Ingathering of the Tribe:
Etomi Dynasty Holds 2018 Leadership Conference in Lagos
The second edition of the Etomi Leadership Conference (tagged ELC 2018) was a three-day affair, but the highlight, in terms of intellectual exchange, was on the second day (December 28, 2018), which featured a plethora of activities including a keynote address, a panel interview and a question-and-answer session, among others.
Held at the Grand Junction Room of the magnificent Landmark Towers in Lagos, the event brought together members of the Etomi extended family across all the generations and from various walks of life, resident across and beyond the shores of Nigeria. They included Mr. George Etomi, Principal Partner in the commercial law firm of George Etomi & Partners, his twin brother Dr. Mike Etomi, a US-based medical practitioners, siblings, spouses and offspring, as well as friends of the family.
Anchored by Folake Etomi, proceedings began with an opening prayer and short exhortation by Tosin Okojie on the power of unity. Citing the biblical account of the building of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis, as well as the analogy in the Book of Corinthians about the synergy between the different members of the human body, Okojie called for greater interest on the part of family members in one another’s affairs.
Also speaking, a member of the older generation, Hector Etomi called on family members – especially the younger generation, who were the arrowheads in terms of the planning and tone of this particular edition of the conference –to explore previously uncharted professional and vocational waters, including politics. While acknowledging that politics (especially as practiced in these parts) was more a clash of wills and weapons than a contest of ideas and ideologies, he warned that shying away from it may leave one at the mercy of the adverse effects of decision- and policy-making by others who may not always act in good faith or with sufficient competence. ‘We must take our rightful place in the development of this country’ he added, while also calling for a family-owned company that pools all the talents, ingenuity and experience at the family’s disposal.
Uncle Hector’s admonition was followed by a brief talk by both Etomi twins – Uncles George and Mike – on the origin and motivations behind the convening of the Etomi Leadership Conference. It was, they said, a platform to get to know one another as the family grew larger and larger, and to feed off one another’s strengths, open new doors of both individual and collective opportunity and achievement, and to lay the groundwork for similar action by future generations.
There was a video intermission, during which the musical and thespian skills, respectively, of two members of the younger generation were showcased to the admiration of all present.
NEWSWIRE Magazine’s correspondent at the event reports that the keynote address was given by no less a personality than Nigeria’sMinister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, who spoke on the obligations and burdens of leadership. Popularly known as BRF, the minister (who served as the immediate past governor of Lagos State between 2007 and 2015) began with a poser: Which is more important – what you KNOW, or what you OWN? He went on to ask the younger people in the room – Gen X-ers, Gen Y-ers and Millenials alike – what their interest in leadership was. ‘Are you ready to do the work?’ he asked. ‘Or are you just interested in the perks?’ Asserting that our values are the greatest factor that moderates or exacerbates our impulses (including our actions in today’s never-ending rat-race), Fashola warned that true leadership leaves the leader with no ‘me-time’, and it demands the sacrifice of one’s comforts for the greater good. The growing need to be in the public space by younger people, he added, must be tempered by the understanding that it is a brutal space indeed.
Assembling a team to execute one’s vision, the former governor said, required the application of ‘LEMON Leadership’ (LEMON being the acronym for Luminary, Entrepreneur, Manager, Organizer, and Networker). The would-be LEMON leader, he said, must recognize that it was unlikely to find all five aptitudes or abilities in one person; he/she must know who was good at what.
Citing his time as the chief of staff to his predecessor, Gov. Bola Tinubu, Fashola also harped on the importance of being decisive. It was better to take a bad decision, he said, than no decision at all. But this attribute must be preceded by conviction based on knowledge and a rational assessment of the facts at one’s disposal. Other nuggets from his wealth of experience included the following:
- Try to understand the meaning of words; be the master of the words you use;
- Be a man/woman of your word;
- Know the difference between inaccuracy and outright falsehood. Beware of the person who is more guilty of the latter than the former;
- Know your subject;
- Don’t be discouraged by the butterflies in your stomach; they simply mean that you’re human, and that you are not reckless or driven by impunity.
