Home Interview TRIBUTE: Seun Onigbinde At 33: From Bill to Barack

TRIBUTE: Seun Onigbinde At 33: From Bill to Barack


The clock keeps shifting and I am here only flowing with waves, transiting from a year to the next. It always looked like yesterday when I took a bow at First Bank building and walked into the sunlight. 

Recently,  I realized that I was 27 when I made that shift. The big 30 came, with amazing grace of Christ, I have topped that with 3 more years. I am growing, we are growing. Paraphrasing Dami Oyedele in her tweet, “there is no other future that we are waiting for, this is the future that we are living”. Our future – family, community, work, church, and friends –  is right here before our eyes. Someone calls me “Daddy”, a husband, a few see their inspiration in me, some found a leader, the church I longed to support is happening and I meet idols from Bill to Barack. We are surely happening.

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I will dedicate this piece to my buffet of international fellowships. I am tempted to call it “a vanity collection” but believe me, it is much deeper than that. The fortune of leading BudgIT has endowed me with families around the world. I can count 9 fellowship and associations that I have participated in. I have considered retiring after the current one but there’s a genius award that I long for, a brew of TED fellowship and Young Global Leaders that I won’t mind. But what is the point of this fellowships programs if the learning is not shared? Let me share three evolving thoughts with you:

1    The Venn Diagram

This is inspired by meeting a former US President, two weeks ago. He sets a plot that I fully formed in my mind. This comes from how the current work can be frustrating because it is evident that the wheels of change grind too slowly. 

However, I got plug – the world is governed by compromise. There are two circles. One circle is the ideal world in your head and another is the world as it exists. You will have to ensure that you bring the two worlds together to claim progress. 

The question is how large should the intersection be? I am talking of how do we combine realism with idealism. The challenge is if the circles are to close, you lose your value and momentum. Let accept that the Nigerian electorate is highly uneducated, prone to ethnic bias and does not really understand the right standards of living. How do you navigate in that world and win an election? I am learning that you need to mash up your idealism with the realism but be close to the side of idealism at all times. This means on the road to our progress, we will make compromises but never make that which destroys the ideals or crumbles your character. Buhari learned this in 2015 after serial failures but his capacity to use the wind for his sails is a lesson right before our eyes. It leaves me with the giant question, can the road be mildly crooked to reach our glorious destination? 

Would one be friends with Alao-Akala and still keep values that public treasury must be transparent and one dare not steal or waste public funds? This excludes the idealism of the civil society that the society must always strive too:  I have pondered on this especially the words of Churchill in his Neville Chamberlain’s oratory:

“The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however, the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.”

2    Leadership 

If there was a fellowship that I suffered to be chosen, it was the Tutu Fellowship. I was encouraged but it came so right in end. It was an amazing class, the right expression of “all the stars are closer”. Let me put this on leadership and its revelation in my spirit. A leader is really a light, an element of inspiration. A leader is at basics a nurturer/mother, then a creative/visionary person, an action person and finally an element of order. 

This is the sequence that I have found. I had this 30-min long voice note with my team last week. I explained that in any system, the most fundamental word is trust. A leader nurtures in trust and allows the rhythm to be creative. A leader understands that deliverables must be met and when people are straying from the vision, he throws the order card. The two words that resonate in all is trust and listening. I can even put it as listening in trust. A leader must encourage a space of listening and allow immediate feedback on issues within the organization. It is not by piling up things just to spite people, it is vanity. A leader encourages dialogue on issues until it is clear that the order card is the only tool left to be applied. I am learning this badly and applying it. 

Learning in trust, allowing the rhythm, keeping an eye on the follower, giving space vulnerabilities and errors in the creative process but with an eye for action. Finally, for those who stray after the repetitive conversation (listening) in trust, apply the order to keep focus. It is still an evolving state of mind. I hope this gets clearer.

3    Proximity

I have always longed to attend the Skoll World Forum. I did this year. The opening speech was by Bryan Stevenson who spoke on the power of proximity. There is a tendency that with our new bourgeoisie life, we really forget the context of our society. We can be lost in our charts and graphs, privileged living sustained by the charitable support that there is a society out there that needs help. We can sit in Lekki and hop around cities across the world in search of resources and networks but we can never be as strong until we stay close to the problem. I am trying to make an intentional approach to stay close to the communities. I mean to do more in Ogbomoso, visit the environment more often as well as FUNAAB and be a community organizer to fully imbibe the act of service. Being proximate is mean to stir up my empathy and allow dynamic thinking on why the work is never done.

“It is in proximity to the poor, the excluded, the neglected that we understand things that we can’t know from a distance” Bryan Stevenson

I am leaping into another year, anchored on God’s mercy. Believe, we are engraced people but if there is a reason why see the next second, it is because we are wrapped in the mercy of God. I am still working on giving it my all to my family, to the purpose and to our Lord. I am getting seriously interested in education, community service and creating a solid financial base and strong culture for BudgIT

I am still on the road. This is my journey. May God keep you and I steady till His glorious appearing.

Illustration by Kenny Omotosho.

Onigbinde wrote this on Tuesday, 18th September, 2018, on his 33rd birthday.

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