Monday, May 23, 2016 9.07AM / Olufemi Awoyemi
Being a review presented at the book launch of “TOBI ODUYALE: A Legacy of Service to Community” by Olufemi Awoyemi at the Sheraton Hotels & Towers, Ikeja on Sunday, May 22, 2016.
Title: TOBI ODUYALE: A Legacy of Service to Community
Author: ONAF Foundation
Publisher: Abundant Life Printing and Publishing House Ltd, (2015)
Paperback: 73 Pages
“Duties are universally measured by relations, learning to keep your own situation towards the other person, considering not what he/she does, but what you are to do to keep your own faculty of choice in a state conformable to nature. In this manner, therefore, you will find, from the idea of a neighbor, a citizen, a parent, the corresponding duties of a community leader, if you accustom yourself to contemplate the several relations”.
These words of Epichetus, the greek philosopher occupied my thoughts when I got the invitation to review the final works on a book on and about Tobi Oduyale’s thirteen-year stewardship in the Omole Phase II Community Development Association.
Graciously, the publishers asked for a review “without pre-conditions or concern for political correctness”, an offer too good to turn down.
Or was it?
A pause was needed. For to deliver a literary critic of another man’s work and life story, delving into the content, style, and merit of the book; requires more than intellect. It involves navigating how, in my case, I wish to continue my residency.
Stirred by feelings of both pride and enthusiasm; emotions aptly captured in the compendium, I resolved to defend the latest call to service which Tobi Oduyale has offered me by respecting the academic integrity required and also offer some comments on current leadership realities in community and public service.
I would thus crave your indulgence to rely on this disclaimer over the review.
The publisher ensured that the book made for easy reading, adopting a style that offers a breezy comfort for the ready, carefully ensuring that emphasis was placed on the legacy proposition. It leaves the reader in no doubt that this is a compilation and account of several specific achievements of the Toni Oduyale ‘effect’ on the significant developments witnessed in the Omole Phase II Community Development Association during 2000 to 2013; years which coincided with changes in both the profile of residents of the estate and the passing of the CDA Act (February 2008) that led to changes in the government/community relationship and approach.
While the book made a serious attempt at ensuring full coverage of the tour of service, it unfortunately did not reveal things not already in the public domain (nay community at least), even though the articulation of same in such an organised manner offered a ‘breadth and scope’ definition of the role, responsibility and deliverables expected of a community based association; some of which Tobi Oduyale must rightfully take credit for pioneering in the state, not just the estate.
To this pioneering spirit must we add the landmark achievement attained today by the publication of a stewardship account in a book form for the benefit of the general public.
As the reader goes through the book, it soon becomes apparent that the level and detail of records kept indicated two things. Firstly, Tobi Oduyale had an end game in mind which enhanced his focus, administrative style and will-to-achieve mindset that enabled him overcome limitations; and secondly, he had a good communications structure in place, which was evident in the platforms, channels and forums deployed that offered such a recall.
Herein however lies the flipside or downside in the authors’ work, given the significance of and the opportunity such a ‘first-ever’ publication presented - much more was expected.
In a clime where there is a dearth of knowledge materials and references founded on solid governance ethos; a legacy biased publication owed readers the benefit of shared learning by shedding/shining more light on what it takes to manage a community based public office, an area filled with salacious tales of the mines and challenges of governance.
The reader would have loved to gain insights or learn lessons about:
1. How and when groups of individuals became a team,
2. managing the overlaps existing between the local council authorities and state government,
3. the personal sacrifices required of the EXCO members,
4. handling finances of a no-financial-reward entity, reporting to the public and setting up systems;
5. the challenge of residency which the landlord/tenant arrangements represent,
6. handling conflicts with other communities and within streets; and most importantly
7. the subject of accountability of stewardship, campaigns for office, holding elections and succession management.
That said, the 73 page document, made use of pictorials in at least thirty-one (31) pages of which thirteen (13) were full page breaks and pictorial account of events. The contents of pages 9 to 13 should have been added to the section on testimonials on pages 69 and 72 where the profile of those offering the testimonials was missing, save for page 71.
Pastor Tonye Oliver, CEO of Abundant Life Publishing and compiler acknowledged (page 6) that he was the Head of the Publicity Committee for the CDA during Tobi Oduyale’s tenure. He must be given credit for his role even as he was skilful enough to present himself as an independent commentator on the events, avoiding anything detailed enough to specifically contradict himself or his subject.
For the most part, the book has forty-eight (48) pages providing a compendium of achievements, testimonials and landmark event(s) that captured the very essence of why community based associations’ remains the most important component of our development.
If Tobi Oduyale were to be considered for future public office in Lagos or his home town of Ilishan, Ogun State, this will serve him well as a publicly vetted “service record” and a veritable basis upon which we can all say – we know the man.
