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NextGen Leadership: Appointment of Akin Oyebode tells a story

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By Patrick Ayeni

“It is evident that conventional leadership development practices are no longer adequate. Organizations globally need to incorporate the next generation leadership competencies in order to address the development needs of their rising leaders. This expanded group of upcoming leaders needs to have a broader skillset, one that equips them to think and act globally in a VUCA (stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) business environment. They must do so while embracing cross-cultural diversity and cultivating collaborative relationships within and outside their walls. These are the hallmarks of the mindset needed to develop effective global leaders.” – Prof Sattar Bawany (2016)

One Sunday afternoon sometime in March 2015, I had placed a call to a friend, Jide Aluko, to know if he was watching the “Rubbin’ Minds Youth Debate” between the two dominant political parties in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He responded that he was travelling and would want to know what particularly pricked me about the debate that I had to call all the way from Texas. I told him about a guy named Akintunde Oyebode I saw on the show, whose submissions I rated brilliantly analytical; his proffered solutions were very practicable and were worth listening to.

Jide, who once worked as Lead Researcher at a civil society organisation of which Oyebode was a prominent member, then gave a glimpse into his background as an activist devoid of wild emotions who would match idealism with realistic expectations when making his point. “I think his background as an economist is responsible for that,” Jide said. I showed more interest upon knowing that we share the same state of origin; and even much more, knowing he is from Ikole-Ekiti, which is about a 10-minute drive from my hometown of Ire-Ekiti. “Patrick, Akin is one guy whose political aspiration at any level all hands must be on deck to support when the time comes,” Jide submitted before hanging up to concentrate on his trip.

Five years down the lane, reading the news of appointment of Akintunde Oyebode as Commissioner for Finance & Economic Development in Ekiti State, besides gladdening my heart, is hope-renewing in the system that rewards hard work and is indicative of progress towards meritocracy, quality leadership and trust in the young generation, majority of whom have been docile towards political participation in Nigeria’s growing democracy.

At the youth debate earlier referred to, Akintunde Oyebode demonstrated the trait of a top niche thought leader throughout his presentation. He showcased a deep insight into social issues as affecting the grassroots and proffered some practicable problem-solving approaches to delivering a sustainable socio-economic growth that would address national challenges. I saw an analyst that has strengthened his ability to engage with people from different backgrounds, appreciate multiple perspectives, and participate in civic discourse marshaling his points without showing any iota of distasteful traits.

These caught my attention as I went ahead to do a simple search on him after the programme. It was amazing to find someone with a very lucrative job (as the Head of SME Banking in one of Africa’s strongest financial institutions) and influential background like Akin, yet so grounded in grassroots politics. It was a discovery reminiscent of late Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s outing during a national debate in the run up to the June 12, 1993 election. In that debate, another layer of trait was added to Abiola’s innate generosity, as he exhibited a grassroots identity he was hardly known for prior to that time.

From that moment, I had no doubt that in Oyebode was (still is) a rare gem whose value would be best appreciated in public service. My optimism was bolstered when I read in 2016 that he had been appointed the pioneer Executive Secretary of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), which was established by The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund Law 2016 to provide financial support to residents of Lagos State, to tackle unemployment through job and wealth creation. His stewardship at the Fund speaks glowingly for itself even till date, as Akin demonstrated a trait of a NextGen leader with the capacity to elevate and enhance performance throughout all organizational levels of the Fund.

Oyebode’s three-year stint saw LSETF’s MSME Loan Programme disburse over N6.5 billion to almost 10,000 beneficiaries; while over 3,500 unemployed Lagos residents were provided with vocational training, with over 1,500 of the trainees placed in jobs. The Fund’s Lagos Innovates programme has supported over 80 start-ups. In total, LSETF’s interventions helped create almost 90,000 jobs in Lagos State from March 1, 2016 when it started operations to when Akin bowed out.

“His leadership and commitment to job creation contributed to the Fund’s success and impact. Akintunde has demonstrated that young people have the capacity to succeed in leadership roles. We are glad that the Fund has positioned him for higher responsibilities. We will miss his leadership and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” the Chairman of the LSETF, Mrs. Ifueko M. Omoigui Okauru, said of Akin in a farewell message.

The volume of foreign direct investments Ekiti State has attracted in the last eighteen months has been very effective. With the active presence of Stallion Group, Dangote Group, FMS Farms, Promise Point, Promasidor (Ikun Dairy Farm), JMK Foods, and others, there is no gainsaying Ekiti’s economic rejuvenation.

Akintunde Oyebode is a total departure from the politically docile generation that we are increasingly becoming as young adults. Overtime, the focus of my generation has shifted onto mundane activities that do not add value to nation building and humanity. The virtue of diligence, hardwork and integrity has been relegated to the back seat. Few things nauseate like seeing the supposed tomorrow’s leaders celebrate mediocrity and even criminality. A vast number will rather blame the political class for bequeathing a society in comatose than castigating those that command success through dubious means or taking advantage of inadequacy in the system. While a big chunk of the blame can be laid at the altar of failed political leadership that has plagued Nigeria for decades, the likes of Akintunde provide a glimpse of hope for the future.

The appointment of Oyebode has provided my generation another chance in political leadership. His style of political engagement should be a template: it should not be all about making endless social comments, though that is necessary; we should discountenance the approach where we are all about talks. We have successfully built a new community of commentators where everyone has his or her own opinions on what good or bad governance is; where negligible few have chosen to be active participants instead of a critical mass of forceful impact. We need to realize that if we don’t participate in the process; we can’t be part of the solution and result.

I would like to congratulate the man of the moment, Akintunde Oyebode. His participation, hard work and commitment have paved the way and instilled belief in many of us. I genuinely believe this is just the beginning. However, I would like to call his attention to two things that his appointment means to our docile generation: His stewardship in this new role will be a determining factor in opening opportunities for his generation. Truly, he attained that height highly recommended, his principal, Governor Kayode Fayemi must have reposed a high degree of confidence in him and took a hard decision in appointing him when one considers the peculiar political terrain of Ekiti where appointments are sometimes largely viewed from the parochial prism of geo-political balance. It is expected that his actions in office will be a classic case study of NextGen leadership in shoring up the financial resources of our dear state to an enviable height while delivering on sustainable and economic projects that resonate with the grassroots.

I like how Oyebode compares notes with his colleagues in other states, particularly Kaduna State, in the area of foreign direct investments. His competitive approach to FDIs has been more than encouraging. Nonetheless, that aggressive and competitive approach needs to be replicated in the finances of the state. Anything short of sterling performance on his part could close the door of leadership opportunities to the young generation if he fails to deliver. I want to believe that he took the decision to be actively involved in politics for the betterment of society and not for acquisition of filthy lucre. I strongly believe he has come into politics to change the leadership perception and build an effective and efficient public governance and system. Having jettisoned the allure and perks of a blossoming private career for public service, the least expected of him is capping his sacrifice with excellence, which will make him a new face of leadership and governance in Ekiti.

Congratulations Mr. Akintunde Oyebode, as we wish him all the best in his new office.

Ayeni is a Texas, US-based NextGen Marketing Consultant

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