I am the second of five children and my leadership style, until a few years ago, used to be dictatorial. I used to lord it over my younger siblings and wanted them to respect me out of fear. I always wanted to have my way and my words to become law. Initially, my 2 immediate younger siblings were afraid of me but just as it is with any oppressor and his oppressed, they both ended up revolting. On separate occasions when I was fighting with them and beating them as I normally did, unlike other times when they stood still and chopped the beating, this time around, they beat me back and since they were both taller and bigger than me, they beat me very well. That was when I stopped fighting with them physically but I still lorded over them verbally.
In my secondary school, for the most part, prefects were selected not necessarily because of their leadership skills but more because of their academic excellence, especially their Junior WAEC results.
I was one of four people who had the highest Junior WAEC result of 11As and 1c and I believe it was based on this result and my subsequent performance in SS1 and SS2 that made them select me as utility prefect in SSS2 third term. Although my principal paid for all prefects to attend the citizenship and leadership training at sea school, Apapa, I still employed my dictatorial leadership style towards the junior students.
Just as I did with my younger ones, my goal was to be respected out of fear and that meant I had to be wicked. I was seconded to the junior side where JSS1 to JSS3 students resided and the first room I was assigned to contained JSS2 students. I love clean environments such that my elder sister says I have OCD (but that’s not true) and I insisted my JSS2 roommates scrubbed and mopped the room either every day or every other day – I am not too sure. I also demanded absolute silence from them whenever I was in the room.
At some point, I stopped going to the dining hall for my meals and would send two of them to get my food from the dining hall. I also stopped washing my clothes and assigned my bunkmate and another girl to wash my clothes. My roommates feared me just like I wanted.
Each prefect was assigned a junior class from JSS1-SS2 to sit in during night prep to ensure the students behaved themselves and read as expected of them. I was assigned an SS1 class and again worked hard to ensure the students feared me and were always completely silent during night prep. I would ask the class captain to write down the names of noisemakers and punish the errant students who made the noisemaker’s list during prep. At some point, the class captain went home for a few weeks because she had surgery on her hand when it swelled up. After she returned a few weeks later, I don’t remember what she and some other students did – I suspect they either didn’t clean the class or they were making noise,
I can’t really remember, but in addition to punishing them by asking them to kneel, I beat them a few times on the back of their hand with the side of a ruler. The class captain was the last person I beat, and when she stretched out her hand to get beaten, I asked her if that was the same hand she had surgery on and she said yes. I asked her to bring the other hand as I didn’t want to be responsible for inflicting more pain and damage on the hand that already had issues. Little did I know that my beating her would land me in serious trouble.
Contrary to what I expected, she was a natural sweller, and the hand I beat her on swelled up. It also happened that her guardian was Mrs. N, the senior boarding house mistress, and she reported me to her as being responsible for her swollen hand. Mrs. N sent for me, punished me, insulted me, told me I was in big trouble, and opened a case file for me. Weeks later, I hadn’t heard anything from Mrs. N and was lowkey hoping that I had been forgiven and the case against me had been dismissed.
We weren’t allowed to wear long-sleeved house wears in school but SSS3 girls sometimes violated the rule and wore styles that weren’t allowed and termed contraband. I had a long-sleeved house wear which was a contraband and on this fateful day, I wore it and was walking to class from my dorm on the junior side. That’s how I ran into one evil teacher, Mrs. Adaraniwon. She and her husband were terrorists in that school. She ranted about how I, a prefect, was flouting the law and wearing a long-sleeved dress and how I was in big trouble. She asked me to follow her to her office and on our way, we saw a prefect, B, who was just resuming after the mid-term dragging her box with her. She had been newly elected as a prefect as a replacement for another prefect who was de-badged the previous term. Adaraniwon asked her to open her box for her to search and found noodles, another contraband, in her box. Adaraniwon was angry at finding two prefects with contraband on the same day and took us to Mrs. N.
She explained our offense to Mrs. N who, on hearing my name, confirmed that I was the same person with a case opened with her. She promised to ensure B and I faced the full wrath of the law and reported us to the principal. The next time we had assembly, B and I were called to the front of the assembly ground, and judgment was pronounced on us. We were both de-badged and deboarded while I was also flogged on the assembly ground by one of the meanest male teachers in the school. I really hate pain and never learned how to chest cane, so I was twisting and turning the entire time I was being flogged while trying hard not to shed tears such that students said I was dancing like a snake.
We were immediately asked to call our parents to see the principal. B lied that her parents were out of the country (I did not know it was a lie at the time) and I was forced to call my mum. My mum was so angry at me when I called her because she and my dad had always warned me about the harsh way I dealt with my siblings and how that attitude had led me into big trouble.
She immediately left Lagos for Shagamu with her driver and drove down to my school. B and I went to meet her and she lambasted me on the ride from my school to the principal’s house. This happened on a Friday and we met the principal just as she was leaving for Lagos. My mum tried to plead on my behalf but the principal, who’s now my close family friend, by the way, spoke very rudely and harshly to her. She said that if I could beat a student with a ruler for a minor offense as an ordinary prefect, it meant I could cut off a lower-ranking official’s hand with a cutlass if he offended me when I became a high-ranking government official – like a minister. She said she was on her way to Lagos and couldn’t deal with me right then but her judgment of us being de-badged and deboarded stood until her return. My mum kept pleading with her to have mercy on us but her pleas fell on deaf ears. My mum drove B and I back to our hostel and throughout the ride back, she spoke very harshly to me in impeccable English.
That was the angriest I had ever seen her and I was crying as she was scolding me. Apparently, she was ill and in the hospital at the time I called and she had to leave the hospital and drive all the way down for my trifling ass. I sha kept crying and saying I was sorry and as soon as we got back to the class area, she asked me to get out of her car in the heavy rain. B and I got down and I kept crying. B asked me,
“What University did your mum attend?”
Me, shocked and wondering what that question had to do with anything, responded with
“UNILAG. Why are you asking?”
“I am asking because all the while she was shouting at you, she didn’t even shell. She was just speaking very good English. No wonder.”
“Are you okay? With all the trouble we are in and all that’s going on, that’s the only thing you were thinking of?”
I just hissed and walked out on her. Anyway, I was inspired to write an undertaking to my principal promising to never err again and asking her to expel me if I ever broke even the minutest rule. She accepted mine and B’s written undertaking and didn’t deboard us anymore but we remained de-badged. It was after we were let off the hook that B confessed that her parents hadn’t traveled out of the country but she was afraid to inform them that she had been deboarded and that was the reason she lied about them traveling.
My leadership style is no longer dictatorial though, thanks to years of attending Daystar Christian center and being conditioned to understand that leadership is all about influence. The senior pastor, Pastor Sam Adeyemi always underscores this point with this scripture: “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
Influence means the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. Now from practice, I know that the easiest way to have people truly respect you and do your bidding is to love them, be kind to them, show interest in their lives and help them achieve their goals as best as you can.