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7 Mistakes Our Generation Must Avoid If We Do Not Want To Screw Up Nigeria Again – Okechukwu Ofili

The generator generation. We know who we are, we were birth with the sounds of generators vibrating consistently through our ears. We have smelled the pungent stench of diesel and felt the noxiousness of carbon monoxide as we run to switch off the generator under the loud chants of “NEPA has brought light.”

For most of us the generator only came alive at night so that family members did not drown in their own sweat or because diesel had finished or in the famous words of my mother “the generator has to rest.”

The generator generation…our lives have been defined by the generator, it has shaped our culture, our landscape, our architecture, our everything, you can’t build anything today without asking, “where is the generator house going to be?” Some generator houses are even bigger than people’s houses…

The generator generation, we know who we are, we have been sick and tired of the loud vibrations for a long time. But sadly, it is our gift from a generation before us. A generation that failed us, one that gave us not hope but bigger and bigger generators.

But my question now is what does the generator generation do for the generations behind us? We have been inundated with stories of Nigeria’s prosperity in the past. But we have never seen it… the only thing we have seen is the steady and consistent decline of our nation. Sadly, we were too young to do anything about it. But now the baton is changing hands (at least we hope it is), we are the ones that are coming up next, some of us are already company managers, successful entrepreneurs, up and coming politicians, in various positions to make a difference…But the question is would we make a difference or repeat the same old mistakes? I pray not. But just in case, just in case we forget about the mistakes that generated the generator generation…here is a little reminder simply called…7 Mistakes Our Generation Must Avoid If We Don’t Want To Screw Up Nigeria Again!

Deadly Mistake #1: BELIEVING IN VISIONS First we were told it would be vision 2000, the millennium vision. This was when Nigerian would reach its greatness…then that got postponed to 2010 and now we have the optometrically cute vision 2020! Our generation has to realize the urgency of the situation. People are not looking for vision 2020…they are looking for vision now-now. What can we get done now…immediately…not in 10 years time or 5 years time or whenever another cute year comes along. The visions have to stop in our time. There is just too much to be done for people to be talking about visions or the future. We have to talk about what we can do now and then how it influences the future. Not the reverse, because the reverse has made us lazy.

So when we talk about fixing things like NEPA it should be with a sense of urgency, when we talk about fixing roads it should be with urgency. People want to know see what you can do now and not what you can do in the future…

Deadly Mistake #2: BELIEVING THAT PRAYER IS THE KEY I know I am going to get in trouble with this one, but prayer is not the key. I mean if the amount of times a nation prays was directly proportional to its success and prosperity, then Nigeria will be #1 in africa the world. But sadly we are not, because prayer is not the key, it is actually an excuse that conditions us to wait around for someone else to solve our problems. It has made us lazy as a nation. American probably has fewer churches per square meter that Nigeria, but yet is more progressive than us. And it is simply because they pray but with action. I don’t believe God’s vision when he said pray without ceasing was for people to pray 23 hours a day and then spend 1 hour waiting around for a miracle to happen. It does not work that way…it reminds me of an excerpt from the classic Things Fall Apart, when Okonkwo’s father went to complain to the priestess Agbala about his poor harvest:

“Every year,” he said sadly, “before I put any crop in the earth, I sacrifice a cock to Ani, the owner of all land. It is the law of our fathers. I also kill a cock at the shrine of Ifejioku, the god of yams. I clear the bush and set fire to it when it is dry. I sow the yams when the first rain has fallen, and stake them when the young tendrils appear. I weed-”

“Hold your peace!” screamed the priestess, her voice terrible as it echoed through the dark void. “You have offended neither the gods nor your fathers. And when a man is at peace with his gods and his ancestors, his harvest will be good or bad according to the strength of his arm…Go home and work like a man.”

If God could talk to Nigerians today, he would probably say the same thing as the priestess and that is for us to go home, go to our communities, go to school and work! Not sleep in church all day wondering why things are not getting better. Because the fact is that God has heard Nigeria’s prayers, we don’t need to repeat it 7 times or sleep in the church. What we need to do is get out and make a difference in our community. Because prayer is not the key…prayer with LOTS (intentionally capitalized) of action is the key!

Deadly Mistake #3: ASSUMING PATRIOTISM IS GUARANTEEDBecause a person is born in Nigeria, has a green passport and bears Chukwu or Olu or Mohammed in his name….does not automatically mean he owes his country anything. A country has to earn its citizens respect and patriotism. I repeat that…a country has to earn its citizens respect and patriotism.

It does not earn its citizens respect, by frustrating them with needless bureaucracy, by pilfering tax payers money, by setting up road blocks upon road blocks for them. No! it does so by doing the reverse, by showing its citizens it cares for them, about their image and about their well-being. By fighting for them when they are persecuted in other countries, but most importantly when they are persecuted in their own country!

Do not make this deadly mistake to assume patriotism should be given simply because one was born in a certain country. People are not patriotic to America simply because they were born in America, but rather because of what America has done for them.

