The relevance of the Collegiate Structure to the Junior Chamber Movement
A keynote address presented at the 2009 Collegiate Conference of Junior Chamber International, Nigeria
held at the ASCON – Badagry – Lagos. On 7th May 2009
The unquestionable God, the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent and the Omniscience.
The Conference Chairman who is also the Chair of the Collegiate Council
The National President of JCI Nigeria
Distinguished Chief Delegates of Collegiate Chapters
Members of the JCI Nigeria Collegiate Council,
Members of the JCI Nigeria Noble House
Members of the various Collegiate chapters in Nigeria
Our Invited Guests, Friends and Well wishers.
I am indeed honored today, to stand before you to deliver this keynote address. First of all, May I please request that you pay uttermost attention to me, because in the course of my presentation, the presence, absence, position or use of words such as NOT, IF, WHEN, ON, WITH, IN and so on, could make a whole difference to your interpretation of my presentation. This misinterpretation can only be created by your attention wandering away from me for a brief duration in the presentation. I appeal that you please hear me out, and carefully. I thank you very much for this important consideration.
In the course of coming up with the address, I had the cause to ruminate extensively on the various problems and challenges that have bedeviled our organization and indeed our country, and came to the inescapable conclusion that the well-being and relevance of the youths in Nigeria and indeed the world all over, cannot be divorced from the well being and relevance of the Junior Chamber movement.
History and Background
The Junior Chamber movement came to life in 1915 as the “Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA).” It was started by a young man named Henry “Hy” Giessenbier, Jr., when he and a group of young people decided to take responsibility for their personal and professional development as well as for the progress and welfare of their community by helping tackle difficult problems around them. Together with other 32 young men, Giessenbier established the Young Men’s Progressive Civic Association (YMPCA), JCI’s First Local Organization, at the Mission Inn in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 13, 1915.
Since 1915, countless dedicated young leaders like Giessenbier have ensured the organization’s progress while contributing to the development of JCI members and the advancement of their communities. Their efforts and achievements must not be forgotten. It is not unusual to see members of the organization being referred to as Jaycees, Jc or any of the combinations.
JCI was introduced to Nigeria in 1957 by a young man – Otunba Bola Adewunmi who had the cause to travel to the United States as a reporter. When he came back to Nigeria, he assembled a cream of young men of like minds to start the JCI movement in Nigeria. The first meeting was held on 9th March 1957 at the Brostow Hotel, Lagos. Credit must be given to this titan of our time, who deemed it important to share the vision of this wonderful organization which is the basis why you and I are here today.
Jaycees in Action
Junior Chamber activities are carried out by organized young men and women, who form themselves into Chapters, otherwise known in JCI parlance as Local Organization of Members (LOM). Collection of Chapters or LOMs within a country form the National Organization of Members (NOM). For ease of administration, Areas are collection of states in a country to make it easier to bring the JCI concept closer to the members.
Junior Chamber members confront challenges in their locality in four broad categories, aptly called Areas of Opportunities, because Jaycees do not see challenges, but opportunities. Opportunities include Individual/Management, Business, Community and International opportunities. Activities are carried out in form of projects, which are executed by Committees, which are supervised by Directors in the different Areas of Opportunities. Whereas JCI membership is restricted to adults within the ages of 18 and 40, chapters naturally sprang up everywhere there is a collection of men and women within this age bracket.
The Collegiate Flavor
Common sense dictated by the realities of our time means that most people will attain the Jaycee age while still in school, whereas they may not earn an income until the school leaving age of 25 thereabout. In response to the need to bring in as many members as possible, JCI does allow the creation of Chapters in Institutions of higher learning, subject to the proviso that such members must be of the Jaycee age. Member chapters in Institutions of higher learning are called Collegiate Chapters.
A little history will suffice for you: In years gone by, LOMs were LOMs. There were no Collegiate/City LOM dichotomy. All LOMs paid JCI and JCIN (Then known as NJC) dues. JCI dues was $5, and the Naira was exchanging at N2:$1. Everyone was happy and the NOM was merry. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not a perfect society. Strikes came, campuses were closed, and of course Campuses could be closed for 3 or more years. By the time they are re-opened, All everyone wanted was to write their exams, graduate and return investments to their parents, not run around claiming to be President of a Local organization called Junior Chamber.
