“LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY AS METRICS FOR TRANSFORMATION OF COOPERATIVE ENTITIES IN A RECESSIONARY ECONOMY” by Nnabugwu Chizoba


Protocols
Before we commence the discussion of the topic, I wish to say with all due respect, and sense of duty that I have rephrased the topic, from what the organizers gave to me, “LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY” to now read: 

“LEADERSHIP AND ACCOUNTABILITY AS METRICS FOR TRANSFORMATION OF COOPERATIVE ENTITIES IN A RECESSIONARY ECONOMY”. Please bear with me.
I wish also to thank the organizers of this event, for the opportunity granted me, to address this August body. I am indeed, highly elated, humbled and grateful.
Having said that, let me go ahead, though on a lighter note, to inform you that:
“I have arranged bonuses and pastries prepared by my better half. Just be up-front with us and embrace a revelation of tested cutting edge approaches that may alter your mindset. At whatever stage you catch-up this anointing service, try as much as you can to key into the flow. As for those who are far away from the venue of this meeting, and want to be part of it, I urge you to bring your own kite and we shall provide the string to get it on flight”.
To go into the discussion proper, let me repeat, what I earlier said, my motivation for this presentation stems from the fact that I consider the topic apt, as it is key to identifying and analyzing issues of primary concern to the cooperatives, and the entire Nigerian society. It is indeed reflective of the topicality of the exalted role of leadership, and equally indicative of the importance the organizers of today’s event attached to the programme and the role of leadership and accountability in the overall performance of a Cooperative entity.
Considering the platform on which the event is organized, you will agree with me that the topic, essentially is a reflection of the mind of the team that assembled us for this discussion, as it demonstrates clear understanding of what cooperative societies portend to the economic recovery of the Nigerian Nation, presently in a recession. This reasoning holds true and firm when we realize the fundamental role of the cooperators as financial mobilizers, and key goal drivers. On this note I wish to commend the organizers for their foresight, enthusiasm, passion and as a matter of fact their commitment to drive this change process, the impact of which is not limited to the cooperative group but to Nigeria’s economic recovery efforts.
The unfortunate, worrisome, self-inflicted and manmade, but obviously, avoidable recession that has given rise to a very devastating, hash and austere life, faced by Nigerians and others, living in this great Country, have provided the opportunity, for many businesses, institutions, communities and the organized private sector to rethink basic assumptions, strategies, policies and approvals, aimed at leveraging operational efficiency, growth optimization, returns, profitability and inclusiveness, in addition to good governance and sustainability initiatives.
The above, in my thinking are key, indeed fundamental, considering that they are active ingredients in any meaningful, worthwhile and well-intended development and economic recovery agenda, such as Nigerian is currently pursuing.  
All over the Country, the pendulum of change is swinging, more and more, day by day. It is swinging strongly with emphasis on job creation, poverty reduction, safety, survival and sustainability, which to me holds the bases for the future of Nigerians, inter-generational interest and national socio-economic emancipation.
Nigerians, as a people are beginning to look deeply at their vulnerability to adverse trends, governance irregularities and decline in the natural supply chain. Every day, in the Country, the scale of social disruption assumes a scaring momentum, and frightening proportion.
The overall efforts, so far, for urgent economic recovery fail to raise hope at least within a foreseeable level. The only currency, the Naira, revolves around increased summersaulting of policies, organizational insolvency, and bareness of intellectual habit on the part of citizens, both leadership and the led.
Regrettably, the response of government, super-business Conglomerates and the political sub-population have more often been rhetorical, authoritarian and devoid of any transformation synthesis, intellectual strength and result based synergy. On the contrary, the people are witnessing increasing di-vestment, closure of mega companies and economic super-structures. The country is also plunged into deficit of basic economic infrastructure, and democratic disenchantment, reminiscent of the concentration camp epoch. The peculiarity of the Nigerian economic misfortune is congruent with systemic collapse, inconsistent policy framework, outright insensitivity and malaise of a collective dimension (the bane of leadership and the dearth of Accountability).
