Fela Durotoye: I Am Willing to Serve Nigeria If Power Brokers Are Transparent and Honest


He is a household name in the country and abroad. Mention motivational talk and leadership training, and the name Adetokunbo Olufela Durotoye comes to mind. In his circles, he is simply known as Fela Durotoye or FD as his inner circle guys call him.

Successful by all standards, Fela makes the job of helping businesses to overcome adversities look like reciting the ABC. He is the Chief Executive Officer of the Gemstone Group, a leadership development institution with a distinct mandate to raise a generation of leaders. In this interview with Samuel Ajayi, Fela talks about politics and life in general

Do you think the country is suffering from poor leadership?
The apparent failure in leadership of our country comes from a rulership system that has over the years produced rulers for us rather than leaders. I believe that leaders are role models of excellence and integrity whose lives are worthy of emulation. True leaders have the ability to create and deliver desired results, desired outcomes and the desired future for all. In other words, Leaders make people, places and things better while rulers make people, places and things worse over time. Rather than royal fathers, the system produced traditional rulers and afterward, colonial masters who never came to serve the people, and thereafter, military rulers who came as overlords to oppress the people. And from military rule, we’ve experienced political rulers in a democratic framework. As long as we do not replace the system of rulers, we will continue to experience the so-called failure of leadership. The system is the problem.

Does that send any negative message to the outside world?
All across the world, Nigerians are doing great things and excelling in leadership positions. So the world cannot understand how a nation like Nigeria that is blessed with such brilliant, talented, hardworking and excellent people can have such quality of people in the positions of power. The world cannot understand why our brightest and best who have the privilege of education and exposure are not actively engaged in the service of their own people and most importantly, the world cannot understand how we have consistently filled our leadership positions with rulers.
Let me give you an example. On the 5th of May 2010, the day that former President Umaru Yar’Adua died, it coincided with when the British elections were holding and there was this contest between David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg as the leading contenders from the main political parties. I was watching Sky News and all their hosts and contributors were talking about who was going to be the next leader of Britain. All of a sudden, there was breaking news that the ‘ruler’ of Nigeria had died and that the then Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, would become the next ‘ruler’ of Nigeria.
They look at us in Nigeria (and indeed all across Africa) and laugh at us because, election after election, our democratic process mostly seems to produce rulers instead of leaders. This is why the world has such a negative perception of us. I believe that the only way to eradicate corruption in governance is to ensure that our political parties have truly free and fair democratic processes where the candidates are chosen by the members of the party and not just a selected cabal of powerful party chieftain and their delegates. If I may take on that, if out of 10,000 delegates, 7,000 voted for a particular candidate, is that not the simple majority and democratic enough? Though there might be allegations of monetary inducements do we call it monetary democracy?
I call that monetary ‘selectocracy’, not democracy. In a democracy, all members of the party vote for their preferred aspirants and the will of the people is carried by their delegates to the party convention. That is why out of 96million eligible voters in 2015, only 68million people registered to vote, but only 28million people actually cast their votes. What the 40 million people who refused to vote were saying is that ‘I don’t want any of these candidates and would rather sit at home than fulfill my civic responsibility of choosing any candidate that I do not like.’
If I go with your analysis, about 40 million registered voters did not vote last time. As a leader and teacher of men, how do we galvanise these 40m Nigerians to get involved? If they get involved, the status quo will naturally change. The only way to get the 40 million people who refuse to vote in 2015 to be involved in the next elections is to present to them credible and inspiring candidates at all levels who must be elected by all members of their party and not just a few power brokers and delegates. In 2019, Nigerians must see a new class of people who truly are out to serve and have the heart to lead. We must offer these 40 million voters candidates who are inspiring and have the right values and the credibility; who do not make empty promise via manifesto alone but have shown over the years a love for their country. Show them that they have options between those who want to rule over them and those who want to lead them and you will see a change of heart on their part. Remember, their non-participation is a protest vote and mind you, they have been voting, only that they have been voting for nobody. When you see a credible candidate from a credible party, you will see that dormant voting bloc will come alive.

