For Dr Mike Omotosho, the District Governor of Rotary District 9125, serving humanity is a calling he cherishes above all else. In this chat with The Interview, he speaks about his motivation for throwing his hat into the political turf to run for Kwara State governor in the last general elections, his Foundation, the wonderful impact of Rotary on his life and the four-way test tool he believes will change the mindset of Nigerians, both leaders and the led, for a better nation for all. It’s a compulsory read.
During the last general election, you contested the Kwara State governorship election; were you really interested in being Kwara State governor or you just wanted to experiment?
Let me take you a little back to four, five years before then when I set up the Mike Omotosho Foundation with a bid to help my people. The initial concept of the Mike Omotosho Foundation was to have a network of youth leaders with a global mindset, but the idea would be that we can act locally. When we got into the communities, we now realised that there were lot of problems in the community: women where suffering; not only women but children and the elderly ones in general.
So, we had to do more than our initial plan. So to come to that, we had to come up with medical mission to over 12 communities. There we shared out over 10,000 treated mosquito nets, over 6,000 wheel chairs, treated over 5,000 people, and we normally do basic checkups. For those that require basic treatment, we treat them, and those that require referral, we refer them elsewhere. We also looked out for women, especially widows - those that already have skills, we retrain them; those that don’t have skills, we train them on skills acquisition. At a particular time, we had a project where we had as many as 14 different skills being taught, and even though it was for women, you would still find men there.
We did not stop there. After that, we gave them micro credit; it was not a grant but a loan and you would be shocked: as much as 96 percent of those that collected the loans have already returned them, within six months to one year, and those that dragged up to one year are those that are into crop farming and so on, and they needed time to be able to harvest their crops and sell them.
A lot of women that went into soap making, candle making, etc., were returning money almost immediately. You can imagine the gratification you would get in your heart by putting smiles on people’s faces.
We continued all of this and my people said, ‘Dr. Omotosho, we know you want to help, but with your Foundation you are only able to help when you want to help. There is no moral injunction to do things for your people, but when you are representing your people, then we would have the moral obligation to demand from you and we believe we would get much more. We want a government for the people, somebody that has the fear of God at heart and truly wants the progress of the people.’
And that is why I keep saying I am not a politician, so I am truly an accidental politician. And that is how I got into the race, and yes we were not declared the winner in the election, but I tell you something, Omotosho was a sure alternative.
So that how I got into politics, and if you go anywhere in Kwara
State, they would tell you about Omotosho; they would tell you how we did our politicking - that changed the face of Kwara State. We went to the 16 local government areas; we went to each of the wards, campaigning and telling them of the hope that we brought to them as a sure alternative. We did politics the way it should be even if we didn’t win the election.
Why exactly do you want to be governor? Can you give us just three reasons?
First, I am not the type that criticises government, but I ask you, in the last 16 years, what have we seen as democracy dividend in the whole of Kwara State? There are facts to show that Kwara State allocation has been as much as N11trillion, but where is it? In as much as it is small, but how have they spent it? Our people are in abject poverty. Personally, I tell people, if there is a woman that has a sick child and lacks accesses to medical attention, somebody is not happy and that person is Mike Omotosho.
If there is a child that goes to bed hungry, I am very angry. If there is a young adult whose parents had suffered to train through the university, comes back home after service (NYSC), and four years down the line he is still being fed by his parents because he is jobless to the point that he is already disillusioned and beginning to consider crime. We cannot allow that to continue to happen. What government should do is to provide an enabling environment for people. We cannot allow that to continue to happen. What government should do is to provide the enabling environment for small and big businesses to flourish, and when we do that, it becomes easy for everyone to carry his cross.
And more importantly, I think it’s better for the people to have a government of their own, so we can have a strong democracy.
A government for the people by the people and for the people, not just in definition only; someone they can associate with, someone that has been with them and understands their pains.
When I was doing all of my Foundation work, I was not really interested in politics. I did it because I saw it as doing God's work. For me, there is a major fulfillment that comes from putting a smile on people’s face. There is a satisfaction that I get for giving voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless. But beyond satisfaction, there are fringe benefits - the hand of the giver is always on top, because givers never lack. And that is why I tell people two reasons; even if I don’t want to help you because of you, I see it as not helping myself, because I stand to benefit more and that is a simple logic. How it happens, I don’t know, but it is a universal law; it’s in the holy books.
