By Anote Ajeluorou
One critical aspect of the nation’s national life most Nigerians express sadness is the sheer absence or dearth of information or archiving in the country. Either public records are poorly kept or not at all. But one man, Folu Koyi, a former journalist, has brought out a timely book, Profiles in Leadership: Spotlighting Nigeria’s Outstanding People and Professionals since 1900, and it’s due for public presentation on Tuesday, October 11, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) at 10am.
Although he started researching for the book since 1997, Koyi told The Guardian he was able to finish it only recently. The principal reason for this time lapse, he stated, was because it was difficult sourcing materials about some of the personalities in the book on account of dearth of information about them. For him, therefore, this was a major void his book would fill in making accurate information about certain Nigerian public officials readily available for whoever wanted materials on them.
He said information is a principal handmaiden to development and that Nigeria had treated the concept with much levity for the country’s own good. He said, “I started researching for the book since 1997. The chief constraint was dearth of information. It’s quite unfortunate that Nigeria’s public figures have little or nothing about them in terms of records or information. It was a lot of problem getting information about them. There’s too much secrecy about our public figures. Why come to the limelight if there’s so much secrecy?”
However, Koyi’s choice of subject for his book would arouse the interest of cynics, who already have an entrenched disdain for the kind of leaders that have come out of Nigeria, and whether they are worth the attention he has given them in his remarkable volume. But Koyi insisted that the concept of leadership in Nigeria is viewed only in narrow political terms and at the expense of other forms of leadership in daily operation. This one-sided view, he contended, is narrow and unhealthy as leaders are in all aspects of life.
“People are always talking of political leadership alone in our national life,” he argued. “But there are leaders in all facets of our life. Political leadership is one aspect of it”.
In this regard, Koyi stated that his book, Profiles in Leadership: Spotlighting Nigeria’s Outstanding People and Professionals since 1900, is divided into nine parts with religion and education coming on top. He said this is understandable because of the far-reaching consequences of the two in pioneering a new orientation in the country. These are followed by politics and governance. Then, there’s gender activism, which Koyi said has three prominent women - Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Margaret Ekpo and Gambo Sawaba – as leading light. Then, there’s entrepreneurship, arts and Literature, sports and international relations, then the 17 professions he spotlighted in the book.
In all, Koyi stated that there are 111 personalities profiled in his book, saying they are also symbolic as they each represent each year from 1900 to 2010, when the book rolled out of press. He also stated that each section is preceded by the historical background of that particular section so as to facilitate easy referencing.
He stated, “For each part, there is a historical background, the history of that particular thing dating back from 1900, when the British took effective control of government from the Royal Niger Company; then to 1906, when the Northern and Southern Protectorates were declared, and to 1914, when Nigeria was created.
“In the professions, I tried to be chronological: Journalism comes first as the first organised professional practice in Nigeria. Not many people know that the politician, Sir Herbert Macaulley, was the first registered surveyor or engineer in Nigeria”.
His chief aim of writing the book, Koyi said, was for young people to learn from the personalities profiled so they could imbibe the virtues of hard work, bravery, conscientiousness and similar qualities they symbolise. Of importance to Koyi is also the need to consider the good sides of leaders, no matter what, adding that leaders are humans, too, with their own fault lines. For all the faults of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, for instance, Koyi said he was able to get Nigeria a clean bill of health from its international creditors, and advised that the good side of people should not be forgotten so easily.