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Dakuku Peterside: A politician and creative mentor

A 50th birthday is one of the greatest milestones in life. It provides an ideal occasion to honour some of the amazing things a person has done. As Dakuku Peterside turns 50 tomorrow, Thursday, December 31, 2020, one of the most memorable things friends, family, and others who have crossed his path would be celebrating with him is his capacity for mentorship and leadership. Those qualities came to light quite clearly during his recent tenure as Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Peterside is also a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former gubernatorial candidate of the party in Rivers State.

Working together with a determined and cooperative management team, Dakuku was able to steer a key government agency from pariahhood to a poster child for transformational leadership. He brought his exceptional capacity for guidance to bear. And he launched a rebranding and repositioning exercise that worked like magic, changing orientations about NIMASA from within and without.

A new acronym, CAPITEL-D, captured an innovative set of core values among staff that sought to change all negative attitudes to work. The deliberate focus on Commitment, Accountability, Professionalism, Integrity, Teamwork, Excellence, Leadership, and Discipline (CAPITEL-D) had a tremendous positive impact on the staff, as everyone resolved to own and apply every element of the acronym.

The Agency’s core values have since taken hold, paving way for ceaseless transformation and improvement on all fronts. Those values have continued to permeate every aspect of the Agency, as it pursues its core functions. The values also support the federal government’s ease of doing business initiative.

Dakuku exudes confidence and charisma. He is widely revered for his problem-solving qualities.

His readiness to share his own ideas and pleasure in seeing others succeed, apparently, inspired the Knowledge Transfer initiative in NIMASA. The Knowledge Transfer Sessions, meant to improve institutional knowledge, are meetings where trusted and experienced internal and external facilitators come to share their skills with the Agency’s staff on designated days. This has overtime provided a window for the discovery of many talents in the Agency.

Dakuku left the Agency on March 10, 2020 in a touching moment of camaraderie. A colourful and historic pulling-out ceremony held in his honour at the end of his tenure brought together history, legacy, and lesson for the future. He says, “Serving in NIMASA was fulfilling; leaving was breath-taking. Now, I feel elated to watch my successor, Bashir Jamoh, a man of phenomenal institutional knowledge, advancing the spirit of excellence that guided our collective tenure.”

Dakuku believes leaders are not ogres. He is approachable and ever willing to assist people to fulfil their dreams. But he is also a stickler for quality and hard work.

“If you are hardworking and productive, you can ask for my leg or my hand and I would give you,” he once said during a committee meeting at the Agency. Those intrinsically hyperbolic words still ring in my ears.

He knows how to cultivate friendship. He sees his connections with people as lifelong. With him, there is a real truth to the Biblical idea of “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”.

Dakuku is passionate about learning and believes there is no end to it. Very often, he would inform you of things and send you materials he believes would be useful to you. He is always ready to advise, direct, and support, even on personal issues brought to his attention.

In an age of unbridled materialism and virtual contempt for intellectualism and learning, the idea of a leader who is passionate about knowledge and its continuous improvement feels particularly remarkable.

Dakuku’s leadership qualities are commendable. They have been his elixir for success in the positions of authority the good Lord has helped him to occupy so far, whether as House of Representatives member for Andoni, Opobo, and Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State (2011-2015); Rivers State Commissioner for Works (2007-2011); Chairman, Opobo-Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State; or National President, National Union of Rivers State Students.

It is those excellent virtues that the Opobo-born leadership coach, politician, and organisational development expert captured in his brilliant book, “Strategic Turnaround: Story of a Government Agency,” billed for launch next month.

The book is a narrative of events and turnaround initiatives executed in NIMASA during the four years of Dakuku’s management, which transformed the Agency to one of the most respected and admired government agencies in Nigeria.

Strategic Turnaround: Story of a Government Agency explores the principles of leadership and management in a public sector setting, both theoretically and practically. A treatise on performance improvement in governance, the book goes beyond the story of successes and failures to highlight critical lessons for public sector organisations desirous of repositioning or reform.

Professor Emeritus of Maritime Security at the University of Greenwich United Kingdom, Professor Chris Bellamy, who previewed the yet-to-be-released book, stated,“Strategic Turnaround: Story of a Government Agency is a definitive case of successful high-level change management and essential insight into the maritime sector of an emerging maritime power.” The former Professor of Military Science and Doctrine at Cranfield University, England, and Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Maritime Crime and Security, further stated that the book “showcases the radical reform of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the entire maritime sector in Nigeria by its leaders and key stakeholders.”

Dakuku attended Okrika Grammar School, in Rivers State, and the University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, where he studied Medical Laboratory Sciences, specialising in Haematology and Blood Transfusion. He holds two master’s degrees in Management, a doctoral degree in Organisational Behaviour, specialising in Corporate Political Strategy, from the University of Port Harcourt.

The founder of Development and Leadership Institute of Nigeria, a non-governmental organisation and development think-tank, has attended high-level leadership and management courses in Harvard, Standford, KELLOG and Georgia Tech in the United States, Stellenboch in South Africa, Galilee in Israel, and Oxford in the United Kingdom. He is currently a consultant to several corporate and international bodies in the areas of leadership; regulation, compliance and maritime industry, especially maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea; and oil and gas industry.

A gentle and kind mentor, Dakuku provides a mirror for seeing the beauty of leadership. He has touched many lives with joy, and deserves deepest wishes and dreams come true as he turns 50 tomorrow.

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