What are the lessons you have learnt from that outing?
The lessons I have learnt are that Nigerian politics is not textbook theory; it is not enough to have the support of the people because it is not the people’s mandate that is currently prevailing. That is the reality. Go into Kwara State and ask questions from people; that (government) is not the people’s choice. These are some of the lessons I have learnt. The other lesson is the hard truth - that our people have suffered so much that they would collect a small sum and sell their birthright for the next four years. I am not making an excuse for them but you cannot blame them; somebody is hungry, he is thinking of where the next meal would come from; he is not ready to wait for the next four years; he would take what he has now and forget about the four years because he wants to survive for that day. Everyday belongs to God and that’s the way they see it. That is the mentality we must change, and I tell you, it’s not about money; it’s a huge problem. I am sure Kwara State is not alone in that peculiar problem. People must learn to be above gratification. Nigerians must recognize that there is no gain without pain, and when you are above gratification, the harvest and profit would be a lot more than taking what you have now.
Usually when politicians contest elections and lose, they are compensated with some juicy positions or contracts; what did you get?
As you can see, I got immediate compensation from the people - the love I get is unprecedented. Any time I go to the state today, you would see the welcome bids I get. Even if I go through the airport,- even if I am going by road, they would know - you would see and you would be hearing prayers and blessings from even people I don’t know. I tell them I am not a politician that cannot do what he says; I am a man of my words - I do what I can do, and even those I cannot do I would call my friends. If I can’t find friends here, I would go international. That is the beauty of belonging to international associations. For instance, I am a Rotarian and being a Rotarian gives me access to almost 1.3 million business and community leaders who have the same mindset of helping humanity. I can reach out to any of these 1.3 million people and say, ‘Hey, I have a problem, please join me to solve this problem’. That is the beauty of the whole thing. In January this year, we had surgery for over 500 babies. I didn’t do it; we got a team of 17 volunteers from Canada, USA, Australia and even India, and for two weeks they were in Kwara State conducting operations for free. All we did was to provide their consumables; they came in with their equipment. When they were leaving, they took some and even left some behind. The government also supported – it gave us the general hospital to use and provided accommodation, so we must thank them. That is the beauty of Rotary. The profit is the fulfilment you get for making the life of somebody else better.
In Rotary, we don’t replace government; we only support what government is already doing, and that’s why we exist as clubs in communities, so that we can fill the needs in the community.
And the same policy is what I adopt as a human. So if a community needs a borehole, we would come together and raise the money to fix it. If the club cannot fix it, they would call the districts heads. If the districts heads cannot help, we would go to Rotary International and apply for a grant to be able to achieve the said project.
And I tell you, the wiliness to help is what matters a lot. It is not how much money you do not have or how much money you have, because to help humanity is not about money a lot. At times, you could use your talent to help. For instance, if you are a journalist, you can use your talent to promote somebody’s problem; you can use your pen and paper to make everybody know about it, until somebody hears it and gives justice to the person. I believe in this way you didn’t spend your money but you help humanity. So in Rotary, we encourage people to use three things - money, talent and time.
If you did not get anything, why?
I wrote a book entitled “Altruism”. It simply means helping somebody without getting anything in return. I went into politics not because I want to be governor; I am just one citizen out of everybody else. To me, leadership is moving along with your followers. What you are simply doing is providing a guiding light to let people know where they are supposed to be and make them understand that this is where they should be. So, it is a combination of three thing: first you have to let them know where they should be, and that is why you need a vision; second is communication and, finally, you need to motivate them to action so that they would truly follow you to that place.
And when you have done all these three, development starts, and that is what leadership should be. If you are going in there, it should not be for any compensation or any rewards. After all, I knew I was going to be governor of Rotary, covering 23 states and the FCT, and that I am able to be addressed as Your Excellency. I have over 100 clubs under my portfolio. In fact, in the first 150 days, we travelled over 25,000 kilometres by road to commission over 300 projects, making over 150 media appearances, visiting royalty, governors, and ministers - over 100 of them. And I knew I was going to be governor of Rotary even when I was running for governor of Kwara State, and they said, “Mike, why are you running for one state while you already have 23 states? So, for me, it is not about the title.
