Assistant Regional Pastor-in-Charge of Youth, Region 35 and Pastor-in-Charge of Youth Province 1 of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, as well as convener, Advance Leadership Conference, Pastor Bisi Akande spoke on what inspires the annual conference and how Nigeria can get the youth involved in nation building. He spoke with our correspondent, OLUSEGUN OBISANYA during a one-on-one session at the event held recently. Excerpts
You have been so passionate about this annual event. Give us insight of the birth of Advance Leadership Conference.
A couple of years ago, I got this inspiration based on the challenges I have seen around me. The challenges I have seen is that years back I have always heard that leadership is the problem of Nigeria – I heard it when I was young; maybe when I was 20, heard it when I was 30, heard it when I was 40, and unfortunately I was getting on to 50 and I’m still hearing the same thing. So, my question is, if there is darkness will everybody be talking about the darkness or put on the light? I just thought it is time that somebody put on the light in the arena of leadership. So, I stepped in to just put on the light. That’s what inspired us to start this leadership conference so that people can learn leadership; change the way they lead so that we can have a better world.
Is the conference meant for RCCG members alone?
No, it’s open to everybody. We have quite a number of people here; we have people from other ministries, we have people from the secular; I mean people who came in from other organisations to learn leadership. Leadership does not have religion; unfortunately leadership does not have gender. Anyone can lead if they understand what it takes to lead.
This is the sixth edition of the conference; what would you say are the impact from the feedback you’re getting?
You see; I wanted to point at him, but he’s already pointing at himself. If you want to see the impact of this conference then look at the people whose lives have changed and what they have been doing. For example, you were there when I took some teenagers and gave them awards. I have met some young people who are doing great things, and I have also met some older people who have stepped up for themselves and for other people. So, there are many things that have come out of these things that we do here and there. It looks like we are joking but there are names that I can mention that came around from here and have inspired people to do what they can from what they have inside. Many people are coming here and they are doing what they can do. I know we talked about the issue of creating jobs – I don’t have a job that I create for anybody, but what I do is that I inspire people and they can create jobs for themselves. Some persons are doing great things now because they came into this room and they heard what they heard and they challenged themselves to go and do something for their life. What they heard here is very very strong; if you hear what you hear here, it’s definitely going to inspire you to take a step.
Any plan to take the conference outside Lagos?
Well, everything is one step after the other. We are working on certain things; I mean we have not gone outside Lagos yet but there is no doubt that we will go outside Lagos. For example, we have someone who has been coming every year from Zambia. We have people that came in from Delta, Ekiti, and some other states – people are here from several places. So, I know that it would not be long before we begin to look at that so that we can reach more people. But, what I always tell people; like I told the people that came from Delta. It’s not about me taking this thing and bring it to Delta, but can you be the change in Delta? Can it be you and me coming to support you? And looking at the possibility of this thing happening everywhere and the people there are doing it. Once you come in here – when you come for Advance Leadership Conference, what we expect is that we take what you have learnt and go and apply it somewhere else. That is the way we look at it – it’s not about us taking it everywhere; we are working on Zambia, but it’s not about us taking it everywhere. It’s actually about the people learning and going to do it for themselves.
Under the new government we have now, the Ministry of Youth Development has been divorced from Youth and Sports. Who do you think should fit that office?
