INTERVIEW: How COVID-19 exposed Nigeria’s inbuilt weaknesses — Ikenna Okechukwu, leadership strategist

By Victor Akuma

Ikenna Okechukwu is a young Nigerian passionate about societal rebirth. In this interview with CRISPNG, the author and leadership strategist talks about his passion for a better Nigeria, the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s economy among other issues.

Tell us about yourself

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My name is Ikenna Okechukwu, I am primarily a teacher, self-mastery coach, an author, a master strategist on leadership, business and politics.

I am passionate about creating change in our society through personal, political and economic transformation. This drove me into politics where I served as the Director of Operations in the Linus Okorie Gubernatorial Campaign organization during the 2019 general elections in Imo state.

As a financial mentor trained with Joseph Consulting and Mentoring limited Lagos, my goal is to help people lead a financially free and fulfilled life.

As a teen and young adult advocate, I believe that focusing our efforts as a nation on our teens and young adults will help us produce an enlightened youth force therefore preventing youth restiveness.

I am a graduate of Pure Chemistry from Imo state university and currently pursuing a master’s degree in Inorganic Chemistry in the same university.

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I currently serve as the Chief of Staff to the President of GOTNI Leadership Centre, Abuja.

It quite rare to find a youth who is so passionate about impacting lives in a nation like ours where get-rich-quick syndrome has become the norm, what is your driving force?

Many are driven by a particular need or so in their lives but mine is VISION- a burning obsession to make a difference in our country and thereby leaving a mark in the sands of time before I depart this world.

I detest the disorder and mediocrity in our nation today. This has resulted to a national breakdown, moral decadence, unemployment and poverty. Solving these problems are at the heart of my vision for Nigeria and Africa. They drive me every day

As a teen and young adult advocate, I believe that focusing our efforts as a nation on our teens and young adults will help us produce an enlightened youth force therefore preventing youth restiveness.

 

As a leadership strategist, what is your take on the country’s polity, are we on the right track?

In a broad sense, we are not on the right path.

First, if we couldn’t engineer a free and fair election in 2019, that’s a terrible sign of retrogression. The loss of lives at polling units and the monetisation of the political processes are disappointing considering the precedent GEJ set before leaving office in 2015.

The recycling of old or incompetent leaders at the helm of affairs of sensitive and strategic government ministries and organizations are also worrisome. The professionalism in the management of the economy we saw during OBJ and GEJ’s tenure has suddenly disappeared. These political anomalies impact greatly on the economy as we can see poverty has hit an all-time high rate, unemployment has followed same path too. Economic growth is less than 2.5% almost at the same level with population growth. Exchange rate is over 400 naira to a dollar. Everything seems to be wrong with the political health of this country right now.

In 2019, you were appointed Director of Operations for Dr. Linus Okorie, one of the contestants for the Imo Guber race. This is undoubtedly a huge task, how were you able to handle it and how did you get to know Linus?

I heard of the name Linus Okorie as a Teenager. I was so passionate about Leadership that I used to share my vision for Nigeria almost everywhere I go to. The older ones around usually told me in those days that my vision is similar to their friend’s vision. That friend of theirs was Linus Okorie. More than five persons told me that. So, I was happy someone was doing what I had in mind and dreamed of meeting him someday.

By the time I was in final year, I had an idea for leadership development of our graduates. His name came to mind if the idea must succeed. I found him on Facebook and dropped a chat. I guess he liked it and replied me. That’s my first contact with him. Afterwards, he took my number and called. He was impressed by that idea. We later met face to face that same year and maintained contact. I followed up his programmes each time he came to town until I finally moved to Abuja for work. I was actively volunteering for his organization until he nursed the ambition to run for the governor of Imo state. I guess my passion for good governance which was very palpable could have prompted him to ask me to come work for him in the project. I didn’t hesitate. I joined him to Imo. The rest is history.

As the Director of operations in such a huge task, I was flattered by that appointment and his confidence in me to deliver but at the same time I have been mentored all my life. My vision, passion, people and task execution skills which I have developed from teenage all came to the front line. For me, I had fun doing my job and I have Mr. Linus to thank for putting such confidence in me.

Having served in such capacity, do you think youths stand a chance in politics in the nearest future?

Yes, youths do stand a chance. Our biggest obstacle as youths to political progress is the financial involvement. Once a youth can navigate around this, we stand a huge chance.

Although, I must say that outside the energy we bring, most youths are not trained in leadership. Many will be worse than the current crop of leaders we have today because they were raised in a totally dilapidated and corrupt system. A few who took on personal development and the path of honour are the remnants we have today. They are few and don’t usually make noise. But they are available.

I detest the disorder and mediocrity in our nation today. This has resulted to a national breakdown, moral decadence, unemployment and poverty. Solving these problems are at the heart of my vision for Nigeria and Africa. They drive me every day

You are currently doing your masters in Inorganic Chemistry at Imo State University and at the same time, the Chief of Staff to the President of GOTNI, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), how are you able to combine these tasks?

My masters programme in Inorganic Chemistry was halted when I moved to Abuja to be resumed when I am relatively stabilized.

As chief of Staff to the President of GOTNI Leadership Centre, it calls for huge personal development as well. So, my job is not at odds with my education. Rather my boss encourages one to grow.

Nevertheless, my work these few years have called for more reconsideration in my education path. I’m considering a move into a new field entirely – Anthropology.

The passion to continually develop myself and add value to others, supplies me the energy to take on any combination of tasks. Naturally, I think I am also wired for multi-tasking. I enjoy doing many projects at once. That’s how I read books too. I read like 5 or even 8 books at the same time. I enjoy it like that.

As a financial consultant and analyst, what are the loopholes you have noticed created by the lockdown in the country on account of coronavirus and what ways would you suggest for the country to escape the looming economic degradation?

The lockdown didn’t create any loophole, it rather exposed the inbuilt weakness in our country.

First, it has proven that many are not just poor but very poor faced with the hunger virus daily which is more deadly than the coronavirus. Majority of our people live from hand to mouth. This is what led to the insecurity we saw within the period of the lockdown.

Second, it has led to a revenue shortfall as many countries remain shut. It exposed our over dependence on oil for revenue. The global shortfall on the demand of oil adversely has affected the price of oil and led to declining revenues for the country. Nigeria is almost broke as we scramble from one loan to another like a less privileged people.

What we could do is to take seriously the diversification of the economy especially in the manufacturing and agricultural sector. These are the real sectors that will lead to real economic growth and improvement of the country’s GDP. These sectors can create more jobs and reduce poverty massively. We need to invest in these sectors massively. So, we have to declare a state of emergency on our power sector and public infrastructures. These are the foundations for real sector growth.

A strong leadership is needed to make this happen. We must make that choice today. Even if it means borrowing, let’s borrow for this one. It is a good reason to borrow.

There are several other youths who are yet to find their niche like you have, what is your advice to them?

I will encourage them to get into service. Find a mentor and learn. Find books and read. A productive mind is an asset.

Such youths should think less of money and think more of making the difference. This thought process leads to wealth and fulfilment.

You have been thinking of money for so long, what’s your result?

Purpose is greater than money. Your niche is deep buried into you when you are created. If you remove all the money thoughts yelling at us all the time, maybe we would hear and see clearly our niche in life. It’s part of our make-up. It wakes you up at some nights, you dream of it subconsciously, it commands your emotions often. I dare you to find it.

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