Before then, I was already governor of Toast Masters International District 94, covering all of West Africa in the year 2013/2014 Toast Masters Year. I became the best governor in the entire Toast Masters World. What is in the title? It is not about the compensation; the only opportunity we missed was to serve the people, an opportunity to better our lives as Kwara people, and for me, that is the only pain, but besides that, there is no need to worry, because it’s an opportunity to do more. In fact, I have gotten more than 200 awards (you can just see a few of them here). I have gotten over 320,000 chieftaincy titles, from the north, from the south, from the west, from the south-south and from everywhere. For me, it is recognition, but beyond recognition, it is a challenge - that I should do more of whatever I am doing now. Just on Saturday, a hospital was named after me in Kaduna. So what other compensation do I need, even not being the governor of Kwara State.
Will you still contest in future elections or is that you are done?
The truth of the matter is we are all political animals; not everybody wins electoral contest, and I tell you, truly you don’t need to contest election to touch the lives of people. If my people insist and they believe that it would help, and I am convinced that it would help make life better, why not?
But we don’t have plans to say we are career politicians, that after this election, we begin to plan the next one; of course not, the most important part, for me, is helping the people.
There is this belief that contestants spend a lot of money during elections; where did you get the kind of money you must have spent?
I think contestants spend a lot of money when they give money to godfathers. We don’t have any godfather; the only godfather we had during our campaign was Baba God, so we didn’t have to give anybody money for anything. Of course, we gave out money for food, logistics and item mobilization, but then we got a lot of goodwill support from all sides. You would even see posters from people that I didn’t even know at all. Yes it is a lot of money but I think the bulk of the money that people usually mention are meagre, because if you calculate all of it, it is not more than what you would use for medical mission.
Can you tell us how much you spent?
Personally, I have also been afraid to calculate how much was spent. For instance, we had 420 billboards in Kwara State alone. We had million bottles of bottle water, the Omotosho Water, not to talk of appearances, jingles. People were doing jingles free of charge. Of course, we had to pay for press coverage; we had to pay for advertising of jingles - those one also cost money. The beauty of this all is the level of campaign that we did. We reached out to the people and the people were with us when we were doing our campaign. You need to see the numbers of trains that would voluntarily follow us; not like the other political parties that would go and rent vehicles and trains. In our case, people would abandon what they were doing and carry other people and their van and follow us. That was the support and the strength that we got from God, and the testimonies are there. Go into Kwara and ask them; don’t rely on what I am telling you; go and ask them. And for me, what we were going to do differs from anybody else. It was to govern Kwara State on the four-way test And the four-way test tells you what we were thinking, and whatever you want to say and whatever you want to do, just ask yourself one questions first, is it the truth?
Second is, is it fair to all concerned? And, third, we need to build goodwill and better friendships between me and the people and then, finally, you need it to be beneficial to everybody. If it is not the truth, why do it? In fact, if it is not the truth, you don’t have to move to question two. So, the fact that it is not true means that even if it is fair, you should do it, no! And the beauty of the four-way test is, it has been applied, tested and proven to be profitable for 84 years. It can be applied to propose legislation by government, to come up with a new legislation. Ask yourself, this bill that you want to pass, is it the truth? If it is the truth, then you ask, is it fair to all concerned. If it is, will it build goodwill and better friendships? And then, finally, will it be beneficial to all? Only then should you go ahead with it. That was what we were going to do for Kwara. It was an opportunity to actually make everybody a better person, because the change that we are all clamouring for cannot come overnight. Let the change happen in the community: I will decide to change; he would decide to change, and then the community will decide to change. Just like Mother Teresa said, ‘If you want our community to be clean, you would clean your doorsteps; he would clean his doorsteps and I would clean my doorsteps, then the community would become clean.
And that’s the beauty of the four-way test, because it is about me, my words and my actions. It is in me and I am in total control, just like you are in total control of yourself. Ironically in relation to others, so after controlling myself, how do I relate to you? Will it build big, better friendship if I apply the four-way test to the things I think, say or do to you. More than likely, you would be happy. It will also inspire you to be a better person as well and, gradually, the community changes; I change, you change, everybody changes.
It is one year since this administration came in; what is your assessment?
Nigerian people are complaining. They believe that the change that we want is a bit slow, but I tell you, just like the word change, there is no pain without gain. There has to be a painful process of evolution, so we need to wait and endure for the bright light at the end of the tunnel. We are beginning to see positive signs; we are beginning to see a shift, from the crude oil sector into other areas of the economy, significantly agriculture. We are beginning to see the plans that they have for power, for housing, for even rural resources, minerals and natural resources. So, all of these are indications that we know what we are doing. I just plead with people to be patient; it is a painful, slow process, but I think it is going to be worth it at the end.
