On Becoming a Man: Nigeria, Corruption and Men at the Gates – Democracy Day Edition

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” – [Matt. 10:16, NLT]

Today, I write as one not with all the answers in the world; neither as one who is the best of all human beings on earth. I am a young Nigerian and I am not happy about the quality of our leadership. The spate of corruption tugs at my heart – stabs it even, and I feel weak and tired. This should be short.

Many have condemned corruption several times over, only to be caught months later red-handed – with filthy hands and stolen dollars. They fought hard against the rule of a treacherous generation before them; uber-talented orators they were, articulating the zillion faults of their forefathers. The tides soon changed and we all thought that the final change had come. They were offered the chance to nail the coffin of old rogues and young underachievers who had sold their souls to the god-fathers. Alas! Nothing would change, because the veil soon gave way to the true colours below the surface of deception.

I believe in God. I believe that He is still in the business of selecting leaders. Every appointment that God gives a man is fully dependent on his faithfulness at his present place of assignment. He does not become qualified for the highest level of leadership when he gets there, it starts from now. Remember the saying, “the future is now!”? Many have been misled and imbued with a false perception of eternity such that they idle away their lives and become irrelevant here on earth. Others decide to make impact in life and are positioned on the path of greatness. They are entrusted with the responsibility to make gains for the community. Not a few fear that politics and faith do not mix well. However, we ought to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves; this balancing act requires courage and God’s leading.

Lastly, one wonders why so many falter on along the way in leadership, usually after brilliant beginnings. Many reasons abound. Perhaps they did not clearly define who they are and what they stand for right from the start; maybe they did not figure clearly what they ought to pursue in the place of assignment; also, they might have been misled, somewhere, somehow. I emphasize the danger of the wrong association. Money and power are great intoxicants – someone even said that you only truly know a man when he becomes rich. There is always the tendency to for one to drift away from childhood/long-term friends and familiar people as one grows in influence and power. No doubt, twenty boys cannot grow together for twenty years, and many associations will have to give way to more promising and strategic alliances, but what we often fail to realise is that there is the need for us to maintain a nucleus of strong friendships and relationships with trusted individuals in the faith who would not fail to tell us the truth and nudge us back on track when we make mistakes in leadership. There is that need for ‘accountability partners’ who help to keep a check on our excesses.

I am a work in progress and I encourage you to consider these things too. Ensure you belong to a critical mass of great leaders who are truly selfless and will not compromise standards for pecuniary gains. This is an enormous task, but you can be a worthy man at the gates of good leadership. I would love to know your thoughts on this matter.

Photo credit: www.lawyersweekly.ca; On Becoming a Man: Nigeria, Corruption and Men at the Gates – Democracy Day Edition

This article was originally published here: www.lawyersweekly.ca; www.trendsupdates.com.

The Benue Notes: Introducing the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project – You Can Change the World, One Community at a Time!

Here is a post I first wrote in May and thought to share on this blog, in case you missed it. Enjoy and share within your networks!

In January 2012, history was made in the remote Nongov [pronounced ‘Non-goo] community, located in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria when over two hundred members of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship (NCCF), Benue State Chapter, paid a two-day visit on what they fondly call “Rural Rugged” evangelism outreach. Beyond sharing their faith and praying with the people, they provided social services to the villagers by bathing the children, giving the men and boys clean haircut, plaiting beautiful hairstyles for the women and girls, distributing relief materials, and providing medical services, amongst others. Most of these services, as basic and necessary as they should be, are actually luxury to the people of Nongov.

It all started when in November 2011, Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel, the State Evangelism Secretary then, visited the village on a survey for the next rural evangelism outreach. According to the community head’s son, Dev Israel, Igbagbosanmi was the first Corps member to step onto the land. January 13-15, 2012 was the chosen as time out for the fulfillment of the core vision of the NCCF and the impact was tremendous as the villagers came out en masse to meet with the August visitors – the Christian Corps members. When it was time for the visitors to leave, the people of the community continued to implore the Corps members to pay follow-up visits to the community, and help plead their case for development wherever they could.

