Advocacy for Youth Involvement In Governance Puts Much Emphasis on Age, not Capacity - Ekpa Stanley Ekpa

Ekpa, Stanley, Ekpa a practising lawyer and Director of the Development Watch Initiative shares in this interview, his thoughts on youths, governance and leadership

NNI: Can we meet you?

My name is Ekpa, Stanley Ekpa. I am a lawyer and a Master’s in Leadership Studies student at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. I specialize in Development Law. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief, Nigerian Corruption Cases Law Report, and Nigerian Democracy and Development Report. I serve as the Executive Director, Development Watch Initiative. I have peculiar interest in Good Governance, Leadership, Development Law, Social Inclusion and  Nation building.

NNI: What defines social development and impactful leadership for you?

Social development is achieved when people become the primary factor in a society or a nation’s development processes. The promotion of the inclusion of all components of the society – empowering  the poor, vulnerable, minorities and giving hope and opportunities to the  voiceless citizens. While impactful leadership is the ability to translate collective aspirations and priorities into significant and sustainable solutions for the development of our  community, people and the world.

NNI: In building a society where the quality of things we do defines us, how responsible is leadership?

Everything revolves around leadership, from building strong and efficient institutions to building infrastructures, leadership is the undercurrent that provides the water of hope and opportunities for creating the equilibrium for the quality of things that define us both as a people and as individuals. Unfortunately, you cannot get quality leadership unless you have quality citizenship. Good citizenship that works through the entire circles of development of the nation – upholding the right value system, ensuring that the right leaders are elected, and holding the leaders accountable. This is the easiest way to prompt responsible leadership and ensure social development.

NNI: How have you managed leadership positions with other duties?

Leadership, or rather taking responsibility for my immediate communities has always been everything about me. Yes I have. Though in most cases it is very tough, but in all the cases, it gives me a unique opportunity to understand the diversities that the two tasks presents in proffering personal and social solutions from two dimensions.

NNI: It is usually said that a leader must be a follower. Is this realistic?

It is a truism that has it’s realistic result in practice. A good follower is passionately committed and deeply involved, giving him the chance to develop empathy,  compassion and keen interest in the common situation and need of the people, community or organization. When such follower transcends to leadership position, it becomes easy to make significant impact given his or her understanding of the need of the community and his or her imbued leadership savvy. More importantly, such leader leads sometimes from behind, by positioning and delegating responsibility to others and supervising their works, results and impact.

NNI: Is leadership a mix of different skills? What exactly makes up complete leadership?

Leadership is a mix of infused skills and discipline for impact. Great leadership is about the creative balance between visions, strategic planning, collaboration and inclusion, performance and results, accountability, disciplined character of excellence, tolerance, and communication.


NNI: What inspired your book, Youthocracy, ''Leadershift'' for Development?

The advocacy for youth involvement in socio-political governance and cultural revolution was taking  an unnecessary emphasis on age and not the capacity of the emerging leaders to proffer creative and sustainable solutions for the world’s complex challenges, particularly in Africa, hence, I felt the need to champion a new thinking in the desire to usher in a new generation of leaders.

For the past three decades, African leaders have failed to build a continent that provides the opportunities for inclusive prosperity and security.  If the Africa Agenda 2063 would be actualized, it means that it is the young people whose future the agenda seeks to protect that can build it, not the generation that failed the continent for the last sixty years.

Hence, the crux of the discourse and philosophy of the book is on how to identify, build, galvanize and leverage a new generation of leaders for the development of their communities. How to get involved, win elections and do the work you elected to do right other critical issues that the book addressed.

NNI: By global trends, there is a call for youths to take leadership. How best can a youth position himself to be worthy of leadership?

First, leadership is not a tea party particularly if you are out to solve problems and make impact through leadership. But positioning yourself as a worthy option for for leadership consideration is even more challenging in developing electoral climes like Nigeria. However, to every problem there is always myriads of available solutions.

To me, building capacity either by learning or participation starts by  building your personal leadership brand, building creative values of social solutions, building a strong network of like minds,  being a problem solver no matter how small the solution, and working through the ladder to strategically position for great leadership.