Can you truly say we are better off now than we were two years ago?
I may not be able to say that, but I can tell you that in another one year or two, we would be better off than we were several years back. That’s the beauty of it, because it is a painful process. If you look at that process, you would say nothing is happening. It is like a bamboo tree; you have a bamboo tree, you would be watching it. The first month, it would just come out small; you will be watching it for six months, then the next 18 months, it would now grow several branches. So, yes, it may not be better off than last year, but in one or two years’ time, I believe it would be better than we were in previous years.
What are some of the pitfalls you have noticed in President Muhammadu Buhari’s government?
Oh yes, there has to be significantly improved communication. Because the change process is extremely painful, people must be carried along, to understand that, ‘Look we are going through a process of change and that change is needful.’ The people must understand this; that’s where the problem is. So there has to be complete communication to re-orientate people on the need to follow. Remember when I described leadership, I said you need people to see where you are going, so I assume the government of President Buhari knows where they are leading us to. And I believe it is the best place to lead us to, but the people need to also see that place that they are leading us to, so that they can be inspired to follow and stop complaining, because when you are complaining, you are not helping anybody. You need to say that’s where we are going and we would get there, let’s re-organise ourselves; let’s cleanse ourselves. There is a saying in my place that when a masquerade is chasing you and you are running, don’t stop, because as you are getting tired, the masquerade, too, is getting tired; so don’t be tired, continue to run, so everybody would continue with a unison of purpose. If we understand where we are all going, it becomes a lot easier to cope and adapt.
Do you have faith in this administration? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Yes, if given the desired support from people. If the complaints get too much, everything would crumble. The truth is, it is our government; we are all in this together. The same sun shines on all of us together, and when doom comes, it’s for all of us. We don’t have any other country, so we all must come together and build the Nigeria of our dream. If they go wrong, we would correct them as a voice, as one body. We would come together and say this is what we want. We’ll all come together and be sure that we get to the desired destination.
What are the things you believe this government can do to restore the hope of Nigerians in this administration?
Improve communication, for instance; carry everybody along. For instance, a town hall meeting of the minister of information in super; go in there and tell the people all your plans, what you are doing, what difficulty you are facing, open to people. Like the minister of petroleum, he tells us when the containers are berthing. Let people know the pains, the struggles, everything you are going through. He can reach out to a large proportion of the youth on social media by doing a little clip and it will go viral, telling people the difficulty he is facing and when it will be all over and you will see that people will stop complaining.
Can you mention just three things you believe this administration has done right?
Well, they do understand that there has to be a strategic plan at increasing foreign direct investment, and they went for a partnership. I think that is also very strategic. Of course, it has its own pitfalls that we must guard against, but that is very strategic, and letting people know that there are alternatives. Over-dependence on crude oil has affected our focus. Before we discovered that, we had groundnut pyramids in Kano. Where are they? Where are the cotton and cocoa farms? Where are all of those today? Once there is less emphasis on crude oil and people begin to seek alternatives, life will begin to become a lot better and economy sustainable. So even as a nation, we should have multiple sources of getting revenue; it is not enough to just depend on one resource base.
Do you see this administration making real and sustainable impact by 2019 when its time would be up?
With the support of the people, I say yes, I see a tremendous improvement. The change agenda should work with the support of the people.
There seems to be this movement or, should we say, awareness, especially among young people, calling the leaders to account; do you think this is sustainable?
It is absolutely sustainable, I tell you. It would make them not just transparent but also ensure accountability. Let me tell you a story of accountability and transparency: if you have a blind man who is your friend and he trusts you enough and says, ‘Please come and roast my groundnut for me, he trusts you; that is why he said you should come and roast his groundnut. The fact that he gave you his groundnut means he trusts you. As he is even standing there, you will do something so that he would know that you are roasting his groundnut. You would even be whistling - that is transparency. Accountability is that you finish roasting the groundnut and then you hand it over to him. Beyond that, you would not move a step - to let him know that you were not eating his groundnut while roasting it, that you were even whistling; that is exactly what is happening today when the youth are holding their representatives to be accountable, because it would also bring transparency back. With that they would be able to relate directly and let them know the suffering of the people back home in the communities so that they can effectively represent them.
