Imagine if in his New Year address on January 1, President Jonathan had started by announcing an increase in taxes.
"Fellow Nigerians, we have decided to double your taxes this year. I therefore direct all of you to immediately proceed to FIRS and pay your taxes. Thank you."
Absurd, isn't it? But that was precisely what one of the leading associations did a few days ago. In its first and most important communication to its members in the year, its message read:
"I am directed to welcome you to the New Year which we believe will be a prosperous year even as the association continues to grow and achieve its objectives. Also to inform you that the Exco has reviewed the annual subscription as follows:
a. Initial Associate Membership Registration: N250,000
b. Annual Associate Membership Subscription: N150,000
"Kindly write a cheque payable to... or pay directly into our bank account at ..."
With a message like this from the leaders of this association, who by the way are new in the saddle, the ground has been prepared for a perfect storm and disconnect with very grim consequences for the future of the association.
It is the same mistake the leadership of CRFFN repeats every other year. The Council management's first communication of the year – for the past four years – dwells on payment of subscription by associations and freight forwarders. They ask their members to pay immediately or risk deregistration. I think this approach is rather iniquitous. It leaves followers with the impression that the leaders are only after what they can extract out of them.
I believe the inability of the CRFFN for instance to fulfill its mandate eight years down the line is due to this type of approach.
What is wrong with starting the year by outlining your visions for the organisation? How about first telling members how you intend to add value into their lives and businesses and better their lot? This should be at the core of the first communication by the leadership of any organisation, association or group at the beginning of the year. Many believe that a major factor in the Nigerian socio-political conundrum is the question of the moral credentials of those at the helm of our affairs. Evidence abounds that many are untutored in the art of leadership.
There is palpable suspicion that the true motives of many a leader in Nigeria are not borne out of a passion to serve the people but to take advantage of their members' economic distress for personal aggrandisement. Thus the average Nigerian leader develops an imperial air of condescension and once in power treats people with utter disrespect, sometimes bordering on disdain.
Those who are holding the reins of power believe too much in themselves, as if they know it all and they have everything in control. In their own eyes they are doing wonderfully well even when there are clear signals that they have lost bearing. Hubris!
My Man of the Year 2014 I must say is different. He is an exceptional leader. He is selfless and was successful in developing a vision that inspired the members of an association he formed about ten years ago and mobilized them for economic empowerment. I think he created something akin to a movement.
A man of few words, wisdom, foresight, and a sense of purpose, he consistently exhibited commitment to the wellbeing of the members of his primary constituency.
History throws up quite a few such outstanding leaders, true heroes of their time, who set the moral and political tones for their societies. Such leaders as George Washington of the United States of America, Mahatma Gandhi of India – whose autobiography I am currently reading, Winston Churchill of Britain, Charles De Gaulle of France, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, readily come to mind. Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were outstanding leaders in their own rights.
Where public figures exemplify the sterling qualities of leadership, they rub off on the society at large and invest citizens with the patriotic fervour.
I have associated closely with this great man and at every opportunity, he thinks of the next action that would best serve his followers. He spent his time and money for the common good without reservation. He suffered a lot of personal inconveniences and economic losses all in the fight for the economic empowerment of his followers. Yet at the appropriate time, he stepped aside and handed over the reigns to a new set of leaders.
Chief (Dr.) Isaac Morakinyo Jolapamo by all means deserves to be celebrated as the Maritime Man of the Year 2014.