American youths Vs. Nigerian youths: Why the so much gap?

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There is a famous picture in the United States of baby JFK, Jr. crawling under the Resolute Desk of the White House Oval Office while his father worked on it. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, JFK, Sr. (the baby’s father) was the 35th President of the United States of America, one of those to be assassinated. That crawling lad was born to him few days after he won the US Presidency in November 1960 and remained in public spotlight until he died in a plane crash sometime in 1999. The 6th President of the US (1825–1829), John Quincy Adams, was the son of the 2nd President of that country (1797–1804). In the same vein, George Walker Bush, the 43rd President of the US (2001–2009), is the son of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of that country (1989–1993). Again, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. announced to an unprecedented crowd of 200, 000 civil rights activists, and indeed the world at large, his dream of a truly free United States of America. Whether the US is truly free today is a different story, but we do know that about 46 years after King’s epoch making I Have a Dream speech, Barack Hussein Obama became the first black human being to mount the US Presidency, or, should I say, the most powerful human being on the planet. From this survey, therefore, there seems to be a certain degree of sincerity in addressing youths of America and elsewhere as leaders of tomorrow.

I wonder if the same holds true for our country, Nigeria. Few examples will do. When General Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s Head of State way back in 1979, he had addressed a group of youths, wherein he told them he looked forward to seeing them take over the reins of power in the nearest future. Funnily enough, exactly 20 years from that year, that is 1999, he vied for the office and became president again, remained there for 4 more years and wanted to bend the constitution to let him stay on, and would have asked for more afterwards, I guess. Go through the annals of Nigeria’s history and find that our great grandfather’s Heads of State still want to be our president, and are not joking about it. Check out the résumé of President Buhari and find that he’s been there a very long time ago. Go through the Nigerian Civil Service and find grandfathers who should be glorying in their pensions and be tenants of retirement homes still posing to be 50 years of age with the assistance of our interesting instruments of corruption – affidavit swearing and Declaration of Age. And yet we find energetic and promising youths languishing under the yoke of underemployment and unemployment.

The case here is that of a conspiracy of the rich and those who thread the corridors of power. They want youths down. They want them to be and remain incapable of questioning or challenging the status quo. They want them to accept the status quo for a culture and be too blind to spot and spoil their greed. And it actually appears they are succeeding if at all they haven’t. How? Through their educational designs and obsolete curriculum they make youths unemployable; through their emphasis on security they dissuade youths from resorting to crime; through their sabotage of the economy they discourage economic adventure, the type the likes of Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Musk, etc. dabbled into in America to make their way to the billionaires club. What do we find around us instead? They want youths to get their eyes off white collar jobs and embrace the various available farming schemes. They offer enticing loans to NYSC pass-outs and have students compete in writing and executing business plans. In one word, it is difficult to trust that the system cares about youths and it appears that only death can muster the courage to kick them out.

The one million dollar question becomes: “What do we do?” Rising to mutiny, that is killing every single one of them, is not at all a part of the solution. This is because our children will hold us responsible for the blood of their grandfathers. Ruffling it out with them is not the solution either, as one should be sure of losing out on the game, given that they are pretty good as what they do, in addition to the fact that they made more than enough pluck when our money grew on trees – they own all the oil wells, bought up most public enterprises in the name of privatization, and equally have a cabal of Machiavellian capitalists who throw their combined weights behind them in return for profitability from their mischief. Furthermore, while they can be said to have the repose of wisdom, which is got from experience, youths are, more often than not, impulsive in deciding what course of action to take.

What then is the way forward? The answer is quite a simple one and is hidden in the understanding that the future is now! You just need to understand that your future is now, and then start living in it. I can explain. To start with, what is your take on the idea of future? Is it something faraway, near or now? Do you wake up every morning in joyful anticipation of ‘a time’ called ‘future’ when all your dreams and noble aspirations will come through? This is correct only insofar as you are viewing the matter in the light of conventional wisdom. However, the problematic encountered in seeking a deeper understanding of the concept of future, the type sought for here, is that of the concept of time. Suffice it therefore to say that our understanding of the concept of time is the point in question here, as the terms past, present and future, or yesterday, today and tomorrow are only nomenclatures that express time.

