For some of you who have read some of my articles, you might have noticed that I always share the experiences of my National Youth Service. This is because it was robust. I maximized the opportunity. From being elected the leader of my platoon to being made the NCCF Coordinator of my zone and later the CLO (Corps Liaison Officer) of the local government where I served, I learned important leadership lessons. In this piece, I will also draw from this source the importance of being disciplined as a leader.
The leadership of my platoon was not accidentally bestowed on me, I prepared before I was deployed, and when the opportunity presented itself I contested with three others and won with a landslide. It is in my nature to be outstanding in everything I do, thus, I worked for my platoon to be the best of all the ten platoons in the orientation camp. I had two hundred and thirty-four members (234) with a three-week of competitive activities.
You will concur that power is sweet if you have held it before, but on the flip side is the burden of responsibility and this calls for self denial if the leader must achieve his goal. He must be able to choose between immediate and postponed gratification in the presence of lots of temptations and distractions.
To fully appreciate this topic, I think it would be helpful for you to know the pleasures I forsook to achieve my goal. First the NYSC Orientation Camp is a place where many corps members have a common goal: to have the fun of a life time. Some of you know what I am talking about. Platoon leaders were like presidents with three weeks tenure. I had free publicity from a devoted member who served in the OBS unit. She occasionally sends me shutouts over the airwaves letting everyone know how wonderful I am.
There were beautiful ladies asking me to take them out. The guys want to identify with me. Different interest groups came to ask for favors. I had the powers to create committees and appoint whoever I wanted to be in charge. I had unhindered access to the Camp Commandant and other important officers. In a nutshell, I was the custodian of the cookie jar.
With these privileges, it is easy for a young leader to lose focus except with a steel resolution like that of the Hebrew Boys in Babylonian captivity during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. There were three platoon leaders who betrayed the trust of their members by exhibiting gross indiscipline in the steering of the affairs of their respective platoons. They had the fun of their lives. What I saw them do myself and the things I heard about them cannot be written. Mind you, I am not a saint either.
So it happened on the bonfire day that their recklessness became obvious to everyone. The bonfire was the peak of all activities on camp with the platoons competing for the best native delicacy, best decorated platoon shed, best dance group, etc. It was a night of feasting and socializing around the fire. And so it was that platoons x, y, and z failed to make arrangements for this event. They could not even provide canopies and chairs, let alone fulfill other expectations. The population of my platoon swelled with many of their members coming under my shed. And for the fear of their platoon members whom they collected money from but could not deliver, they were no where to be found the entire night.
Every opportunity to lead is a burden and for a leader to accept to serve he must sacrifice personal interest for collective interest, even if he is pursuing a personal vision, the expectation of the team members must be integrated. These three platoon leaders that failed on their mandates are some of the youths of Nigeria who are asking for the opportunity to lead the country. They were given a three week opportunity and they messed up.
Leadership is not pleasure but pain; not gratification but sacrifice; not sleep but vigil; not pride but humility; not a feast but a fast; not stationary but motion; not debauchery but virtuous; not wishes but strive; not fear but courage; and leadership is not given but taken. Therefore if everyone can afford to be undisciplined, leaders cannot because the stakes are high.
To lead, choose pain. Let’s make Nigeria great!