WHY I WANT TO SERVE – CYPRIAN AMGBAH
How will you be able to run an Alumni Association when most of the members are based in Nigeria since you appear to live in the Diaspora?
Local v Global
There is a misconception that FGC Kwali Alumni Association is a “Nigerian” Association. We have a “Global” organisation with members all over the world namely like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Cuba to name a few. My intention is to run a Global Association where we can connect with all our members all over the world.
Bridging the Communication Gap
Being based in the UK is strategic as it will enable my team and I to reach our members globally. We are constantly reminded of how technology is helping the world to bridge communication gaps in land and overseas. So as easily as we can call with our mobile phones, we can also hold video conferences all at minimal costs. People no longer need to be in the same room in the same location to make things happen and this is how successful people and companies are moving forward fast.
The success of the association will be team effort with the other members of the Executive Committee. The association will not be run by one person as there are 8 other executive positions and there will be 26 Set coordinators making a total of 34 persons available to run things on ground in my unforeseen absence. Even though I am the only person who is from the Diaspora, I do not see that as an issue. The position of the President allows for delegation and if there are things to do and I am not physically present to do it, I can easily delegate to any of the other executive members to carry out the necessary tasks, much like many Global companies or organisations whose leadership team and members are spread across the globe.
Visits to Nigeria
My work as a Lawyer enables me to move and reach our members in any part of the world thus making me an effective Global Alumni President as opposed to a Nigerian Alumni President. Within my work, I already visit Nigeria once a month which will give me enough time to meet with stakeholders of our association, hold necessary meetings with executive members, meet with all representatives and also be able to handle projects with the assistance of the Set Coordinators and Chapter presidents on ground. This constant presence in Nigeria will enable me to run this Association effectively and add value by bringing the lessons learn and innovations from other global academic associations to the table to see what can benefit our FGC Kwali Alumni Association.
Why do you feel then that you are more suited to run this Association from the UK when most of the activities will be based in Nigeria?
Work in Nigeria
My company has also been briefed on some legal matters in Nigeria and I have been nominated to handle these projects in Nigeria, specifically in Port Harcourt. This will enable me to be more on ground in Nigeria in the next 1-2 years and also assist in developing the Port Harcourt Chapter. As such, the issue of whether I will be able to run the association in Nigeria will no longer matter as I will be constantly available in Nigeria to do so and still be able to visit the UK and USA (intended chapter) to fully develop the alumni globally.
Experience is Key
My past experience of carrying out projects with various interests groups both home and abroad has given me the insight into what is possible regardless of whether you are physically present together with the level of details and organisation that is required in either instance. That is why for the first time, we are going to have an Executive Working Committee who will work side by side with the National Executives and these will be coordinators from each set from 1989 – 2015. With these people, the work will become easier as information will flow more effectively. Being organized and accountable will ensure that what is required can be done without unnecessary physical presence thus saving money and time. The fact is that Alumni members are busy people with working lives and family, who yet contribute to the Alumni through their work/and business.
It is all about Action. That is what is important. When people see action and that things are getting done, their expectations are being met and no one will be concerned with where the leadership is based. Visibility without providing results is not what I am about. For me, it is about results. It is about being able to give back and effect change. It is about the integrity of my word and belief that we are all called to help ensure that those following us have even better opportunities that what we had.
You were part of the last National Executives where you served as the Vice President. It is said that your set of National Executives did not perform and failed the Association woefully? What do you say to that and how then would you make any difference if you are part of a failed executive body?
Expectation v Failure
We did not fail. However we did not meet with all the expectations of the Alumni chapters and its members. It is a fact that people had high expectations but we had an election where no one provided a manifesto and the association did not indicate what the exact goals were for the executives. It became evidently clear to the executives who were “nominated” rather than “elected” into these offices that without clear goals and objectives and lack of funds, it was always going to be a case of having a National Executive that were not empowered. What we did do (with approval from the National President) was to undertake a national trip to find out what people required of us and how to get that done. This I promptly carried out and from what I was able to understand, what the members needed were:-
- A working constitution to define the aims and aspirations of the association
- New Chapters to be instituted
- Issues on Alumni dues and contribution to be addressed
- Disparity amongst the older and younger sets to be addressed
Once we understood what we needed, a Constitution Drafting Committee was formed and I was the Chairman of that committee with members nominated from all the Chapters of the association. This kick-started a lot of activities and projects in the association. There were donations from various chapters to the school like Abuja chapter, donations and participation in activities by K90 set, reunion meetings at the various chapters and a base for the new executives that will come in, where from day one they know what needs to be done.