Seriously, what is your reaction to the many problems the 8th National Assembly presently has with the people?
Well, I don't think there should be exceptions to corruption probe. How long is the 8th Assembly, for instance? So if they are allegations, and the allegations have not been confirmed or otherwise, then I don't think it is fair to begin to talk about it. However, you know we are just getting there. If it were advanced countries, you would see them step aside pending when the issue is resolved - let somebody else take charge - but you know we are in Nigeria, that may not exactly be the case. But we are getting there, because gone are those days that you cannot even come up with any allegations, spurious or real, against the top hierarchy in government. But this is the point that anybody can actually be searched; even the number one, number two man can also be searched as far as there is room to prove your innocence. So, begin to tell our people that people are watching and once the judiciary system is enforced and it becomes empowered and fast, most of the things that we are yearning for would become reality.
Do you think Senator Saraki should resign? If yes, why. If no, why not?
No, that’s not what I am saying. I said in advanced countries, somebody of his status, if not resign, would step aside. Same thing happened in Iceland, for instance, where the Prime Minister resigned just because of the Panama Case. So I am saying that in advanced countries, somebody of his status will step aside, not necessary resign.
So, I think he should go and prove his innocence, because the scenario that happened in Iceland may not happen in our case. The topography is totally different; his resigning may lead to something else. But if he can prove his case, or he’s proven guilty, then let the full wrath of the law take its course.
What are your thoughts on the recent incessant attacks by alleged Fulani herdsmen and what do you think is the way out?
I think it is totally appalling. It is unbelievable. It is not even about Fulani herdsmen; I find it totally unthinkable that someone can take a knife and then butcher a fellow human being; it doesn’t matter the tribe; it doesn’t matter the nature of the disagreement. I told people two years ago during the medical sector crisis (that) it’s not about who leads the profession; it’s about the patient. If the doctor is thinking about the health of the patient, the pharmacist is thinking about the health of the patient, the nurse is thinking about the health of the patient, and everybody focuses on the health of the patient, then there would not be any need for struggle over who is in charge. Like in this case, it is not about the Fulani herdsmen but we are human beings, fellow human beings; this is totally appalling and unbelievable. It is unacceptable in any race; it is unacceptable in any religion, and I believe the powers that be will put a stop to this.
But beyond that, that’s why I keep mentioning the four-way test. See, it is so easy to come up with legislation; it’s so easy to come up with a law enforcement agency; it’s so easy to come up with the military to go and crush a force, but beyond that, let’s appeal to each other’s sentiment. If we apply the four-way test of: is it the truth? Let us build goodwill and better friendship; will be beneficial to all concerned? We will all have better communities and society, and the corruption will become a lot easier to fix, because as individuals there will be a change in our mind-set. And that is where I think it starts from - our attitude will change and then once our habit changes, the community will change and then our culture as a nation will also change. It is not about military warfare; it is not about the legislative process; it is about appealing to each person’s conscience and that’s why this road we were would have gone ahead to unleash the four-way test initiative. We have a lot of billboards out there; we have a lot of posters and handbills letting people know about the four-way test gains. That will paint a vivid picture of how you can transform and change your life from being an ordinary person to becoming an extraordinary person through the four-way test of truth, fairness goodwill and benefit to all concerned. If we can effectively push this from the top to the bottom, from the bottom to the top, from our executive to the legislative arm, to the judiciary, all the way down to the military and parastatals, business entities, schools, everybody, our community will be a better place. I foresee a Nigeria where you stand in a queue and somebody wants to come and join the queue. I tell you, the corruption we are talking about, it starts with tiny indiscipline that we take granted. We are focusing on just financial corruption, misappropriation, embezzlement, but I tell you the real problem is in the basics. You are probably in Kubwa, you have an interview with somebody, and you running late, and you claim to five minutes’ drive away when you are actually half an hour away. We all do it and we don’t think it is a problem. All these tiny acts of indiscipline, that is what corruption starts from, and that is where we should start from. And if we start from there, by the time you are standing on the road and you want to offer bribe to somebody, and the person is asking you, ‘Oga, is it the truth?’ you will think twice. By the time you get to an office and you are looking for your file and the man there is saying, ‘Sir, your file has no reached here?’ and somebody is saying, ‘Oga, is it the truth?’ you will bring out the file. That exactly is what we are trying to achieve by propagating the four-way test initiative.
Do you think the grazing bill is the way to go?
