It was in the news recently that Fela Durotoye has been appointed as Senior Special Adviser to the President of Nigeria on National Values and Social Justice. It was hard to find any possible motivation for acceptance of the role by a man who had acquired fame and a certain amount of fortune as a Motivation Speaker, except a strongly held belief that he could do some good in the system.
That belief that deserves to be interrogated.
Fela Durotoye is a business consultant and Motivational Speaker who has acquired something of a reputation in Business and Leadership circles, especially in the Lagos-Abuja-diaspora circuit. He is married to Tara, a lawyer and beauty specialist who owns the high-brow House of Tara.
He has been associated with worthy social causes, such as ‘Mushin Makeover’, an urban renewal project he championed in 2009 to transform the aesthetics and general life of Mushin, one of the most run-down, densely populated inner-city areas of mainland Lagos. The project mobilized 2000 volunteers to paint 296 houses across 7 streets in the suburb free of charge. One hundred unemployed youths from the locality were trained to become painting artisans.
“It is paradoxical that a nation that is so ‘religious’ should be so bereft of Values”
Durotoye started off in the professional space as a financial analyst at Ventures and Trusts Limited. He worked with Phillips Consulting before going on to start his own Consulting firm. Over time the firm was changed from a Consulting entity to a social enterprise with the name of Visible Impact Limited.
It was clear from his trajectory that his passion was in the areas of expanding public good and optimising human potential, especially for the youthful segment of society.
He formed the Gemstone Nation Builders Foundation, an NGO devoted to training youths towards transformational leadership.
He is often associated with catchy sound-bites, such as ‘Doing your best will get you to the top of your career…but being the best will keep you there…’, and ‘Everyone including YOU suffers when you refuse to BE and DO all you can…’
In 2019, he threw his hat in the ring to contest for the presidency in the 2019 Nigerian elections, under the Alliance for New Nigeria.
Trying to run ‘Values’ in a complicated and challenging environment such as the Nigerian nation is like trying to introduce standardised, international-level Quality Improvement (QI) programmes into the setting of a traditional ‘General’ or ‘Teaching’ hospital in the nation. It reeks of Sir Galahad flailing his arms at the windmills. All the odds, from tradition, to self-interest, to the sheer inertia that makes change from long-established ways of doing things almost impossible, are stacked against success, ‘from the get-go’. That is why, in Quality Improvement, the driver is a ‘direct report’ of the Chief Executive of the hospital. If the CEO ‘owns’ the project, there is a chance of some success, even if limited. On the other hand, in a scenario where that ‘ownership’ does not exist, the driver is ‘dead in the water’, as is, sometimes, the driver.
Durotoye’s present office makes him a ‘direct report’ of the President. Perhaps there is hope.
There is a famous video clip made by the man that has been circulating on social media for several months. The real-life encounter he depicts is one that every man, woman and child living in the Nigerian space can identify with. He is driving his car, on the expressway somewhere in Lekki. The traffic light in front of him turns red. He stops. He hears the persistent honking of a horn as the impatient driver behind him tries to get him to go across the red light. He keeps his cool, knowing he’s doing the right thing. The light changes to green. The car behind shoots forward to overtake him. As it comes abreast, the driver, a lady, unleashes a torrent of abuse against him for delaying her. At the back of the lady’s car is a little girl, curiously taking in all the drama.
To Durotoye, the sad drama is not only illustrative of a lack of a basic, binding sense of right and wrong among the adult population. It also shows how the deficiency is being passed on to the next generation, who simply imbibe the Values, or lack of them, of adults.
A lack of social consensus of what is a good and proper way for citizens to behave in society, the equivalent of the Yoruba ‘Omoluabi’ ethos, is one of the most fundamental flaws of Nigerians as a whole. It cuts across all strata of society. It is seen in how quickly the veneer of ‘civilization’ falls away when there is pressure or temptation, and when the risk of discovery or consequences is absent. The abysmal failure of Values is exhibited by clergymen and imams, by teachers and students, and soldiers, and civil servants. And politicians, of course.
It is paradoxical that a nation that is so ‘religious’ should be so bereft of Values. The religious preaching, often, is about prosperity, and getting to heaven, and not about doing right with your neighbour, or society.
Many people, especially the loud social media warriors on the political scene with their self-serving moral exclusiveness, will wonder whether the present political leadership is fit to wage a Values war in controversy-ravaged Nigeria. The answer is that nobody comes out of Nigerian political waters ‘smelling of roses’. The nation must start the war against the cancer that is eating it up from the core immediately.
Private citizens, and NGOs, such as Tunde Fagbenle with his Values Volunteers, have tried to make a pitch in the Values war, and barely dented the behemoth.
Perhaps Durotoye will be able to recruit the sleeping spirituality of the nation and use his media savvy and people skills to begin the codification, acceptance and propagation of a Values System that the nation can embrace and imbibe, from cradle to grave before enforcement comes into play. He can at least try.