Sadly, this is something that Nigeria has not gotten right, just take a look at our NYSC program! We have a national service program being mandated by a government that is not in the position to mandate it. When you provide mandatory free health care for your citizens, free Education for your citizens, Scholarship and interest free loans for your citizens, then you can mandate their service. But we don’t do any of the above and worst still we mandate their service rather arrogantly. One day in an NYSC office and you will understand what I mean by arrogantly, you will see how the officials talk down to students as if they are mosquitos that need to be swatted away…all you need is one day, or even one hour.

When a student comes to you to serve your nation, you should ensure that you treat that person with respect. You do so by extending proper customer service to them. But NYSC does the reverse. The customer service is terrible. Little wonder, why majority of NYSCers are relishing the moment that the program is over, because it has shown them in the 1 year or so they served…that they are serving a country that does not care about them. And they carry that feeling of resent with them after the service.

Our generation has to change this…we need to look to earn our citizens patriotism and respect. Our citizens are immigrating out of Nigeria in large volumes. Not because they don’t love their country but rather because they don’t feel the country is looking out for them. We have to create a country where  Nigerians have a reason multiple reasons to be patriotic.

Deadly Mistake #4: MISCONSTRUING PAPER INTELLIGENCE FOR PRACTICAL INTELLIGENCE How many degrees we have, the number of distinctions we got in school or how young we were when we graduated is absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. What matters instead is how we are able to transform our intelligence and our degrees into practical solutions for our nation. I mean we all know that Nigerians are the smartest people in Africa and the World sef, we have broken all the global university records that are there to break from youngest graduate to valedictorian and more. But yet, the degrees do not correlate to any form of improvement in our nation.

I think it is because we are focused on the wrong intelligence, the paper intelligence. What we need is to get off our addiction to paper intelligence and instead focus on real tangible intelligence. When William Kamkwamba designed a wind mill in his village in Malawi he did it without a high-school diploma but yet his impact was much more than thousands with PhD’s. Not to say that we don’t have Nigerians making that type of difference, but with our degrees and potential we should be doing way more. But I really don’t blame the students, our Universities do not help either. I’ll explain with one of many examples…

We all know that mobile devices are the future, more people are using mobile devices more than any time in the world. They are using it to access the internet, read books and even make mobile transactions. All of these are powered by Mobile apps, which are becoming the future. You would think that our universities would have made mobile app programming a core part of our national curriculum, but they haven’t and some Universities for example Covenant University even take it a step further and ban mobile devices on campus! So at the end of the day we have a first class upper computer engineer, with all the honors in the world draped around his poor neck, but yet he is not able to design a simple mobile app, that a 13 year old, high-school kid in Ukraine can design! That is sad….we need to avoid making this deadly mistake of paper intelligence and focus on practical intelligence that can help our nation!

Deadly Mistake #5: OVER RESPECTING ELDERS Nigeria is an egotistic country….if you don’t believe me, then just open your local newspaper on the birthday of a famous politician. You will see that all your pages would be filled with praises from adoring sycophants. I have never seen anything like that, from the gateman opening your gate to the security guard guarding your house…everyone wants to be addressed as “Oga”or “Chief Something.” After some time it becomes quite comical. But, beyond the comedy is a very dangerous aspect. When a nation over respects its elders to the point that when they (the elders) are messing up, nobody below them can speak up…it leads to idea regression. So we end up accumulating a glut of inept older people, with smarter younger (might I mention respectful people around them), that are too afraid to speak up because of the thing we call respect. This over-respect is killing us.

If we are to avoid this mistake in our time, we would have to swallow a truck load of humility and accept criticism and ideas from anyone no matter who they are or how young they are. The phrase “do you know who I am” would have to disappear from our vocabulary, because to be honest nobody should care who you are, but rather what you can do to make their lives better…

PS: If I had my way, a bunch of the civil servants and university professors would be fired, not just because they are old, but because they have blocked their minds from receiving criticisms from subordinates and from getting new ideas. This is why our politics is run by older people repeating the same mistakes, because there is no fresh influx of ideas. Let us get rid of this shenanigans called respect! Nigeria is more important than a persons ego!

Deadly Mistake #6: FOCUSING ON INDIVIDUAL WEALTH Banana Island and Parkview estate are one of the richest pieces of real estate in West Africa. But yet when it rains…both Banana Island and Parkview estate turn into rivers! These estates with their collection of multi-millionaires (in dollars not naira) living in the fanciest houses have not been able to bring their individual wealth together to address their estates flooding problem. This is the irony of Nigeria! And it stems from the misunderstanding that individual wealth in the midst of communal poverty is somehow still wealth. Sadly it is not…it is poverty and mass stupidity.

But people fail to realize that and are instead interested in filling their pockets and leaving nothing for their communities. So they buy the flashiest cars, but neglect to fix the roads they will drive it on…build the largest houses in their villages so that people can gawk and adore them, but yet the community is in shambles. Some even go aboard to spend this individual wealth…and that is where it gets ironic.

