“WHY NOT?”

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< as my friend goes back to school >

One of the things you’d notice on stepping into my room is that the wardrobe is dotted with sticky notes. Quite a number of them. None of them is about motivational quotes. Some of them are about top priority deliverables. And the ones closest to my heart are those on which are written ambitious statements picked up from books and movies or shared with me by friends.

A new sticky note that simply reads “Why Not?” went up there yesterday. Funnily, it was written out and stuck up there while on a call with a priest-friend in a faraway continent. I’d told him I needed to stick those words to my wardrobe lest I forget to do so afterwards. And for about 24hrs that it’s lasted there, you can’t imagine how much time I’ve spent gazing at it, making it my own.

Where did Father get that, and why am I taking it this personally? The name “Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum” rings a bell? The Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, and author of the mindblowing “My Vision,” and the brain behind the Dubai reinvention.

So, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum credits all his sterling accomplishments and unusual discoveries, including the Dubai miracle, to having always asked himself one question: “Why not?” A question that has helped him defy odds, blaze trails, and rebuild his country for global relevance. When Father came across the man and his ideals, he copied him for himself and is well on his way to reinventing his priesthood. While we decry 5G, he wants to run his ministry on it. And he’s back to school to learn how to do that himself.

So, I ask you: Why not?

Only those who dare to ask why not get to learn that nothing is impossible.

Your No.1 fan,
Cornel

4 LESSONS FROM DAVID AND GOLIATH

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Like many out there, and you may be on that table, having to be born into poverty turned out my biggest motivation. You really don’t need to be told how evil poverty is; that goddamn thing beats you into sheets, so finely that you struggle to recognize yourself. And there’s no better time to see what poverty can do as now; while the rich can afford to stay home and watch the world burn for as long as it gets to, the poor suffer want and stay hungry as long as it lasts. And sadly ever after.

Once I’d shared that Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” saved my life, but didn’t get to say why. Here’s why: In that Bible story, and Gladwell’s powerful commentary on it, even the poorest of the poor would come to realize that everyone stands a chance at finishing strong in life. More on Gladwell some other time.

This piece is about the four (4) lessons I picked from the original story of David and Goliath, as recorded in 1 Samuel 17, lessons that preachers often overlook – and Gladwell didn’t cover in his book. These lessons promise to help us make the most of the changing times:

1. Be clear what’s in it for you: When David arrived the camp and found that everything was at stake, that even the king and his warlords were at their wits’ end, he wasn’t so carried away by his desire (and ability) to save the day that he failed to do the needful: be clear about what he stood to gain from cutting down Goliath. More than once he’d ask, and twice was told the bounty on Goliath’s head: a. the king’s daughter, b. great wealth, c. family exemption from taxes. Always be clear about what you stand to gain. If you ain’t sure, kindly don’t hesitate to ask.

2. Beware of the envy of family (and friends): Sadly, it was his very own brother, blood, that first called him out. Recall that in the chapter immediately preceding this episode, 16, this same Eliab was thought by Samuel to be the Lord’s anointed – and God rejected him. And there he was talking down and abusing his youngest brother, David, trying to dissuade him from such a destiny-altering move. Need I say more? Beware of family and friends; more enemies are known to come from those quarters than elsewhere.

3. Saul wears David his amour: Can you imagine that? After David refuses to be dissuaded from the move, and now realizing that the ‘only’ available option has to be given a try, Saul, the king, takes off his clothes and wears them on David. Wow! Fact, when you bring value to the table, even the high and mighty gets to make space for you; they give you whatever you need in return.

4. Don’t dress in borrowed robes: However regal Saul’s amour was, David just couldn’t fit in; he wasn’t used to that sort of stuff. He takes them off and goes back to normal: shepherd dress, staff, and sling. And filing out against Goliath from his comfort zone saw him winning fair and square. So much talk about leaving your comfort zone; you need wisdom to know when to operate from there.