In introducing us to the man therefore, the documentation on Tobi Oduyale as presented on pages 22 and 23 offered only a brief insight than expected into his ‘person’ – leaving out his life journey, career experience/exposure and his core (fundamental beliefs and principles of justice, fairness and progress which the book delivered). Equally glossed over was the well ingrained virtues of the Anglican Church on service to humanity and the ‘stabilising role’ of his wife, Mrs. Bisola Oduyale as a critical bridge between the man, his motivations and his public service success.
This part of the legacy must and should not be down played for it remains a leadership success factor in all he was able to achieve.
To place in context, had we had an historical account of how OPRA2 came into being and how the residents of the estate organised their affairs before his ascendancy to chairmanship of the estate; the reader would have been able to properly appreciate the achievements documented in the book and the emphasis placed on the high points.
Since the book was not designed as a “100 list of what Tobi Oduyale achieved’, the legacy document wisely avoided conspiracy theories and conjectures about the man so fondly described on page 70 as a “very rare talent in social (people) mobilisation”.
Epichetus it was who said - “Blaming others for one’s misfortunes is a sign of ignorance; blaming oneself is the beginning of wisdom; blaming neither others nor oneself is a sign of perfect wisdom”.
The author and compiler must have taken this maxim to heart in deciding to steer clear of intrigues. Yet, the impression of a smooth sailing tenure appears to deny the very nature of how things were, why the outcomes became achievements on account of hurdles surmounted, and how the fabric of our political and social coexistence is woven to steer up complexities in human relations. Beyond this fact, the book’s approach to be generous to Tobi Oduyale, avoiding contradictions and complexity in the service tour can find justification.
As I close this later aspect of the review, I wish to avoid a faux pas by acknowledging that I am a resident of the estate and while reading the final copy sent to me last week found my names mentioned twice in the book (pages 30 and 56).
I have raised this ethical disclosure issue because whilst I am humbled by the recognition of my family’s modest contributions as a resident; the book left out some names of many others who played varying roles. An acknowledgement page that includes the names of EXCO(s) members that served during the tenure under reference, members of the board of trustees, members of the election bodies, chairmen of Ad-hoc committees and persons who went beyond and above the call of duty in the response to Tobi Oduyale’s multiple and mission specific call to service - young and old.
It will not be a surprise however if this information surfaces in other channels to confirm and demonstrate one of his finer qualities – the ability to carry everyone along as documented on pages 30 to 54.
As I wrap up, the reader has to be careful of an attempt by the author to recast the role of the Chairman of a CDA, a body held under a trusteeship; in the process of documenting the development and reform approaches deployed in achieving the worthy outcomes documented here. Conscious distinction must be made therefore to distinguish between the office and the man. Herein lies for me the true worth of a leader – making a small office into a vehicle for societal regeneration.
Arising therefrom from this, two observations are worthy of mention in these closing thoughts :
· Succession and sustenance of legacies in public office; and
· Converting groups into teams for public good.
Needless to say, these were the two take-away(s) I found in the Tobi Oduyale story whose relevance to today’s unfolding events around ‘change’ from one administration to another deserve interrogation.
For the sake of time, I will be brief.
In the attempt by a new administration to put its stamp on a sovereign or community, there is that tendency to upend the status quo fundamentally; especially where an electoral mandate on such promises makes it inevitable.
Yet, in this voyage all leaders are bound to take – it is never about the end product but the process that distinguishes great leaders from mere office holders…… it is not a game, it’s about the aim, which always remains the development of the society always.
Because results reveal process and not potential, the real test of leadership is revealed in the ability to inspire - to nudge the constituents through the quality of leadership and personal sacrifice – turning the leaders’ conduct into a signalling effect.
The more difficult task for a leader therefore reveals itself in how quickly he or she is able to convert the individual members of the group that won an election into a functioning team; how he is able to avoid the distractions and trap of political correctness. It is a delicate balancing act when successors probes, inquest and propaganda to gain political advantage or offer excuse for performance where vision, direction and pace is required to eliminate dissipation of political and execution goodwill.
Whilst themes around anti-corruption, reduction of bureaucracy and resource mobilisation / allocation are essential to good governance and re-ordering of society, it does not replace the need for a strategy that enhances economic, social and physical development in a community or nation.
History shows us that an “us and them” environment is counter-productive if the well-being of those being led is in the process ignored, diminished and otherwise made to suffer. This is the legacy question for all leaders.
Every leader in community service or public service at all levels must therefore appreciate the place of legacies in societal development.
Ladies and gentlemen, the book – “A Legacy of Service to Community” will take the enviable place of the first of such from a resident community to document stewardship, initiate the interrogation of how such communities deliver governance and open a debate on how leaders are appraised.
It is most especially a triumph for political publishing in which OLAF Foundation and Abundant Life Publishing must be proud.
The book has this earned for itself its value’s worth and for Tobi Oduyale, a validation of the Anglican virtue of “service to humanity.