‘Tomorrow Starts Today’: Echoes From Irawo Leadership Exchange

(By Chima Ikenganyia)

Leadership is essentially about service but the Nigerian climate has unfortunately eroded this perception. To be a leader in our context almost equates to an opportunity to milk the public till. How do we re-discover the place of service in this context? 

IN the midst of apparent gloom and the grim of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, I participated in the Irawo Leadership Exchange: An intra-university programme for students from five universities in the country. And it was not a bashing party but a week-long systematic appraisal of the meaning of leadership with respect to our fledgling democracy. Yeah: You got me right, we did not gather to weep over our present – that’s self-evident as sunlight – but to discuss our future despite our not so inspiring past.

   Leadership is essentially about service but the Nigerian climate has unfortunately eroded this perception. To be a leader in our context almost equates to an opportunity to milk the public till. How do we re-discover the place of service in this context? These and other questions formed the core of our interactions in the serene ambiance of Irawo University Centre, Ibadan: A private hall of residence affiliated to the University of Ibadan and owned by Educational Co-operation Society, Lagos.

   We peered into the true meaning of leadership by first taking a deeper look on who man is. Initially I was not so enthused with the idea: I thought that leadership was a clear cut concept – the “oga at the top” vs. the “follow your leader” crowd. Yet by the time we were half-way through the main thesis of the workshop on the grandeur of man and also his corresponding limitations, I realised that leadership cannot be just “come chop!”

   What is the ultimate telos (object or aim) of the human being? This is a question that sages have addressed over the ages. For Epicureanism and hedonism it is pleasure. Karl Marx asserts that its material while David Hume and Hobble says that honours and power is the telos of man. Yet ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle placed happiness as the ultimate telos of man.

   I tend to lean more towards Socrates and Aristotle because if happiness is not a final good then we have no business expecting leadership to be devoted to the common good. The natural inclination of man to the definitive good now appears as the natural desire to be happy – every man wants to be happy. And this includes the leader and the follower. Happiness cannot bloom when it’s misery and horded. A person cannot be truly happy when he negates the happiness of others. In the end, this is why societies are organised to have someone or a group of people who are entrusted to providing the common good, which makes it easier for individuals to pursue their private good or happiness.

   This was the crust of the deliberations of 21 students from the University of Nigeria, Enugu State University of Science and Technology, University of Benin, University of Lagos and University of Ibadan (the Premier University). For once we realised that leadership depends a lot on followership. For our leaders do not fall from the skies but amongst us. And unfortunately, without a proper appreciation of what man is, the desire for good leadership might continue to elude us.

  In summary, the Irawo Leadership Exchange for university students is a solutions-driven platform for the agents of change in the society. It’s no coincidence that this type of events hardly makes news. Yet in the midst of doom, we discovered our voices and which in time will resound across our land. For though my generation have been called “leaders of tomorrow” the fact is that our “tomorrow starts today.”

(By Chima Ikenganyia)

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