I got born again in secondary school courtesy of my teachers, Mrs Ekpa and Mrs Grace Edet. Before then I was introduced to the life of faith by the effort of my grandmother, Mrs Alice Esoh Omin who was popular called “Eka Anthony”. She did her best to introduce me to God in the best way she could. As a young catholica, I joined the mass servers. It became a training ground for me as I was taught devotion, dedication and a sense of direction in my life. In essence, I have always been a church boy.
Going to campus helped me raise my game. The logic was simple. I met people of my age who could explain scriptures in a way that I could relate to and understand. Call it positive peer pressure. This is the type of peer pressure that catapults one to success. When you walk with the wise, you become wise. There is osmosis of wisdom that finds a way to diffuse into your being.
So I joined the Light of Christ Community, UNIBEN. It was the best decision of my teenage life. A senior friend of mine, who inspired me, Emeka Owoh, had told me that when I get to campus, I should look for folks in that fellowship. He graduated from there. He gave me a note and I looked for those it was addressed and to and they took me in. The rest is history.
I was impressed when I joined the fellowship. I saw young people serve God with pure and undiluted joy. I wanted that joy. They were contented with the little they had. I noticed a few had and some were like me…the haves not. The haves (now these are students o) shared their resources with those that did not. Everyone you saw wanted to help. Help could be, walking you to where you were supposed to have lectures. Help was someone, seeing that you were down and s/he chatted you up. Help was someone sharing a scripture with you as a teaching moment, an exhorting glance and a word of encouragement. This was surreal. People loved you for you. No questions asked. No hidden agenda.
On the other hand, these were fine fine boys and girls o. They chose to serve God. And decided to be good citizens of the country and the world. They did not criticize what x,y,z was doing but just kept on in prayers for the country and the situations that came their way. I was a direct beneficiary of those prayers. I had a personal circumstance and word of prayers were said and results came. This was a miracle we asked for and God heard us.
I have given you my background as per my life of faith. I will share as that life of faith marinated into other areas of my life. I was taught leadership in campus fellowship.
In my opinion, apart from those that were in Junior Chambers, AIESEC etc, campus fellowship was the only other place to teach you leadership skills.
However, they were not called leadership skills. We just said, “we were serving the Lord”. Serving the Lord equals serving humanity. You cannot love a God that you cannot see and hate the man in front of you. Let me send you my list.
1. Timeliness: Fellowship starts on time. No matter what was going on — if the earth was spinning or not spinning — fellowship started by 7 pm and by 9 pm we were done. There is a slang we say in church “as the spirit leads”. In my fellowship, the spirit will lead you to stay within the time. As someone once said, “why is the spirit always leading us to extend the time? Why doesn’t the spirit restrict us to cut the time from 2 hours to 1.5 hours?” Of course, it was a joke, but we got the drift. Events started on time and ended on time. Anything after that was fellowship after fellowship (FAF)and it was your choice. In fact if you were a chronic FAFer, you will be called to order.
2. Responsibility: You were responsible from Day 1. You were responsible for hearing the word of God and doing the word of God. You were responsible for anything that was committed to your hands. It was not a burden because you saw others do it. It is like seeing others ride a bike. You count yourself out when it is your parent’s mates that are riding but when your peers ride the bike, you are inspired. It is the same way responsibility works. I will share a story with thee. One unwritten rule in fellowship was that whenever there was a civil disturbance/riot, we (the brothers) quickly storm the female hostels to get our sisters safe. I participated in about two of these. We get their properties out and take them to a safe place. It was done with martial precision — think of mass exodus and boys lifting things that were twice their body weight and size and getting it to a safe house. We were taught to escort sisters back home even if they lived in Ekosodin (You don’t know Ekosodin, please Google it. Enough said). If we had fellowship, the sister would gladly come and take our jacket to shelter from the cold. They love to do this…..even if you had no intention to tell “Thus said the Lord, Sister Follow Me”. They did it with elegance. It was their right😂. We were responsible. We were taught to be responsible and care for others. That is what leaders do.