On a more practical note, one can either position for leadership by leaning on the shoulders of great leaders through positive god-fatherism, or disrupt the political space to make a way for himself. The latter is more difficult a means, for it requires working beyond the limit line.

NNI: What is the measure of good leadership? Do you think social impact  can be measured?

Good governance is measured on the scale of social impact. The aggregate dividends of your leadership as enjoyed by the people. It is easy to measure  leadership impact because it is about the people and the community. The result of your leadership can be felt either negatively or positively by the people. Though social impact takes time to materialize sometimes but it is never hidden when it finally arrives.

By measuring good leadership I do not mean state sponsored billboards and media propaganda, no, I mean an impactful result that can be felt by the deaf, and seen even by the blind.  I would have loved to use such economic indicators like GDP, inflation among others but in the end analysis, when the people are hungry and  left behind without social security, we have failed the society.


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NNI: What do you do at the Development Watch Initiative?

We are a citizen sector initiative that is committed to engaging the citizens to make inputs in the development processes of their constituencies and holding their leaders accountable. We promote citizens’ participation in monitoring the implementation of Nigeria’s developmental projects, budgets and policies from the local government level to the national level. Currently we are working on the COVID-19 REPORT, which is a comprehensive insight and report on Nigeria’s response, policies, palliatives and impact.

We have other programmes running, like our  ”Enterprise Clinic” which exposes students across Nigerian academic institutions to job, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and opportunities. Our next training circle is slated for Sokoto, Oyo, Lagos, Kano, Anamabra, Rivers, Abuja and Cross River. We also have the Get Involved Challenge, Constituency Development Town Halls, among other projects.

NNI: What is your view on Global Youth Development and growth? Do you think we are making progress?

Yes, we are making progress. The United Nations has continued to create broad opportunities for the involvement of young people in actualizing the SDGs 2030. Domestically, the Not Too Young To Run Act 2018 has given much impetus and limited  opportunity for young people to participate in the political space, as the huge financial requirements and commercialization of our politics continue to hinder their chances. Notwithstanding this, the 2019 general elections witnessed an increase in the number of elected young people to local governments, state assemblies and federal Parliament. Many young people have been given appointive positions both in the political and corporate sectors.

So, to me I think we are making progress, it is now within our arms as young people to get strategic and position ourselves through creative common council of like minds, support ourselves and collectively make our societies work for the next generation.

NNI: How did you achieve the fusion of your  personal brand name ''Ekpa Stanley, Ekpa'' into your love for promising leadership and sustainable development?

Guest: I realized early in life that there is an inseparable relationship between law, leadership and sustainable development. This prompted my interest to study law even when I didn’t understand the proper places of these concepts and factors in social development. It was however my late mother that taught me the value of a man’s name. Ever since, I have tried my best to approach everyday of my life with sincere commitment to how my work (law, community organizing and leadership) would significantly impact my community, country and humanity.

I cherish my brand “Ekpa, Stanley Ekpa” so much that I work everyday to grow, improve and leverage it as a reliable source and Centre for national inclusivity, development solutions, cultural revolution and an ideological stand point for Nigeria’s future generations.

NNI: What is your advice to fellow young individuals?

Guest: My advice is very simple – young people must have the sense of ownership of their communities, be creative, resilient, and resolved to succeed against all odds and challenges. It is a tough and difficult world, but if you remain on your lane and timeline without comparing yourself to other people’s standards for success, your chances are high that you will become even more the person you aspire to be.


NNI: What should we expect from you in the near future? Any intention to go into full time politics? Any bigger plans?

Guest: (Laughs) Well, I am a very intentional person. I know that the only way to build the kind of country we aspire for is to get involved politically, and I know for certain that I will go into politics. And if by full time you mean committing and applying myself to my constituency and humanity without compromise, then I can assure you that I will do that full time without regret.

I believe this is my time to prepare myself for competence, leadership savvy and excellence in statecraft. I am confident our generation will turn things around but we must be prepared for the great task, for we must not fail Nigeria and the next generation of Nigerians. We are called to fix and provide hope, opportunities and direction for the new Nigeria.