Deremi Atanda is an Executive Director at SystemSpecs, owners of Remita, the software powering the Federal Government’s TSA policy. Beyond the ICT and Fintech world, he is also renowned in local and international circuits as a speaker on national development, business ethics and youth development among other subject areas. Recently, he spoke to Today’s Echo on a couple of issues regarding leadership, family and youth development.
On his assessment of Nigeria’s leadership problem
I don’t oversimplify or generalize the issue of leadership. There are several dimensions of leadership. For you to raise any kind of leaders, you must be a leader at home. If there is leadership deficit in politics, business, religion, etc, you need to look at where people are coming from, what shaped them, and that’s why I will give a lot more attention to leading from the home. Nobody ever becomes a product of what they are not. What I think is that we are fast losing the fundamental issue of raising leaders right from home.
Before now, it is hard for a thief to become a chief, but today you only need to take out the T and replace with C. I will focus on developing the next generation of leaders from the social environment. When we don’t have people, we can look up to in our immediate communities, it will be difficult to have people to look up to in various areas. As we look forward to 2019, if we have not groomed the kind of people who are equipped to take us to the kind of place we want to be in the country, then we should be worried. What we should be asking is how we can breed those leaders that can realize the kind of vision we have for this country.
What is wrong with the home
There are many things. One of the greatest challenges I see within the context of social revolution is that we are trying to be like other people without thinking about the consequences. Some of the values we used to cherish, we are doing away with them without thinking about the consequences. The environment is allowing us to drop our guards without thinking about the consequences. Before, to be made a chief or king in our communities many things are considered but the things considered today are changing and we must ask ourselves what things we cannot do away with; those values of integrity, respect, hard work, respect for values themselves, and commitment for other people. We no longer give so much respect to the home institution and when such institutions breakdown, there is breakdown in leadership.
Who helped shape you?
I am a product of more than three generations of family leadership. I am privileged to have known my grandparents, and even my great grandfather on the paternal side, who died in 1975. Coming from that kind of background, the first thing is that you cannot soil the family name because there are so many eyes looking at you. Even when you try to misbehave, you try to hide it and you still get caught anyway. When you come from such environment where you are never too big to be corrected and the name matters more than the material things, the things you have can even be disregarded when you misbehave. It is an environment where people take a genuine interest in who you are, who you are supposed to be and on realizing your potentials. Many people have invested in me, not because they have something to gain. That has worked for me.
On leadership and young people of today
In a typical African society, once you have a sibling, even if he is a year younger than you, they make a leader of you. You are made responsible for him, you take him to school. Today, we are not allowing our youth grow anymore and we no longer entrust them with responsibilities. It is so bad that we are beginning to have parent’s forum for University students. Its not about the age, it is about the mental development we should allow them have. If you do not make them realize from early years that they are leaders responsible for their siblings, when you step out of the scene and you are no longer there, things will fall apart. It is about making everyone realize their potentials and entrusting them with responsibility, not making them think everything is for the taken. That is why I referred to the home earlier. We need to give our young ones freedom within the context of responsibility.
What about the role of money and the focus of young people on materialism?
That is where we have made them look, it is our fault. We are the ones who have failed them and the earlier we realize that the better. That is why we should redirect them to the things that matter. Money has always been there, but the older generation were not made to focus on it. You still have the children of well-known politicians who if they had not been taught the ethics of hard work, would probably have not been able to protect the heritage and inheritance that were given to them. Therefore, we need to refocus the minds of our youths to think about the values that matter and not ephemeral things.
What about the emergence of social vices like Yahoo yahoo
It boils down to social dynamics. When we see many youths engaging in yahoo, yahoo plus, it is just a reflection of where we have taken the society in terms of the things that matter. Things are changing but we cannot remove the things that represent the values that people gather around, that represent the soul of the community. If we are true to ourselves that the virtues of hardwork and respect still matter and worth anything, that is what we should celebrate. But when we celebrate things that are contrary to the values we say we believe in, then it is clear who is deceiving who. Until we get back to those fundamentals, we have no deal.