As a consequence of the above, the engine of productivity, value-chain integration, human capacity development (functional and competence), capital, facilities and management system suffer avoidable crisis.
In the wake of the recession and economic destitution, lie the emergence of value-oriented, corporate performance-based and radical investment platforms that are equipped with qualitative tools and potentials for secured metrics for growth, sustainable investment treadmill and explicit democratization principles. Here lies therefore, the justification for today’s gathering, and of course the topicality of this discourse, in terms of understanding and deepening the knowledge of cooperators on the essential nature of Cooperatives in Nigeria’s economic development efforts, especially in this recessionary period; and of a truth, the demand and urgent need for the Leadership of Cooperatives, to enhance their leadership skills, as well as the necessity for every cooperator to embrace Accountability and openly demonstrate it, knowing in essence, that the effective implementation of all these will lead to a quantum leap and economic advantage, a necessary step towards the attainment of desirable results in the bid to arrest recession, and turnaround the economy.
Without meaning to delve into history, let me awaken our consciousness to the effect that formally structured Cooperatives, with their collaborative investment ideology and platform, originated on the benchmark of the fourteenth century Industrial Revolution, in Europe. Though, the Cooperative Society, is as old as Man. It has gone through different stages of metamorphosis, spanning the pre-historic, Victorian, and middle Ages to the postmodern era.
In a nutshell, I consider, Cooperative Societies as formal entities, processes and systems comprising of people who desire to work together in a short or long-term; as well as formally or informally for the common interest of all the actors and operators of the venture.
Modern, scientific, genuine, pure and pseudo-cooperative or para-cooperative, by all intent and purpose means more than working together. To truly explore the full benefits of a Cooperative Society, it is better understood as a venture whereby people work together to achieve community well-being. It is for this reason that I deem it fit and mandatory to celebrate the organizers of this programme, for their unflinching belief and untiring efforts to reposition and refocus the Jos Museum Cooperative Society Ltd, for better performance. My kudos to you, and more grease to your elbows.
As governments at different levels of governance in the country are systematically and strategically withdrawing from economic market investment, the Cooperatives are not just looked upon, but must re-strategize to successfully fill the vacuum.
I belief strongly in my thinking, that as blacks, we are very much comfortable, as a matter of fact, home and dry with Community operationalization, participatory activities/governance and group efforts, (I refer to it as Communitarianism) which, without any iota of doubt, is what the Cooperative investment platform represents.
I have always insisted that Cooperatives are not alien to us. We have all it takes to make it work, to make it a huge success. I therefore charge this set of cooperators and in particular, the executive to galvanize all the necessaries and immediately set in motion all that is required through effective leadership and Accountability to make the Jos Museum Cooperative Society Ltd, a Model, worthy for emulation and replication by other Cooperatives.
It is a truism that today, people all over the world are much more comfortable with the African orientation of Communitarianism, operationalization and participatory governance, reason of which Cooperative investment platform is making wave in many nations of the world. Nations that are yet to key in or migrate to the platform are making very frantic efforts to do so. This leadership must underscore this fact and quickly rise up and systematically key into this fast rising trend.
To effectively address the above demand, I wish to point out that large chunk of people need but are starved, denied and also deprived, (as the case may be), of relevant information and tools required for improved service delivery, economic empowerment, wealth creation, self-development and co-operative benefits. The denials and deprivations are sometimes self-imposed or inflicted, at other times they are a failure of the system. Both can be adequately addressed by leadership.
