Fela Durotoye is a renowned motivational speaker and the husband of a make-up entrepreneur, Tara Durotoye, who has equally written her name in Gold when it comes to beauty and cosmetics.
Fela is the Chief Executive Officer of a popular youth-focused leadership development institution, GEMSTONE, a group he initiated with a mandate to scout for a Generation of Leaders that are Empowered, Motivated and Stirred To Operate with Natural Excellence (GEMSTONE).
The resolute and articulate speaker has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science with Economics, as well as a Master’s degree in Business Administration (M.B.A) and a Master of Philosophy Degree (M.Phil) in Strategic Management, all from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Fela is an Alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government of the prestigious Harvard University in the United States (U.S) as well as an alumnus of The Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia also in the U.S.
Fela was also recognised by the Universal Peace Federation and the Youth Federation for World Peace as a UNITED NATIONS YOUNG AMBASSADOR FOR PEACE.
He started his career as a Project Finance Analyst in Ventures & Trusts Limited (V&T) in 1992. In 1998, he brought his experience to Phillips Consulting Limited (PCL) where he excelled to head the Customer Service Group. In 2001, he established V.I.P CONSULTING Limited. In 2007, V.I.P Consulting went through a corporate transformation from a purely Management Consulting Firm into a social enterprise called VISIBLE IMPACT LIMITED.
Fela, who is widely acclaimed as Nigeria’s most sought-after transformational speaker, has recently launched a campaign to advocate a New Nigeria where every Nigerian will be accountable for the state of the Nation.
In a bid to charge all media houses to disseminate information that is true and fair, he stormed City People corporate office, Gbagada in Lagos, a few weeks back with his team to educate and orientate the staffers on the role of the media in nation building, where he led a rigorous mind-reshaping leadership class that lasted for 2 hours.
He was also kind enough to spare about an hour after the class to speak with our editorial team on various issues concerning his passion for a true change, and drive towards a New Nigeria and the materials needed to rebrand the youths. Below are excerpts of the interview he had after the lecture.
What’s your motivation for your great passion for Nigeria?
It’s hard not to be passionate about Nigeria, when I think of all that Nigeria has done for me; Nigeria has been good to me. It was in this nation that I was born in Ibadan in 1971. It was in this nation that I got my education and it has shaped me to be who I am today. It was in this nation that I got my work opportunities. It was in this nation that I got my first employment in Ventures and Trust. Then, second employment in Philips Consulting. It was in this nation that I started my business in 2001; 16 years ago. It is in this nation that I got married.
It is in this nation that my kids have been born. How could I not be passionate about Nigeria? Nigeria has been too good to me. Many times, I feel guilty and ask myself: Have I been good enough to Nigeria? That really is a question that each and every one of us must ask. Why are we not more passionate about Nigeria, when Nigeria has been so good to us?
In the last few years, I have followed you on Social Media and noted you talk more about Leadership, what inspires your focus?
I believe it’s because everything rises and falls on leadership. Just like the way John Marxwell says it, that leadership is by far the most important ingredient between today and what will become of the future. Ask anyone in the world, they will tell you Africa is blessed. They will tell you Nigeria is blessed. But nobody can understand why such a blessed continent and a blessed country have people so poor. And when they do the analysis, they come out to say one thing; the lack of leadership. We have had rulers over many years. People who have ruled and suppressed, who have relied on the power of position to intimidate others to acquiesce, while they acquire wealth for themselves.
And what rulers do is to deplete and exploit the people, and what leaders do is to develop and give the people the chance to express themselves. What is clear is not that Nigeria has suffered from poor leadership; it’s that Nigeria has suffered from rulership and now Nigeria must become all that she will be when leaders arise. Now, let me be clear, leaders are not just people, who have positions of authority. No. Leaders are people who have the ability to solve problems and make people, places and things better. Leaders are not just people in government. No. Leaders are everyone who has the ability to add value to this entity called Nigeria to make Nigeria a better place. Nigeria needs a hundred and eighty million leaders, not just one. And that is why I have been doing all I can to raise a leader who will build Nigeria, shape Africa and positively shake the world.
How long do you think it will take to achieve the quest for a new Nigeria, considering the state of our youth’s mentality and orientation?
Oh, yes, I see a new Nigeria, and it is clearer to me every day. I see a new Nigeria where everything works because everyone is working to make things right. Nigerians love Nigeria. They maybe disappointed, but most Nigerians haven’t turned their backs on Nigeria. Most Nigerians are unhappy, not just because of the way Nigeria is, but because of the way they know that Nigeria can better. What I always say to young people is to understand that a nation is like a house and you inherit a house that is broken down, but the house you will give to your children will depend on you and so while we are angry, while we are disappointed, in Nigeria that doesn’t have power, with the Nigeria that doesn’t have light in our bulb, that does not have clean water from our tap.
