Interview with Leadership & Lifestyle Magazine

Briefly tell us about yourself

My names are Kemela Okhara. I trained as a lawyer. Founding partner of springwell & co. I’m also in leadership in my church (This Present House). I’m very politically active and ran for office recently as the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria in Bayelsa state. I also write. I published my first book last year and also in the middle of writing another book. I’m happily married with a wife and 4 children.

How have you been able to manage your professional practice and oversight as a pastor?

Well, I’m not a pastor in the traditional sense. I’m one amongst many leaders in a local assembly and also one amongst many partners. I don’t run a small solo law practice. I’m part of a partnership with about six partners based in Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja so it’s a very corporate structure. In church, I’m one amongst close to 10 – 15 partners who are involved in various aspects of providing leadership development. So in that context, what I would say is that one of the key things which I’ve dealt with is focusing on areas that are my natural strength; areas where I bring the most value and being able to work with others as part of a team. Those are two key things which have really helped; being very clear in what I bring to the whole equation so I don’t have to be jack of all trade and ensuring that I work with all that I have as part of a team. Even as I’m not in the office today, the law firm is working and moving. So there are many of us involved in making sure it works and we all have our very clear distinct roles. In the church, it’s the same thing.

How would you describe Nigeria’s current social, economic and political situation?

Nigeria is a nation that is waiting to be built. Socially, we are yet to achieve the kind of cohesion that is necessary for nation building. Economically, we are yet to achieve our true potential and we are still very much a consumer nation where most of our efforts are just aimed at consumption and even in areas where we have some relative strength i.e. oil industry, we are still primarily exporters of oil. We haven’t moved into the kind of economy that adds and creates secondary value to the raw material. On the political front unfortunately, our politics is still predominantly led by people who taken power for the sake of power and who have no vision or sense of what nation building is about. So that’s why Nigeria is still a nation that is way below its true potential. Nations are built, hence the reason why some of us are involved in the political process is because nations are built based on the values and vision for the future based on the sense of value you ascribe to your people and sense of what you see your future to be. So we are not there yet. It’s just like at home where the husband has a sense of where he is going with the family whereby he and his wife would have bought into that vision for themselves and carry the children along to make sure they are writing a certain vision for themselves in terms of their values, their orientation, choice of school, how they live, how they spend their money etc. we haven’t had that kind of orientation yet in Nigeria i.e. Nigeria is like a place in the bible where Jesus says “sheep without shepherd”. That is how Nigeria is i.e. like a ship lost at sea.

You recently ventured into the unchartered territory of politics. What informed that decision?

The decision to get involved in politics is because I realize the sorts of value that are necessary to shape the future of Nigeria are values imbibed by Christians. The bible tells us that every nation’s boundary has been pre-determined by God and therefore if we have real compassion for people, if we have a sense of proper value, if we have a sense of the worth of people. People are the currency of any change. Nations are built by people; wealth is built by people. So the core of a nation’s wellbeing are the people. So if we have a leader who understands fundamentally the value of people, those are the kinds of people who should be involved in politics. Any nation that is prospering and doing well is because the leaders have created a content where they can tap into the greatest resource they have which is their people. You cannot begin to measure the resources of people because they turn out to be inventors, teachers, engineers, visionaries creating companies that will provide tremendous value. How do you unlock that potential? It is when you have leadership at the political level that is able to inspire the people to take ownership of their nation and play their role in nation building. Some of the smallest countries in the world today have sometimes ten times the per capita income of Nigeria because despite their small size, they have been able to unlock the potential of their people to create economic wealth, to create value, to create world class brand whose goods are sold globally yet when we trade with some of these companies, some of them come from some of the smallest countries in the world; but they’ve created a market sometimes 10, 20, 30 times the size of their population. So I knew I had to get involved so that we could bring a different method to politics so that the politics of Nigeria which has not taken us anywhere is just a politics of “na my turn, your turn” which hasn’t taken us anywhere. We need leadership that is visionary that can paint a picture of the future for all Nigerians and we knew that will not happen if we stay on the sidelines. We kept talking about having some of us involved in the political process, then you are taken seriously because you are now in the political fray and you are now saying that this is a movement and even those who may be your opponent may be won over by your own argument about the future of Nigeria because sometimes they don’t know and when you speak from the outside, they will take it as pontificating. To them, what do you know? You are not a politician, you don’t know what it involves, you don’t know the issues and challenges of the country. But when you get involved in the political process, it changes the whole equation because you are now putting your money where your mouth is and politicians and the populace take it seriously because you are now saying these are things we need to do to unlock the potentials of this country and I’m getting involved. It’s like salt. Except it’s in the mix, it cannot bring any saltiness. Salt in a salt-shaker is useless to the person who needs the salt unless you shake it out hence I needed to shake myself out of the salt-shaker into the world of politics.

What was the experience like when you ran for political office?