At this juncture, let’s turn to St. Augustine to tell us something about time. For him, the concept of time is elusive, one that is understandable but incommunicable. He confesses, in his Confessions, that while he knows what time is, his knowledge of it eludes him whenever he attempts to communicate it, reason being that the components of time (past, present and future) barely exist: the past is no more, the moment is passing, and the future is not yet. Therefore, this ‘present passing moment’ is all we have got to grapple with.

And so ‘getting involved’ in this ‘present passing moment’ is the key to doing battle against the Nigerian status quo. When you get involved, you rather than blame or complain against the situation take responsibility for whatever has become your lot. It demands that you do whatever you say you want to do – never caring about your detractors – because your word is your bond. It calls you to the realization that your destiny is in your hands, and you never want to trade it for a bowl of porridge. It emboldens you to go out there and get all you need to become all you want to be. It instructs that the only limits are yours to decide. It means that you daily become what you aspire to become by the quality of every single choice you make and every other decision you take. Yes, it is that simple, except that you have decided to busy yourself with gossips about a system that cares little or nothing about you.

For instance, what do Nigerian youths do with the many months of strike whenever the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) want them out of school? I bet you that many youths will spend their time making jokes of it on social media, while many others will spend it doing one stupid thing or the other. And if one continued this way, why complain about ending up on the downside of things? I understand that the status quo has put many in critical positions, but there is absolutely no need to enjoy such an experience. Get involved!

Introducing the craziest human being in the universe

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Elon Musk is 45-years-old. He is Canadian-American, though South African-born. Most importantly, he is the craziest human being in the universe.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

When Apple, Inc. ran the above advert campaign, they really didn’t know they were doing a welcome song for the Iron Man, Musk. No doubt, Apple’s foreman, Steve Jobs, stood for crazy for his goal to put a dent on the universe, but Musk is crazier. To say the least, every bit of Musk’s thinking has a touch of crazy to it. In fact, to be Musk is to be crazy. He was crazy enough to think out and accomplish the following:

The PayPal experience

Musk thought that they should be a better way of conducting online transactions, an e-Wallet so to speak, an online payment gateway. He then kick-started a company that would see to it’s realization. He went on to merge with another company already on a similar project. That was the birth of PayPal. And eBay would show up to buy PayPal at a whooping $1.5billion, from which Musk’s take-home was $180,000,000.

What Musk did next will shock you. He reinvested every dime of that huge cash into founding three childhood dream-companies: SpaceX ($100,000,000, Tesla ($70,000,000, and SolarCity ($10,000,000).

The SpaceX experience

Musk was a kid when the US landed the Eagle on the moon using the help of the likes of Neil Armstrong. And then he grew up dreaming of building his own rockets. Today, this is how the narrative goes: “Only four people have succeeded in sending rockets to and fro space: US, Russia, China, and Elon Musk.” Notice that while three names on that list are not just countries but superpowers, the fourth name is the 45-year-old Musk. Mind you, Musk didn’t launch his rockets on a golden-launch pad; it was a frustrating experience for him, as the first three rockets he fired up failed in succession. He didn’t give up one bit. He said he’d have to be dead or totally incapacitated to give up.

He even has a grander ambition. Musk thinks earth is not enough for the humankind; he wants us to occupy more than one planet, and he’s doing all he can to make that happen. He has already succeeded in alarmingly cutting the cost of moving stuff to space. And Musk is so passionate about what he does that his eyes were welled up with tears when an interviewer for “60 Minutes” raised questions bothering on the testimonies in Congress of his childhood heroes (the guys that landed the moon when Musk was a kid) against his space concerns.

The Tesla Experience

Tesla cars run on electricity. You can already imagine that! And Musk is already promising to come along with more disruptive car technologies.

The SolarCity experience

This guy thinks that the only way forward for our energy experience is solar. And the SolarCity business is seeing to that in an entirely different and crazy way.

Finally, I’m convinced that Elon Reeve Musk is the craziest human being right now. Or, do you know of a crazier person?

