Why Intellectuals Need to Lead Professionally



Habits of Highly Productive Transformation Leaders
Prof. Lere Baale


The election of Professor Charles Soludo as executive governor of Anambra State is one of the best things that have happened to Nigerian intellectuals in recent years. His pronouncements so far suggest a radical departure from the old system of extravagant ceremonies, as well as failure to patronise made-in-Nigeria products.

The inspiring profiles of the people he has assembled into the Transition Committee speaks volumes of his true desire to make a difference in leadership. Hopefully, Prof. Charles Soludo will be joining Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno State in leading radical transformations of their states. They will hopefully create shining examples of how to truly transform their states through impactful leadership.

While some of the highly respected intellectuals had failed to perform well in their leadership roles in the past, it is hoped that these new highly educated leaders will have the opportunity to change the narrative. This is a call to intellectuals and professionals in the healthcare sector to show greater level of participation in governance.

In 2019, I was privileged to address the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN). There, I encouraged the intellectuals to take active interest in professional leadership of our nation from strategy development level to strategy execution. Let me restate this in a slightly different way. Intellectual professionals, in the best interest of the general public, can help government develop and implement the right strategy for accelerated national development.



Some definitions of “intellectual”, according to the dictionary, include:

(Noun) A person of superior intellect.

A person who places a high value on or pursues things of interest to the intellect or the more complex forms and fields of knowledge, as aesthetic or philosophical matters, especially on an abstract and general level.

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An extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings.

A person professionally engaged in mental labour, as a writer or teacher.

(Adjective) Appealing to or engaging the intellect – e.g.  intellectual pursuits.

Of or relating to the intellect or its use – e.g. intellectual powers.

Possessing or showing intellect or mental capacity, especially to a high degree – e.g. an intellectual person.

Guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.

Characterised by or suggesting a predominance of intellect – e.g. an intellectual way of speaking.

On the other hand, professionalism is defined as:

(Noun) A person engaged or qualified in a profession.

“Professionals such as pharmacy, lawyers and surveyors”

A person engaged in a specified activity, especially a sport, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

A person competent or skilled in a particular activity.

“She was a real professional on stage”

A more in-depth investigation would reveal that professionalism is synonymous with the principle and culture of:

Inspiring transformative leadership at all levels to boost productivity

Seeking for best talents to support your dream

Hindsight, insight, oversight, foresight and farsight

Providing direction in the midst of disruption.

Vision in the midst of volatility

Deep understanding of issues and opportunities in the midst of uncertainties

Clarity in the midst of complexity and chaos

Agility in the face of ambiguity

Resilience in the face of persistent obstacles and high risks

Effective communication and conversation

Engagement of stakeholders

Effective listening


Collaboration with other professionals for the bigger goals

Laying a good foundation for future through education, coaching, counselling, mentoring

Promoting meritocracy

Adopting of pragmatism culture

Flexibility and adaptability to engage change

Starting small from where we are and growing to a huge size

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Promoting foreign direct investment

Running Inclusive policy on ethnic and religious groups

Thinking long term

Avoiding unnecessary populism

Honesty, ethics and discouragement of corruption

Playing at the zenith of professional practice

Most importantly, however, intellectual Professionalism is not really a destination but a continuous life journey.

Galaxy of stars

I am proud to categorically state that Nigeria is incredibly blessed with highly talented intellectuals or professionals. We just sometimes erroneously think that the grass is greener at the other side. We celebrate others without learning to celebrate ourselves.

Globally recognised Nigerian intellectuals or professionals include many reading this article, as well as the likes of:

Ayodele Awojobi – Late Professor of Fluid Mechanics. After a period teaching at the University of Lagos, he returned to the Imperial College London for a research study in the field of Vibration, and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, DSc. He was the first African to be awarded the Doctor of Science degree in mechanical engineering, at the Imperial College London.

Dick Tiger, who won the World Middleweight title in 1962.

Chioma Ajunwa, who had a gold medal winning in long jump at the Olympic Games held in Atlanta in 1996.

Olusoji Fasuba, who had a record-breaking run at the 100 meters of the Doha Grand Prix in 2006. His time of 9.85 seconds, which he achieved while finishing second to the American Justin Gatlin, erased the previous African record set by the great Frankie Fredericks of Namibia.

Mary Onyali, who won gold in the 100 meters of the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

Philip Emeagwali, who set the pace in supercomputing.

Kunle Olutokun, whose leadership role in Stanford University’s Hydra Research project yielded the microprocessing chip.

Jelani Aliyu, who designed the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car manufactured by General Motors.

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Gabriel Osuide, who, together with his team in ABUZ developed ENPA & ENSA, as breakthrough New Chemical Entities for the treatment of convulsion.

Abayomi Sofowora and the OAU Ife team, who identified the usefulness of orin ata for sickle cell disease

Col. Oviemo Ovadje, whose Emergency Auto-Transfusion System (which affords safe and affordable blood transfusions) has been recognised as a life-saving gift to healthcare in the developing world.

Dr Achilefu, who designed cancer-seeing glasses.

Bennet Omalu, who discovered the brain disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

Mohammed Bah Abbah, a teacher, who invented the pot-in-pot cooling system which serves as a simple refrigerator – a creation forced by the sometimes desperately hot weather in the northern part of the country. That home-made solution to the local but widespread problem of food spoilage due to harsh weather conditions led to his being awarded the Rolex Prize in 2001 and a mention as one of the great inventors of that year in Time magazine.

Ayodele Samuel Dada, who graduated from the Department of Psychology at the University of Lagos with a perfect CGPA of 5.0. It was the first time such a feat had been accomplished by anyone within Nigeria.

Victor Olalusi, who had straight As all through his seven years at the Russian National Medical Research University (H graduated in 2013).

Emmanuel Ohuabunwa, who at age 22 in 2012, became the first black person to graduate top of his class at John Hopkins University. In fact, his CGPA of 3.98 out of a possible 4.0 made him the best graduating student from the world acclaimed ivory tower for that year.

Omonefe Omofuma, a pharmacist, who received multiple awards for her contributions to improve chronic disease outcomes.


(Continues next edition)


  1. Insightful. Well researched. There’s no better time than now for professionals and intellectuals to get involved in the politics of our country.


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