With time, most institutional LOMs amassed great debts, could not pay their JCIN dues, talk less of the $5 or $8 or $10 (ie N1800) per member per annum JCI dues. These LOMs did not have records, and no one was willing to step forward. Sometimes, city LOMs hide behind these LOMs, pay the dues and use their votes. There was thus the need to sanitize things – hence the creation of the Collegiate City LOM dichotomy. It may have solved the problem of JCI dues but one thing we can not disagree with, is that some of the other problems of that time are still with us, and that dichotomy has not solved the problem.
You will note how real this problem is, if you permit me to state that not any Collegiate LOMs can boast of a constant INVESTITURE date, because no campus can boast of a constant EXAM date – nor the solution to ASU, NASU and indeed anything SU or “Sudden Uprising” on campus. can we then say it is “One Year to Lead?”
Jaycees as vanguards of Youthful Leadership
The youths of Nigeria and indeed the world have the need to come together to assure their own future by breaking the yoke of colonization and charting a new course. No organization is as positioned to assist the youths do this, other than the Junior Chamber movement.
In every society whose constituents crave for orderliness and continuity, leadership plays a crucial role in ensuring fair and equitable resource development and allocation. In looking at resource allocation, pastry comes into mind immediately. Progressive societies spend more time and effort baking the cake than the time they spend sharing the cake.
Education and its effective use, provides a fair balance between the bakers and the knife wielding sharers. This means that the educated members of the community should be at the epicenter of the various activities, lending the bulk of their experience and expertise towards the various tasks of leadership and Governance Unfortunately, and as evident in many developing societies today, the educated working class is too busy trying to make ends meet, or shall we say, extending the ends that have met, that they end up paying a higher premium on living, due to the hijack of the leadership process by the people that can at best be described as the crud of the society. These people, who by the fact that nature abhors a vacuum, have stepped into the apparent void, assuming the mantle of leadership to the consternation of the crème of eminently qualified people who are bogged by more important things in life.
Leadership virtues are dying in numbers. This is because those who now find themselves in the position of leadership in our various contemporary societies are shifting away from the true essence of leadership. This is happening at a breakneck speed. In years gone by, leadership was a position of responsibility to aspire to, and not a reward for being clever, maneuvering properly or simply being tenacious at deceit and machinations. Now, leadership is more of vain glory, than what obtains in the good old days. Nigeria and many other African countries have long fought for and attained independence from colonial masters, only to assume servitude under another set of lords who are driven more by self than reason. These lords are bent on replacing truth with falsehood and if not possible, ensure that they sow the seed of discord that will give them the license to hold what they have in perpetuity.
Hounded and goaded along the path of an abyss, true leadership ideals are fast becoming extinct in our societies. Making this more obvious. Is the deep level of decay, poverty and corruption everywhere. It is not uncommon to see a project being executed with just a minor percentage of the resources, while a larger percentage of the resources is used in publicizing the entire project. A loud campaign to convince the populace that it is color blue, even if all they can see is color green. Desperate leaders will even hire doctors to convince the people that they must be color blind! Corruption, a dark covert operation is now done much in the open and without any qualm because it now a part of daily living. Those who conduct straight and honest business are the exception and not the rule in the contemporary society. It is more common to see communities encourage and cheer on their representatives to be reckless, because it is now their turn to feed from the pot of the Nation, not minding the far reaching implications of such an action on the larger society.
Leadership rebirth should move from the ream of talk to the front burner of actionable items. It is something that must be done in the immediate, and not on a later date! If not us, who? If now now, when? Together, we can all bring about the rebirth. The twin cylinders of SYSTEMIC CHANGE and ORGANIZATIONAL CONTINUITY. This is the real challenge for us a s Jaycees.
How can Collegiate members Bring about Change?
What type of shirt can a naked man offer? This is the paradox confronting self-condemned professional followers who soon realize that the bulk of those who are serving as leaders have nothing to offer. While this is Unfortunate, these incompetent leaders have taken a very important step – they offered themselves sacrificially for service. Offer they did, and there ends the sacrifice! The rest is a systematic recoup of their sacrifice and interests in multiples.
Offering themselves for service, is what most followers aspiring to be leaders can do, but because they see themselves in the ideal mold, they have come to belief that vocations such as leadership are things that should not be attempted by the faint at heart. Most successful leaders would not have achieved much by remaining in their comfort zone, but have taken the challenge presented by fate, to make indelible marks in their various callings. Leadership is much more in service than being served. It is in getting things done, that ordinarily will have been considered too mundane and unnecessary in the daily life. It is ensuring that the generality can take their minds off the trivialities of life, while concentrating on the difficult things that require their expertise and commitment. Leadership is sacrifice and requires tenacity and commitment to get it done with ease.
