Un­de­ni­ably a man of elo­quence and lead­er­ship skills, Fela Durotoye is not one who needs much in­tro­duc­tion. He is a mo­ti­va­tional speaker and the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Gem­stone Group a lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment in­sti­tu­tion aimed at rais­ing lead­ers of ex­cel­lence and ex­em­plary value. So it comes as no sur­prise that he is the cho­sen Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for the new po­lit­i­cal party ‘Al­liance for New Nige­ria’(ANN). This week, FUNKE BABS-KUFEJI speaks to the ANN pres­i­den­tial can­di­date on how he in­tends to put his words into ac­tion to be the leader Nige­ri­ans seek.

Though you are a suc­cess­ful in­spi­ra­tional speaker, some think it is child’s play com­pared to the in­trigues of pol­i­tics where you have to be ex­tremely savvy to over­come the hur­dles and the sur­vive it’s slip­pery ter­rain. How do you in­tend to scale these hur­dles?

For the last 14 years, be­yond build­ing a suc­cess­ful Con­sult­ing and Lead­er­ship busi­ness, I’ve been a na­tion builder. What that means, is through so­cial en­ter­prise, I’ve cre­ated in­ter­ven­tions and projects to help make a dif­fer­ence to our so­ci­ety, most times at great per­sonal cost. I’ve served Nige­ri­ans at dif­fer­ent lev­els, whether it was work­ing with the Oyo State Gov­ern­ment to im­prove the NECO re­sults of 48,150 pub­lic sec­ondary stu­dents and 4000 teach­ers for two weeks, where we fed them, gave them writ­ing ma­te­ri­als, raised vol­un­teer teach­ers to train them. We took Oyo state from a na­tional ed­u­ca­tional av­er­age of 28th in 2008 to 3rd in 2009, and I did this all for free, to crowd­fund­ing over 4500 Math sets and four fig­ure ta­bles for chil­dren writ­ing WAEC in 2010 and so much more, with­out an in­ten­tion to run for pub­lic of­fice. So to an­swer your ques­tion, I’d say I’ll show Nige­ri­ans my record of pub­lic ser­vice; be­cause re­ally, that’s what pol­i­tics is, and politi­cians have for­got­ten they are meant to be pub­lic ser­vants.

I in­tend to be my au­then­tic self and trust that Nige­ri­ans will see me for who I am, a man, just like them who is pas­sion­ate about build­ing a New Nige­ria that we would all be proud of.

Many young men like you have en­tered the Pres­i­den­tial race over the years. But re­gard­less of all they do on their cam­paign trail, they barely scratch the sur­face when the re­sults of the elec­tions are out. What are you do­ing dif­fer­ently to en­sure your pres­ence is felt both at the polling booth and with the ci­ti­zens you want to serve?

I cel­e­brate ev­ery­one who has come be­fore me, sim­ply be­cause they showed it was pos­si­ble. Each as­pi­rant or can­di­date that has come be­fore me is like a run­ner in a re­lay race and their job is to run and pass the ba­ton. For too long, we have left pol­i­tics to the politi­cians.

I have no il­lu­sions about the hur­dles that come with this race. Our first mis­take would be to ex­pect to beat the sys­tem at its own game. It’s a clas­sic case of David and Go­liath. David had to use un­con­ven­tional strate­gies to de­feat Go­liath used to fight­ing con­ven­tion­ally.

Now that doesn’t mean we won’t en­gage Nige­ri­ans con­ven­tion­ally. For the last few months, I’ve vis­ited 18 states across the coun­try, from Bauchi, Ogun, Uyo, Ebonyi, Nas­sarawa just to name a few, hav­ing town hall meet­ings, speak­ing to peo­ple at the “grass­roots”, mar­ket women, trans­port work­ers, stu­dents on cam­puses, cor­po­rate pro­fes­sion­als, in­dus­try lead­ers re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions and of course en­gag­ing first time or ap­a­thetic/dis­en­chanted vot­ers. I also be­lieve there is a mes­sage for a sea­son and there’s also a mes­sen­ger who is au­then­tic to that mes­sage. I trust in Nige­ri­ans. Ev­ery­one we have spo­ken to all want the same thing, a New Nige­ria, noth­ing like the old, one that works for us all, where what is read­ily ac­cept­able to the rich is avail­able to the poor; where gov­ern­ment doesn’t prey on busi­nesses, but sees busi­nesses as their part­ner; where banks re­al­ize that sup­port­ing SME’s in­creases our GDP, where the ease of do­ing busi­ness in Nige­ria is not mea­sured on a score­card, but felt where it truly mat­ters, in their bot­tom line, a na­tion where gen­er­a­tors are silent be­cause power is present, where our po­lice of­fi­cers and se­cu­rity per­son­nel are pro­fes­sional and enu­mer­ated for the ser­vice it is to be our first line of de­fense, where hard­work­ing par­ents are not ex­torted by for­eign uni­ver­si­ties be­cause our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is out­dated and co­matose. My job is to get that mes­sage of a New Nige­ria to as many Nige­ri­ans as pos­si­ble.

Be­ing a con­sul­tant, in­spi­ra­tional speaker and lead­er­ship ex­pert train­ing youths to­wards trans­for­ma­tional lead­er­ship and so­cial change how are you putting your skills to use mak­ing sure the youth who are the ma­jor­ity in Nige­ria, vote for the right lead­ers not only on the pres­i­den­tial level but at ev­ery level?