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This is beautiful writing isn’t it? My brand is sophisticated simplicity; the goal is no dictionary. You like me to show you how I do the magic? Then sign up for my upcoming training here: bit.ly/writingexpo2ad

Your No. fan,
Cornel

DON’T LET “GOD” SCREW YOU

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There is no iota of doubt that religion, as we know it, is a problem to humankind. History is replete with countless inhumanities perpetrated in the name of God. And the tug of war between Islam and Christianity for many centuries now (even among the thousands of Christian denominations) leaves much to be desired. Which, of course, informs why there’s ongoing crusade to relegate religion to the background – and even to eliminate it altogether. China is a case in point.

Why is it that the typical Christian, for instance, no matter how intellectually sophisticated, just looses and loses his or her mind in the face of any claim that includes ‘God’? Why is it that this piece is probably already making you uncomfortable, leaving you wishing that I don’t ride it south, of which you already have a readymade comment, like “Cornel, be careful what you write about God,” or outrightly sentence me to hell? Why is it that when the man or woman of God says “God told me” or “The Bible says” we suddenly become so docile that we score F in Reason 101. After the word Allah, Quran, or the Prophet, the next thing you say or do gets to decide what a Muslim will do to you – and all options are usually on the table.

I am a Christian myself and I take God really seriously. But I’m crazy enough to know that most things that happen in church have little, or even nothing to do with God. Some of the things happening there are simply strategies to grow the church business itself, to cover overhead cost. Some of the things happening there serve the whims and caprices of the man or woman of God, to climb them up Maslow’s pyramid. And you should know when it’s no longer your own business, at what point you should feel free to walk.

Frankly, and I’m not kidding you, some of the things being fired at you from the pulpit, some of which get to be coded as doctrines, are nothing but expressions of the man or woman of God’s limited knowledge on a subject-matter or an outright brandishing of his or her ignorance. Here, “God,” “Allah” “Bible,” “Quran,” “the Prophet” become mere words used to arm the bomb of ignorance being fired at you.

Anyway, let me stop here.

Free advice: You see that thing between your ears, the grey matter we’ve come to call brains… Remember that you didn’t put it there yourself. I think the guy who put it there wants you to use it. I mean, whatever doesn’t make basic sense may not be sensible after all. Canal minds don’t understand the things of the spirit, right? If not your head, then just make sure your spirit bears witness to what is been fed you in the spirit.

One last word: Don’t let anyone use the word “God” to screw you.

Your No.1 fan,
Cornel

WHO IS YOUR GUARANTOR?

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< yet another thanks to ONOYIMA >

As provincial president, I didn’t quite think of myself as “President of Presidents” until Amechi Martha started calling me by that title – even went on to popularize it. That was what I was at the time, the President of the presidents and secretaries of the 44 chapters comprising my privince, Onitsha. As it were, the Provincial Executive Council, PEC, was made up of my crew and I (the Provincial Executive Committee), and then the presidents and secretaries of all those chapters.

One of the items on our meetings’ agenda, usually the penultimate one, is what was called “Account of Stewardship” – a sacred ritual in which we all jointly scrutinized the activities of an out-going administration of any chapter, with the admittance of the succeeding administration to the council premised on the approval of the said account. Of course, I get to call the final shot; I get to send one back to redo the entire thing, secure a chaplain’s signature, clarify stuff, effect important corrections, etc. I could guess, at the time, that rendering an account of stewardship must have felt like being on trial for some of them, as some of the questions that get to be asked were characteristically savage.

Until it was my turn. How it works is that I get to be answerable to a higher council, the National Executive Council, NEC, where the secretary and I were only members. November 13, 2013 was the date, Tansian University the place, and I was standing before the council to report what I’d done with and for my province over a period of 27 months. Naturally, I’d have made mistakes here and there, and then was a good day to be messed up by whomever had scores to settle with me. Being star boy of the house and biggest donor at the time, I was prep for possible surprises.

Guess what? The very first response came from the provincial chaplain of Calabar that year, Fr. Ebong, who had seen nothing on his copy of my report but Onoyima’s signature. Interestingly, he happens to have been Onoyima’s student during his seminary days, and got to spending a great deal of minutes convincing everyone that a report signed by Onoyima must be flawless. He goes on and on to painting a picture of the man as epitome of thoroughness and excellence. And the National Chaplain continued from where Fr. Ebong stopped – in praise of Onoyima. Funnily, I got to spending the entire time receiving encomiums for a job well-done, and having to be asked such exotic questions as how we were able to have done so well with so little resources at our disposal.

