Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Laws That Made Nations Great

I just came back from a trip out of Nigeria. I travelled to a city that is perhaps the neatest and the safest city I have ever been to. While I had a great time, there were moments when I almost suffered from depression. Why can’t our nation be this great? Why can’t we do things properly? Why can’t we witness a semblance of this type of development? I asked myself so many questions. As I pondered on this, I remembered a paper delivered passionately by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo (who was then the Attorney General of Lagos State) on the laws that made nations like America, Britain and China great. Just like then, I sincerely wish that I could force them to listen to his thoughts at the next Federal Executive council meeting in Abuja. I wish I had the power to force every State house of Assembly not to seat until they have listened to his teaching 3 times over! He was so spot on. Most importantly, I remember thinking to myself “All future leaders of our dear country need to start thinking of this now, even before they get into office”. This is what is motivating me to write this, sharing some of his thoughts, and spicing it with what I have learnt and seen about these principles. I know that most of you reading this will one day, not too far from now, be playing key roles in the leadership of this country. Most importantly, these laws and principles will work for individuals as much as it will work for a nation.

Life is governed by laws and principles. When these laws and principles are followed, then you have no choice but to reap the reward of it. When they are not, the same happens – you reap the reward! Principles are no respecter of persons. They are true anywhere, anytime and to anyone wherever you are in the world. Take the principle of gravity for example. Anything that goes up must come down. It doesn’t matter if you are the President of America or just a poor wretch by the road side. If you jump up, you will come down! Except overpowered by a greater law (for example, the law of aerodynamics), the law of gravity hold true for everyone, everywhere. You can pray more than praying mantis. You can speak multiples tongues, but all these are subject to principles that govern life. Most of us are not progressing as individuals, and our nation is backward compared to others, because we have little or no respect for life’s principles! An average Nigerian will rather pray than obey simple principles. Permit me to share with you some of these simple, yet profound principles that will certainly catapult us, as individuals, and as a nation, from where we are now to where we have always wanted to be.

The Principle of Hardwork – Rewarding Excellence And Merit And Not Quotas
I've always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got. Alan Bond
Many people think that hardwork is a curse. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Hardwork is the only substitute to a hard life. Either your work hard or you live hard. The choice is yours. Golden opportunities are nothing to laziness but hardwork makes the commonest chance golden. Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top. Believe me.

The dictionary is the only place in the world where “success” comes before “work” just because of the alphabetical arrangements of things. Work always comes before success, anywhere in the world. Show me a lazy man and I will show you a man who has kissed success goodbye. A wise man puts it in a wonderful way “show me a man who is diligent in his work, I will show you a man who will stand before kings and not before ordinary men”. The diligent and hardworking hand will always bear rule.

As a nation, we breed laziness! Research shows that a Chinese worker is about 6 times more effective that a Nigeria worker! I am sure you will believe that even without any research. You can see it all over the place. Have you been to a government Secretariat lately? Have you tried getting a 1 page letter signed from any ministry? You just wonder what the people there are doing and why it will take 1 week to get a letter signed. I am afraid to say that our nation will not change much until we adopt the pay by the hour culture. This is what happens in the developed nations of the world. They pay according to the hours of work you put in! Here, once you are on the payroll, you get paid for working 8 hours per day even if you don’t show up. It’s a shame.

I took statistics of public holidays in Nigeria in 2007. The ratio of work days to holidays between Jan and April is approximately 8:1. It’s like having a holiday once every 2 weeks! For me, that is an invitation do disaster. It’s a reflection of the state of our economy. Our over-dependence on oil gives us liberty to declare public holidays at will. Whether people are at work or not, the oil wells are producing!
“I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle-victorious”  Vince Lombardi
To worsen matters, excellence is not rewarded. We will rather reward people according to quota system instead of merit. In a football team, we MUST have representations from all geopolitical zones of the country, whether they merit it or not. I am tempted to mention names but i won't. Lol! We must obey federal character. Have you seen the list of those that were honoured with national awards of late? You will cry – governors disgraced out of office, politicians with integrity issues, and people who have spent a very long time in service (their contribution is immaterial). Until we start rewarding excellence and merit as a nation, we are not yet ready to become great! It is that simple.

The Principle of Frugality

Frugality is the practice of minimizing waste. It can be related to the idea of being conservative or conserving resources. It is getting more done with less.
“Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything”. Benjamin Franklin
One of the greatest problems we have in our nation today is that people live beyond their means; they spend more than they earn! I have worked for a multinational for the past 13 years. Despite the fact that I feel that the company pays fairly and competitively, I am always amazed whenever the month is drawing to a close. People are constantly checking their emails for payment notifications. Most are waiting anxiously for their salaries. They’ve even finished spending it before the earn it! Most times, it is even spent on frivolities, liabilities and things that are just status symbols. This is a major evil. No one becomes great without learning to spend less than he earns!

The same is true for our nation and continent. Do you know that Africa has 40% of the world’s natural resources, despite the fact that it has only 10% of the world’s population? Amazing! We need to ask how these resources are being managed. What happened to the gold mines of South Africa? How are the rich oil wells in Niger Delta managed? Aren’t we a prodigal nation? Any wonder why we export crude and import it back as petroleum products?

