What First Bank chairman said that got standing ovation from Nigerian governors

Chairman of First Bank, Ibukun Awosika [Photo: The Platform Nigeria]
Chairman of First Bank, Ibukun Awosika [Photo: The Platform Nigeria]

The Chairman of First Bank, Ibukun Awosika, was one of two lead speakers on the first day of the induction programme organised for new and returning governors by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).

The event held Monday at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The First Bank chair spoke under the topic “The Task of Nation Building.”

Mrs Awosika received a standing ovation after her presentation.

She advised the governors-elect and governors to gain the trust of the people they lead.

“You have the power and resources of the state and if (you) gain the trust of the people, they will pay more tax,” she said.

Below is the full text of what she said:

It’s been fascinating listening to how much help is being offered to our nation by the rest of the world. But my reality is all anybody can do is offer help but we are the ones to build our nation, nobody else can build our county for us.

And for us to build our country, we will have to own it. And in reality, the value chain of leadership at the heart of that value chain are those of you seated on this side. The governors of every state are the major point of contact of every citizen of this country, you are the reason we will have good public health if it exists , you are the reason our children will get a good education, you are the reason that things will work together for our nation to be what it deserves to be.

In reality, having gone through the programme, I realise that the governors’ forum has done a fantastic job in scheduling everything that will be covered because there are the fundamentals of what an incoming or current governor need to know in other to be effective in their jobs.


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I, therefore, have decided to deal with an issue that is personal to you as governors, issues you have control of and that it is not about what anybody does but it is about what you do. And in doing that I have chosen to ask a few questions.

I will start with the question of you asking yourself, who am I, why did I choose to take on this assignment. If you know who you are and you have now decided to be the governor of the state by choice, then you need to ask yourself where am I going, what is the goal for which I chose this assignment and in choosing to do this, what is the value that I set out to deliver to my people. And when you are done trying to answer those questions honestly, I always say, to thyself be true. Because, no matter what we say to other people, when it is just you and the mirror, you can look at yourself and be truthful to yourself.

But it is important that we have a sense of who we are because, in the journey of leadership especially in Nigeria, sycophancy is very real. The pressure of the society and the people are around you can change the fundamentals of who you are if you not continue to remind yourself of who you are and why you took the job in the first place. And soon enough you become something else other than you who are when you first started.

So, it is important for you to write it down, stick down your desk and remind yourself often that this is who I am, this is why I took this job and there are people whose lives depend on me. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what job somebody else gives us.

The federal government can have the best, greatest plans in the world but the guys who touch my life and the life of every other Nigerian every day are the governors of our state. I am an Ibadan girl that means have my governors seating before me, I am married to an Ondo man, my Ondo Governor is seated there but the most important Governor to me in this room is the governor of Lagos State, because I live in Lagos, all my business are in Lagos, my life is affected every minute by what he does or what he does not do.

In reality, when we talk of equity of trust you can only get that trust from people who trust what you do affect and impact their lives every day. So what I am doing on behalf of my fellow citizens, I am pleading that now that you have the power, elections are over, now you are in office, you have the power and resources of the state and if (you) gain the trust of the people, they will pay more tax. When you gain the trust of the people by performance and the things that you do, ultimately you will benefit from it. Because, when you see a great man do great things that affect your life every day, when he is done with the office, the position is over, when you see him on the streets you will stop by to greet him and honour and respect him.

So my question to you is how do you want your days to end? Because if you have a vision of the end of your days, you can walk back to where you are now, to how you want it to be and structure the actions that you take daily in your state. Think of every action and how it will affect the lives of those people who do not necessarily have a voice, they have the vote but not the voice.

And when you see children that are hungry in your state, you have failed them in some way, yet you have the machineries and the capacities to help them. When you see people die from simple medical situations that they need not to, it means that the states have failed. But we have the states and the capacity to make it different.

