Africa’s time is coming.
Its politics is increasingly more progressive. Its art, music and culture is garnering greater international recognition; and business and economic growth is accelerating.
Now more than ever, Africans need to become great communicators and project themselves and their respective countries onto the world stage.
Nigeria could be, but isn’t yet, at the forefront of that movement.
A natural instinct for public speaking; an easy confidence in front of a microphone and a high level of articulacy often in both English and Mother-tongue languages, make the perfect ingredients for this highly populous country to produce a stock of great speechmakers.
Yet, save for some notable exceptions (such as the late Chief Bola Ige, known as the Cicero of Esa Oke, and a number of charismatic Church pastors), the practice of public speaking by Nigerians is unremarkable.
Like many of the country’s challenges, this problem is entirely self-made.
But this means, like many of the country’s problems, it is can be improved, even if it is also very resistant to change.
That strength (comfort in front of an audience) is at the same time the main problem: Nigerians love to talk.
Give a Nigerian the mic and unlike his or her European counterpart, who shies away from the limelight, a Nigerian will often happily regale the audience for hours.
Sadly, this natural instinct for public speaking, is not always accompanied by a burning need to actually achieve something worthwhile through that talking.
As a result, the rhetoric is often shallow, where it should be meaningful and the language is often over-blown, long-winded and pointless, where it should instead be clear, simple and purposeful.
Speeches are very rarely short!
Of course, this is all quite a generalisation, but there is little doubt that in many cases speechmaking in this great country misses the fundamental element of great public speaking. Purpose!
Great communicators aim to achieve something through their communication.
They speak only because silence cannot achieve the same outcome.
Their aim is to persuade, not to just present; to inform, not to just perform; and to motivate, not to just pontificate.
The desired audience response is not: ‘Oh, you gave a great speech’, but ‘OK. I’m convinced. Lets do it’.
Purpose. Purpose. Purpose!
If Nigerians could put greater purpose and ambition to achieve something alongside that natural talent for public speaking, in business, it could mean the difference between national success and global recognition and in politics, it could be the difference between grudging recognition and genuine international influence.
Africa is on the move. It needs leaders to step up with a clear vision, a sense of direction and the willingness to communicate with purpose.
As the first line of the Nigerian National anthem says: ‘Arise O, compatriots!’.