You said something concerning that someone cannot pay so that he or she can serve you. Can you elaborate on this?
In every sphere of our society, whoever pays is given the right to be served by the one who collects the money. We see this in the market, petrol station, and mall and so on, anytime you pay, you deserve the right to be served. Only in politics do we ever hear that a politician pays you to serve you and our experience has shown, that in reality, politicians pay for us to serve them throughout the tenure of their mandate. So I want to be very clear, anyone who offers you money to vote for them is paying you to serve them and have the right to rule over you throughout their tenure in office.

As an individual, tell me what has inspired you to date?
My dream is for my generation to actualise our potential and build Nigeria into the most desirable nation to live in by December 31, 2025. The dream has inspired and influenced every decision and action since 2004 when I was a management consultant and leadership coach helping companies achieve excellent service delivery and leadership culture. I then realised that no matter how well we build our businesses, if we don’t build a successful nation, those businesses cannot survive. Therefore, in 2007, I transited from a pure management consulting firm into a social enterprise and we started to focus on solving social problems such as the deteriorating standard of our education, we embarked on social projects revive academic excellence in our schools and other educational centres where 75 volunteer teachers trained over 800 students in leadership, Mathematics, and English every day after school for free, among other things. Today, over 30,000 people are committed to infusing our core values into primary, secondary, tertiary institutions and corporate organisations.
These values are: make a positive impact on everyone we meet and everywhere we go; be a solution provider and not a part of the problem to be solved;  be a role model worthy of emulation; be our best in all we do particularly the things we are naturally good at; do the right thing at all times regardless of who is doing the wrong thing; value time and make the best use of it; care and show respect to all through our words and actions; consciously build a great legacy starting now, today and everyday; live a life of integrity and honour and the last one, make your family, your nation and your god proud.

If the nation beckons you to serve it, will you be willing?
For many years, people have asked me to lead by example in the service of our nation and my response has always been if I can encourage a critical mass of credible and competent Nigerians to offer themselves for service across various tiers of government, why not? If it will galvalise over 40 million Nigerian voters to come out and vote; if it will inspire other professionals who have brilliant ideas to come up with policy that will fix our national problems and if we find a platform with credible, transparent and honest democratic culture, where all the members of  the party get to elect their preferred candidates and not just by a few power brokers, then it will be an honour to serve my nation in whatever capacity that I can beyond that which I am currently doing.

Tell us about your childhood?
I was born to the family of late Professors Layiwola and Adeline Durotoye both popularly known as Bros Toks and Sissy Addy. They were both lecturers at the University of Ibadan. I was born in the city of Ibadan in 1971 and my parents moved to Ife in 1972. Therefore, all of my childhood memories were from the University of Ife Senior Staff Quarters in Ile-Ife. I remember my father as my best friend growing up and because he never treated me like a child, I also believed that I was his best friend. One particular memory that I would never forget was my 9th birthday when my father took me to the Dodan Barracks to have breakfast with the then Head of State. So you can imagine how devastating it must have been when my father died when I was just 11 years old. But I am grateful for the grace and strength that God gave my mother and for the love and support that I received from my uncles and aunties throughout my adolescent life.

Who is your favourite author?
Next, to the Bible, my current favorite author is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, who has written two of the best leadership books I have ever read, My Vision (Challenges in the Race for Excellence) and Flashes of Thought. Both books give you a background story of how the Dubai transformation took place. Growing up, like most boys, I read Enid Blyton series such as the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. As I became older, my literary taste evolved into the Pacesetters series and later on to more action books from fiction authors like Ian Fleming, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Ludlum and John Grisham.

Who inspired you to be a leadership coach?
I guess my inspiration to become a leadership coach was borne out of my natural instinct and desire to help other people succeed and actualise their dreams. All my life, I have always helped others to discover their purpose, passion, vision and goals and the strategy and plan to help them accomplish their goals. So it was natural for me to become a management consultant and a leadership coach.

You have three boys. How does having no girl make you feel?
As the saying goes, ‘You can never miss what you’ve never had.’ I am really grateful for the quality of the relationship I have with my sons; Mobolurin, Demilade, and Morolaoluwa. They are my best friends and I have always believed that by the time they get married, I would have three daughters added to my family. Since my daughters-in-law will carry my name forever, all I have to do is to be patient and wait for my three daughters to arrive when my sons get married. Having waited so long, you can understand when I say I will be the best father-in-law ever. My wife feels so special being the only girl in our home. All four of us pamper her so much and give her all our love.