Being a whole hearted believer in the Toyota Automobile Mission Statement, which states in part “good thinking good product” and equally a committed and very passionate believer in Chief, Engr. Anthony’s philosophy “the best idea, is the idea that liberates the people”, I wish to make a passionate appeal that this leadership must strive consistently for information and always ensure that relevant ones are made available to the people. While I do not claim to value information more than anybody else, I can say that I understand very well the importance of information. As leaders, you must understand that there is abundance of information within your membership. Sometimes, you don’t need to go very far to get what you want. Your capacity to tap what lies within, may be the epicenter of your success. Often times, such ability is the tonic and energy that are needed to achieve monumental results.
I have decided to dedicate my life to making available as reasonably as possible, the tools, materials, knowledge and inspiration of Cooperatives and Community-oriented training and education programmes, to promote democratic thinking and gender equity in the distribution of opportunities and participatory governance.
I am on the road virtually every other day to attend to lectures, symposia, meetings and leading group consensus facilitation of investment and business development. I am centrally involved in skills development, entrepreneurship training and conflict management and media activities. I just like Community, and associate deeply with events, where the fellowship are eager to strike for collective success, mutual growth and unlimited opportunity for creative living and sustainable development. I figure that a healthy organization should be obsessed with learning all it can about its constituency. After all, nothing has the power to defeat any community that pays high premium to knowledge acquisition and development. It has been said, repeatedly and proven too, that knowledge “is power”.
I have had to travel from Ndi-Aqwala, Echiele Otampa, in Isuikwuato, to several places, sometimes through the thickness of lonely nights, often times to catch-up with calls/invitations demanding for customized or already designed programmes.
It is very interesting to recall few inscriptions on some road signs and sign boards. Some of the inscriptions warn “dangerous bends, you are at risk of accident”. I have contemplated baring my disapproval for such thematic confusion, but the central message is cursory warning to motorists, who are compelled to ply the badly-constructed narrow and circular road paths.
People are naturally happy to succeed in their ventures and nothing succeeds like success. Some of us may ask or wonder, the link between, the topic of this discourse and the road signs. The simple message is to be open and pay all attention possible to understand the cautionary road signs on our path to success, in order to prevent avoidable crashes. When we adhere to pharmacokinetic instructions, the benefits of the drugs are harnessed without adverse consequences, so also it is when we learn to provide adequate security for our hard earned resources.
We are further guaranteed of strength, growth and safety of investments when we learn and adhere to leadership and accountability principles. In all fields of human endeavor and dynamics, the importance of leadership and Accountability, cannot be over emphasized, same is also true for reconstructive training and development programmes.
As a matter of fact well designed and delivered training and development packages, supported with effective leadership, accountability and transparency programmes and skills are sine qua non not only to open-doors of success in cooperatives, but equally essential for wealth creation and distribution; and economic recovery in a recessionary period.
There is no arguing the fact that strict adherence to the core principles of effective leadership, accountability and transparency have been proven time and time again to unlock the keys to the doors and windows of good governance, security, risk reduction and operational excellence.
I am optimistic that it does not make sense to discuss leadership and accountability without touching on responsibility. However, I will not dwell much on the issue of Responsibility in Leadership apart from saying “there cannot be good leadership without accountability, similarly, there cannot be both, without responsibility”.
To excel in leadership, it makes sense to note that a common set of philosophical convictions, which inject a sense of commitment, integrity, honour, reason and reflections, humanism and self-restraint, are indispensable.
Equally necessary and essentially so, is the ability of cooperative leaders to develop a common set of ideological traits, structured and systematized, to elicit, elucidate and illuminate a convenient cooperative language and relationship pattern. The idea of course is to ensure that people operate from a conceptualized scheme or framework, aimed at building, promoting and sustaining unity, higher principles and values, productivity, growth, investment and mutual trust.
As leaders, the onus is on you to inspire and motivate, show regard, pay attention, sometimes beyond official boundaries, and attend to some personal needs of your followers. The need to accommodate a wide spectrum of membership, which is common in cooperatives, has made it abundantly clear, for cooperative leaders to erect and maintain an operational structure that supports modern society and dynamics, without over-looking the stronger ties that bound us together as black people and Africans of course. We are not like them; they are not like us. I mean the Western world. Harnessing the best in us will always pay us better.
