At the end of May I was inducted into the highly coveted Nigerian Leadership Initiative (NLI), along 26 other truly inspiring young people. I keep saying of the weekend we spent at Epe Hotel and Resorts that I was challenged, inspired, challenged, inspired, you get the drift right?
I think that weekend deserves a full post in itself, and I will get to it I promise. Before then however, let’s talk about this invitation I received. It was in June, a card sent to me through our Alumni Officer inviting NLI to dinner with the Indian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador A.R Ghanashym. We all confirmed attendance, and on the said day, congregated at his beautiful residence somewhere in Maitama.
For starters I was super excited because a dress I’d not been able to wear since 2012 fit (I will write about my weight loss soon too, don’t worry), and so my ‘self-love’ levels were peaking like no man’s business! Got in, met associate members I didn’t know before, and in chatting with Aisha Augie-Kuta, learned that eating a handful of almonds is akin to taking aspirin. Who would have thought?
The chicken samosas were everything! For my main I stuck to closest to familiar with the … and for dessert I tried the icecream. It was actually lovely! Indian food always wins doesn’t it?
The Ambassador is a very funny, down-to-earth man, so much that I didn’t know he was the one we were gisting with; somewhere in my mind I was expecting an announcement and then he would come down a flight of stairs or something (I know, my mind is most active), but then I asked someone where he was and she was like, that’s the person you’ve been chatting with na! Smile.
He told us so many stories too! First off, he and his wife are career diplomats, and his wife is currently India’s High Commissioner in South Africa! He said they met former President Goodluck Jonathan at a function and GEJ asked them how many megawatts of electricity they generated between them because they defined ‘power couple’. Lol!
There was also serious talk, with the Ambassador admonishing us to dream. He said it so many times, that we had the opportunity to dream and so not to deny ourselves of ambitious dreams. And to work towards actualizing those dreams because we could, if we put our hearts to it and worked hard. He spoke about traveling within Africa and knowing from his interactions with a lot of people that Nigerians are intellectually superior to any other country on the continent. I scrunched up my nose at that but hey…
When we were done with dinner, he introduced us to his staff, from the chef to the butler, to his personal assistant. He told us about caring for staff and how their output/productivity was greatly enhanced just by knowing they had an employer who not only cared about the work they put in, but cared about them too. He said (and I quote), “Care. Find out about the people who work for you. The inane things – birthdays of their family members and make sure to send wishes on those days. Let them feel special, because they are.”
Food for thought there ey?
Then he told us about the (now late) President of India, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam (A.P Abdul Kalam for short), and used his life and the story of the country’s first missile launch to explain true leadership.
He also told us of Devi Prasard Shetti, a globally renowned cardiac surgeon who is as famous for his brilliance as he is for the scheme he personally designed for financially disadvantaged people in India to access a quality of healthcare that would have been beyond their reach. Shetti’s heart hospital Narayana Hrudayalaya is the largest in the world, with a 1000 beds, more international patients than any hospital (their surgeries cost one-tenth of what it would cost in the United States), and performing over 30 heart surgeries a day. Wow!
Shetti wanted to become a heart surgeon from the time (as a child) he heard of the first successful heart transplant. As an adult, he always believed that healthcare could be cheaper, and he kept on thinking about it. The thought birthed Yeshasvini, touted as the world’s cheapest comprehensive healthcare insurance scheme. Farmers pay what comes to about 20 cents a month, and are covered totally. There are over 4 million people signed up to this scheme, which has earned Shetti many awards all over the world.
I was so inspired! I decided to do a bit more reading on the guy, and found this video of a TedTalk he gave I thought you would enjoy.
We took lots of photos, presented the Ambassador a gift, and then it was home time! I had a truly exciting, inspiring evening, thank you NLI! When’s the next dinner?