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  In a country with so many problems, he is like the proverbial Moses, an unflinching optimist in the power of dreams and vision.  He is a graduate of OAU, Ife; a computer scientist and an economist by training; and a financial and management consultant.  He has a master’s degree in Business Administration and also an M. Phil in Strategic Management.  With a working knowledge in the management of change in complex organizations, he brought this experience to bear in the area of Business Process Re-engineering for some major projects in world-class companies like Phillips Consulting.  Fela Durotoye is no ordinary man.  He is an internationally sought-after motivational speaker, a consultant extraordinaire.  He spent time with ConnectNigeria, sharing his vision, dreams, and his unique personality. How it all started. I started my career as an investment consultant with Ventures and Trust in 1992 and I was just looking over projects that required financing.  I’m the guy who loves to bring great ideas to life.  I went for my MBA and by the time I completed it, I needed a broader platform to reach out to as many companies as possible, so I joined Phillips Consulting.  I started with the Total Quality Management Unit and later set up the Customer Service Group.  By the year 2000 I began a ministry called HIDDEN on Obafemi  Awolowo campus; we set up a Christian resource center featuring activities that enhanced the Christian lifestyle.  We had programmes like: Praise to Praise—where people would sing songs that everybody knows in a way nobody knows; Feeding the Shepherd—we know that the fellowship pastors feed the flock but who feeds them?; FAR—Finance, Academic and Relationships—the three most important things to students; and the Christian Football League where fellowships would play with each other, not against each other, and there would be no loser.   In the middle of that there would be an altar call and there would be a good response.  Sometime in 2001, I was speaking to a gentleman who was facilitating and coordinating the final year conference for his department.  He happened to be a protégé, and he came to me one day at the Christian resource center crying and saying, “I’m about to fail, this program is not working, it is not moving forward, my team is not together, and I have exams.”   He was frustrated.  I told him things that I’d done, how I had pulled off a program in Philips Consulting.  After a while he said, “This thing is too hot for me, I need to get my other guys to listen to this.  Can we come back at about eight o’clock?”  I said no problem.  So the entire team came, about eight young men, and by the time I started talking they interrupted me and excused themselves.  When they returned they said, “We know that we didn’t invite you to speak at this program but would you please come and say some of the things you are saying to us to the other students?”  I’d never addressed a group of people before.  The only public appearance I could remember was when I used to sing in secondary school with my musical band, Midwaves.  Anyway, I spoke at that conference for about twenty minutes just before a short break.  The person who was to speak after me, on his way from Lagos, got caught up in traffic and had to turn back.  So the team asked if I could come back and I said yes.  The first time I spoke, the hall was about half full, but when they announced that I would be back after the break people ran into the campus to tell other students that they needed to listen to me.  The hall was so jam-packed that some students were sitting on the steps.  I thought: what did I say that would cause people to listen closely?  Well, that was the beginning of this whole public speaking, motivational speaking.  This is a long history but that was exactly how it happened.  Within that semester on campus, I had spoken at 14 different platforms in 12 days.  It was Fela Durotoye everywhere.  Every department, faculty, fellowship, church wanted Fela Durotoye.  God has really just blessed that capacity to deliver the message.  I don’t see myself as a motivational speaker, I see myself as a messenger, the man with a message. His Vision: Leadership and the development of Nigeria and Africa The essence of my existence, which is also an extension of the mission of our organization, is to raise leaders of excellence who will be committed and involved inthe process of building Nigeria into the world’s most desirable nation. It is for this reason that I exist.  To actualize the wholeprocess of building leaders we’re embarking on several projects.  The overall project is the GEMSTONE project.  Our vision is to raise a generation that is empowered, motivated and stirred to operate with natural excellence.  This generation will build Nigeria into the world’s most desirable nation.  These are going to be leaders of excellence who accept responsibility to find their sphere of influence, to make an impact, to transform this nation through their lives, through their corporate organizations, through their involvement with nation building projects.  These leaders of excellence will build Nigeria because they accept responsibility for Nigeria.  They are not waiting for the government; they don’t see leaders as only people in authority.  