Issues such as providing the shoulder for people to lean on in times of trauma and other emotional challenges, are dear to the heart of the African, just as justice, solidarity and sincere consideration of the worth of the common man, respect and value for one another are key instruments that animate cordial relationships, pave the way for ease of processes and operations, as well as ensure freedom and liberty of persons while promoting reciprocal edification and good conscience.
Having said that, I wish to deviate a bit, to share my thought, on the pattern most event organizers, including the organizers of the one we have gathered for, adopt when planning trainings of this nature, especially in engaging consultants to speak during training and development programmes. I feel duty bound to do this.
I belief, trainings will be more effective and beneficial if the trainees, often times represented by the organizers; and the trainers identify the connecting bridge of collaborative sharing. This would make trainers more accountable to trainees and more sensitive to a collectively identified and defined training needs. For this reason, I advocate for an intercourse prior to the event, between the trainer and the organizers of training events. From the discussion so far, it is noted that a Cooperative is a coalition of people, organizations and groups that have specific need to meet, which they aim to accomplish through collaborative efforts. It is a model of association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled initiatives.
Cooperatives can be businesses governed on the premise of one member one vote, which combines to present a democratic structure. They assume the nature of multi-purpose cooperatives, consumer cooperatives, workers cooperative, producers cooperatives, purchasing cooperatives, credit Unions, and Agriculture Cooperatives, etc. (Note: etc, is not: End of Thinking Capacity. On a lighter note)
Without mincing words, let me underscore the fact that Cooperatives play pivotal role in building community wealth. However, the attainment of this worthy state, to say the least, is tied strongly to good leadership, accountability and transparency in processes, procedures and records.
Leadership is a very critical factor in developing cooperative outfits, and also essential in enhancing members’ commitment. It is as important as the amount of capital invested in the society. Leadership of cooperatives has undergone remarkable metamorphosis as cooperatives become larger, more diversified and integrated to situate their operations in the increasingly challenging marketplace.
Leaders of cooperatives are becoming more skillful, learned and advanced in their operations and other requirements, necessary to meet up with the diverse needs of managing institutions, in the 21st Century.
It is very important to note that nations of the world have developed interest in the activities and performance of cooperatives, an indication of the fundamental role of cooperatives in the socio-economic equation and development of any society. The areas of emphasis, include accounting, record keeping, customer relations and market improvement packages, monitoring and performance evaluation, as well as budgeting, facility management, loan disbursement and recovery, personnel and other related issues, management, training, recruitment and collaborations.
Other areas of noticeable improvement by leaders of cooperatives include, Public relations, policy formulation, strategic planning and execution, as well as fostering business principles and objectives, decision making, problem solving skills, finance, assets management, investment, wealth creation, and team building, in addition to opportunity creation, diversification, forecasting and managing competition.
Through a combination of ideas, processes, materials, facilities and people, leaders of cooperatives create economic opportunities, produce varied goods and services, in addition to mobilizing funds and enhancing, and strengthening the capital base, operational capacity and usefulness of businesses.    
Before I end this anointing service, I wish to remind us that Leaders have the knack for nurturing and transforming ordinary individuals to extra-ordinary team players and key success drivers for organizational growth and sustainable development. They obtain the perspective of others, communicate openly and candidly, learn from success and failure, stay “Above The Line” (ATL), not good at blaming others, and track progress with proactive and transparent reporting. They are very good at collaborating across functional boundaries, deal with obstacles creatively, and are fond of asking “How rather than Why”. They hear and say the hard things, when the situation demands, and sometimes tell a man to go to hell in such a manner that he prepares for the journey.
Finally, you will all agree with me that the topic is timely, interesting and apt.
I remain humble, and happy being with you. Thank you for listening.

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