Those who say Nigerians don’t have what it takes to compete with Western standards are the sort of people I like to keep away from. As much as I’m in the habit of pointing out where developed countries get some things right, where we don’t, and how it may well be expedient for us to take a cue from them, it’s not because I think we’re not capable. We are, and that’s what makes it the more tragic and frustrating that we find ourselves where we are.
Lagos, the Centre of Excellence truly lived up to its sobriquet by masterfully containing the Ebola virus when the Ebola infected Liberian – American gentleman, Patrick Oliver Sawyer, imported the deadly virus into Nigeria a few years ago. Had it not been for the swift, decisive and efficient manner in which the Lagos State government’s apparatus, under the able leadership of the then Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, moved in to rebuff and confine it to “a corner”, the entire country would very likely have faced a disaster of epic proportions. This remarkable feat, which incidentally, officials of several other African governments later came to Lagos to study and adopt as the standard strategy in their own countries, is evidence enough that excellence is not by any means an exclusive preserve of developed nations. Even underdeveloped countries can still boast of “developed” individuals, many of whom are very quietly leading the way in their various fields. It’s really all about leadership. That’s what makes the difference.
Stella Adadevoh was such a person. This beautiful, petite and lovely woman led from the front, as any leader worth his or her salt should. In her eagerness to fulfill her Hippocratic oath of treating the sick to the best of her ability and to do her utmost to save his life, and protect the lives of millions of her compatriots, she spared little thought for her own wellbeing, preferring to ignore the obvious hazards of exposing herself to perhaps the most virulent of infections known to man. Mirroring the sacrificial and selfless leadership act of the Captain of a sinking ship who dutifully refuses to abandon ship, until all passengers and crew have disembarked or have been successfully rescued, even in the full knowledge that he may never make it off, this uncommonly brave woman risked it all. As a leader both in name and in character, and with utmost devotion to her profession, she sacrificed herself for the sake of humanity and we Nigerians will forever remain grateful for this. As a distant relative on my mum’s side of the family, we had occasion several years before this sad but heroic incident, to chat in her sitting room, where she discussed her son’s schooling with me. Little did I know that would be the last time we would see. Till this day, I haven’t had the heart to delete her number on my phone. I haven’t been able to do that for any of my late loved ones either. Dr Stella Adadevoh, an epitome of excellence, an epitome of leadership, and as I’m even more proud to say, a Nigerian.
Leadership isn’t meant to be just about securing all privileges and “largesse” of position for yourself but it’s supposed to be about inspiring the led to be the best they can be and to be willing at the drop of a hat to sacrifice your comfort and perks for the benefit of all, whenever occasion calls for it. It calls for doing whatever is necessary, within the confines of the law and acceptable ethical practice, to move one’s organization or nation forward even if this happens to be at one’s personal expense. It takes a mind willing to subject itself to standards beyond that which is expected of others. It takes a heart which derives its joy and satisfaction from seeing the majority prosper as a result of one’s leading and actions rather than one which jumps at every opportunity to oppress his subordinates or compatriots and laud it over them. It takes a heart of humility, seeking to collaborate with others to achieve the best result and which readily confesses that each victory is a result of team effort and not one which majors in self-glorification. It also takes a mind which remains faithful to its principles no matter the temptation, the pressure or the inconvenience. Its anchors do not shift according to the tides of life but remain constant. Now, more than ever does our dear nation Nigeria need such selfless individuals.
Heraclitus once said, “a man’s character is his fate”. Call me foolish if you will but I’m of the strong opinion that if all Nigerians take a step back to assess their conduct and examine if it actually pays them in the long run, not just in the immediate; we might come to the realization that it actually doesn’t. And the gradual change in mindset this self-awareness will subsequently initiate, would at the very least, represent useful baby steps towards producing better leaders. After all, they all emerge from our midst. They have never dropped from the heavens. If we’re to subscribe to Joseph de Maistre’s submission that, “every nation gets the government it deserves” the better we are, the better our leaders should also be.
Changing the nation…one mind at a