-by Gov. Kayode Fayemi
Let me express profound gratitude for the privilege of being asked to speak at this year’s Future Award’s Symposium for Young and Emerging Leaders. As an abiding sceptic of flagellating awards, especially awards that were not based on any clearly articulated, independently verifiable scientific grounds – the type that has become so commonplace in Nigeria, I found The Future Awards a rare exception and I have been a long-standing admirer of its celebration of young achievers in various spheres over the years because of its rigour that accompanies its search and recognition of individual talent. Yet while individual talent is a major pre-requisite in the moulding of leaders, I am even more excited that The Future Awards has now decided to deepen its engagement of the next generation of leaders in a number of ways beyond the recognition of the heroic individual – influencing national leadership outcomes; determining leadership needs for national development and creating a networking platform to drive leadership projects.
The organisers asked me to offer a perspective from the inside on how to stand out from the crowd – particularly in the moulding of a successor-generation. Knowing that you are mostly cynical about those on the ‘inside’ and my interaction with some of you show that you are extremely disappointed about the turn of events in our country, I guess I am already at a disadvantage trying to convince you about the relationship between power and leadership. So, what I am going to speak to are essentially the reflections of an accidental politician – in the hope that the emergent inter-generational dialogue may produce tangible outcomes, particularly in the making of new leaders and the building of a successor generation. Politics, if you believe the word on the street, is a dirty game. And many people always ask politicians the same question: Why, with all the opportunities in this world that could perhaps earn one considerable social, financial and personal security, would anyone want to go into something like politics, particularly in a setting as dangerous as Nigeria? Politicians are often seen to be janus-faced – on the one hand, charismatic, visionary, fascinating and sophisticated, and on the other, repulsive, cynical, calculating, venal and opportunistic. My own interest is really not to indulge in any deep philosophical or academic arguments about these claims today, many of which you are familiar with but to simply explore – based on my limited experience, the possibilities of harmony in this pseudo-dichotomy – to explain that this pattern of categorizing people is at best a luxury, and at worst irrelevant in our own setting. Indeed, my own experience and my fundamental thesis in this presentation is that where the younger generation is not political, there can be no public service and the State runs the risk of decay and illegitimacy.