A Nigeria where we have lost value in our children. A Nigeria where you have to provide your own water, power, security and you have to be your own Local Government Chairman; that is not the Nigeria that we will give to our children to decide, but we must accept responsibility for the new Nigeria. Nobody is going to give us a new Nigeria, we will build a New Nigeria, we must believe that God has blessed Nigeria enough and that we were sent to the world and to Nigeria for such a time like this, not just go live in Nigeria, but to build a new Nigeria.
But we must commit. We must commit our time, our energy our resources. We must commit our energy. They said that the glory of youths is their strength. We must commit to deliver the future of Nigeria, in fact, we are the ones who have the responsibility to build the new Nigeria. We will not be given a new Nigeria, we must build it. But we must see it. I have seen it and I know a lot of people have seen a new Nigeria. And that’s why we have not given up on a new Nigeria.
What’s that turning point in your life that triggered the desire to stand in the vanguard of the movement for a new Nigeria?
There was a particular incident that happened to me. A very painful incident. I was travelling to the U.S, and I was travelling upper class and, so I was entitled to priority boarding, and when we got to Gartwick, where I was supposed to take my connecting flight to the U.S, I noticed a distinguished gentleman and his wife; They must have been around 70 years old.
They were what you would call old money; clean money, distinguished, white hair. A man and a woman. Perfect couple, they seemed. And as we were about to board the plane, the lady, who was supposed to check our boarding pass, I noticed she asked the couple to step aside and as I came up to the place to board the plane, she said I should step aside also. She collected our passports and took out a magnifying glass and started to look at our passport. Now this is a passport and a visa that I had used several times, and when I said to her: What are you doing? She said: “Sir; I’m just doing my job.
I was told to check every Nigerian passport.” I said: “But we are Upper class passengers.” She said: “Sir: you don’t know what we see here and you don’t know what the reputation of Nigeria is.” That day, I got on the plane and I started to cry. And I wrote in my notepad, that ordinary citizen of a great nation would forever be treated better than a successful citizen of a failed nation. The second thing that I wrote was that individual success in the midst of a collective failure would almost still come down to individual’s failure. You see, we can never, no matter how well we have done; we can never out succeed Nigeria. Nigeria is an identity.
If Nigeria fails, even if we succeed, we are still carrying the label of failure. From that day I decided that it will be wiser for me to spend more time building a nation that my children will be proud of and grateful to receive from me. That it was not enough for me to build houses that I will give to my children because in a failed state, houses are nothing but bunkers. They are blown up.
Go and look at what is happening in Yemen. Look at Syria, look at Libya. Look at Iran. Houses have no value when the state collapses. I think it is in our interest; all of us, to ensure that a successful and a great Nigeria emerges, not just that we become successful and become great in spite of Nigeria.
One of the major challenges is looking for leaders, who will take up positions, who will direct people and guide them.
You have been in the vanguard of this new vision. In the simplest form sir, tell us what should be the first thing to do for those who desire to see a new Nigeria, but have no idea how to go about it.
Now, let me be clear about something. The greatness of Nigeria is dependent on one thing and one thing only; Good governance at all levels.
No matter how much each and every one of us tries to do well and to do things that government should do, like to go to school, having a foundation and social enterprises. No. until we have good governance, we will not have an enabling environment that allows businesses to prosper, that enables passionate employees to find productive work, that enables people to do great things or ideas to fly. That is what governance is supposed to be. Now, how do we get good governance? Well, I believe good governance comes when you have good people in government. And not only in government, but in political parties.
And when you have a political system that allows everybody to be involved in the primaries not just delegates that can be influenced and bought by power brokers. Where we learnt Democracy from, everybody goes to the ballot box twice; first time in the primaries and second time in the general elections. Only in Nigeria will you find and maybe a few African countries that the people are asked to go to the ballot box only once, when they have the opportunity to do general elections. What we have in Nigeria is called SELECTOCRACY not Democracy. And we need Democracy within our political parties.
So, the challenge that we have is to find good people who would go into political parties, but the good people don’t want to go into political parties because there is no internal democracy. And because the good people don’t go, then the people who know how to vote without collecting a dime will not go to the ballot box because they are not inspired by the system. So, you see it’s a vicious cycle. So, the four things that we require; number one, good people who will arise and be willing to learn what it takes to run the office, to win elections and to be able to deliver on their promises.
The second thing is, we need good people who will vote for these people without collecting a dime. Without asking to be bribed, without asking for rice. Because every time you ask for something, you become a slave to that person who gives it to you. And every time a politician comes to give you money. He would never give you money to serve you, he would only give you money for you to serve him for his tenure.
Third, we need to have the policies that will help the people who are going to emerge in those political positions to perform.
Lastly, we need a political party that will have internal democracy. Recently, a leading politician left a political party that we all heard about because he said there was no internal democracy in that place. And I was so excited because I want to see which party he would have to go to, because that party should, at least, promise internal democracy for him to choose that party.
Well, we will see what the outcome will be. Whether the parties that are here will have internal democracy, but I can tell you that in 2019, I believe very strongly that new political parties are going to emerge, and the movement will arise with these parties, and that movement will be filled with people who do not need to collect anything. We will see something in 2019 that will shock the world.