Mr. Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel, Batch A 2011/2012 Benue State Corps Member

The Nongov Community The Nongov community is a collection of several scattered hamlets and villages with a population of over 10,000 adults and children, over eighty percent of whom live in rounded huts, popularly called “Channel O”, after their rounded shape. Majority of the indigenes are farmers and there is no form of electrification, even though electric cables pass through the community to supply power to other communities. The local primary school, built in the early sixties (according to one of the community Chiefs) had been abandoned for lack of facilities and staff, and most children attended classes, clustered in a group of 150 students per open hut, under the sun and in the rain. 37-year old Martin Agen, a native and missionary, is the sole teacher of over 450 children and he has done this since 2009, hardly charging school fee. He complains that he has had to send some children home because their parents could not provide (money for) writing materials for their wards, especially a pen which costs less than thirty naira (0.3 USD). There is no secondary school in the community and the knowledge gap between the average Primary 1 student and another in Primary 6 is mostly infinitesimal.

Continue reading here: The Benue Notes: Introducing the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project – You Can Change the World, One Community at a Time!

Meet Idris Ayodeji Bello – Afropreneur, Wennovator and Global Health Advocate

In recent times, several Western media have repeatedly focused on Africa, analyzing the prospects of the ‘dark continent’ whilst raising caution about the ability of the next generation to manage resources effectively and carry out the required changes. In this exhaustive interview with BN’s Gbenga Awomodu, an exceptional young African from Nigeria speaks on a range of issues bothering on social entrepreneurship, development, sustainable health care, and Africa. Idris Ayodeji Bello, a 2012 Weidenfeld Scholar in Global Health Science, trained as a Computer Engineer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, and has had varied global experiences with leading multinationals, including Procter & Gamble and the Chevron Corporation, with social and business networks spanning five continents. He was profiled in 2011 as Huffington Post’s ‘Greatest Person of the Day’ and listed among CNN’s Top Ten African Technology Voices to follow on Twitter in 2012. Dedicated to the enhancement of lives by developing and deploying attractive platforms for innovation-driven, technology-enabled investments across the African continent, he shares from his wealth of experience and sheds more light on the just concluded 2012 Oxford University Pan-Africa Conference. Get ready and enjoy this encounter!

Could you tell us about yourself – growing up and schooling?
I was born in Jericho, Ibadan, about thirty-two years ago, but my childhood was mostly spent in Ilaro, Ogun State. We lived and schooled on the campus of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, and life was very simple. There were very few distractions and the rule with our disciplinarian librarian father was “Never get caught without a book!” I read Chinua Achebe’s “The trouble with Nigeria” before I was ten, and Kole Omotosho’s “Just Before Dawn” about the same time. Growing up was fun. My parents were not rich, but we also were not poor. In addition to my four other siblings, we had several cousins living with us who had come to pursue polytechnic education. At no point did the dinner table have less that thirteen people during my childhood days. In May 2002, I graduated with a First Class in Computer Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I had learnt to juggle several things and still keep up a stellar academic record. This was helpful as I went straight into employment.

What was your experience like working with two reputable multinationals?
Even before finishing at OAU, I was recruited by Procter and Gamble to become the Planning Manager of the Ibadan Plant with responsibilities for production planning, materials management, and warehouse inventory across the West African region. Coming straight out of school armed with just a degree and a little internship experience I had undergone in my fourth year, P&G was like being thrown into deep waters, but with the knowledge that just as you were about to drown, someone would probably step in to rescue you. I remember asking Adeolu Akinyemi, the Recruiting Manager then, what it meant to work at P&G. He said, “You will learn a new definition of Challenge!” There were long days and nights (including weekends) spent at the plant, long hours spent on the phone negotiating for raw materials from foreign suppliers, and explaining to Nigerian port officials why our clearing agents were not allowed to give ‘tips’ to get our raw materials released from the port. My time at P&G was like a mini-MBA without a curriculum, and it really built my foundation in entrepreneurship following my technical education at Ife.

