This was the topic of the keynote speech I delivered just at the inauguration of ceremony of the new leadership of NANS Zone F led by Comrade Chidi Nzekwe on Monday 14th August 2023 in Abakiliki, Ebonyi state.

I am grateful to the organizers (Chairman and members of the Inauguration planning committee), and the leadership of the NANS Zone F for giving me this platform to speak to the emerging leaders of our dear nation Nigeria, and I considered it an opportunity and a rare privilege to speak to the next generation of Leaders of this great nation. 24years ago, as President of Unizik Student Union, I was told that we were the leaders of tomorrow, but today I tell you that everyone seated in this room is an emerging leader, not of tomorrow, but of today.

No one can be said to be irresponsible until he or she is given a responsibility, but we must be prepared at all times to be found worthy of being assigned responsibilities. That is why this topic is essential to the new beginning we yearn for in our nation. There is need to adequately empower and equip these emerging leaders for the leadership roles they will be saddled with from time to time, and this can be achieved through constant engagements and capacity-building trainings.

To empower means to give power or authority to a person. It means to inspire someone to be more assertive or proactive especially in the pursuit of a particular goal. To be empowered means having the knowledge, the confidence, the means, the ability or capacity to do things or make decisions for oneself or for others entrusted in one’s care. One of the major means of empowerment is education, though there are various types of empowerment, but this paper will focus only on educational empowerment, political empowerment and psychological empowerment.

Empowerment makes people to become more confident, more committed, more strategic, intuitive, creative and analytically competent. It involves placing trust and confidence in people on the basis that a vision is more easily achieved by a team than by just one person, hence the need for individuals to share creative ideas and work together to implement them. When people are empowered, they ultimately have power over their own lives; they are respected and become confident. To equip means to supply with the necessary items or tools for a particular purpose. That is to say, to provide someone or something with objects needed for a particular activity or purpose. It also means to prepare someone mentally for a particular task or situation. So, to be equipped means having the necessary tools for a particular purpose or possessing the requisite qualification for an assignment.

Empowering and equipping may seem to mean one and the same thing in some contexts, however before I proceed, let me give this live illustration to differentiate the two terms. There were these two friends, John and Franklin, who have been friends from childhood, having been born and lived in the same neighborhood for many years. After high school, the boys engaged in such menial jobs as working as “pick-up boys” that follow garbage trucks to pick-up the trashes and garbage from the neighborhood. After working for five hours, each of them earns $15, and after ten days of working with the garbage trucks, the boys were able to save some money, John had $120, while Franklin had $125 saved. Each of the boys had different plan for his money. Their school graduation party was around the corner, and so they planned to attend the event.

On the day of the ceremony, Franklin was looking great, as he had bought new set of clothes and a pair of sneakers with his money, while John came with a clean set of old clothes he had. One of the Entertainers at the event picked Franklin from the crowd while he was making a demonstration about looking good, and after the event the two boys went home together, happy about the ceremony. John used his own money to register for entrance examination and extra lesson to go to college, and after three years he graduated and got a degree. Many years later, when it was time for the neighborhood to send a representative to the County council, they sought for John, because he was one of the very few persons from that neighborhood that have the required exposure having obtained a college degree and worked with bigger organizations. So clearly, Franklin was picked up for the demonstration at the graduation ceremony because he was ‘equipped’ with beautiful clothes and nice pair of sneakers, but John was chosen for a bigger task because he has been empowered with knowledge and developed capacity for greater task of representing his people.

There is a great need, therefore, to empower and equip these emerging leaders, both the ones here in this room, and others who could not make it to this inauguration.Emerging leaders are high-potential professionals and aspiring professional in their careers. They are aspirational and energetic in their approaches to their careers, and usually they already have many of the qualities of a leader without being in a leadership position. They are committed and inspiring people who are continuously reinventing: Leaders who continuously reinvent are actively looking for a better way. They are not content with “good enough.” They do not resist change.

Cultivating talent: Leaders who cultivate talent are passionately focused on the growth of others. Emerging leaders are also very collaborative, great teammates, and good communicators. They seek others’ input and opinions on issues, and use same to shape their ideas, and generate consensus. They have strong soft-skills and have emotional intelligence when it comes to dealing with others.

Emerging leaders are visionaries; they have a clear vision in their mind, and they have the capability and the determination to follow a clear path. They thus help contribute a lot to the world and they usually exceed their potentials. They appear organically in the workforce as high potential employees, influencing peers and leading strategic change without an official leadership title. They are important because they are able to drive productivity, increasing value for the organization.

Emerging Leaders’ Programme (ELP) is a programme designed to prepare the next generation of leaders and administrators in various fields to be effective leaders; to view every decision through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens; and to further their organizations’ path to equitable success. An example of ELP is the United Kingdom’s ELP. The UK Emerging Leaders program is a 7-month commitment focused on developing leadership skills through a supportive peer community. It requires a weekly commitment of 1-2 hours a week for 40 hours, and it supports a deeper understanding of leadership skills and knowledge, with reflection on personal progression. There is an urgent need for us, as a nation to start developing such programmes for the teeming population of emerging leaders we have. I therefore charge the new leadership of the zone to design a workable blueprint towards the development of such a programme, and then reach out to our political leaders for partnership.Aluta Continua! Victoria Ascerta!!

Comrade Igwe Patrick Afubera writes from Abuja.

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