he said.
He described the community service as ‘very fulfilling’.
“Apart from the impact on the community, it provided the platform needed to test our teamwork skills and brought out the best in us,” he said.
**Kashim Ibrahim Fellows at Government Secondary School, Rigassa, for Community Service on SDGs**
“The fourth component, the ‘fellowship’ has cemented a relationship among people from different parts of the country, with diversity of talent, orientation and world view. No doubt, this relationship will always be cherished.
“We started in August 2018 as strangers, excited, scared and hopeful, but we grew together, became friends and one family. We mutually mentored each other, and forged a very strong network that will last a lifetime.
“It has been a life transforming experience for me and everything I will do, going forward, will reflect the things I picked here,” he said.
Similarly, Rabi Aminu, 25, a graduate of Biochemistry from Adamawa State, said that the KIF programme had given her a better focus on what she was going to do with her life, going forward.
“I was a medical sales representative for a pharmaceutical company in Kano before I enrolled for the programme and now my ambition has changed to supporting vulnerable women and children to live a quality life,” she enthused.
Also, Abubakar Joji, a 31-year old lecturer with Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said that the programme had equipped him with the needed leadership skills and the urge to give back to the society.
Joji, from Yobe State, who has first and second degrees in Chemical Engineering, said that the programme had opened his eyes to view things from different perspective and accommodate variety of opinions.
“I am used to forcing my ideas into people’s throat, but the KIF programme has taught me that people’s opinion also counts when taking decisions that affect diverse people,” Joji said.
Sharing similar experience, Abinbola Adetunji, 31, from Oyo State, who is a graduate of Petroleum and Gas Engineering, said that the programme had opened her eyes to the realities of governance and public service.
Adetunji, who also has a second degree in International Education Policy, added: “I never knew the impact of government in the lives of everyday people, but I know now, courtesy of the KIF programme.
“This unique opportunity has exposed me to how government works and how I can use my skills to contribute to nation building in my own little way.
“The speaker series under the education programme component stood out for me, because it exposed us to the experience of renown leaders who made exploits and how they were able to navigate through difficult situations.”
The story was no different for Leonel Echa, a 35-year-old graduate of Theatre and Communication Arts, who said that the programme had made him a better person.
**The Fellows with Hafiz Bayero (in white Kaftan), Managing Director, Kaduna Markets Development and Management Company**
Echa, from Cross River State, who also has a second degree in Peace and Development Studies, equally said that his perception about public service had changed after a year in the programme.
Echa, a consultant with NIM Foundation, who works in Maiduguri, Borno State, said that he had come to realise that there was no simple rule to solving a problem.
“The programme has moulded me into a better person in terms of leadership. I am now better equipped; my thought pattern has changed, and my horizon has been expanded.
“Above all, the fellowship has equipped me with a better knowledge and better understanding of leadership, public service and governance. It has also filled me with the desire to serve and make a change.”
As the second set of 16 fellows prepare to commence the one-year leadership training in August, stakeholders have called for more of such programmes that would identify and train leaders that would tackle Nigeria’s leadership challenge.
The stakeholders seem united in the resolve that Nigeria would drift further backward if it did not prepare its young people to lead the nation right out of the woods and into a land of opportunity for all.
One such stakeholder, Sen Kashim Shetima, who represents Borno Central, has specifically challenged those in leadership positions to identify youths with exceptional abilities and nurture them for future leadership roles.
Shettima, who made the call after he delivered a lecture to the KIF fellows in Kaduna, commended El-Rufai for providing a platform to young Nigerians to polish their leadership skills.
“The beauty of this programme is the selection of participants from across the country irrespective of religious and cultural backgrounds. This is what we need to forge a united front for development,” he said.
Like Shetima, many analysts have lauded El-Rufa’i for the foresight which they believe has the potential to catapult the nation to greatness since it is targeted at tackling Nigeria’s major hurdle to growth and development – leadership. (NAN)