Before you blame only Whites for the Transatlantic Slave Trade, let me share with you what I saw in Calabar’s Slave History Museum

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My tour of Calabar was awesome. The sites visited were scenic; ranging from the sea-side stunning Marina Resort to the mind-blowing Tinapa Business Resort. The guys I hung out with were terrific, including Pavlo, Nadico, Smith, The Prince, and Lawless (their nicknames). The weather was clement, and the transport company, ABC Transport, did great. To say the least, it was a worthwhile experience and I’m far better off for it.

Yes, there was enough eating and plentiful drinking, much laughter and lots of love, but there was more. It got to a point where the one thing I needed to do was the only thing I failed to do. I needed to cry, but I didn’t. At that point, the close to real life reproduction of the slavery experience called for some tears; the inhumanity was great, and the cruelty excessive. Somehow, I just couldn’t afford as much as a drop of tears, but I felt all the pity such an experience could provoke. Quite an experience, I must confess.

Imagine slave traders raiding an entire village, capturing men, women, and children; razing down houses, killing those resisting capture, and abandoning the aged and incapacitated. Imagine shackling the people up in fetters of iron at the neck, hands and legs. Imagine going without food, nor with water, for days on end during the journey from the hinterlands where captures are made to the sea-side where they are ‘cargoed up’ for Europe and the Americas. Imagine having to be boxed up in ships like sardines in cans, and imagine having to maintain this ‘boxed up’ position for as long as the journey lasted, say 3 – 6 months. Imagine being thrown overboard to lighten the ship in the event of a tempest. Imagine being gagged in the mouth as a sugarcane slave worker (to keep one from helping oneself). The punitive measures were darn crazy; a slave could be beaten to death to serve as deterrent to others. In fact, there are too many imaginings to imagine, and they all sum up to one word: ‘crazy.’ And we’re privileged to exist in the post-slavery era.

However, the above scenario is half the truth. There is always the other side to every story. Yes, every ‘single story’ is dangerous, especially because of its power to create stereotypes. And Chimamanda Adichie would insist that the problem with stereotypes isn’t that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. The point being made here is that we’ve always construed the slavery story from a singular perspective, which always ends in castigating only the White culprits in the slavery deal. Of course, the whites are to blame for conceiving of such inhumanities, but there is more.

In Calabar’s Slave History Museum I visited, I saw that there were more hands in the slave deal than most of us could see or were told. With real relics of the slavery age, our tour guide, Peter, explained that local chiefs exchanged as many as 10 slaves for a gun; they exchanged slaves for mirror, and they also exchanged slaves for a bottle of dry gin. They equally exchanged slaves for gunpowder. Who were those in charge of capturing slaves? The very same local people recruited for that purpose, and rewarded with all what not. The local people always had a hand in slavery; the White slavers only provided the opportunity.

My point: share the guilt; balance the story. Yes, it was a partnership in crime. The Transatlantic Slavery experience is rightly called a trade. If so, and it is so, while the Whites demanded, some of the natives supplied. And the supplier is as good a businessman as the demander.

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Sammie’s story exposes the thin line between ‘cockiness’ and ‘confidence’. I bet you’d love this story – and the lesson.

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Me ———- Sammie

The highpoint of my April 2016 tour of Lagos, Nigeria, was a 2-hour hangout with the incredible Samuel Okonkwo somewhere in Victoria Island. I already reported the details of that hangout on this platform some time ago; I simply tagged that day the first day of the rest of my life, an experience like no other. Ralph and Paschal were there, too, and they felt no different. However, I did save the last dance for now, and I’m pretty sure you’d like it.

I didn’t get to talk about ‘Recruitment Day,’ the longest day of Sammie’s life. On that single day, everything required of an employee of one of the most elite corporate organizations in the world was tested in a series of activities, and to even say that the exercise was very closely monitored is to say it lightly. It was indeed closely monitored, since the firm only had an eye for the very best two of the forty-something-thousand ‘qualified’ applicants. The long and short of it is that Sammie made that number – top two.