The truth is that I normally leave law making for lawmakers, because they understand that and do it better than us, but if you look at advanced countries, instead of having grazing reserves, it’s a lot easier to actually have ranches because grazing reserves means you can dole out such land and you make it available to almost everybody. But when you have a ranch, it belongs to you; it is your business. It’s like having a radio transmitter and then you can pick any bandwidth to operate. I don’t think that is done in any part of the world. We should give these people sense of ownership. Let’s give them sense of belonging; let’s give them what belongs to them; let them have ranches. In most parts of the world, in the developed countries, you would see hectares and hectares of farmlands belonging to an individual, so their (herdsmen) having different areas for their cattle is possible, and it is doable, and we have a lot of land in Nigeria, why can’t this be done. But like I said, I will leave law-making for the lawmakers, but for me, is it truly fair to all concerned? That’s after you have answered if it is the truth. You know, the beauty of the four-way test is this, you start from one to two to four. If it is not the truth, you don’t have any reason to ask if it is fair to all or not; if it is not the truth, let’s discard the idea totally because you cannot build on a flawed foundation. But if it is the truth, then we move to the second question. If it is not fair, but it is the truth, you will abandon it because when you are building, even if the foundation is correct and you don’t have a decking, then there is nothing reasonable you are doing. So it is like building a house: first you have a foundation, then you have the wall and then the roof. That is when you will say that the house is complete. That’s exactly how I see the four-way test. So you move from one, two, three and then four. If there is a no at any point in time, you discard the entire idea totally.
What about the governors; people believe that even if things are not going well at the federal level, they can still make positive impact in their respective states if they are serious about good governance. What do you think?
Well, I think that even beyond that, we should hold all of our leaders accountable, from our councillors, to the local government chairmen, to the state governors and everybody. Of course, uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, so it is only natural that all eyes will be pointed on the number one man because the buck stops on his table, so all eyes will be on him. For me, enough of even complaining and criticising government - what have you done as a person? And that is why we have come up with the world’s thickest book, “My Dream Nigeria,” based on the four-way test. We are collecting essays and we are going to collect the best 12,000 essays to publish the world’s thickest book. It will be a co-record holder of the Guinness Book of World Records. We don’t want to know about the problems you are facing; tell us about the dream that you have for Nigeria - how do you see that beautiful Nigeria that you have in your mind - and write it down. So we are making people conceptualise the Nigeria they want to see.
You have been in the Rotary for a very long time; what’s the motivation?
Well, for me like, I said earlier that there is a major profit when you put a smile on people’s faces. Like I said, that profit is not financial profit; it is the fulfilment that comes from giving. However, as an individual philanthropist, I can continue to do whatever I want to, but the beauty of Rotary is the harmonisation. In Rotary, we have almost 1.3 million business and community leaders - like minds - who come together for just one thing: community service, service to humanity, touching the lives of somebody else. In Rotary, my N1,000, your N1,000 and his N1,000 - that is N3,000 - should give us impact worth more than N5,000; otherwise, there is no point. I can go and be spending my money to help the community, and you could be spending you own N1,000 to help the community, but that is the beauty of Rotary. I will give you a classical example: every $1 that anybody donates from Rotary or through Rotary towards polio eradication will be merged by $2 from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, making $3, and then governments of other nations can also add to that. Let me give you an example: if I put down $1 for polio eradication and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation puts down $3 and we merge it together, that become $4 - that is the beauty of Rotary. It encourages team work; it encourages synergy, where everybody comes together for the good of the economy. That’s why I say that you provide selfless service for both self - believing that one profits the most who serves the best, and that profit produces more money. It’s the fulfilment we get for making the community a better place.
When you joined Rotary, did it ever occur to you that you would one day become the DG?
No, when I joined Rotary, I never knew I was going to be a DG. In fact, I normally tell people that I am an accidental Rotarian. When they were inviting me to join Rotary I said no, (that) Rotary is for retired people, rich people, not a young, struggling youth, not a young struggling man. I have a family to take care of; I need to train my children through school. And moreover, I give arms, I donate to the society, I come out if needed, so why should I come to Rotary. But when I joined Rotary, I saw the benefit. There is nothing like the strength, the synergy of like minds working for the same purpose. I ate Rotary, I slept Rotary, I woke Rotary, and for me that is the fulfilment that you get for service to humanity. My great grandfather told me a story - about keeping yam tubers for the next planting season even when my family members are hungry and I refuse to respond; that when I come back in a year’s time, that yam, would not remain the same: it may have disappeared into private stores.