Leaders carry out their leadership roles with ease, and with the commitment and full support of those they serve. Leadership is sacrifice per excellence, and therefore a worthy activity all must partake in.
Permit me to bring back a theme that was once used by JCI. That is … “Think Globally, Act Locally”: What does this entail?
1. Recruitment: For effective development, we need an wholesome strategy that will bring more people into the fold of the organization. Jaycee is still an organization that thrieves in the Southern part of Nigeria. Perhaps we have not studied the people, their culture or their leaning, to strike the right chord that will swell our membership in the northern parts of Nigeria. This is not to say that the membership is growing in leaps and bound in the south, but then, the problem is more pronounced in the north.
Bank Managers, Area Sales Managers and other highly mobile groups are good for filling membership, but they are not for sustaining membership. We need to look outside this category. I propose a strategy where we engage (immediately upon arrival) corps members from the North into our various chapters down south, being NYSC members, so that they can go back to the North, and make use of the skills and Knowledge. It should be an annual development program. The Founder of JCI in Nigeria was a journalist on assignment out of Nigeira, when he brought the organization back to the country.
2. Retention: Churn is a big problem, that needs to be addressed as you progress. It is no use inducting 5 members, and losing 7 old members. You should continue to cultivate all the members that you have, both past and Present. If you get rid of the past members because they are over 40, you stand the risk of not involving their children in the organization, sooner than later. It is easier to recruit from our immediate cachement.
To draw from my little experience in Ibadan: JCI Senator Tunde Oshobi (MON) . LOM President 1974 and National President 1978 hosts Board members of LOMs in Ibadan to an annual Breakfast Meeting. It is a meeting that has inspired countless generations of Jaycees that have come out of Ibadan. A number of people who have stayed on, and led our LOM have confessed to being inspired by the continued reverence of JCI Oshobi at such meetings when bowing and addressing the incumbent LOM President. He is an inspiring leader. Find and horn mentors who will inspire you.
3. Involvement: Get more members involved in the organization. The following are important:
- Attend all your LOM Meetings. There cannot be a LOM without you!
- Chair a Committee and execute a LOM Project. LOMs exist not in name, but by what they do.
- Attend the Training Certification Courses: Learn to Train. Without Teachers, there can be no Pupils.
- Attend the JCI TOPGUN Course, the JCI Nigeria Leadership academy, the African Academy, and the JCI Academy (Japan)
- Attend the JCI Leadership Entrepreneurship Action and Diversity (LEAD) Training. It is created, to make leaders.
- Plough back, by Serving in a Leadership position. A Jaycee without ambition is wasting his or her time.
- Stay back to help. The younger generation will continue to need your help, give it to them.
4. Focus: Junior Chamber is a Leadership Development organization Keep your eyes on the ball and the goal to ensure you are developed. JCI has a 10 year career plan. Take a look at it, and how you can explore it to the maximum. Should you need Trainers, please do not hesitate to contact your Director of Training, who can mobilize trainers for you, including my humble self. I am always available, if given sufficient notice.
5. Localization: It would be nice, if people spend their time and resources training and developing their immediate Chapters and Areas, before venturing to doing the same – nationally. It is not uncommon, to find people who have a very NATIONAL APPEAL, but may find it hard, to influence ideas and decisions back home in their LOM, or in their Areas. Again, what Shirt can a naked man give you?
6. Funding: No matter what we do, funds are required. Appeal to and pressurize our Leaders to create and invest heavily in a Trust Fund, that will be for the development of the NOM. This will fund special projects and programmes amongst you. It could also be in form of Travel support for CCs and CVCs as cost of travels is a major challenge in our organization. I have been there, so I know. In the past, JCI Nigeria benefited from a JCI development grant — It made it easy for us to start our National Secretariat. If you indeed are consistent in doing the above, Change is on the way.
Awaking the Leader in You
The Leader in you will hibernate due to a subconscious attempt by all of us humans to send it to sleep. You can easily wake up the leader in you, by recognizing and firing up your consciousness on the four Leadership Ds. These are Desire, Determination, Diligence and Destiny. Let us examine each of these catalysts in a little more detail.
