When I got the eMail announcing that I was selected to join the prestigious Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship on the 21st of February, 2007, my excitement tore through the roof. The period between that date and the April workshop at the unforgettable Mount Fleur Resort in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, was filled with many thoughts about my first visit to the country where I met with my first lessons in global ICT discussions (during the International Telecommunications Union Africa 2001 event). The 2001 event saw my first time on an airplane, was the reason I had to rush to get an international passport, and remains the first time I would stay in a strange room that you had to gain access to by using a plastic card 🙂 (I grew up knowing that only keys opened doors).
Leaving London (in September 2007) after we concluded the workshops for the Fellowship, I couldn’t keep my mind away from the people I met, the lessons about leaders (and leadership), the amazing stories that Fellows shared about why they do what they do, the night I sneaked out, the fulfillment of my long-time Oxford dream, the poems, the date that ended ahead of others’ because I couldn’t make conversation with a lady, the comradeship I felt with Fellows, the scenarios, the arguments, the whispers, the amazing sessions, the assignments, the notes, the cooking exercise, the cold night at the pub, the advise from a brother-in-London who disliked all African leaders, the House of Lords, that Lord’s jokes (I skipped the word funny deliberately by the way), the nights we just talked… hmmm, and the last few hugs from people I have come to know as family.
I couldn’t wait to know who this year’s Fellows would be, and you can imagine the speed at which I opened the file when Peter Wilson (Executive Director of the African Leadership Institute) sent the eMail announcing the 2008 Fellows. My eyes (naturally) ran through the list to see who would be Nigeria’s 2008 Archbishop Tutu Fellows and all I could say with each name was, wow. Speaking with Funmi Iyanda (one of the 2008 Fellows) earlier today added colour to my excitement and I’m glad to know that Nigeria produced five of the twenty-two Fellows! The list boasts of Bibi Bakare-Yusuf (Founder & CEO, Cassava Republic Press), Ahonsi Unuigbe (Head of the Government & International Organisations Group, Stanbic IBTC Bank), Mitchell Elegbe (CEO, InterSwitch Limited), Olufemi Oyekola (Business Manager, Global Markets, Stanbic IBTC Bank) and Funmi Iyanda (Broadcast Journalist, CEO Funmi Iyanda Productions â€“ the â€œOprah Winfreyâ€ of Nigeria).
I congratulate the 2008 Fellows and welcome them to the family — and can’t wait to welcome the West African Fellows to the alumni network in September!