If I am living in a community, when my neighbours are very hungry and I refuse to do anything about it, my chicken that is walking around that neighbourhood will disappear one day. So if I don’t do it because of them, I will do it because of myself. Because, like I say, the real motive is that fulfilment that you get from touching somebody else’s life. Givers never lack. And I tell you something, irrespective of where you find yourself, irrespective of where you come from, there is always sometime that you can use to help somebody else, so I tell people that there is always something you have that you can use to be a gift to the world. You can truly touch somebody’s life; it don’t matter how much money you have.
Rotary is a non-profit organisation and you have always been so deeply involved; how do you pay your bills?
Yes I am district governor for one year, Rotary pays me. You cannot join Rotary if you don’t have a vocation, so you need to have a vocation, because it is your vocation that they use to serve humanity in conjunction with others. We have five avenues for service, and the most important is the vocational aspect of service. You can also provide club service; you can also provide a vocation service to make the community a better place; you can also provide international service, maybe for peace and conflict resolution, maybe for cultural regeneration service. You can also provide youth service, working with the new generation adult so that they can grow into the society that you want to see in future. If you don’t mould them now, then they would grow up to be what they want to be. You are truly not a leader until you have groomed a leader who has groomed another leader, so you have to work with the youth.
What are your three major achievements since you became the DG?
First, we create a lot of awareness for Rotary. We have had a lot of complaints of Rotary being a secret cult. Every Rotary meeting in the world, anybody can attend. Anywhere in the world, you can attend, the only thing is if you are not invited to that meeting, you sit as an observer. We don’t have meetings in secret places, so we create awareness for more and more people to know about Rotary. What we have been able to do is to bring in more members. When I became governor, we had precisely about 1,875 Rotarians in our district, but today we have almost 3,000 members in our district. But more importantly, we have been able to contribute our own little quota in making Nigeria a better place, changing people’s mind-set by encouraging them to apply the four-way test. Of course, the four-way test was not created by me; it’s been around for 84 years, but we initiated the four-way test campaign. We took it to the high and mighty; we took it to the campaign all the way from the top, down to the bottom, primary school pupils, secondary school students, the undergraduates, post-graduates, workers, the whole state governors, ministers.
In fact, the four-way test book was unveiled by the Speaker of the House of Representatives himself, Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara. I was with the minister of petroleum resources when we launched this four-way test book. Gen. Yakubu Gowon was there; Fashola was there; Donald Duke was there; we have the EFCC chairman come to be part of it. We are creating that mind-set, and we are compromising attitudinal change based on the four-way test. I think that has been very phenomenal. The reception has been awesome.
What drives you?
Well, as a human being, I believe we are all living on this earth as tenants. Everybody is still a tenant. Now the catch here is, if you are truly a tenant, you must pay rent, and that pay is the service we provide to somebody else, and whoever chooses not to provide that service voluntarily will have to pay that rent. It’s like going to borrow money from the bank. If you don’t pay when you are supposed to pay, you would still pay and you will face penalty. But in this life when you know you are supposed to pay, your rent is the service you provide to somebody else, doing God’s work particularly to those that we don’t know at all. That is the highest form of giving and I tell you, everybody has the capacity to give.
What books have made the greatest impact on you? How?
Well, a lot of self-development books like THINK AND GROW RICH, not financial wealth now, but mental wealth, because for most of us the problem has been financial ideals - that’s the truth, so when people are able to change their mind-set and begin to abide by what would benefit the community, then the community would be able to be great. But I tell you, of all the books I have read, the most impactful is actually on a single page. It’s called the four-way test. It is simple certain, easy to remember, yet the impact is undeniable, and it is easy to use.
You have a wife and children and you always on the move; how do you manage the balancing?
Well, I would say I have been extremely blessed by people that understand me as family members, because they understand, and for every moment I spend with them, they are happy, and that’s the beauty of life.
How do you unwind?
For me, thinking about humanity is what gives me joy. That alone is what gives me joy and makes me relaxed, so the more we are able to find solutions to our problems as humans the better. I live humanity, I sleep humanity, I wake up humanity; if there is opportunity to make the life of another person better, I am happy to do that. And I believe that there is that leadership trait in everybody, so you just need to find it, discover it and help that person make it better.