A Badge of Honour

Posted by By Ray Ekpu on 2004/07/16 | Views: 327 |

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A Badge of Honour


We cannot all be masters nor all masters/cannot be truly followed," said William Shakespeare in Othello. The difference between masters and the rest, between leaders and the led, between ordinary and extraordinary people, is that little extra.

We cannot all be masters nor all masters/cannot be truly followed," said William Shakespeare in Othello. The difference between masters and the rest, between leaders and the led, between ordinary and extraordinary people, is that little extra. Extra effort, extra diligence, extra commitment, extra courage, extra creativity, that extra. Those who offer that extra make the difference and that is why we admire such global icons as Jesus, Mohammed, Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Billy Graham. They all, in different ways, in different fields, made the difference, to our lives, to our world.

There are many more men and women in the world who have risen above the fray, beaten the odds, levelled the mountains, filled the valleys and reached the totem pole of success. Some of them, as the famous American writer Erica Jong, would put it, can "hack the jungle with their bare hands, bite the heads of poisonous snakes, strip the skin from armadillos or porcupines." And they become leaders because they are able, willing and ready to go the extra mile.

What can we say about Colin Powel? He is an embodiment of the American dream, a man born in Harlem, the ghetto of ghettos, of immigrant parents from Jamaica, one who knew the rough life of the streets. He rose through the ranks in the army to the very pinnacle - four star general, national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. For him there is still room at the top even though he has already taken a quantum leap from zero to hero.

How did a "mere wrestler," Jesse Ventura, become the governor of Minnesota. When he was campaigning for the office, a lot of people thought he was a bad joke, that there was no room for a man like him at the top of Minnesota politics and governance. Apparently Ventura had listened to the famous words of David Lloyd George, a former British prime minister: "Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." Ventura took the big step and it paid off.

Bill Gates, the world's richest man and the genius behind Microsoft dropped out of Harvard. Now with the roaring success of his business empire, Harvard professors would be eating out of his hand.

Lee Iacocca was President of Ford Motors and father of the mustang. For about 20 years he was a formidable force in the car industry. Then the relationship with Henry Ford went sour and Iacocca had to leave. But a challenge was waiting for him, the Chrysler challenge. Within a short while he turned the dying corporation into a megabucks megaforce in the car business and turned in the biggest profits in Chrysler's history. Before long he had become a folk hero and the song was "We want Lee." Americans thought they had found their president.

Nigeria has had its leaders, those who have exerted every nerve and fibre to fight our battles, to fill the gaps in our lives, to take us one step higher, one step farther. We have had our Wole Soyinka, our Balarabe Musa, our Christopher Kolade, our Gani Fawehinmi, our Ibidapo Obe, our Dora Akunyili, our El Rufai, our Leo Stan Ekeh; the list can only be illustrative, not exhaustive. But these men and women and others like them have to pass the baton to a new and younger generation of leaders. This is not about the man or woman with the wheel-barrow full of money.

It is about people of conviction, people of achievement, people who have succeeded against the odds, people who believe in the best practices in their profession, people who have made significant, unique, even extraordinary achievements, people who have shown sterling leadership qualities but who are not more than 44 years of age. Let's not haggle about the age. There's nothing talismanic about 44. It is simply a number, a number that we, Nigerian Breweries PLC and Newswatch, the partners in this project, have chosen. From this week, Nigerian Breweries PLC and Newswatch will search, find and feature these LEADERS ON THE RISE in Newswatch week after week as part of our public service project. At the end of six months the two companies will honour all those featured in the series at a public ceremony where they will receive a badge of honour: plaques.

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