3. Composure: Gait, dressing and posture — I learnt from the older brothers in fellowship. I was taught how to knot a tie, combine colours and dress neatly. I was flattered when my classmates selected me as one of the best dressed in my final year. The flattery was because I practically had few predictable clothes but they were always clean and I tucked in my shirt even if it was a T-shirt😆 (seriously). In a matter of speaking, I was always put together and spoke with words that salted and seasoned the next man. We were taught not to use swear and cuss words. They are anti-God. Our words were seasoned and were to bring Gods power in situations. Our words were to heal. It made a difference in my life.
4. Focus: In my fellowship, you could only belong to two activity groups. No more. It could be less. We believed that you were here to school and that was the raison d’être why we are all here. As such, your academics has to be given the priority it deserved. But since man cannot live by reading academic books alone and he needed to serve the Lord in the days of his youth, the fellowship provided an avenue for that. As such, you were focused on the things that were important. With focus, came less distraction.
5. Selflessness: Altruism was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ when He gave Himself for others and as such we learnt selflessness from Him. Selflessness was organising free tutorial classes for those that required it. It was sharing your food and money. It was “squatting” someone else without them paying a dime. It was making sacrifices so that others can have a leg in the game. Throughout my stay in school (except in the final year when the school offered me accommodation), someone paid for me. I just could not afford to pay. I paid it forward in my fourth year and fifth year when I was privileged to have accommodation. There was nothing big about it as I was once a beneficiary and I became a benefactor.
6. Innovation: You are forced to innovate for two reasons — the spirit of God is in you. And….you always did not have money. Seems we were perpetually broke. Please note that we were not antimoney, we just did not have. We did not forbid money but it seems money forbade us. With that, you had to do more with little. You had to visit brethren far and wide and trekking was the innovation. We held fellowship programmes in “wonderful” venues. How dare you hire a hall? With which funds? When I look back at how we got many things done, I am amazed. We became ingenious. Necessity made us invent.
7. Self-Leadership: I had to be a student, bible teacher, budget planner, tutorial teacher, leader in fellowship, friends to others and classmates to some. All these commitments required planning your time and resources. None of these areas needed to fail. I had to be successful in these things that were important to me. If I could not lead myself to be in class on time, read as at when due, schedule my entertainment, laundry, cooking etc, then failure was inevitable. Lead self before leading others.
8. Financial Discipline: With limited funds, come dexterity in managing the little personal and corporate funds that we had. We learnt how to put money together to buy wholesale stuff in order to have more quantity. The sum of the parts that make a whole (synergy) is better individual effort summed together. University days made me stretch my funds. It is simple. Whatsoever money my parents gave me went into buying schoolbooks, food and transport back home (I lived in Calabar and schooled in Benin — 500km apart. nothing can happen to my transport money. I may be sick but would not touch my transport money back home. There was no GSM, no internet transfer, no uncle or aunty. nothing. I mean nothing can touch that money. It was usually 2,000 naira). Nothing else was needed. If I could save enough, I bought some books and Christian cassettes (Shalom Jerusalem by Paul Wilbur was my first earthly belonging. I bought the cassette for 120 naira in front of Hall 2 in 1997). I think that was the only extra-curricular thing I bought that year.
9. Care and Love: What is the Christian life without these? You have to love the unlovable. You have to love those that love you. You have to be graceful to the graced and not-so-graceful. You are a servant leader and nothing less is expected from you. You will have time for those who don’t have your time and for those who have your time. You have to be all things to all wo/men. When you do these, you seem to be broken and spilt out for humanity….just like our Lord Jesus Christ.
10. Listening: This is a very underrated leadership skill. There are a lot of problems that are self-resolved just because you cared enough to listen. Empathy requires that you listen — from the sublime to the absurd. You have two ears and you need to use them. Be attentive. Keep an open mind and speak if you must but for a good while…..just listen. When you get into leadership, many things will get to you. Some stories. Some random happenstances. Just pure coincidences. But when your perspective is right and you are open to be of help, you will listen and people loved to be listened to….even when you do not have a solution for their problems. The best way to end a number of these conversations is to say a sincere word of prayers. God hears. He listens also. And He does….He is s doer.