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Edward Onoja: A Model of Leadership in Diversity

By Sam Aina and Beshir Messi Ali

Arthur Ward, the renowned author once said “the mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates and a great teacher inspires.” In other words, a great leader must first of all, imbibe the sort of persona that will make anyone pay attention to them explain their plans, before they are captivated enough to see them demonstrate, and then generate enough belief to get inspired.

In this era of unoriginality, it is difficult to draw inspiration from people; even harder to do so from politicians. Regardless, as much as we bemoan the dearth of true leadership qualities amongst most of those we call leaders, we take solace in some who through their distinct personalities leaves one in awe.

Get in the spot, Chief Edward David Onoja, the Deputy Governor of Kogi State and leading aspirant to succeed the incumbent Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello.

Onoja is a name that resonates with the larger populace. His free attitude towards people and 21st century-compliant attitude on social media and within circles of youngsters have seen him garner an unprecedented number of dedicated followership within Kogi State and nationwide.

His is a face that is recognizable, that smile always in ample supply and the “buga” dance, which resonates with millions worldwide endeared him and the popular song to many.

But that is not all there is to Onoja. Indeed some have talked about his blunt method of engagement as both a positive and a negative. Quintessential Onoja. He gets applause and knocks for whatever he does and that’s what makes him human.

Now that the focus has shifted from the Presidential election to the gubernatorial elections holding in November, many want to know Onoja for who he truly is. Who is this man? What does he represent? Is he as loyal as he portrays and has been said to be? Is he only popular on social media or does he have the love of his own people? Does he have the requisite personality and carriage to lead a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society like Kogi, the Confluence State? What has he done for the people?

In this piece, we attempt to answer these questions as honestly as possible.

As ardent followers of Chief Edward Onoja for years, we doubt if there are parts of his personality that have not been expressed over and over again to the Kogi people. That is because Edward wears his heart on his sleeve. He has strong principles; he never shied away from speaking the truth however uncomfortable it made people – curiously, most don’t have issues with what he says most times but the manner — the way he bulged his prominent eyes when he made his points and delivered the truth without embellishments and zero care for whose ox was gored. This riled people up more than the facts of what he said. And a perception was formed. That was Edward.

CEDO does have a very strong personality.

There is no failure where he exists. His personal conviction to achieve a positive outcome whenever he is given a task is often seen as daunting by those who do not operate on the same wavelength and for whom the mediocre is a preferred way of life. Ever confident, charismatic and hardworking, CEDO sees challenges as opportunities to achieve another milestone, add another feather and conquer what was thought impossible by others. He has an infectious affinity for success, and whilst this is hugely appreciated in the private sector where he made a name for himself, politics has proven to be a different ball game entirely with some people around him finding it difficult if not impossible to adapt, hence a vindictive and malignant feeling overtaking objectivity where issues concerning CEDO are concerned.

Those whose minds are enlightened enough to think beyond party affiliation and preference for a particular aspirant, are forced to admit these three things:

CEDO is bold and confident;
CEDO is fiercely loyal;
CEDO is hardworking. Maybe to a fault.

Not a few of his contemporaries are envious of the affection and admiration he gets from his boss and principal, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. What they like to ignore is that this is due to the fact that GYB knows that CEDO has always been loyal and committed before government, as his Chief of Staff and Deputy Governor and will continue to be loyal going forward because he knows that theirs is a bond forged not by politics, but various dealings from over 19-years of relationship built on shared values.

Like everything he does, even his loyalty is like a talking drum. As it faced his boss, the back was all many of his kin could see. CEDO was adjudged disloyal by many of his kin because he supported someone who was from another tribe within the same state. Whilst many chose to rely on primordial tribalistic tendencies, CEDO chose to promote an attitude heretofore unknown in political circles as a man whose loyalty cannot be questioned.

One thing about leadership is that the higher one goes, the greater the responsibilities and this fact refines ones character. And when one learns from a good leader, like Edward himself has testified to have learnt from GYB over the course of 7 years, they become a better version of their best self. CEDO is no longer brash. He will still tell you the truth, but he will make you feel good about it. CEDO has now learnt that it is not enough to speak the truth, the manner with which it is spoken also matters. This is Edward.

A man whose word is his bond. A man with unique, refreshing and unimpeachable qualities that place him on a pedestal where only true leaders approach. Leadership that does not discriminate, disavow or denigrate. A leader who will stand by his people through thick and thin.

The aforementioned are why Chief Edward David Onoja is the model for the Kogi that we can all be proud of.

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