Truth be told, we shouldn’t be looking for a leader, (pointing at self) the leader is in us.  We should realize that.  For me, I think leadership is not a matter of position and authority, I think it’s a mentality of responsibility.  It’s amazing how I’ve been around the entire world, for one reason or the other—perhaps as a guest speaker at a conference, and I have never seen two people argue these three simple facts.  One: that Nigeria, and indeed Africa, is a potentially great nation.  Two: that Nigeria, and indeed Africa, has not actualized its potential.  And three, and the most significant point, is that the bane of our challenges is leadership.  Everybody realizes leadership is the key issue that we face.  We’ve never seen any leadership development policy; we’ve never seen any ministry of leadership development.  We’ve never seen any university that has in its program leadership development, neither have we seen it in our educational curriculum.  So, we know this is what is slowing us down but nobody can do anything about it.  Even the people in government, they think that government and leadership are the same thing whereas, in reality, governance is different from leadership.  You should be a leader before you can get into government.  Being in government shouldn’t be a platform or opportunity for you to develop your leadership skills.  You should not become a leader in a state when you become governor, you should have been running a state without an office and then in recognition with what you’ve been doing then they should say you deserve to be our governor.  Campaigns should never be about manifestos but about manifestations; letting people see what you’ve done already.   To build Nigeria into the world’s most desirable nation we will require 150 million leaders, and that’s exactly what we are looking for.  We are not saying there’ll be 150 million governors or CEOs; we are saying there will be people who will accept responsibility to declare: ‘In my time Nigeria will actualize its great potential’. The Real Essence of Leadership Does one need to have an office to take responsibility or assume a position of leadership and authority? FD:  I am already a leader in this country.  Don’t get me wrong—so are you, and so is every other person.  If you have any sense of responsibility towards Nigeria, you are a leader in Nigeria.  I already have authority and so do you.  If my understanding is correct, from Genesis Chapter 1, we were told that man was created with dominion over all things; therefore, you and I were born with authority.  If you mean ‘do I need an office?’ then I don’t necessarily need one beyond that which I already have.  Where I am is all that I need to be able to do all that I can do.  I think that if everybody stops waiting for an office and just starts doing what they can do then you’ll find out that things will be better.  If you create value, and I do same too, we get the same reward.  It’s such a crying shame that the only thing that is productive in Nigeria is governance because, in any case, the reason why things aren’t moving is because of bad governance.  Look at people like the Wright brothers and Henry Ford; you don’t need to be a governor or a president to start caring about people.  Therefore, if your question is if Fela is hoping to one day become president of Nigeria, then your answer is no.  Because I don’t need to.  I don’t need to be president of this nation to care about the one hundred and fifty million people out there and neither do you.  The 2025 vision has never been my idea and is still isn’t.  It was one of my encounters with God while praying in my bedroom, precisely at 2:10 p.m. on the 23rd of November, 2004.  He told me to write down the fact that by December 31st, 2025, Nigeria would be undoubtedly the world’s most desirable nation to live in. 2025 is not Fela’s vision; it is God’s agenda for Nigeria. Fela’s Dreams and Projects: The Past, Present, and Future FD:  The first thing that I’ll say is that dreams do not come to pass but projects do.  Any dream which came true was so because someone had the capacity to turn it into a project or a multitude of projects.  In the case of Nigeria, the 2025 dream is going to come to pass simply by a million different projects running at the same time.  It’s not going to be one project.  The GEMSTONE 2025 project has become a baseline project from which so many other projects can either take off or partner with.  Our project this year, with the Value Project, is to go out and get people.  We are building a scroll that we are taking around all campuses and some organizations, we are going to get 5 million people to sign those scrolls and say: we will live by these values. We hope to take them to certain outposts, out of the country, where you have Nigerian embassies and high commissions.  We are hoping that one day we’ll be able to touch every country that has Nigerians living in it and they’ll have the opportunity to sign.  That’s the Value Project.  The other project we are looking at is in the educational sector.  Education is the foundation, we have a project to revive academic excellence in our schools and educational institutions and it’s known as 10 days that state went from number 27 in the League of States, in the performance category in English and Math, to number 3.  