In what ways have your previous employments/jobs contributed to the progress of your recent social entrepreneurship projects?
I have been very blessed in terms of the kind of jobs I have had, and how they have moved me closer to my goals. When I choose to accept a position, money has never been at the top of my criteria. The bigger question for me has always been: “what value is this employment going to add to me as an individual?” “What experience is this job going to offer me that would help to move me nearer my goal?” In much the same way as the potential employer spends time interviewing me, I spend more time researching them, and interviewing them too. With a first class degree in computer engineering, I could have gotten a job in any Telco, or oil company in Nigeria then, but what was more important to me then was gaining a global exposure through my job, learning skills which were very different from what I had learned in school, and being giving responsibility from Day 1. When I left P&G to go abroad for my Masters, several of my friends questioned my move. I had gotten very comfortable at P&G and was doing well. And here was I abandoning such a position to seek out an uncertain future. However, I never saw it in that light. I had achieved my objectives, and it was time to take on the next challenge. When it came to time to choose a research area during my Masters, I opted for Data Analysis in Particle Physics. I knew nothing about particle physics, but that was exactly the point. I ended up writing my thesis on different non-parametric density approximation techniques applied to signal detection in particle physics. It really stretched me, but laid the foundation for my next job after graduation. At Chevron, I got the opportunity to do several things ranging from upstream technology to digital fields monitoring, from strategy and planning to information management. I also had the opportunity to travel widely overseeing projects across the US, Latin America, Angola, and Asia. Those experiences I believe further helped refine my thinking and decision-making process, and my management and people skills. It also exposed me to what it meant to do business at a global level. Hence, after six years, when I felt it was time to move on from Chevron and pursue a degree in Global Health at the University of Oxford, it was also a conscious choice. I felt I had proven myself and gained very valuable skills, and it was time to move on from individual success to making significant impact.

What inspired you to enroll in a Masters programme in Global Health Science?
I had always had issues with the healthcare system in Nigeria, especially after losing two of my siblings to the system’s inefficiencies, and another close friend to a strike action at UCH a few years back. However, it was at Rice University, during my MBA that I strayed into the field of global health. I got acquainted with Professor Marc Epstein, an expert in microfinance and the use of commerce models to improve health and promote development in poor regions. He had partnered with Rice 360° Institute for Global Health Technologies to teach “Commercializing Technologies in Developing Countries” in which teams of MBA and undergraduate engineering students develop business plans for global health technologies, and then travel to Rwanda where they undertake field research for their business plans. This interaction exposed me to the problems of access, the lack of relevant statistics, and several other challenges faced in the area of global health. However, my greatest motivation for applying for a place in the Global Health program at Oxford stemmed from belief that solving the daunting challenges faced in the field of global health requires a multidisciplinary array of people who are able to bring to bear their diverse backgrounds and innovative approaches.

You like to refer to yourself as an Afropreneur, a Bandstormer and a Wennovator. (How) did you originally coin those?
I woke up one morning and thought it sounded cool to join entrepreneurship and Africa to form “Afropreneurship” (afrocentric entrepreneurship). Bandstorming is the collective pooling of philosophically linked ideas focused on solving social and economic problems. It was actually coined by Michael Oluwagbemi, another enterprise-focused Nigerian that I met in Houston, and the Founder of LoftyInc Allied Partners Ltd, an organization dedicated to the enhancement of African lives by developing and deploying attractive platforms for innovation-driven investments in education, technology, and healthcare in the ECOWAS sub-region. We were jointly teaching a class on “Emerging Markets’ at the Frontier Markets Scout Program of the Monterrey Institute of International Studies in California early last year when a problem came up, and we decided to brainstorm. As we went through the brainstorming process, each person continually built upon the other person’s ideas, and Michael exclaimed, “This is not brainstorming, this is bandstorming!” I coined the term “Wennovation” when I visited Nigeria a while back to attend the Nigerian Leadership Initiative’s Future Leaders Class, and to pursue my vision of business incubation, which I had successfully been involved with in the US, and explore how I could translate that to Nigeria. It is based on the belief that when like minds develop new ideas or solutions through purely collaborative work, such a result is not just innovation—which recognizes the primacy of the individual—but rather wennovation, replacing “i” with “we” to emphasize the collaborative feature of afrocentric entrepreneurship. Our value proposition to the entrepreneurs is that you cannot go it alone. You need to team up to refine your idea and attract funding. I also intended the ‘We-‘in ‘Wennovation to refer to West Africa, our focus region. Today, we promote wennovation through the Wennovation Hub, a business incubation program and facility in Lagos, Nigeria, but soon to be replicated across West Africa through an alliance with the Africa Leadership Forum and the African Innovation Prize.

