By CHARLES KUMOLU
For Behavioural Theorists, leaders are born not made. Their belief is that people can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning, and observation. In fact, one of them, Vince Lombardi famously observed thus: “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” Indeed, this belief has become generally accepted. But the life of Chief Ben Nwankwo, an accomplished private sector player, and public officer, who was elected four times into the House of Representatives, suggests that leaders are also made. His leadership trajectory which commenced in his early teens and climaxed in adulthood presents a moving account of the making of a leader.
Seeing my future:
My growing up was an uptight process. I grew up as the last child in a family of 10 and had a very disciplined father that brought me very close to him, inspired me and brought me up as if he saw the future. He inculcated certain attitudes and values in me. And they have not departed from me. Those values were in tandem with the type of training I received in primary and secondary schools. I attended Catholic schools and I imbibed doctrines that equipped me especially in terms of morality. To that extent, I found myself being goal-driven. As a child, I didn’t know I was leading. I formed the first village youth forum in my community at the age of 12. I felt I was too young to lead it and I gave the leadership to someone else while I became the secretary of the association. I left primary school in primary 5 and proceeded to Saint Michael College, Nimo, a school with the record of academic excellence and discipline.
Anyone that desired to discipline his child chose the school as an option. Getting admitted into the school was very competitive and that made me result-oriented. There was no time for playing around. Early in life, my father made me his Personal Adviser and Secretary.
I grew up seeing people every day in our house because my father was involved in community leadership and was a politician as well. I was involved in every meeting because I had to take account of every meeting. I was always overwhelmed by anxiety whenever I wrote the minutes of every meeting. However, I later developed the skill at that young age. I have to say that I am proud of my childhood. I am proud of my father and I also give God the glory for the grace he gave me right from childhood.]
Easily spotted in a crowd
I have always been easily spotted in every crowd. I led so many of my classes and associations. I found myself in various leadership positions in my childhood and those positions prepared me for all I am encountering in my adulthood. My childhood was very interesting and challenging. What I love most was getting involved in organising people at a very tender age and making sure that people are happy. I was always afraid of losing my friends because of my early exposure to leadership. I remember that when I was in school, I provided chewing gum and candies that would make people not to sleep during evening classes. I was very popular in every school I attended and every club I belonged to. People always wanted to have me in leadership positions. That was the reason I found myself in politics at a very young age. At 25, I was already the Personal Assistant to the first civilian governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife. I was his only Personal Assistant. If I wasn’t prepared for these challenges I wouldn’t have come on board as early as 25.
Good to go at 25
At 25, I was already good to go and that was the beginning of my political career in the Nigerian project. From there I became a Special Adviser to a former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju. I was later appointed a Commissioner. I was Commissioner for Special Duties handling priority matters of the government. I was redeployed to the Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of Finance and Budget and Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. I was never dropped in any cabinet shake-up. I resigned to contest for the seat of Orumba North and South Federal Constituency in 2003. I won but victory was given to someone who never contested. I went to court and challenged it. In 2005, I got it back and saw myself in the House of Representatives. Between that time and now, I have been in and out of the Green Chamber. I was there in the fifth Assembly, I was there in seventh House and I am also a member of the present House.
Apart from the love of God, my family has given me the greatest love. The love I derive from my family is legendary. They have always been there for me. Even when for one reason or the other, I did not devote enough time to prayer, they were there to cover the gap. They have been supportive of my ideology and they understand that the sacrifices I have to make are unavoidable. Their understanding of this is quite fantastic and I consider it the highest sacrifice they have made.
My strengths and weaknesses
My weaknesses are those associated with our human nature. Also, not having enough time to reach out to the people I was supposed to reach out to is another weakness. I am seizing this opportunity to apologise to those people. I know that in some cases they needed me, but I did not have the time to be there for them. I am not disposed to primordial considerations. For instance, when people see issues from an ethnic perspective, I see them from a nationalistic position. That has helped me immensely. Another thing I regret is not being able to get the best result on the issue of erosion that is threatening my people. Another one is not being able to achieve my objective of citing a university in Orumba.
My greatest accomplishment is being able to contribute to the life of many people. That is the center-piece of whatever I do. Apart from the obligation I owe to my God, the next is to my people. Breaking it down to derivatives, having empowered many people including people that I don’t know, paying school fees, medical fees, give me satisfaction.
Having to open up the social and economic spaces for my people gladdens my heart. I have attracted visible and verifiable social amenities to the communities that I have represented over the years. These have given me the greatest happiness. These are the reasons I consider myself a messenger for my people.
Fulfilling activities in life
The successes I recorded in my battles with the godfathers in Anambra State, were fulfilling moments in my life. I do not want to reopen old wounds. I came across many battles with the godfathers who wanted to dictate for my people.
Those moments were fulfilling. Notwithstanding the challenges, they toughened me made who I am today. I have promised my people that I will never short-change them at any point in my life. Instead of doing that, I will quit leadership. I have always been poorer each time I am in a public position than I am in private sector because I give all
I have to my people. I do it because they have always trusted me with their collective object. Who are mine after all? I came from one of the smallest communities in the constituency, I have stood election four times and that four times I have won the general election. I do not know of any legislator who has stood election four times and won all. What else can be more fulfilling than this?