‘Folakemi Fatogbe’s first published book, Inspiring a Generation, was unveiled yesterday at The Wheat Baker, Ikoyi, Lagos. Speaking in an interview ahead of the presentation, the Director, Risk Management at the Central Bank of Nigeria explains why she wrote the book and the takeaways from it. Excerpts:
What is ‘Inspiring a Generation’ about?
It’s a motivational book; it’s woven around the election campaigns of President Barack Obama. All of us will surely recall his historic electoral victory in 2008; it wasn’t anything that anybody expected and whether we are we going to see a black man do that again in our own lifetime is extremely debatable. So, I in particular and many of those around me found it very inspiring; it motivated us. Following his journey, one could see that there were many lessons one could take and imbibe into our own lives. The fact that this man came from ‘nowhere’ and was able to beat the establishment; beat the Clintons and beat the opposition in power to become the most influential man in the world; the most powerful man in the world.
Why did you choose Obama as the anchor, why not look at a personality closer home to Nigeria, Africa?
Obama is an international brand; Obama has achieved something that nobody else has accomplished, not even in Nigeria. There may be some Nigerians in England who are going to become prime minister. He was first generation black man in America and he became the president of that country. Tell me a Nigerian who has achieved a similar feat and I will write about it. Obama not only broke the barriers of colour; he broke the barriers of money, of class and experience. That’s why when you go into the book; it talks about funding your dream. He went a totally unique way to fund his dream. He made an unprecedented amount of money and he did it in a totally unique way.
You are not actually inspiring a generation, you are inspiring generations
It is generations, of course. I think the primary premise is a quote from Confucius which is actually in the beginning of the book. “To put the world right in order, you must first put the nation in order. To put the nation in order, you must first put the family in order. To put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life.”
Essentially, it’s saying to make the life that we want to live, to have the country that we want to have, to have the family that we want to have, we must first cultivate and improve ourselves. So, it’s a motivational book and also a self improvement book. The feedback I have got from people so far is that it’s a book that needs to be sent out there to corporate bodies, to universities, schools, entrepreneurial development centres, it has something for everyone.
There are many inspirational books in the market, why should people go for yours?
It has a number of unique selling points. I think one of the primary ones is the fact that it is woven around an icon of our time; a man many people can identify with. He’s still in office. It’s not something that’s so abstract, people can recollect that victory. Many can remember what they were doing at the time of his election and his re-election. That’s one unique selling point.
Another unique selling point is the fact that it has quotations mapped into different sections so someone that just wants a library for quotations; they can get it from there. It also has lessons from Obama. That is, it draws out elements from the man’s campaign, his life and personal attributes that could be beneficial to people. It has a section that has about 60 lessons and at the end of each lesson, it says what you and I need to do; that brings very practical advice on how we can imbibe some of the strengths of Obama into our own lives.
Fourthly, it also has elements from my personal life because I have also walked the walk. When I was writing that book, my life was changing in a way that I had not expected; I had certain challenges so I needed inspiration and I got them from the book as well.
Who are the main targets this book is focussing on?
If I were to give you a broad based answer, the first thing would be to say anybody that has a job; anybody out there who wants to achieve; anybody out there in need of inspiration but it’s not everybody that admits that they are in need inspiration. Some groups are more amenable to the topic of inspiration. So, I will say our whole youth population but not only the youth in Nigeria.
It also encourages people to take alternative paths, not necessarily wait for government employment; think of what you have; the gift that God has given you and try and use them to make a difference to your generation. The target market is everybody really but specifically the youths in Nigeria. In terms of geographical market, where do I think will be the key markets? I will say Nigeria is number one, United States is number two. The UK, Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda.
Why did you write a motivational book when you are in the CBN, why not a book on finance?
I love seeing the shock on people’s faces when I say I have written a book. They say “it’s on risk management right?” Their faces sort of look uninterested but when I say no, that grabs their attention. Then when I tell them they say “oh really, you can write!” So, why did I write on this?
First and foremost, I did it before I came to Central Bank. I started writing the book at the end of 2008. I joined CBN in October 2009, prior to that I worked extensively in the UK, in a number of banks including the Bank of England. Though I was doing banking in the UK, I was also doing other things; I was doing property development. I didn’t write but at that particular point in time, I had a particular challenge with one of my children so I had to stop working and I said this is not going to defeat me, I need to focus my brain on something. I took on two major things – I took on a major property to do and I also decided to write because that’s what I could do at that time when I had a child that was ill, that I had to be the primary carer for.
When did you finish the book?
Before I came to Nigeria in 2009, I had finished the first draft but then I was called to Nigeria and we came to sort out the banking crisis. I was Special Adviser to the CBN Governor [Sanusi Lamido Sanusi] and eventually became Director of Risk Management. We were focussing on banking reform and as you know, that was a very hectic time so there was just no time. When he [Obama] was re-elected in 2012 was when I wrote the last bit of it and I have been editing. It took me just six months to write 90 per cent of the book but the other 10 per cent took me six years.
Are you thinking of writing more and in other genres?
I have not really thought about writing more but the report I am getting from people that know me better than myself is that I have more books inside me. I am not literary minded but another book is not impossible. But you know just like Obama, nothing is impossible.