I’ve al­ways said that my can­di­dacy is not about Fela Durotoye for Pres­i­dent. It’s about trig­ger­ing a crit­i­cal mass of good peo­ple who will take re­spon­si­bil­ity to “run for a New Nige­ria” so that we can de­liver good gov­er­nance at all lev­els. And since I ex­pressed my in­ten­tion to serve, sev­eral hun­dreds of thou­sands of young peo­ple have de­cided to be­come first time vot­ers, thou­sand have joined po­lit­i­cal par­ties, par­tic­u­larly my party, the Al­liance for New Nige­ria (ANN) and sev­eral oth­ers have de­cided to run to take up elec­tive of­fice. My mes­sage to the young peo­ple is clear, we are not too young to lead. You shouldn’t be the pawns of selfish in­di­vid­u­als who only visit you once ev­ery four years to give you crumbs, sell­ing you bread and hid­ing the fact that the bak­ery be­longs to you. Over the last 17 years, I have been a con­sis­tent guide to young peo­ple, ei­ther on cam­puses or in their work­places; many at­test to the fact that Fela Durotoye isn’t do­ing this be­cause he’s am­bi­tious to be Pres­i­dent, that’s not what drives him, the only thing that drives him is a New Nige­ria.

Will you say your role as a lead­er­ship ex­pert has pre­pared you enough to run the af­fairs of our beloved coun­try Nige­ria?

Lead­er­ship is ba­si­cally about in­flu­ence. Un­for­tu­nately, most Nige­ri­ans can­not say they have been led, rather we have been ruled. Lead­er­ship is the abil­ity to in­spire will­ing and con­scious fol­low­er­ship to de­liver pos­i­tive re­sults. I’ve been priv­i­leged to in­spire in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions, from as far back as 1994, to de­liver pos­i­tive re­sults. I be­lieve that lead­er­ship is first about per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, even if it doesn’t af­fect you. Some­time in 2009, I was speak­ing at a con­fer­ence in Mushin and I was in­spired to cre­ate a com­mu­nity project, where we would paint 300 houses for free. I felt it would im­prove the qual­ity of life for the res­i­dents and in­hab­i­tants to feel bet­ter about them­selves, and know that some­one cared enough about them to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them. I didn’t have any re­sources to speak of, but I knew I had a voice and a plat­form. So I went on my Face­book page and called for vol­un­teers to join me to paint houses in Mushin. We called the project Mushin Makeover. On the 12th of De­cem­ber 2009, over 2000 vol­un­teers came out, with their buck­ets of paint and brushes and we painted 296 houses for free. That day was a huge wa­ter­shed mo­ment for me, be­cause I saw Nige­ri­ans from dif­fer­ent eth­nic, re­li­gious and so­cial classes come to­gether for a vi­sion that they might not per­son­ally ben­e­fit from, but for a com­mon goal, to give Mushin a makeover. I saw celebri­ties like AliBaba, Banky W, Wizkid, TY Bello to name a few, grab a brush and bucket of paint, work­ing side by side with “Area Boys”, po­lice of­fi­cers, LASTMA of­fi­cers con­duct­ing traf­fic, stu­dents, mar­ket women, all for a sin­gle goal; and I re­mem­ber say­ing “This is how we will build a New Nige­ria”. That day, no one was Mus­lim or Chris­tian, rich or poor, Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo. That day, we were all Nige­ri­ans. We took per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for each other. Since 2004, I’ve been talk­ing and work­ing on a goal to build Nige­ria into the world’s most de­sir­able na­tion to live in by De­cem­ber 31, 2025. We need a leader who would in­spire his na­tion to do great things and take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity to make Nige­ria work.

Nige­ria needs ac­tions, not just words. What was on your po­lit­i­cal man­i­festo that made you cinch the ticket for your party Al­liance For New Nige­ria?

Though I clearly un­der­stand the di­rec­tion of this ques­tion, I want to quickly add that we can never overem­pha­size the role of words to in­spire ac­tion. It’s as sim­ple as this, if you say you can, ev­ery­thing in you re­sponds to that, and if you say you can’t, ev­ery­thing in you equally obeys that. Ter­ror­ists and sui­cide bombers are pro­grammed by words. And they act on it. In the same way, the right words can ac­ti­vate the right things, the right be­hav­iours, the right per­spec­tives and the right ide­olo­gies. Words are more pow­er­ful than we prob­a­bly think. A peo­ple will be void of ev­ery re­quired drive to suc­ceed with­out a leader who has the abil­ity to in­spire to them. So, one of the ma­jor core of my­man­i­festo is Job Cre­ation, with my pol­icy thrust for a New Nige­ria called A.S.P.I.R.E A - Agro min­ing rev­o­lu­tion and Ac­count­abil­ity S- Safety and So­cial Se­cu­rity (with a fo­cus on hunger, health­care and hous­ing) P - Power and Pub­lic Pri­vate Part­ner­ships I - In­fra­struc­ture / ICT / In­te­gra­tion & In­sti­tu­tional

I in­tend to be my au­then­tic self and trust that Nige­ri­ans will see me for who I am, a man, just like them who is pas­sion­ate about build­ing a New Nige­ria that we would all be proud of.

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