The referees on your CV, the guarantors on your forms, who are they? That day, I learned that it can make all the difference.

Your No. fan,
Cornel

PS. Did you notice how I was able to make a big deal out of a pen that ran out? You should sign up for my training to learn some more: bit.ly/writingexpo2ad

THE DAY I KNEW I COULD WRITE WELL

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< I’m grateful to Msgr. ONOYIMA >

Indeed, undergrad was game-changing. It was everything good. There, I’d met some of the most important people in my life today. There, I had the opportunity to try my hands at things that turned out to be of continual significance. There, I met Msgr. Onoyima, and nothing has remained the same ever since.

Back in the days, you didn’t need to be Catholic to know Onoyima; his name was simply all over the place. For Catholics, staff and students alike, the fear of the man was sacramental. The rules at St. Peters were simple but firm, and nobody was exempt. The man simply came at you raw; indecent dressing and various forms of indiscipline gave him the most cause for concern. It mattered little that he was presiding over the Mass; he gets to put things on hold to attend to your case. If just walking past, he stops by to treat your case – on the spot! He was that sort of man: hard.

Being provincial president meant that he was my immediate boss. Yes, I’d spent my penultimate and final years at UNN serving as Onitsha Provincial President of Catholic Students, overseeing, as it were, 44 higher institutions across 7 Catholic dioceses of South-East Nigeria. And the over two years I spent reporting to, and taking instructions from him, were the longest years of my life. With him, you’re never sure of yourself. Confidence before the man is a luxury I don’t think anyone can afford. He just had a heaven-made way of humbling anyone’s pride, as even the Vice Chancellor fears for himself.

After meeting with him, you either went back to your room feeling stupid, crying, or even doing a first draft of your resignation letter. He came at you with everything he’s got, including threats to relieve you of your duties. “Without discussion,” he’d always add. Being a typical Catholic authority, he doesn’t shy from letting you know how much power he has over you. There are a few times you get to make it to his good books, although never forgetting that no name stays long in that book. The man can mysteriously move from all laughter to all frowning and scolding.

And there was the writing part…

Onoyima would never sign anything he hasn’t read through and through. It is not possible. Before he signs your requisition, Onoyima scrutinizes every item on the list. Since it is his signature as provincial chaplain that validates my signature as provincial president, it is safe to say that Onoyima read every official correspondence I composed over a span of two years. He’s sent me back for want of a comma, wouldn’t sign if I missed a word, took the liberty to over-write my sentences with his. And he was never in a hurry when doing those. There was that day when I rewrote a letter thrice, and when I finally came to get his signature, as if he orgasms from correcting people, he still put a comma somewhere before appending his signature.

Then came that fateful day when I was billed to write Archbishop Valerian, to inform him of a certain ugly development. As usual, I’d have to patch my final draft through Onoyima to have him vet and sign – and, as usual, begin our merry-go-round. To the surprise of my life, and I couldn’t believe my ears, he looked me in the eyes and uttered four words I’d never forget: “THIS IS WELL WRITTEN.” How did I feel? I felt like ordering Angel Gabriel to come and shake hands with me, like I was already in heaven.

And after that, I noticed a pattern of him not reading through my correspondences much. Sometimes, as if he wants me to see he already trusted me, he’d immediately hurry off to his signature spot, drop off the signature, pack up my file, and then spend the rest of the time gisting me how his day went.

Perhaps his boy had become his friend – but I don’t think so. He tells us he’s in the business of chiselling leaders. And I guess that was his way of telling me I was now finished product. The man even stopped vetting my requisitions; he just signs everything straight up.

We all need people like Onoyima in our lives. People who chisel us. People who transform us from raw materials into finished products. And I’m proud to have met the man himself. And Writing Expo 2.0 could be your opportunity to buy an Onoyima for yourself. Check it out here: https://bit.ly/writingexpo2ad

Your No.1 fan,
Cornel