We trained 5000 of their teachers in 10 days.  Perhaps the most significant work we’ve done is the Raise One Million project that we did last year.  We started last year to raise one million volunteers, sponsors, teachers, who’ll begin to take on the children, especially those that will sit for the pre-tertiary entrance exams and see how we can help them excel.  We’ve got to reverse the trend of producing failures in secondary school, and we’ve got to do it now.  Last year we raised 75 volunteer teachers and we trained 820 children.  At a point we realised that the children did not have the tools that they required to succeed, especially in math.  Only 30 of them had math sets, only eleven had mathematical and statistical (four-figure) tables.  We were finally able to obtain over 4,000 math sets.  This year we will raise one million books and it’s going to start in the next twenty-four weeks. Connect Nigeria: How will you donate these books? FD:  We hope that people would donate to collection centers.  We will also have certain people that would pick up books from people who call us to come and collect them.  We’re partnering with some banks so people can drop books with their customer service officers who would later pass them unto us. On Education, Books, and Writing Fela wrote the book—Seventeen Secrets of High-Flying Students, which has garnered a great reception among people in authority, students, teachers, parents and critics.  With plans now to distribute it in audio format in various universities and colleges we asked what impact the book has made and what he plans to achieve with this proposed wider circulation. FD:  I can tell you how impactful it’s been.  I wrote that book in 2006 and it’s been endorsed by some significant personalities including the then Minister of Education, Professor Oby Ezekwesili.  The previous Minister for Information, Professor Dora Akunyili just did a recent endorsement saying the book has got to get into the hands of every child.  We’ve had religious leaders from various churches endorse the book especially Daddy GO who wrote a letter to us saying that we must get this book out.  His wife immediately bought fifty copies and said she would give it to the best students.  I’ll give you two stories that’ll probably show you the kind of impact the book had.  A lady came to me at church while I parked my car.  She knelt down and, immediately, I asked her to stand up.  She said, “No I’m not getting up.”  I insisted and she said that she’d promised God that she would give her testimony on her knees.  My wife came out of the car and we pulled her up, we told her we weren’t going to listen to her testimony if she wouldn’t get up.  When she got up she said, “You came to Unilag and you taught the principles that you had written in this book.  I was on probation and my father had said to me that he was going to disown me if I got kicked out of school.  I had done everything I needed to do, I wasn’t an unserious student but I just couldn’t pass.  But after your teaching, God said to me that He has given me all that I need.”  She said the following semester she took six courses and got 5 A’s and one B.  Another lady—you can find this on Facebook and also on my website—her daughter was in SS2 and she was doing okay, but she was pretty much an average student.  One day the lady went to see her daughter at school and the girl asked her to please get her a novel while coming, so she got the girl my book.  Her daughter wrote eleven subjects in NECO and had eleven straight A’s.  Two weeks ago, my entire family were eating, we stopped at tantalizers to eat and a lady came in and immediately she saw she came and knelt down beside me and said ,“I just came back from my masters degree and I just want you to know that I read your book and it changed my life, I came out with a 2.1 and when I was going for masters, this book was the only thing I took that mattered to me, I just want to let you know that I did my masters and came out with a distinction”.  This particular book was designed for secondary school students even though it’s being used by everybody.  Recently we’ve just finished the audio book of the university edition and every part of the story was acted out by people; it’s going to be out very soon.  We also did a theme song called Flying High which you’ll be hearing on the radio very soon.  Also there are few other books coming out; I’ve finished the book called The Dream Subordinate.  It talks about what every boss will want you to know but won’t tell you. It’s something that will really help most people improve the relationship with their bosses and subordinates.  There’s also another one called Mr. Fantastic, it’s designed for women; however, when it was uploaded on Facebook, it was the men who clicked on the link the most.  They were so anxious to find out what the women would be looking out for in them. Connect Nigeria:  Which books inspire or have inspired you? FD:  Without trying to be overly religious, the book that has changed my life is the Bible—the greatest book in the world.  I don’t just read the Bible like it’s some spiritual word of God.  I read it as a leadership manual.  