Desire: Leaders are propelled by the desire to make a change in whatever situation they find themselves. Situations sometimes represses the desire in people, making it look as if the desire is not there.
Moses was one of the great leaders documented in the Bible. He seriously saw injustice being carried out within the land, and his people were at the receiving end of it. He did nurse the desire to liberate his people, up to the point of committing murder. The fact that he grew up in the royal household as the adopted son of the princess put him in a very awkward position. He could not even relate with his own kinsmen, because they could not understand who made him a judge over them. This was much exemplified when he tried to settle a quarrel between two of his kinsmen. Desire is very important, but not sufficient to awaken the leader in you. Whatever level desire can fire you up to, determination will even make you soar higher.
Determination: Once the desire to lead and make a change is established, obstacles begin to loom, casting doubts in the mind of the leader. Determination is the driver that propels us to surmounting most obstacles. Moses having recognized the fact that he was duty-bound to rescue his people from slavery, but not until he committed murder and had to flee from the law, he did not quite determine to prosecute the mission of liberating his people.
Once determination sets in, you are at the point of no return, where failure is no longer considered an option. Every disadvantage becomes an asset for a determined mind. Nothing succeeds like a determined mind. The quest for success being fueled by the fact that fear and worry are words that do not exist in the lexicon of a determined mind.
Determination is a force that can move mountains, but can also be wrongly applied, if it is not concentrated into one single effort. What gives a leader the ability to bring determination into a point of focus is diligence.
Diligence: Even the most determined find it difficult coping with repetitive stress and strain. Diligence is the ability to remain focused and trained on the issue, while ignoring the distractions that may be encountered occasionally.
Diligence calls for discipline and consistency. Back to Moses, he visited Pharaoh repeatedly and up to ten occasions, requesting that Pharaoh should let his people go. But for diligence and persistence, he could have concluded that he does not have the persuasive power to secure the release of the people from Pharaoh.
Destiny: While most people believe that whatever happens to them is destined to happen that way, successful leaders see destiny in another light! Destiny is regarded as the outcome of all events. This means that in as much as we can make specific inputs that will affect the events, it is implied that we do have the ability to shape the destiny of such events. This alternative way of looking at destiny therefore places the leader at a position where he can directly contribute to the success of all activities that they are involved in. Rather than see challenges, leaders who have mastered destiny will see opportunities.
A musical band was traveling once, when they hit a very big traffic hold-up. After missing their engagement, it was common sense that no amount of speed could get them to make the appointment again. They then decided to make the best of the situation, so they set up shop on the highway, playing to the admiration of all those trapped in the hold-up. They were able to effectively advertise their band, and also help relieve the stress for most of the travelers, who felt relieved that someone thought of providing entertainment in such a condition.
We all have the genius in us. It may be active or could have gone into a very deep slumber. Gently coax this giant to action and watch as the YOU that you never knew begin to take on responsibilities in various spheres of life.
There may be born leaders, but most of us can learn these skills, can develop them. And turn them into real assets that will benefit our organization and indeed the larger society. I cannot but give an anecdote about Nelson Mandela, the most exceptional global leader one has encountered. In prison for 27 years. After release from jail, he said he could have been bitter, but he said he couldn’t choose that route because he wouldn’t be able to rise above it or above the violence that was threatened. He chose communication with enemies over violence. He chose dialog, persuasion, risk. We need people who can look beyond to powerful solutions. Are you one of those people?
Distinguished Jaycees, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are assembled here today to give posterity a chance to be fair on us, for the good of mankind. Ours is to re-invent the organization, recreate the ideals, promote the common good, love and respect our fellow members. We cannot afford to fail. If it has to be, it is up to us.
“A leader is best when people scarcely know he exists. Not so good when they kindly obey and acclaim him. Worse when they despise him. Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done and his aim fulfilled, they will say: ‘We did this ourselves’.” –Lao-Tzu, 5th century B.C. Philosopher
Abraham Lincoln summarized it well, when he stated “When I am right, no one remembers. When I am wrong, thousand of angels swearing I am right will not make a difference”. May God give you all the courage and wisdom to make the right decisions in this conference.
God Bless JCI
God Bless Nigeria
God Bless JCI Nigeria
God Bless each and every one of us.
The job is Done. We all did it ourselves. Thank you very much for playing your own part by listening.
2002 Executive Vice President – JCI Nigeria