Olusegun Adeniyi writes that the Kashim Ibrahim Foundation fellows is a good initiative by the Kaduna State Government

Watching the videos of the 31 shortlisted candidates each of who made a three-minute pitch on why they should be selected was quite revealing. But after we had made our recommendations on separate sheets of paper, someone suggested that each of us should also nominate two ‘Must Have’ candidates to ease the work of the steering committee that would select the successful 16 candidates. And in one of those difficult-to-explain ironies for which our country is well noted, it turned out that in nominating two each, all of us picked a particular candidate we felt best represents the new Nigerian we are looking for in terms of education, values, maturity and temperament.

Now, wait for this: That candidate so found worthy by everybody at the meeting in Kaduna State Government House that fateful day happens to be a serving policeman from Imo State!

Last Wednesday, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mr Nasir el-Rufai announced the names of 16 Fellows for the pioneer edition of the Kashim Ibrahim Foundation (KIF) fellows programme to kick off next month. Speaking at the event, El-Rufai said that he was impressed by the quality of many of the candidates. “Their submissions reinforced our conviction that youthful talent abounds, and that we can productively engage these smart young people for the benefit of our country. “Each of the 31 persons that made the last stage of the selection process was superbly qualified,” said the governor.

As one of the members of the KIF governing board in Kaduna on 23rd May this year to grade the nominees, I can attest to el-Rufai’s position. Chaired by Mr Keem Belo-Osagie, other members are: Mr Dele Olojede, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, Ms Kadaria Ahmed, Mr Iboroma Akpana, Mr Bala Bilya, Mr Japeth Omojuwa, Mr Muhammed Sani Abdullahi, Ms Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, Ms Barbara Barungi and Mr Jimi Lawal. At the session that day, we were joined by both the governor and his deputy, Mr Barnabas Yusuf Bala.

Before we commenced our assignment, el-Rufai gave a brief background on how the KIF project came about. The main objective, according to the governor, was to prepare promising young Nigerians for leadership roles in governance and nation-building. Kaduna State, he added, is divided along ethnic and religious lines which reflect a wider national problem. The KIF’s pilot programme will commence with 16 Fellows; eight from Kaduna and eight from the rest of the country while reflecting sufficient gender representation.

At the end, 10 male and six female candidates were selected with eight from Kaduna and one each from Imo, Adamawa, Yobe, Oyo, Kogi, Cross River and two from Lagos. While, as you would expect in such a collection, some of the successful candidates attended Harvard, London Imperial College and Boston University, the other candidates who attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ilorin and University of Lagos among other Nigerian universities were no less brilliant and got in by the same standard of merit.

However, the number one pick was ASP Eyinnaya Danjuma Chukwueke. Born to an Igbo father and Nupe mother, Chukwueke has an impressive collection of degrees, including BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of Law, York, United Kingdom and LLM in International Law from the University of Law, London Moorgate and the Nigerian Law School after which he was called to bar. The 29- year -old Chukwueke had a brief law practice before he decided, in December 2016, to enlist for training in the Police where he is currently an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). With a ‘practical interest in crime and future of criminal justice system in Nigeria’, Chukwueke is definitely a man for the future.

Meanwhile, the call for applications was made in February for graduates between the age of 25 and 35 years who were requested to submit their CVs along with two letters of recommendation and an essay on “Change and Leadership in Nigeria”. At the end, a total of 1,337 applications were received. After a filter for plagiarism and use of English by KIF’s steering committee, only 271 submissions made it to the second stage. After further screening, the list was pruned to 66 candidates and by the end of the third review session, 31 finalists were shortlisted for the governing board.

Going by el-Rufai’s plan, successful candidates who will formally be inducted as fellows next month will be assigned to work with top cabinet officials in Government House and MDAs on a rotational basis so as to afford them firsthand experience in public service, leadership and governance. They will also undertake domestic and international policy study trips to study a range of issues such as education, healthcare, security and transportation, energy, economic development, local governance and urbanization, etc.

The calendar for the programme, according to Olojede who will oversee that aspect, comprises three components: Four seminars over the course of one-year programme modelled after the Aspen Leadership Institute seminars on such themes as the good society, role of the state in the economy as well as the challenge and promise of leadership; a bi-weekly event where thought leaders who have excelled in their areas of expertise and trusted individuals who move and inspire people with innovative ideas would be brought in to share their personal experiences with fellows and community service which could entail a project to assist the poor in a rural area or volunteer teaching/mentoring secondary school students, etc.

Fires, according to Heather Huhman, “don’t start with roaring flames — they need kindling, logs, access to air and, finally, a spark” and that precisely is what the idea of KIF represents. It aligns with the ‘leadership Pipeline’ theory as espoused by Stephen Drotter, Ram Charan and Ram Charan. Although their thesis is on business management, their position also applies to political leadership. “The most significant benefit of a pipeline is that you don’t need to bring in stars to prime the leadership pump and unclog the pipeline. You can create your own stars up and down the line, beginning at the first level when people make the transition from managing themselves to managing others,” the trio wrote.

By identifying from across Nigeria some diamonds in the rough and helping to shape their perspectives of Nigeria and inculcating in them the right values for public service, I believe the Kaduna State government is on the right track. May the idea endure!

Adeniyi is Chairman, THISDAY Editorial Board