Did we then fail? No, with anything that is being built there is a learning that needs to happen. We were nominated to create the association from the inception and being the first set of executives, we were bound to have challenges even amongst ourselves. The pertinent question is have we learnt and am I committed to our future? The answer to that is yes. In my manifesto and highlights, you will see that we have had some successes. From being able to give back to the school by providing them with a new gate house, to renovation of the school clinic, to providing drugs worth half a million naira, to donating school jerseys with complete kits, boots and all. Even in the UK, we have been discussing, meeting, planning and raising funds on how to deal with the security issues in the school particularly kitting the security men with security equipments. All these were initiatives during my tenure with the current national executives which is why I cannot say that we failed, but simply that we did not meet everyone’s expectations.
Let me also remind everyone that I was the Vice President of the association not the President. Therefore I was a man under authority and cannot usurp power to myself. I have to respect and work in accordance with directives from my President. I did what I could do to the limit of my power and even if I could have done more, without that directive, I was limited. I obeyed my leader and when he gave me the go ahead, I went ahead to conduct the activities. I obeyed him which led to the projects that have so far been undertaken in the school. I think people needed more but I was never informed at the early stages what it was they actually needed, hence my limitations as the Vice President in the current executives.
Picking up from the good work that has been achieved is my starting point. My leadership style will be based on action. Let our actions speak better than our words. Let us be clear about what is expected from us and what we are required to deliver. Let us communicate clearly to all what we are doing, where, why and how. Let us be open to listening and open to change and let us always remember that this is not about us, but about the future of our Alumni.
What do you feel about other contestants from other sets or chapters who intend to run against you for the position of President?
Anyone interested in the position of President is entitled to run, that is the gift of democracy. I have no problem with anyone coming out to run the association. Anyone who believes they have a better profile, more passion, stronger leadership qualities or influence as I do amongst the set should show this and let the Alumni decide. I believe that I have proven myself both whilst I was in Kwali and post Kwali as can be seen from my profile, current appointments which I have held even after Kwali, the fact that I am a Barrister and Solicitor of the Nigerian Supreme Court, the fact that I have been a committed/active member of my UK Alumni chapter and made numerous significant contributions both to the chapter programmes, chapter needs and the Alumni national body countless times, is illustrative of the passion I have for the association to succeed. If anyone believes that they have the pedigree or can give at the same or higher level to what I have given, let them show case it and may the best man or woman win. I believe that I have what it takes to run and what it takes to win and what it takes to implement the changes needed for the association.
How do you intend to network with Kwali on a global setting. There seems to be at least approximately 25% Kwalites in hibernation for one reason or the other. How do we get them to come out of hiding and get them involved in the alumni?
This has to start with the various SETS in the association. This is why we have the National Executive Working Committee which comprises of co-ordinators from each set of the Association. The national body will work with these set co-ordinators who will provide us with all the needs and expectations of each set.
The information will then be passed to the Chapter presidents and we will deliberate together how best to deal with issues, needs and expectations.
When we rub minds together in this way, we will then be able to easily network with the Alumni members in the nation.
These SET members would have reached their SET members globally through their own various means of communication. The Chapters we refer to are not just Nigerian Chapters but will include the UK and the USA Chapter (which we intend to inaugurate within the next 6 months) and this will easily create a vast network for the association globally.
More practically, I intend to have one major website running for the association where all members will be registered and their profile/location shared (with their consent), this will enable us to communicate more globally. It will be our own Facebook of communication and this will bridge all issues regarding networking for the association.
My view is that you cannot force people who do not want to be members of the association to join. When we are networking with each other, running projects, working with each other, benefiting from the association itself and making things work, others will join us easily. People like a good thing and when they see the good thing happening, they will want to join the bandwagon. Nevertheless, we will still need the power of the SETS to involve their members first amongst themselves and then in their local chapters to create a better environment for networking. It is simply the old method of talking to people and showing them the benefits of why they should belong to the Association beyond the Facebook ways of communication. Once we open channels of communication in different forums, this will bring in those who seem to be in hibernation. When we identify the reasons why they are in hibernation, we can reach out to them and then address their issues (where possible) and get them to be part of us again.
