By Chido Nwakanma
Abuja (Precise Post) – Leaders from several callings gathered this morning, February 6, 2018, to discuss Africa’s leadership challenges courtesy of the Centre for Values and Leadership (CVL). It is the 15th CVL Annual Lecture. They will also spare some minutes to celebrate the 62nd birthday of Prof Patrick Okedinachi Utomi, founder of CVL.
The responsibilities, challenges and failure of leadership have been a preoccupation of Pat Utomi since teen years when as an undergraduate in the department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, he wrote to then External Affairs Minister Joseph Nanven Garba and received an invitation to speak with the minister. Utomi would serve as Director of Socials in the Students Union government, deploying all of his skills.
Utomi is a connector, a maven, and salesman in the typology of Malcolm Gladwell. He is also a mentor to many across social, intellectual, professional and other fields.
Connector: This is one of the principal roles of Pat Utomi. He runs a spider’s web of connections, linking people to people, governments to governments and leaders everywhere. Working for him at Patike Communications in the 80s, the strength and capacity of his Rolodex were terrific. Pat kept in touch and sent cards to mates from primary school days. As president of the Lagos branch of the University of Nigeria Alumni Association, he linked Lagos to Nsukka, America, Dodan Barracks and places in-between, ensuring a range of activities and high visibility for the association. We made much progress. No wonder entrepreneurs found his connections invaluable and invited him to sit on no fewer than 20 corporate boards.
Maven: Prof Utomi is a famous intellectual. His corpus is rich and variegated, drawing on years of postdoctoral research. One consequence is that many wrongly ascribe ownership of the Lagos Business School to him, despite his protestations. It is a measure of his impact in deploying his skills to serve both as a lecturer and unpaid promoter of the school that many think the Director in his title while at LBS meant ownership. Utomi is the ultimate intellectual, knowledgeable across fields. Utomi is one of a few alumni that UNN has recognised with doctorate honoris causa!
Salesman Utomi is a persuader, a charismatic personality with strong negotiation skills. Utomi is the go-to man for many people, projects and ideas. He is the one to help push ideas, winning people over. In 1992, he got many otherwise uninvolved middle-class types to engage in the civil process with the initiation of the Concerned Professionals. That group played a role in pushing for restoration of democracy.
Mentor Annually, it is a task to count the number of weddings where Pat Utomu serves as sponsor. He is an encourager of young people in several other areas. Utomi is the man to go to when young people need guidance, direction, material assistance or jobs. He is the one who has for 25 years empowered widows. Utomi and his friend, the late Ike Emeagwali, jumpstarted the process of alumni supporting their old schools, donating as far back as 1987 a vehicle to the Jackson College of Journalism, Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria.
All of these brought people together two years ago to mark his 60th birthday over a full week of activities. Nollywood stars, students, various entrepreneurs were eager and glad to contribute to celebrating a significant landmark. Several connections spoke to the fact that people are essential to Pat Utomi and Pat Utomi energises people.
On his 62nd birthday, I join so many stakeholders to wish Prof Pat Utomi a rewarding new cycle full of many positive developments to the benefit of Nigeria. Happy birthday, Pato for socials and now for intellection, activism, social upbuilding, leadership and entrepreneurship. Happy birthday to a Jacksonite that represents us well.