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‘Only people who sacrificed for Nigeria should be honoured’

What actually will you say inspired the establishment of Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) seven years ago?In 2006, you will agree with me that there were…

What actually will you say inspired the establishment of Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) seven years ago?
In 2006, you will agree with me that there were a lot of reforms going on in Nigeria, not only what was being done in terms of privatization efforts, in Abuja and what EFCC at that point was doing. Our economy was also having better improvement due to reforms. At that point in time, Dr. Christopher Kolade was Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Naturally, he interacted with quite a number of these reformers within the government and one of the observations was that it was a little bit lonely for them in the government. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, there was a group of credible and accomplished Nigerians who are in the diaspora and who are encouraged by the reforms that were going on. They were willing to also contribute to what was a transformation in Nigeria at that period. This group of people started interacting with each other and at that point in time Mr. Olusegun Aganga, the current Minister of Trade & Investment was the MD at Goldman Sacks and of course he was interacting with a number of his friends and peers and they were also looking for a platform in order to contribute to the development of Nigeria. Those two thoughts are what led to the creation of NLI which is an organisation that is non-partisan, global in picture and today we’re registered in Nigeria, UK, US.
 
Leadership issue in Nigeria is critical. Has NLI been able to rise to the challenge in its reformation crusade?
Yes, NLI is an organisation that is first and foremost created to provide a platform for credible and accomplished Nigerians to enhance their value-based leadership in order to contribute to the development of Nigeria. That’s number one. But in addition to that, NLI offers technical assistance as well as leadership development across a number of sectors within the Nigerian landscape. One, we conduct leadership seminar for the presidency and its cabinet. We’re currently doing so for the States Governors and their executives. That tentacle is also spreading to private sector and even the civil society groups.
 
Does this have any correlation with the awards recently given to those you described as “unknown Nigerians”?
There are many unsung heroes in Nigeria; people who are making sacrifice, who are contributing to the society one way or the other to make Nigeria a better society. So, our approach to the NLI Annual Awards is to recognize and celebrate these unsung heroes. We have three categories of the awards. We have the life time achievement award, integrity award, and value-based leadership award. Last year for instance, the life-time achievement award was given to the wife of late Tai Solarin, while the integrity award was given to Mr. Lateef Salami, a staff of NACO, one of those people who are rare breed and who have demonstrated consistently a sense of honesty by returning five thousand pounds which he discovered on the airplane, he also returned twenty five thousand Euros and five thousand dollars discovered in the course of duty. And finally for last year, the value based leadership award was given to Hajiya Salamatu Garba, the executive director of Farmers Association of Nigeria for empowering women in the north.
You see, many people did not know about these people. This year, the life time achievement award goes to Mrs. Jean obi, a Briton married to a Nigerian and has been in this country for the past fifty years contributing enormously to the development of the education of the visually impaired in the society through Braille development. The integrity award goes to Mr. Soji Apampa, who has made tremendous contribution as the executive director of convention on business integrity and the value based leadership award for this year was given to a young and dynamic Nigerian, Mr. Otto Orondaam, who saw value in education by mobilizing other youth corpers to volunteer and encourage the less privilege to go to school in Makoko, area of Lagos State. These are the people we like to sing and celebrate.

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