It was one of the best experience of my life because I realized that like many people who are well-intentioned, they can never bring change until you get in the mix. And when you get in the mix, there is so much to learn that you did not know before. One of the things I learnt for instance is that Christians by and large are completely ignorant about the political process. So our potential strength in terms of our number s and in terms of our values which are needed resources for national transformation are lying fallow because of complete ignorance of the political process. Many of us don’t even know what it takes to be a card carrying member of a political party. They feel the process is too dirty, too frightening etc . we would rather withdraw and pray as if God will sort it out. And we don’t know that faith without works is dead. So while many of us are praying, others are becoming members of a political party that determines the candidates that run in an election. So while we are busy praying, they are busy choosing the candidates then we are with whatever they produce, then we now begin to pray God, which one? Which one? Whereas we should have been involved in determining who should emerge as the candidate and then pray that the person would do what we want him to do. We come in at the end not knowing it’s a whole value chain. The second major thing I enjoyed about the whole process was that I realized that if many more people will do what I did, we can turn this country round in a much shorter time perhaps not more than 10yrs, we can transform Nigeria. Another thing is that it brought me out of my comfort zone. Many people operate in their comfort zones and we’ve entered into this thing where we just believe it’s prayer and it is there. Nigeria is one nation where we pray and I can say that authoritatively because I have written a book on prayer and I believe in it. I’m a man of prayer but I came to realize that there is prayer paralysis where you just keep praying and then you fail to act. You don’t know that prayer is one hand then the other hand must be action. We are supposed to pray then as we are led by God, we act. So we keep praying but we don’t want to act, saying the process is too dirty but the essence of Christianity is light in the midst of darkness, salt in the midst of the earth. So when I look at my experience, it was very educative. The summary of what I’m saying is my experience was very and it has given me influence in the political process because I ran on the platform of a very credible political party which is the Action Congress of Nigeria and today we are a credible alternative voice as to what should happen. We’ve established that fact and I’m so grateful that I had such opportunity and would keep at it until we see the kind of changes desired in this nation.

What will you do differently if it is in your power to do?

One thing I would do differently if for instance, I was the president of Nigeria is to provide a compelling vision about Nigeria’s future that at least 90% of Nigerians will buy into. I believe Nigeria by virtue of its size as a nation is uniquely placed to be the pace-setter of development not just in Nigeria but for the black man anywhere in the world. And the vision that I’ll paint for Nigeria as a leader who is committed 100% is the emancipation of all Nigerians by unlocking the potentials of all Nigerians so that together so that we can build a nation of justice, prosperity and well-being for all. In summary, what I’m saying is that if the opportunity presents itself that I lead this country is to give Nigerians a vision for themselves that’ll unite us together around a great tomorrow that we can all work together towards a chieving something which the average Nigerians yearn for. A sense of belonging and a sense of knowing that your leadership is really committed to you and to your place in this great nation.

What is your greatest achievement in life so far?

The grace God has given me to be a Christian for 20yrs this year and believe that I still hunger and thirst for him as I did when I gave my life to Him. It’s a wonderful gift from God.

How do you balance your busy schedule with family life?

What we do (myself and wife) is that we take time to agree what the most important things are. I think it was Steve Jobs who use to ask himself the question “if today were my last day, what would I want to do?” So if today were my last day alive and knew for certain that I won’t be around tomorrow, what’ll be the most important thing I’d want to do? I want to be with my wife and children. If and when I always put in focus what the most important things in my life are, then it would help balance that. So there are some things I just naturally decline doing because it’s not important. I place a high priority on my wife and children and next in terms of God’s assignment for me is that the area or core of my passion is nation building whether within or outside the church. There are sacrifices they bear when I travel but fundamentally because we focus on getting the balance right when I have to travel, we don’t put things out of sync because we are working generally within the framework of priorities which we have already set.

Who would you say are your role models that inspire and have impacted you?

They are my father, Pastor Tony Rapu, Nelson Mandela and Pastor Sunday Adelaja

Name three books that have impacted you greatly

The Holy Bible, Church Shift by Sunday Adelaja and Truth & Transformation by Vishal Mangalwadi

You recently turned 50. What was the experience like and how do you envision the season of your life?

The experience was great. There was such an outpouring of love as I was so touched by the gifts and wonderful tributes from my wife, children, extended family, friends and political associates. In terms of the next season of my life, two things stand out clearly. One is the need to complete the assignment that I see before me recognizing that life is a gift from God and every day is a gift. No day should be wasted. I’m redoubling my efforts to make sure that the things that are before me are achieved. The second thing is that I’m also more than ever committed in impacting another generation with the totality of things that I’ve learnt. I’m now at the stage in life where I’m clearly also looking behind to say who were those who are not yet in terms of age and experience, how we can explore that what we’ve learnt over the years is transferred. I’m very strong at generational transfer to make sure young men and women coming up in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s would have a sense of vision and definitely a sense of passion about their own lives and the impact they are making  to their own generations.

What parting words do you have for our readers?

Life is a gift and anyone who wastes time waste life, because our life is made up of seconds, which makes up minutes that makes up hours which in turn makes up days that changes to weeks, which adds up to months that culminates into years which gives us the summary of our life. Therefore my parting words for readers are that they should recognize that life is a gift from God hence use it wisely. Impact a generation and leave a legacy of greatness and good works to the glory of God.