Now, you are not going to be able to solve all the problems that is important. But the integrity of the heart of the leaders, your commitment to truly change the lives of your people is what will bring for you all the help that you will need. Because, when a man sets out to do the right thing and it shows anyways, every kind of help will come from everywhere. People will do things for you without taking a dime because they can see your commitment and the integrity of your heart.

For a nation to truly be great, the integrity of every man sitting on this table as governor, as governor elect is critical for nation building.

You need to own your own vision for your life, you need to own what you want your legacy to be and your have the opportunity from this moment to build that legacy by the things you do everyday. There will be people who will seek to derail you but by being confident of who you are and making the decision that I will live true to my values, to what is right for my country and my people, that I want to be able to walk freely amongst my people even when I am done and I am old and tired, with that determination your action will change things for people. You cannot do everything, you will not do everything, just chose roads, chose education, chose health, make your contract clear with your state, let them know that our resources cannot cover all of these, these are the only things we will do in the next four years and deliver on those things. Once you are clear and your people understand, they will stand by you and defend you in the day of trouble. At the end of the day, you will get much more than anybody can pay you for.

In this position it is generally assumed that it is opportunity for wealth but if you want to build a nation and do it and use the office that you have and use it right, you will be guided by not building wealth without work. You will get what you deserve as your pay for the office but you will get much more than that from your citizens because you have done them right.

Don’t seek for pleasure without a conscience because in seeking pleasure without a conscience, there will be traps set for you that will derail you from your goal. Which is why it is important you know who you are, where you are there, why you set out to do this and and you must stick to what is right.

Don’t seek for knowledge without character, a man that does not have character does not deserve to be leading any of our value chain of leadership of this country. But if you are there, seek to be the example for the people that will serve under you in your government, people of your state, ultimately there is so much joy in seeing the accomplishments of that which you set out to do and in seeing lives that are fulfilled because of that which you have done.

Don’t seek for commerce without morality. In building the economy of your state, make sure there is transparency and that things work and that there is accountability so that people can see what you do everyday. Even when mischief makers appear to try to turn that which you have done upside down, they will be ordinary citizens that will rise up to defend you base on how they have interacted with you and seeing that which you have done.

Please don’t seek for politics without principles. You ask us everyday, why are you not in this party or that party, why are you not joining politics, let’s be honest, we do not have politics of ideology in our country so far, we have politics of people. And if you want the right people to gather and give us the critical mass that we need to build our nation, you are the next generation of leaders that can ensure that we begin to set the template and the agenda for a great nation to be great.

It hurts me, it breaks my heart every time you are talking to people outside of this country and they open their mouths and talk about this nation that you know within it is everything that it needs, we have all the human minds that will build a great nation. God has blessed us abundantly with resources, some of your states are richer than others but guess what, it is not so much about how rich you are, is how well that you apply the resources that you have sincerely to meet the needs of your people. Even ordinary citizens will help you to think through. You don’t have all the answers but you have humans that can support you and they don’t have to come from your state. We all need Nigeria to work, it doesn’t matter from what state. For me to drive from Lagos to Ondo I am going to come across how many states, so I need every part of Nigeria to work. To fly from Lagos today, assuming I was driving, imagine the number of states of Nigeria I will pass through to get here. Every state’s count to every Nigerian, it doesn’t matter where we come from, if you need help look for the Nigerian that will help you. We all want this country to work and we are very hopeful that because you have this position and you have this power, people have entrusted you with it that you will use it effectively to build a nation, the portion of it that is assigned to you. And that you will work collectively for the unity of this nation. Because, a nation that is divided against itself cannot stand but in the place of unity… I am a christian, the Bible says God has commended His blessings, which means every time we combine our knowledge, our wisdom and all our resources together, we can build a great nation that the world will be afraid of.

I want my nation to work, I want to be able to tell my children this is why I say you must live in Nigeria and nowhere else. And I ask for your help that as you do what you have sworn to do or you will swear to do as you take office, that the Lord will help you to do it right, that ultimately we will build a nation that we will all be proud of.


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