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When foolish wins

I won’t deceive myself into believing you’ll agree with all the following submissions but I do hope some will cause you to re-examine some stubbornly held positions.

I heard someone say on the radio that Nigerians are the most intelligent people in the world but they have refused to educate their intelligence. This comment hit me like a bolt because in just a few words, this man was able to encapsulate a mutually held sentiment, which takes me a whole page to say. It’s incontrovertibly true that we are very smart people, but it’s also painfully true that we’re yet to make our intelligence work best for us in our country. 77 percent of educated blacks in the USA are Nigerians but look at Nigeria.

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The forces that appear to be working against the emergence of Nigeria as the great nation it has so obviously been created to be, seem altogether overwhelming, so what do we do? We give up on it. “As long as I and the rest of my family are okay, others can worry about the nation’s future.” Speaking to this widely held attitude, I couldn’t agree more with the fellow who said you shouldn’t stop a conversation, just because you encounter a challenge. For instance, the world’s most “foolish” ideas have often proved to be its greatest. Let me qualify that. It was once said that only the birds, which God created to fly, could fly; but now we know better. To their contemporaries, the Wright brothers’ “foolish” attempts to fly made them a laughing stock.

Truth is, man has been created to do many things which he is yet to discover. As the saying goes, no venture, no gain. Purely based on what everyone can see, the world would have been a very different place without the oyinbo. One day, as the chicken traipsed past the black man, the black man thanked his lucky stars because food had finally arrived. But before he could catch up with the hapless chicken, the chicken found itself in the clutches of oyinbo, who was equally hungry but was willing to delay that particular gratification to satisfy a nagging curiosity. While attempting to flee from the black man, oyinbo had observed how the chicken flapped its stunted wings in a desperate attempt to fly. So oyinbo saw the same chicken as the black man but identified a different potential. If birds can fly, by applying the same principle through science, so could man. Impossible is only that which hasn’t been done or even visualized yet. Eventually and with belief, nothing is impossible.

I’ve always seen our society as the classic case of the scriptural proverbial town where the Princes and noblemen walk alongside horses mounted by slaves. Apart from the obvious interpretation of a society where meritocracy is altogether abandoned and people of questionable character or mediocrity (at best) hold sway, there’s another and more latent meaning. What many don’t know is that the man with money can still be a slave, so long as he remains enslaved by a poverty mentality. What will a newly freed slave, given the opportunity do? Driven by a poverty mentality, he will mercilessly grab at everything within his reach. He never wants to taste poverty again but unknown to him, every grab, every child whose destiny he truncates by selfishly cornering the commonwealth, only impoverishes his soul the more. So, despite his wealth, he remains a slave.

Trying to instil discipline in a hungry man will amount to flogging a dead horse; a waste of time, as it will produce little to no meaningful result. I find it so annoying when we hear people in government lament about how ill-disciplined Nigerians are; as if they’re not part of the problem! All you need to do is to provide for people in a way which makes them feel they have a stake in the country and like magic, the patriotism this conscientious action wells up in them, will push them to ensure their country succeeds. Right now, everyone, including many well to do, are looking for an opportunity to bail out. That’s certainly not an indication of a people who feel they have a stake. Someone who has a stake and knows it, will not watch or even bail as his house burns.

In trying to identify and raise a new crop of political leaders who he could groom to take over from his pioneering generation, Lee Kuan Yew instructively observed that, “Ability can be assessed fairly accurately by a person’s academic record and achievement in work. Character is not so easily measured.” He further said, “After some successes but too many failures, I concluded that it was more important, though more difficult, to assess a person’s character.”

The British moral philosopher, Iris Murdoch “sees the current state of moral chaos arising from the fragmentation of the modern scientific outlook, and the subsequent loss of a shared, public idea of moral good. Like Dewey, she notes that harmony comes from the individual striving for the good within a good society, and that human capacities need the context of community in order to flourish.” So, no man is an island and as a “social animal” we all need the next man, either as a client, a customer or otherwise to bring the best out of us and even to enjoy fulfilment, which our nature demands. There is a level of fulfilment which defies description, a perfect happiness, which we only really experience when we do that which brings joy to others. A shared idea of what is morally good will dictate corporate behaviour, minimize bad behaviour and all these are essential if there is to be harmony in a society.

Because of our penchant to fit everything into a compartment we understand, one thing which people sometimes like to label me as is a motivational speaker; but, spoken with all humility and no offence whatsoever to motivational speakers, who we all benefit from listening to from time to time, this is one thing I know I’m not. Why? Because I’m first interested in who we are before concerning myself with what we can achieve. I believe we jump the gun or put the cart before the horse when we try to do it the other way around. I’m not going to motivate you into believing you can become the best in functionality without first becoming the best in character. And what gave room to this line of thinking? God said He created us in His likeness and in His image. Meaning, He wired us to function like Him especially in creativity but He also expects us to mirror Him in character.

Last but certainly not least, I sincerely believe God has a grand plan for every one of us and there are many ways in which we can get there. The route can be short but on the other hand it could detour for 40 years in the wilderness. As some say, it might be too late to change where you’ve gone but you can make a change to decide where you’re going or want to go. The most important thing is for us to eventually get there because no matter the route, all fit into God’s plan for all things to work together for our good. We need to understand that the consequences of each route, teach a different lesson to different sets of people. All of them instruct us in equally valuable lessons and all can serve as a great source of encouragement to others. Sadly though, some take one detour too many and never quite get there. As our people like to say, “At all, at all, na im no good”.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.

OLADAPO AKANDE

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