However, there is more. Sammie didn’t get up there just like that; no, he did scale a number of hurdles. The most imposing of these hurdles was a straightforward question fired at him by one of the recruiters, and the extent to which he let that question get into him gets to decide his fate. Yes, the question was so imposing that it could bury one’s spirit 12ft below sea-level. My own spirit even fainted when he reproduced the question. “What makes you think you stand a chance?” Let me quickly advice you don’t dare underestimate that question, because it is indeed as powerful as I’d earlier painted it. That question leaned against the backdrop that Sammie was the least ‘paperly’ qualified of the last six standing.

Let me throw some more light. Sammie’s other five contenders stood out for their exceptional brilliance and intimidating résumé. To further clarify this, all five had a master’s degree matching the job description. In addition, four of the five entirely studied in A-rated UK universities with even two or so finishing top of their respective classes. The one that didn’t entirely study abroad had bagged his first degree from one of Nigeria’s very finest private universities, and had gone on to bag a master’s degree in a UK university. And what had Sammie himself got? He had just a first degree from a Nigerian public university in an entirely unrelated course of study. He didn’t even finish first class or top of his class.

Now you see where the question – What makes you think you stand a chance? – came from. To say the least, the question was a legitimate one; I’d have repeated it at least thrice if I were the recruiter. And, as I suggested earlier, it could bury one’s spirit, which was the biggest hurdle Sammie was up against at that point of ‘Recruitment Day’.

But Sammie isn’t Sammie for nothing. He had come out that day clothed in absolute trust in God and sophisticated confidence in his God-given abilities. Let me quickly add: his nickname has always been Whizkid, long before Wizkid Balogun showed up. Yes, this guy is a wizard of some sort. And his reply to that spirit-burying question is as legendary as it is profound: “I have never been this confident in all my life that I do stand a chance. Your people who let me come this far know why they let me.” This answer would immediately be followed up by a comment from the very recruiter whose question had just been smacked down: “You are threading the thin line between confidence and cockiness.

Now to the point in question: The line between confidence and cockiness is so thin that it takes only a trained mind to discern it, just like it takes only a microscope-aided eye to see a bacterium. After all, what is cockiness if not exaggerated confidence. Yes, cockiness designates one who is overly confident, arrogant, or boastful. The cocky one, like the cock, is the proud one. On the other hand, confidence simply means being very sure of yourself or something

Let’s quickly finish up with our Sammie gist before proceeding. Good to know that this recruiter was good enough to have refrained from tagging Sammie cocky, which would’ve possibly shown him the exit door, but he still found it difficult to see Sammie as just confident. However, Sammie’s answer was purely circumstantial. The Sammie I know wouldn’t have given that answer on a normal day. On a normal day, a smile plus a frank look does the job of communicating his confidence. But on this day everything was at stake, and the only measure good enough for a desperate time is a desperate one. He wasn’t going to let the legitimacy of that question get the better part of him, and he wasn’t about to sell out to a recruiter who gets a paycheck for sending him packing. Sammie knew he had to win, and he did. Watch out for one more gist about Sammie. Soon.

Back to the point in question: Cockiness and confidence. Let me give a clue as to knowing where one stands at any point one doubts where one stands – as to whether one is being confident or cocky. Always employ the humility test. And the answer to this simple question does the job: “How do I feel right now?” The cocky fellow feels on top of the world and, hence, looks down on others. The cocky person feels invincible and all-knowing. The cocky person rides on the wings of the wind in his/her mind. The cocky person loses touch with reality and makes him/herself the very axis of the earth’s rotation; they think everything spins around them.

The confident person is simply sure of whatever he/she is sure of, and can go all the way to demonstrating it. Importantly, and inspired by the humility element, the confident person concedes defeat as soon as he/she is proven wrong; he/she even laughs at him/herself seeing how wrong he/she had been all along.

I define the thin line between confidence and cockiness as sophisticated confidence. And, like Sammie, endeavor to only get that far when everything is at stake. Why? Because at the point of sophisticated confidence, only a trained mind can make out the difference between sophisticated confidence and cockiness (they are identical to the average person), and there are very few trained minds on the planet – just one or two in every town. Yes, only resort to sophisticated confidence when you’ve nothing to lose. Otherwise, you might get to lose so much, since cockiness or pride or arrogance registers as turn off to next to every human being.

