A decade ago, I sat at lunch at one of Lagos’ beach resorts enjoying the cool breeze of the amazing city, over great cocktails, with a young man with ambitions to become a top politician in Nigeria. He was campaigning in his state, fiercely ready to follow in his father’s footsteps with no other ambition but to become a politician – a potentially great one. He was already very well-to-do financially, stemming from his father’s financial wealth and thus I wondered why politics. I had always been weary of politicians especially when they migrate their careers from being successful in business or the corporate world to campaigning rigorously for politics. Nonetheless, after hearing him speak that day, I believed in him, I supported him and I was ready to throw my capabilities behind him thoroughly and dedicatedly. He made a promise that his focus would be wholly and completely on the people he is serving. He made a promise to put himself last and put the needs of the people he is serving, as fairly as possible, first. He was clearly a man for the people and there was not a single reason for weariness so yes, I supported him, whole-heartedly. He won his campaign.
Fast-forward to today, I recently met up with him and visually witnessed greatness. He looked great, he was happy, very fulfilled he seemed; and he had amazing leaders around him who all seemed successful and all seemed to have equally embodied the notion that success comes from ethical service. He had obviously not only enriched himself but enriched the lives of many around him. His city was peaceful, his people were happy, his world was majestic. He was leading leaders, not followers, and he had the support of millions of great citizens. He had garnered years of knowledge and experience as a leader that now made him radiate a level of greatness. Greatness from selfless service, greatness from staying true to his pledge from his campaign days, greatness from a man who learnt, served and grew. A man that generations ahead will know, recognize and praise. How rare is he in Nigeria; or Africa?
Lately, I thought “Would he have been so successful, so fulfilled, so happy, if his ambitions were to: make my campaign money back and get insanely rich at all costs.” I’m not so sure but for some reasons, I doubt it. Anything great starts with the people you are trying to impact. Money, success, fame, anything your heart desires, comes after passionate impact. Once success is based on passion for making people’s lives better, you get to enjoy a special kind of success, the pain-free success, the longevity-based success that lives on even when you have departed the world. When we focus on making people happy, we reap happiness in return. We grow, we excel, and we live comfortable lives. The world is a big place with massive opportunities. Nigeria avails a ton of those opportunities – let’s create an enabling environment for opportunities to yield results for millions of citizens. When we focus on people, we broker peace, we create an enabling environment for excellence to thrive and we increase the average standard of living to be more at par with innovative nations.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow-day are the types of days we live for the people we are trying to impact. We live to see education strengthened, opportunities made realizable and politics converted to people-first. My first thoughts when I think business or politics are the people, us, we, our environment, our laws, what we control, the world around us – and how it can all be made better. The truth is, anything great stats with the people you are trying to impact and you need to be passionately in love with them.