Continue reading here: Man on a Mission: Idris Ayodeji Bello – Afropreneur, Wennovator and Global Health Advocate – talks about Social Entrepreneurship, Technology, Africa and Much More!

The Entrepreneurial Scientist: Meet Yemi Adesokan – Innovator, CEO & a TR35 2011 Winner

Nigeria, no doubt, is blessed with an array of brilliant minds who continue to excel in their various fields of endeavour, at home and in diaspora. 34-year old Yemi Adesokan is a scientist and entrepreneur with experience in the development and optimization of multiplex capture and high-throughput genome sequencing technologies. As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, he pioneered the development and implementation of the BioWeatherMap project, an initiative that collects real-time assays and uses them to track and limit viral outbreaks and antibiotic resistance in the developing world. An industry consultant with extensive experience in providing strategic advisory services to Fortune 500 life-science companies, Yemi holds a BS in Biology from the University of Houston and a PhD in theoretical chemistry from the University of California, Irvine. In this exclusive interview with BN Editorial Assistant, Gbenga Awomodu, Yemi who was recently named among the world’s top 35 innovators by the MIT Technology Review, speaks about his career, his startup pathogen sequencing firm, Pathogenica, which he co-founded in 2009, and the impact of his work in improving global healthcare.

Meet Yemi Adesokan
My name is Yemi Adesokan and I grew up in Okupe Estate Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos. I went to the Maryland Convent Private School and in 1989 went to Command Day Secondary School Ikeja completing SS3 in 1994. I remember that summer vividly as that was when the Super Eagles performed stupendously at the USA ’94 World Cup. Like most kids, I played soccer barefooted outside, went to “lesson” after school, endured mosquitoes, malaria, ate Suya and had hot nights without NEPA and no petrol for “gen”… good ol’ growing up in Lagos.

How would you describe your journey in the field of Biotechnology thus far?
Exciting and challenging at the same time. My doctorate is in theoretical chemistry, so switching to genomics as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard was frightening for a fleeting second. However, having an advisor like George Church, plain hard work and God’s mercies got me over the initial hump. Biotechnology and genomics, in particular, has been a driver of the healthcare industry over the past decade, especially with the completion of the human genome project which has catalyzed the emergence of the field of personalized medicine. I and the Pathogenica team feel very fortunate to be at the fore front of the genomics revolution.

You were recently named among the world’s top 35 innovators 2011 by the MIT Technology Review. How do you feel about the honour, and why do you think you made the list?
When I googled TR35 to review the list of individuals such as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Sergey Brin (Google) and Konstantin Novoselov (Nobel Prize Winner in Physics) that have made the cut over the last 5 years, I felt honoured and humbled to be considered among such greats. The successes of the TR35 innovators over the last few years show that the MIT Tech Review has a pretty solid track record of predicting emerging technologies and innovators. We are excited about the recognition, and we also realize this is no time to rest on our oars. We are working as fast and as hard as ever before to commercialize this technology globally.

Continue reading here: The Entrepreneurial Scientist: Meet Yemi Adesokan – Innovator, CEO & a TR35 2011 Winner