14 May 2013

A Place Called Freedom

                                   We are all gifted and unique in our own different way
                                                                         Tu Face Idibia: See Me As Your Brother

When we are born, the majority of us are born to names; from one name to ten or however many our parents choose to give us or depending on the number of relatives we have. We are born to families we had no choice over and we are born to different origins and backgrounds. We are born with differences; from our siblings if we have any, from our friends, from our neighbors, from our school-mates, from our parents, from everybody; which is not to say we do not have our similarities per se, but that is not the focus of this article.

We are sent to nursery school in most cases and then to primary school, with no choice over the affair as we are of course still too young to make reasonable choices. Those of us that are lucky are sent to secondary schools, junior and senior secondary schools, and those of us who are extra lucky are sent to universities, still with little or no choice over the matter.

Following the Nigerian 6:3:3:4 system, a student should ideally graduate from secondary school when he is 17 if he began school at 2 years of age, or 18 if he began school at 3 years of age; a 17-year old in a Nigerian system is most times already a little bit 'worldy-wise' in the least, not counting 'aje-butter's that is. 

The progression from secondary school to university should not be done just for the sake of going to school but after critical thinking and analyzing of ones' future. Universities are not meant for everyone and the sooner we realize that, the sooner our future starts to brighten. Out of the millions of people who take JAMB, only one in nine persons gets admission into a tertiary institution and a number of people spend as much as three to five years sitting for this examination when we could have been focusing on something else. People have different reasons for attending schools but then there are those who have no reason at all, who only go to school because that is what is expected of them or because it is a status marker.

In the universities and tertiary institutions there are those of us who are wasting time, where our grades are consistently poor and maybe we are rusticated (or 'tsunamized' in the immortal words of University of Ibadan students) from the university for poor academic performance in our first or second or third or in horrible cases, final year. There are those of us who are wonderful with our hands, who exhibit top class craftmanship with wood, stone, metals, pencils, brushes or even the computer with only minimal self-training. There are those of us who are excellent entrepreneurs and businessmen, whose only passion is to sell things to people. There are those of us who like to read, not for any random examination but for the fun of it, those of us who assimilate stored knowledge like batteries and can dissipate at a moment's notice. There are those of us who like to calculate and think critically, whose only passions are deciphering codes and patterns and series and toying with them to suit or needs. There are those of us who like to talk to people, whose passion is communication; who only get comfortable on the podium or lectern, or in groups, enlightening the masses. There are those of us who are sensuous with our bodies and our passion is to have people watch us. There are those of us who are enchanting with our voices and our desire is for people to hear us.

In the system which we live in, we see ourselves in places not of our choosing. In some cases, our parents fill JAMB forms for us and send us to school to do what they like without any consultation for us whatsoever. Those of us who are good with our hands are sent to study Law because 'that is what is good for us' or those of us who love to dance are sent to study Mechanical Engineering because 'theatre arts is not a department'. We are in places where we are miserable and where we can never be the best or be happy; we stay and hold on only to please our parents who pay the fees and so that our friends don't call us dropouts. Now, I am not going to say that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out of school because that sounds a little bit to cliche and to say the hard truth, Nigeria is not America, their system is different from ours and it would be a bit naive to think otherwise. What I will say is that Chinua Achebe (God rest his soul) was originally studying Medicine in the university! I do not know what made him change his mind about it but he did and look at how he blessed the literary world.

A particular quote goes thus "Some people are born great while some achieve greatness"; I do not agree with that. Nobody is born great in my opinion. My father is not me and whatever he did is his and his alone; I am my own man and I will achieve greatness or die trying. We do not need to hold on to something to please other people because another phenomenal quote says "the best way to fail is by trying to please everybody". No matter how hard we try, people are going to get hurt because of us, and this is something we cannot avoid, you can call it collateral damage. We can choose to live our lives in misery after pleasing our parents for four years or we can choose to hurt our parents for four years and then put them in a life of luxury, it is all a matter of choice and determination.

A while back, I was opportuned to listen to a speech by Willie Jolley and he talked about a man who wanted a can of soda (coke or fanta perhaps, but I think it was zobo he really wanted); the first man went downstairs and checked the fridge and when he didn't find the zobo, he went back up. The second man went as far as the storage room outside but when he didn't find, he went back up. The third man went as far as the corner store but it was locked so he came back. The fourth man went past the corner store and walked a mile to the next store but they did not have zobo so he went back. The fifth man went past the store one mile away, he walked for two miles and it began to rain and still he walked until he found a store where they did have zobo and he drank to his fill. That is determination. When all odds are against you and it seems what you are doing is foolish, stick to your reasons and stay true to what your heart wants, go for it, seek it, endure the hardships, cry the tears, scale the hurdles and when you do get to that place called achievement, look back and smile because many are called but few are chosen.

We are a product of the society which makes us but continuing to perpetrate the cycle of the Nigerian Way will only corrupt the present and pollute the future, if we cannot as youths find a place called freedom, what will we tell our children when they come? If we choose to live a life of passivity and take everything how it comes, thinking only about job security and the next cheque, how can we achieve greatness? How can we want to be like Einstein or Newton but we are scared to challenge our teachers and we are scared when we fail examinations? True genius manifests at that mental wall beyond which you either break or transcend the barrier, death for the boy or glory for the man. It is all a matter of choice and determination.

We are Nigerians and we can never change our society if we do not change our way of thinking and behaving. The popular Indian movie, Three Idiots shows us that when we pursue our dreams, success will follow us and with success comes the money and the fame and the girl. "Whatsoever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve" (I think Zig Ziglar said that).
Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria is calling and it is time to obey.

Until next time,
Ezim Osai

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