According to a recent report in a national weekly newspaper, the country currently spends about $1.7 million (N200 million) to maintain a senator, while about N150 million is spent on each member of the House of Representatives annually. For instance, a former Senate president had 32 cars in his official quarters! When a state governor is travelling within the country he moves with a large convoy of vehicles — mostly bullet-proof cars — and a large retinue of officials who are usually quartered in the best hotels in town at the expense of taxpayers. According to the report, a former governor had three different houses on one street in an expensive suburb of London, whereas John Major, former British prime minister, left No 10 Downing Street, his official residence as prime minister, and went to rent a flat somewhere in the same neighborhood.
Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality” .John Tyler
What % of your income are you saving? From my experience in the school of success, you are not yet ready for greatness, until you are able to save/invest about 20% of your income on a consistent basis. This is what great individuals and great nations do. Despite having a net worth of $62 billion and being the world’s richest man, famously frugal investor Warren Buffett still lives in the same home he bought for nearly $31,500 some 50 years ago! I am not sure you can say anything close of any Nigerian!


Let me pause here for now. I will share a few more principles in the next post. Till then, think about this - how will I contribute to the greatness of Nigeria?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Take Responsibility Or Write Two Letters

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of having dinner with my boss at his house. We talked about several things over dinner, including personal and work related issues. While I took many things away from this session, a fable he shared with me stood out and is still fresh in my mind till date.

A certain politician had just ran out favour with his people who were all clamouring for a change – for a new person in charge and all that. The old politician gracefully allowed them to pick a new kid on the block, who they felt could solve their problems. During his handover to this new guy, the old politician gave him 2 letters, instructing him to open them only when there was an uproar among the people, and he didn't have any idea how to fix. Each of the letters would guide him on what to do, at different times of crisis. 

This new guy got into power and things started to work. The people loved and respected him. After the 1st 18 months, he ran into the first crisis. The same people that wanted him in now wanted him out! He tried all he knew to do but got no solution. He then remembered the 2 letters written by his predecessor. Off he ran to where he had kept them and brought out the 1st of the 2 letters. He opened it nervously, eager to know what was written in it. “Blame it all on me”, the 1st letter read. He was excited to get this hint. He then addressed the people and blamed all the current problems on his predecessor. He told the people how his predecessor “messed” up everything and how he had great plans to fix them. Interestingly enough, this seemed to pacify the people, and they let him be for a while. The 1st letter seemed to do the magic. He was very grateful. 

Sooner than later though, he ran into a new set of crisis, and there was another uproar. The people were vehemently calling for his removal. He remembered the magic that the 1st letter did, and decided to seek help with the 2nd letter. He went to his safe and brought out the 2nd letter, hoping that the instructions therein would help him again. The 2nd letter read “Now, write your own 2 letters”.

The fable's morale is quite simple – you can only blame others for so long. If you do not take personal responsibility for your life and your future, failure is guaranteed. Responsibility is the price you have to pay for greatness. A man will undoubtedly be on his way to the top when he learns to take responsibility for his actions, or his inactions.

 In my opinion, Africa is behind all other continents because we have not taken responsibility for our lives and our future. Haven’t you been around a man who continually blames his uncle for not getting a job? I once heard a 34 year old man complained bitterly about how wicked his uncle has been. Can you guess what his crime was? He didn’t pay for his wedding!Everything is someone else’s fault. Every problem is explained away with reasons about why they can’t affect the situation or the outcome.

You are totally responsible for your life. This is the foundational principle you must embrace if you plan for happiness and success in life and work. People who take complete responsibility for their lives experience joy and control of circumstances. They are better able to make choices because they understand that they are responsible for their choices. Indeed, even when events that are not under your control go awry, you can at least determine how you will react to the event. You can make an event a disaster or you can use it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to cherish your faith, to hold loved ones close.

The most important aspect of taking responsibility for your life is to acknowledge that your life is your responsibility. No one can live your life for you. No matter how hard you try to blame others for the events of your life, each event is the result of choices you made and are making. Listen to the little voice in your head. And, observe yourself talking with coworkers, family members, and friends. Do you hear yourself taking responsibility or placing blame?

The “it’s not my fault” cry is heard everywhere. It perhaps originates in childhood when siblings get into a squabble and each proclaims, “It’s not my fault!” When we see an altercation on an athletic field, the athletes generally point the finger of blame at someone else. We see it in the court of law. The Menendez brothers explained that because their parents treated them brutally, the “had” to kill them. Thieves say, “It’s not my fault- I couldn’t get a job.” The list is endless.

The truth is that there will always be something or someone to blame if you look hard enough. Always. The first man that God made, Adam saw something to blame for his mistakes. He passed the buck to his wife, Eve. And guess what? Eve passed it down to the serpent. I am sure if the serpent had a choice, the blame would have been passed to someone or something else. Too bad there was nowhere else to pass it.

My challenge to you today is this – take responsibility for your life. It's the price you have to pay for greatness. 

I will give the same advice to the ruling party in Nigeria now (APC). Take responsibility for the nation, or get ready to write your own letters too.

Have a splendid weekend folks.