I attended the University of Houston (main campus), which was located smack dab in the middle of 3rd ward. Now 3rd ward is not the greatest neighborhood out there…it is technically considered a ghetto in Houston. But the irony is that the roads in 3rd ward are as good as the roads on the famed bourdillon boulevard. As a community 3rd ward is way richer than Bourdillon and that is a lesson. Because as rich as Nigeria claims to be, we are simply living on individualistic wealth. Until the community, the village, the facilities the roads start reflecting that wealth we would be poor. So we need to ensure the focus is not on individual wealth but rather on the wealth of our community. Only then would we acquire true national wealth.

Deadly Mistake #7: CONTRACT IS NOT A LOTTERY When I was growing up I used to think that contract was cash given to Nigerian citizens lucky enough to get it…but who could blame me for my stupidity, the average Nigerian that I meet was always talking about the greatest and latest contract that was available and how one uncle or sister had hit the contract jack pot. So it is no surprise that when I attend speeches of successful Nigerian businessmen and women. The average Nigerian businessman vagues you out about the origins of of his wealth. He or she does not give you details or specifics about their wealth. Because if they did, it would sound like this..

“I got a contract, I chopped the money and I started my own business and I became rich. The End.”

That is why we rarely have well-written Steve Jobs like biographies of our wealthy, there is just not enough honest detail to create those sorts of books. Our generation needs to change that…our stories should be like the Linda Ikeji’s (lindaikeji.blogspot.com) and Jason Njoku’s (iroko.tv) of Nigeria…stories that are transparent and reflect hard work and determination. But more importantly stories that contain the details: how, when, where and what!

But before I get carried away with the story aspect of contract, let our generation not forget that contracts are created to be executed. The execution of contracts is what builds a generation’s legacy.

Imagine if the individuals contracted to build the Taj Mahal in India or the 7-star Palm Hotel in Dubai (the Burj Al Arab) pilfered the funds and created a substandard version of both properties or nothing at all…imagine what would happen? Let me tell you what would happen, they would probably become very rich, probably build a huge house somewhere, but that home they build will never be as magnificent as the Taj Mahal and it would not create a legacy and it will not make a country better or add to its economy.

This has been the issue with Nigeria for years, contracts that are meant to make the nation greater are instead pilfered to make an individual richer. If our generation is to make a difference, we would have to execute contracts, honestly and diligently. We would also have to execute grand contracts not so that we can steal more money, but so that we can make our country more greater[sic]…by so doing our legacy will survive for years.

Bonus Deadly Mistake: Asking What Village Are You From: Whenever I introduce my friends to my mum, male or female and especially female. She asks me this question “where are they from?” I normally stare with a blank look, not because I don’t have an idea what the answer but because my mum wants to know the exact village they are from. Growing up, I never thought about anything like that, to me everybody that was black was Nigerian. But as I grew older I started learning that there were “ndi Yoruba,” “omo igbo” and “awon hausa dem.” And even within each of the major three divisions, there were subsets…the subsets and divisions where meaningless to me, but as I began growing up and experiencing the real world I started noticing them in companies, in ministries and everywhere. People making decisions based on ethnicity…decisions to hire and decisions to get married. The truth of the matter, is that we would need to see ourselves firstly as Nigerians before any other ethnic group break down we have fabricated. Until we do this, Nigeria, will just be a fragmentized shell of its true self….and yes this applies to the whole North-South power rotation BS going on…that has to go!

CONCLUSION: LEAVE IT BETTER THAN YOU SAW IT

All in all, if we are to make a difference, we would have to stop over praying, stop over respecting, stop focusing on good grades, stop focusing on being individually wealthy and stop fighting for contracts. We would simply in summation have to strive to do things differently by doing them better. Which brings me to my final point: Let’s leave things better than we met it.

That is the basic motto our generation needs to adhere to…Like seriously, leave things better…no matter how small. When you go to a toilet and you see it dirty, wipe it down and leave it better than you saw it. If you go to work and it is disorganized, seek for ways to improve it.

That simple statement is the key to growth, not just for us to push ourselves, but for us to push others around us to leave things better than we met it! When we instill this philosophy of making things better, we will progress. At the end of the day, when our generation retires (and we would) Nigeria can say it was truly better…that is our hope…that is our goal because it’s time to turn off the generators!

Ofili is an award winning Generator Importer motivational speaker, author, success coach and Generator Distributorentrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitter , facebook or subscribe to his blog for more success TIPS!” To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here.

He has written two books, How Laziness Saved My Life and the best-selling How Stupidity Saved My Life, to find out how they both saved his life visit ofilispeaks.com his latest book is titled How Intelligence Kills Us and will be coming out in the first quarter of 2013 (he hopes). To read his latest book on your blackberry text “laziness” or “stupidity” to 33110 (only works for MTN).

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