FEATURE ARTICLE

Abi Adegboye, PhDFriday, April 20, 2018
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ROW HARDER: A PARABLE ABOUT LEADING MY PEOPLE

he desert was encroaching on Shabi while the land on the other side of a crocodile-infested river was lush and green. Thus, a group of intrepid travelers decided to cross the river to land of prosperity. "Yes, life would be better on the other side," they said, "let's go at once. And with grave purpose, they elected Kayo to be their leader.

"You are strong in mind and body. You make good decisions. Be our leader!" they implored. And gratified by their confidence in his abilities, Kayo agreed. He spent days plotting and planning how he'd take his people across the river to a better future.

Three moons after his election, he called his people together, "I have a plan. We will sail a boat across the river to the other side. But we must prepare.

"We will prepare! Tell us what to do and we will do it," they chorused. Kayo was encouraged.

"First, each of us must contribute as much as we can afford, to our journey." Setting a good example, he dug into his pocket and brought out a hefty sum of money. Three others did likewise.

Now, let's divide ourselves into work units. You two, get the fuel for the boat, you two, gather whatever food you can find…" And so, he assigned work to his people in preparation for their perilous trip to the land of plenty.

On the set day of their journey, they all gathered on the shores of Shabi. Kayo stood upon a promontory and gave an impassioned speech, "My people, we have determined to leave behind a barren land and sail to prosperity. Let us strengthen our minds and our hands to row ourselves to a more desirable land."

"Hear! Hear!" they hailed.

So, they got in the boat and fired up the engine. "Krrrrrgh krrrgh kgh," the engine sputtered. Not wanting to face a challenge so early in the day, Kayo asked what the matter was. The two he'd delegated to be captain and first mate snapped to attention.

"Sir, there's no fuel Sir!" Kayo could not believe his ears. He's specifically asked them to purchase fuel enough to fill the tank and a backup can.

"What happened to the fuel?" He looked at his men squarely in the eyes. They squirmed.

"When we asked for money to buy fuel, the treasurer said there wasn't enough money in the purse to buy food and fuel."

"Treasurer!" Kayo called. He wasn't one to talk behind anyone's back. And he faced problems head-on.

"Your honor, you called?" answered the sweet voice of the treasurer. When Kayo asked the captain to repeat their story, she responded, "Yes, your honor. Besides those who gave money when you did, no one else gave. So, after buying food, we didn't have enough money in the purse for fuel.

Kayo looked at the sky. The sun was beginning to lighten the sky. He'd wanted them to be upstream by now. He searched for an alternative. "Are there oars in the boat?"

"Yes, we'll get them right away. We're expert rowers, Sir. You'll be glad we're your crew!" After watching them squabble for ten minutes however, Kayo was anything but glad.

"Row forward," the captain commanded.

"No, row right!" his first mate countered.

"Enough!" Kayo bellowed. They were testing his patience and the journey hadn't even begun. He took the captain's oars and requested his deputy to take the other. "On three, push your oar forward then pull the paddle back." His deputy followed instructions and soon, the boat left the shores.

"Go Fearless leader! Row harder!" the people hailed him. They were on their way but, because he was rowing, he couldn't read the map. And since he couldn't read the map, he could not navigate towards the land of prosperity. He called out to Mapreader whom he'd delegated to read the map. "Tell me, are we rowing in the right direction?

"What?!" Mapreader mumbled struggling to shake the slumber from her eyes. The steady rocking of the boat had lulled her to sleep.

"Check the map. Are we heading in the right direction?" Kayo watched in incredulity as first, Mapreader turned the map sideways then upside down in attempts to provide a reading. He asked, "Would someone take my oar so that I can read the map?

He got no volunteers. He cajoled, "Remember, when you all said you'd do whatever I asked you to do? Please, let one of you take this oar so I can navigate to get us to the land of prosperity." They pretended not to hear him.

Just as he reconciled himself to permanent rowing duty, something bumped the side of the boat. Before he could ask, "what was that?" he heard a deafening shriek.

"We're going to be eaten by sharks!" Wala wailed as she scurried to the middle of the boat pushing people behind her as a buffer between her and the purported sharks.

Kayo closed his eyes for a minute. He couldn't afford to lose time educating Wala that there were no sharks in the river. There were crocodiles however. And they were big trouble.

The people were in a state of panic. "Row harder!" many screamed, others were scrambling and causing the boat to rock precariously. He needed to get things under control.

"Listen!" he shouted. When they turned their frightened faces up to him, he said, "I have a plan…"

"You always have a plan! That's how you tricked us into leaving our beautiful land. We were doing well before you came with your crazy plans," Oby accused believing it was his duty to put people in their place.

"I didn't come to you, you came to me…" Kayo started to defend his leadership but before he could get another word in, Oby addressed the people.

"As I told you people, no good will come of electing the likes of Kayo as leader. Now you see where he's brought us." He spread his arm to encompass the expanse of water broken by bobbing heads with gleaming teeth. "We'll be crocodile crudites if we do not choose a better leader for ourselves.

Kayo smiled at the irony. He was the bad leader? So far, he'd had to deal with a variety to people that no one could lead:

Lip Service crew - They support with their lips; no money no lifting a finger.

The Perennially Busy - nothing penetrates their cocoon of busyness

The Alarmist - who always cries, "Let's not do that, it's dangerous!"

Conscientious objector - to whom no plan is a good plan.

The Put upon - whines, "No one recognizes my hard work!"

Under the radar - have no image, no name connected to number, and no response when called upon.

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