I appreciate that question very much. One of the things I believe we are meant to do is national development. We need to build this nation; it is very important. However, sometimes my views might be divergent. I am not talking about the age of the person because the truth of the matter is that some of the people that have not done well in leading Nigeria are young people (some of them, not all). We have a governor who is very young but we have not seen the track record of what he has done. So, what we are saying here is competence – we need somebody who understands the youth; somebody who knows what the youth needs. More importantly, we are not looking for somebody who will lead the youth; we are looking for somebody who will make the youth leaders. That is what we are looking for: we are not going to say come and boss it and become the minister for youth development. It’s a minister for youth development – the assignment is to develop the youth which means the youth in Nigeria can become leaders in their own rights. That is what we need – so, if you ask me what programme we should put in place; I will tell you straight up that we need to educate the minds of young people today. There are a lot of pictures that people see that are not what life is all about. They need to see a different picture and one of the greatest challenges that I think we are facing in this nation, or maybe in the world right now is the erosion of our value system. Everybody wants to be rich overnight – it doesn’t happen; let’s face it. So, we have a lot of people that try to turn things around here and there – we celebrate the things that we ought not to celebrate. Where is our character, where are our values; where are the things that we actually believe – where is me wanting to make an impact and build somebody else? Where is me not being selfish but rather wanting to be selfless. These are the things that young people need. If we can bring value into the system, prosperity will happen – that is the truth. Prosperity happens when values come into place. When we do the right things, everybody is going to have fun. But, the thing is that today we have created a system that makes people think that doing the right thing does not pay. But, I can tell you without any doubt that doing the right thing pays more than any other thing. So, if there is any programme; the programme should be the emancipation of the young minds to get them to begin to see what they need to see and how they need to see, and of course there must be the creation of opportunities. Creating opportunities now, I am not saying give me a job because if you give me fish I will eat the fish and finish it. All these palliatives they are talking about don’t work. Share N80,000 to everybody, it doesn’t work. If you give me N10, 000 today and I finish it, will you give me N10, 000 tomorrow?
Give me a platform and let me generate and create that thing that matters. If I can see a platform where I can create these things I won’t need to go steal. I was talking to some people in Punch years back and I told them that my problem with this country is not corruption. My problem is mediocrity – why do people steal? People steal because they don’t believe they can get these things by the right means; very simple. If I know that I can produce this product and get my money out of it, why do I need to go and be corrupt? It’s not necessary. But, if everybody comes to realize that the only way to get this thing is for you to steal it; everybody will keep stealing. And the truth of the matter is that the problem with corruption is actually mediocrity. But if I know that I can get into government for example and I can make money within a short time; so, why am I going to be reading? Why should I disturb myself writing and passing exams? So, if I know that I can go out there, get educated; be creative, and my creativity can get me what I need, then I don’t need to be corrupt.
We have young Nigerian experts living the country to Europe, US, Canada and other places. How, in your opinion, can the government curb the current brain drain syndrome plaguing the country?
The truth is that those who have not left, it’s because they have not gotten the means to leave. I am very sure that if you give them what it takes to leave, they probably will not stay here; they probably must have left by tomorrow’s morning. I can understand the problems, but you see the government cannot do it alone; that’s why I am talking about values. Your father’s house is not good – don’t leave your father’s house; build your father’s house. I don’t have a problem with anybody going anywhere.
Recently, someone sent a post to me; Nigerians are leaving the country. Lebanese celebrated the fact that they have 75,000 (I think) Lebanese who are residents in Nigeria. The Chinese are coming into Nigeria seriously. What do they see that we don’t see? Why are we going when some other persons are coming in? It all has to do with the person. When a Chinese sees a crisis, he sees opportunities; when we see a crisis, we read it as a problem and everybody wants to run away from the problem.
On the government side; I think the government needs to provide the necessary opportunity to do certain things. This morning I was coming from the Redemption Camp; usually when you are coming from the Redemption Camp for this programme; you know what I would have done? I would have taken a hotel and slept there yesterday. But for the first time in six years, I came from my house in the Redemption Camp. Why? Because the road is okay; the road has been done now even though it took nine years or whatever; at least it has been done, and because that particular platform has been created I can move fast – that’s what we need. Let there be light, let the roads be motorable; that’s what the government is there to do. Let those things happen and give open space and let everybody run.
Finally, what is your outlook for the Advance Leadership Conference, and tell us about Advance Leadership Institute?
That is the next theme for advance. We have had conferences but conferences inspire people; they impact people, so the institute is to dive into leadership. We will be able to sit down for four weeks and look at deeper issues of leadership. Here we spend just one day and we are gone. But in ALI, there will be a curriculum to follow; there will be some assignment to be done. We are going to go deeper and it makes that person come out and be like what you can call a certified leader. So, it is beyond just the conference. The conference is good because it inspires people but real change does not happen in a day. Real change happens on a daily basis; so we have to get the individuals working – we tested it last year after the Advance Conference. We brought some people together and we spent 12 weeks with them; one Saturday every week talking about values and talking about how they can change. Right now, we think that it’s time for us to sit down and do extensive work to make sure that people can come out, and they can stand up to say yes, I am a trained leader.