Besides the Bible the most important book I ever read was one I picked up in my mother’s house called The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Pearl, that book was probably the turning point in my life.  Anybody who hasn’t read it has got to read it. On The Mushin Makeover Fela organized probably the most engaging and revolutionary volunteer campaign that we’ve ever seen—the Mushin Makeover.  He showed people that you can’t just be a leader without rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. FD:  We set out to raise 5000 people to paint houses but only 2000 people showed up and they painted 296 houses in one day, and painted all the bus stops.  Imagine a policeman, Road Safety Corps and LASMA officers, and area boys painting the roads and bus stops. It was not just the First Lady of the state or the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, there were people of all levels, celebrities, bankers, and ordinary guys like me…it’s just amazing and humbling.  The project cost about N62, 000,000 and we had only N 130,000 when we started.  That project was done by faith.  A lot of people are saying we have to come to AJ City this year we’ll take AJ city by storm.  The few things I wanted to happen at the Mushin Makeover have happened.  Number one, people will realize they can make a difference without waiting for the government; number two, people can see how a little brush could make a big difference.  At one point, I watched a man paint a wall and God said to me, “Do you see that? The unpainted part is the old Nigeria; the fresh paint is the new Nigeria.  Watch as the new Nigeria will cover the old with no traces at all”.  Tears ran down my face; this man was far away from me and I couldn’t move.  I just watched him paint until he covered the old paint which had been on that wall for 13 years.  The house that we started off with was the house that was built in the same year of Nigeria’s independence and they hadn’t painted that house since 1971.  A young lady who was interviewed by one of the newspapers said that she had never been able to take her friends home because of how the place looked but after the Mushin Makeover she said she was able to that.  When I hear things like that, I know that we have to do more and it also teaches people that we all can make a difference without waiting for anybody. Connect Nigeria:  Are we going to see more of this? FD:  Definitely.  I think there is a Warri Makeover Project coming up and I am certainly not the one making that happen.  I hope someone would do a Makeover in other states. The Facebook Phenomenon Fela currently has 119 fans—and counting—on his Facebook page: that’s huge! FD:  That’s for the fan page. I  also have about three friends page and only  412 fans that are friends.  So, at the end of the ‘ followership’ you’re coming close to about 130 thousand people and, mind you, you don’t advertise.  You know you’re just saying what you’re saying and here comes 130  thousand people following you. Connect Nigeria:  You just said that you’re an ordinary person, but how can an ordinary person attract over 130 thousand fans on Facebook alone? FD:  I think the beautiful thing about Facebook is that truly it is a platform for leadership—leadership is the ability to inspire willing and conscious ‘followership’ so people like you and then become your fan.  You don’t like people and they become your fan, you do your thing and if they think there is some authenticity to it, they will like it.  I guess that’s it.  Facebook is one person at a time.  However, some people attract even more people on Facebook by saying nasty things and showing nude pictures. Facebook should be an avenue for positive impact.  The truth is that Nigerians like good things, you don’t have to be bad for people to like you. Finally, what legacy will Fela Durotoye leave behind? FD:   I think that I would love to say that when I do go, I would like to be remembered as a guy that helped people to discover the leaders in themselves and possibly somebody who catalyzed the process for just not the development of Nigeria but Africa as a whole. And the guy that brought Africa to the consciousness of leadership and took away this misconception that the leaders were the people in authority, people in positions in offices of governance and power. I love to be an example of how where you are and what you have is perfect to be able to make a different. I would love for people to be able to say, Fela not only built cities, he built people, and because he built people, they built cities. ConnectNigeria: Thank you very much for your time. FD:  Thank you too.

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This article was first published on 27th July 2011 and updated on June 15th, 2012 at 11:41 am

Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “CN Exclusive: Fela Durotoye, The Man with a Message”

  • You are doin a great job mr fella durotoye i must say i shear d same dream with u’ and i hope to work with you one day i pray to God that he will continue to guide and protect you through this great mission in JESUS name amen……..

  • thank you so much for this impressive website me and my household admired this satisfied and perceptiveness

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