There seems to be a perceived gap between the junior and senior sets. Most times the juniors don’t feel a sense of belonging so much that some have mooted the idea of floating a separate alumni association. How do you intend to tackle this, draw the juniors closer and instil their confidence in the association?
This is common in every association of this nature and not a new thing. I am a Lawyer and belong to the Nigerian Bar Association. We refer to those who graduated from the Law School before us as our “seniors at the Bar”. They will always be our seniors at the Bar and will always get that respect whether we are more successful, richer or famous than they are. That is how the legal profession accords respect to each other and yet, every lawyer understands why a SAN should be heard before them in court; they have simply earned the right by being a senior. It is the same thing. Seniors will always be seniors and that cannot change. We need to respect that fact and understand that this is an association where seniors will continue to want respect. The beauty of it is that everyone is a senior, apart from the very last SET. You are a senior to some other sets below you and that respect should not be taken away from you. If we start from that premise, it becomes easier for seniors to identify with the juniors. Of course there is the responsibility of each and every one of us to respect each other as they say “respect begets respect”.
The gap referred to is simply a misconception because there has been no room apart from when the last national elections were conducted to get all seniors and juniors in the same room. The idea that we now involve the various SETS in each deliberation will reduce this gap referred to. I intend to meet with the junior students more and address their issues, and give them a sense of belonging in the association. This will be done through several meetings between representatives of the older sets and the younger sets, and through publicity of information on our website on WHO IS WHO as regards their time in Kwali rather than focus on their current prospects. It will not be an easy feat but I will encourage the younger ones to remain with the association and allow for time to allow their own goals and expectations, to blend in. They will definitely not be ignored in my tenure but effectively carried along as they will have free access to all members of the national executives this time especially myself as I will be approachable and available to all.
Some of the junior sets are either job hunting or looking for better jobs. What plans do you as a candidate have for us?
Work and Business Opportunities
As previously mentioned, when we connect the various sets together, we will identify those with strong connections who can offer others either a job or training or access to a Job. Through networking, my intention is to make sure that members provide their CV’s and we will distribute it to other members. We will have a job search platform on our website where people can post jobs first to the members of the Alumni. I will personally ensure that as many people as possible conduct interviews for such members and get them involved in their business and organisations. In the past, I have had at least 3 Alumni members’ work for me in my office in the UK and that is how we can all get involved in making sure we don’t have members looking for jobs or in financial difficulties. I am fully aware that in all the sets, there are people who are able to give jobs to our members or assist them financially to start a business. There will be a platform for this and fund raising ideas to give to our members who wish to run their own business. So the opportunity will be available where we will link people together in the Alumni to assist with jobs, business advice and guidance (considering that finding a job is not the only way to maintain sustenance).
The school has suffered neglect from the govt over time. What is your plan towards government’s attention to the school to restore facilities and infrastructure in the school?
Gaining Access to Funding
I have already initiated talks with other Unity Schools Alumni presidents who have informed me that government parastatals and facilities exist to access funds which will enable us to restore facilities and infrastructure in the school. I have even spoken with some alumni members who work in such parastatals. Once we have a properly constituted electoral body, it will be easier to lobby and provide proposals to enable government give to the school. This should even be easier for us because we are in Abuja and this is the Capital City of our Country. My aim is to work closely with USOSA, the national Unity schools body to leverage knowledge and information from other Unity Schools in other States. It is then about using the strong connections through our members that now work for various State Governors and Governments, our members in Senate and House of Representatives, and other government bodies, who will assist us in reaching the right people and get them involved. We still have our part to play because the Alumni is set up to give back to the school and once government sees that we have started something, getting them to complete what has been started becomes easier. I am confident that once we open talks at government level, funds will be released to handle or complete projects in the school. I have the necessary links and people in government to make this happen.
It is obvious you have a passion for the alumni, in few words, why do you really wish to run to be the President of your Alumni Association?
My desire is for a United Association. When we are united, we achieve a lot more. That is my motivation to ensure that we do not have a divided house. It is my passion to be relevant and make things happen that motivates me which my K90 set can testify to. It is who I am and why I have given my time to this Association and would hate to see things go wrong.
FCG Kwali made me who I am today and it is incumbent of me to give back. I love my people and love helping them. I believe my true friends are my Kwali friends who were there with me when we were nothing and had nothing. There is no greater joy than to see people from this school excel. I want to serve and I want to make things happen. This is my goal and this is my desire, loving my people and seeing lives change. I want people to feel the love I have to share and give before my time in this life ends. For this reason, I want to run.