Going forward, Fashola also addressed the fast pace of change across the globe, as driven by 21st century digital technology, and its effect on social relations. Even though this technology, as represented by mobile handheld devices, means that everybody is now connected and information is far more widely spread, the fact that nobody is in control of this space, however, makes it dangerous indeed, as the more unscrupulous players in the digital space have proven already proven their ability and readiness to use their anonymity, among other weapons, to cause havoc on many levels. Calling it ‘a potentially addictive tool’ Fashola advised the younger Etomis and their contemporaries to beware of the threat this addiction poses to our humanity (including the imperative of face-to-face conversation, especially among family members, friends and work associates) and to use it with discretion and in moderation.
Fashola’s keynote was followed by a panel discussion and a Q&A session in which he went on to address such further issues as the dichotomy between the presidential and the parliamentary systems of government, and especially the outcry about the cost of the former, and the clamour in some quarters for the latter; the power of the Nigerian President; the relevance of the 1999 Constitution to present-day realities – and especially the quest for true federalism in Nigeria; and the cost of elections and the system of patronage in Nigerian politics.
After Fashola came Mr. Bode Augusto. A former federal director of budget during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term, Augusto began his discourse on leadership with a classical Chinese paradigm. A leader, according to this paradigm, must possess 3 key qualities:
- Clarity: The ability to articulate clearly where he is taking his followers and to secure their willingness to go with him;
- Courage: The ability to make the tough calls based on his knowledge and core conviction that they are the right calls; and
- Humanity: The ability to empathize with others.
Highlighting the sobering challenges faced by those saddled with political governance in Nigeria – especially in the face of dwindling resources and an imminent population explosion which will see Nigeria attain a population of 500 million by the year 2070 – Augusto warned his youthful audience never to rely on government (at any level) to meet their needs or actualize their aspirations in life, as government in Nigeria was not capable of doing so. The role of government at the best of times, he said, was as follows: a) to secure lives and property; b) regulate businesses to prevent impropriety or monopolistic tendencies; c) develop enabling infrastructure; and d) help the poor and weak in society gain access to basic services, e.g. healthcare.
The key to success, then, Augusto went on, was to equip oneself with the ability to solve the problems around one’s catchment area or community – a good education being the key differentiator – and to use this ability to produce the goods and/or services that earn income, some of which must then be saved or invested to earn more income and equity, thereby ensuring growth. Rather than expect help from government, he said, we all can help government by paying our taxes in order to boost government’s revenues.
Like Fashola before him, Augusto offered the following nuggets from his considerable wealth of experience:
- There are opportunities everywhere, but the best ones lie in selling to the poor if you are a small/medium scale entrepreneur;
- Don’t assume; ASK. Encourage debate in order to arrive at robust solutions. Test your solution afterwards, on a small scale to ascertain its workability;
- Educate your regulator, especially when venturing in an uncharted business field. Most regulators, especially of the older generation, deal with business models they do not understand by simply denying them operational licences, or by blacklisting them.
- By starting small, you also escape the prying eyes of the large-scale monopolists in your line of business. By the time you come show up on their radar, you’re probably strong enough to withstand them;
- Do NOT give your time, energy or skills for free.
According to NEWSWIRE’s Law & Events correspondent, the former budget director also answered questions bordering on the state of the Nigerian civil service and the importance of a living wage in attracting the society’s brightest and best; the quality and cost of education in Nigeria; and the vexed issue of corruption.
Further adult insights also came from Mrs. Mfon Usoro, a former director-general of NIMASA, and a partner at the law firm of Paul Usoro & Co.; and Chief Charles Edosomwan, SAN.
The event also featured more panel discussions, a discourse on property, and a health talk, among other activities, as members of the Etomi Dynasty looked forward to a third and final day devoted to fun and games.
Family, it is often said, is the bedrock of society. Nowhere has this been aptly demonstrated than at the Etomi Leadership Conference series. As they come with innovative ways to celebrate their proud heritage and synergize toward a brighter future together, the Etomi Dynasty have provided a template for other families to do the same, a practice which will undoubtedly prove useful in our continuing quest as Nigerians to build a more united, cohesive, just and prosperous nation which we can proudly bequeath to our children and generations yet unborn.
See photos below:
At Newswire, we present the world of law and the issues that engage them. This edition is yet again, ‘Mind-blowing’. Go get your copy(ies) Now!