4 idols we all worship in ignorance and how to depose them

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Knowledge is power. This saying is so popular that the wise mouth that uttered it is largely unknown. It came from the golden-mouth of Francis Bacon (1561-1626), philosopher and former English Lord Chancellor. To say the least, the theme of knowledge was so central to his philosophical preoccupation that he lived and died trying to expand the frontiers of the human knowledge base. He actually died in the cold of winter while experimenting the phenomenon of freezing.

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However, there is more to Bacon. Essentially, he set out to depose Aristotle from the very coveted intellectual position he has been occupying from the Ancient, through the Medieval to the Modern period. For him, Aristotle’s logic was not just misleading but wrong, and he took it upon himself to set the records straight. He would then come up with his Novum Organum, a replacement for Aristotle’s Organon. Don’t mind those words, organon simply means “instrument for rational thinking.” Novum is Latin for New. So, Bacon came proposing something new and, for him, better. This is definitely not a philosophy class, but the background might do us some good along the line.

Now to the idols. There was already a dominant thinking around town at the time, that the human mind at birth is a tabula rasa, a blank slate, upon which nothing has been written. Bacon disagrees, and goes on to saying that, given the function of the mind, which is to reflect reality or nature, the mind is, instead, a crooked mirror, given it’s inherent distortions. These distortions he called idols, which, so to speak, are images we hold and venerate in our minds, images lacking in substance. And so, they become obstacles to knowledge acquisition, they frustrate the possibility of true knowledge, they hold us to ransom and deny us access to substantial knowledge. Such are the characteristics of the Baconian idols.

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1. Idols of the Tribe (Latin: idola tribus): Why is to err human? To err is human because there is an inherent error in the very configuration of the human person; how much our senses can deceive us; how much we can see what is not there and not see what is there; how well we can hear what was not said and not hear what was said.

You’re a worshipper of this idol if you trust your senses to a fault; if you’re good at insisting you saw or heard something even when everyone else says otherwise.

2. Idols of the Cave (Latin: idola specus): Every human being is a bundle of peculiar tastes and prejudices, borne out of education, exposure to certain literatures (books), experiences, peer influence, etc. The thing here is that the conceptions and doctrines gleaned from these sources are so dear to, and cherished by, the individual that they really don’t bother to go on fact finding; no need to verify.

You worship this idol when you can go all out to insisting that something is true simply because you read it up from a book or was said by so and so. You worship this idol when you base your judgement of what is right or wrong based on what you “feel” is right or wrong.

3. Idols of the Marketplace (Latin : idola fori): Because words are ambiguous, and because language can confuse things up, human communication can distort our understanding of nature. Have you noticed that we even have names for things that don’t exist, such as unicorn and dragon?

Those who are wont to defining things and engaging in unending linguistic analyses are worshippers of this idol. Those who peg specific meanings to utterances without leaving room for the possibility of ambiguity worship this idol.

4. Idols of the Theatre (Latin: idola theatri): This designates various philosophical systems, schools of thought, ideologies, etc., that people embrace to a fault. The problem is that they tend to interpret things from that vantage point without verification or leaving room for other possibilities. The people here are, more or less, set in their thinking.

Many philosophers and religious people worship this idol.

The Way Forward

Knowledge is power, remember?  Having known, it’s high time we deposed them. How do we do this? Simple: commit to mental improvement; improve your mind. It is particularly important that we endeavor to free our minds from these idols before embarking upon any knowledge acquisition endeavor.

We must purge our minds of these idols. With regards idola tribus, always bear in mind the shortcomings of the human senses. With regards idola specus, never forget that our sources of knowledge can be wrong. With regards idola fori, understand the nature of words and language and how they operate. And with regards idola theatri, inasmuch as we’re at liberty to subscribe to any philosophical system or quarters of thought, we should always remember that no one philosophical system is comprehensive.