This conversation with myself started at the end of the 2012 London Olympics. Nigeria had just failed to win any medals in the Olympic Games for the first time since Seoul 1988, even though 55 competitors represented the country in the Games. The United States and China won 104 and 88 medals respectively to lead the medal standings, but they also sent 530 and 396 competitors to the games. I compared our performance with Botswana and Kenya who sent 4 and 47 competitors and came back with 1 and 11 medals respectively. Mathematically speaking, that is 1 out of every 5 American athletes, 2 out of every 9 Chinese athletes, and 1 out of 4 athletes for both Botswana and Kenya. In essence, these two African countries performed better than the medal leaders, but I digress. I wondered how much support was provided to the athletes before the event and how prepared the Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC) had been for London 2012. I read an article that suggested that the substantial investment from the NOC came very late, while a ministry official said that was not an issue. Either way, with the Nigerian national football team failing to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup and the issues at this recent Olympics, I concluded that sports are just not a priority on the national landscape anymore.
Then I thought, “Could I do a better job if I ran for President of Nigeria?” What would I base my platform on? Would I focus on investment in the development of science and technology? Increase electric power access from 36% to 60% of the population? Investment in development sports programs? Healthcare and welfare programs for the less-privileged? Like the different secretariats of the Bokamoso Leadership Forum, the issues at the national level are wide and varied and the methods to address must follow suit. Yet as President Barack Obama said recently, “If you want to be president, you have to work for everybody, not just for some.” Essentially, while you might be passionate about one or two things, you have to spread your energies to various projects so you don’t lose a portion of your electorate. The question is do the leaders fail because they try to accomplish all these things at the same time rather than focus on one? Or they fail because they focus only in one and leave out others? Is that a recipe for failure as the national leader?
I asked myself: what I am most passionate about? And the answer came easily because it’s always been advancing science and translating it to technological viability. Therefore, I am better suited for a place where I can focus on strengthening those ideas as opposed to spreading the wealth to other things I am not as passionate about. The self-argument moved to wondering if that was a task for a person in the public sector (using funds from the federal, state and local budget) or for a person in the private sector (using funds generated from capital investments)? That is a debate that has been going on for centuries. It’s the reason for the divide in American politics and elsewhere and one that even economics can’t come to a solid agreement on.
In the end, one thing became partially clear to me: While the title and position of president is relevant, the role an individual has to play is more important. This is what our forum is about: Generating leaders who are held accountable for their roles. A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who is working in government, but they are a person who wants to see their passion spread to others; spread in just a way that it ignites the others to take that idea and run with it to other people. That is our goal and I hope that as we continue to converse and share our ideas, that you join us on this journey of honest conversation and self-reflection.