Monday, March 28, 2016

An Open Letter to Those Who Have Lost Their Motivation

Dear You,

It’s time for a quick story about life…

Once upon a time there was a woman in her mid sixties who noticed that she had lived her entire life in the same small town. And although she had spent decades enthusiastically dreaming about traveling and seeing the world, she had never taken a single step to make this dream a reality.

Finally, she woke up on the morning of her 65th birthday and decided that now was the time! She sold all of her possessions except for some essential items she needed, packed these items into a backpack, and began her journey out into the world. The first several days on the road were amazing and filled with awe – with every step forward she felt like she was finally living the life she had dreamed.

But a few short weeks later, the days on the road started taking a toll on her. She felt misplaced and she missed the familiar comforts of her old life. As her feet and legs grew more and more sore with each new step, her mood also took a turn for the worse.

Eventually she stopped walking, took off her backpack, slammed it on the ground, and sat down beside it as tears began streaming down her cheeks. She stared hopelessly down a long winding road that once led to an amazing world, but now seemed to lead only to discomfort and unhappiness. “I have nothing! I have nothing left in my life!” she shouted out loud at the top of her lungs.

Coincidentally, a renowned guru and life adviser from a nearby village was resting quietly behind a pine tree adjacent to where the woman was sitting. When the woman began shouting, the guru heard every word and he felt it was his duty to help her. Without thinking twice he jumped out from behind the pine tree, grabbed her backpack, and ran into the forest that lined both sides of the road. Stunned and in complete disbelief, the woman started crying even harder than before, to the point of near breathlessness. “That backpack was all I had,” she cried.” And now it’s gone! Now everything is gone in my life!”

After about ten minutes of much-needed tears, the woman gradually collected her emotions, stood up again and began staggering slowly down the road. Meanwhile the guru cut through the forest and secretly placed the backpack in the middle of the road just a short distance ahead of the woman.

When the woman’s teary eyes fell upon the backpack, she almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing – everything she thought she had just lost was once again right in front of her. She couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. “Oh, thank heavens!” the woman exclaimed. “I am so grateful! Now I definitely have what I need to continue onward…”


As we journey through our personal and professional lives, there will inevitably be periods of incredible frustration and despair. During those tough times, it will sometimes appear to us that we’ve lost everything, and that nothing and nobody could possibly motivate us to move onward in the direction of our dreams. But just like the woman who stumbled across the guru, we are all holding with us a backpack of support that comes in many forms – it can be a simple email or text message from someone we respect, inspiring blog posts, insightful books, helpful neighbors, and so much more.

When we are feeling discouraged and demotivated, our opportunity is twofold:

To recognize and appreciate our backpack of support – our external sources of motivation – before a random guru (or someone with far more crooked intentions) has to steal it from us so that we can finally see what we have always taken for granted.

To be present and tap into our own hearts and minds – our internal sources of motivation – which have the power to push us back up on our feet and guide us down the road to our backpack of support, even when it appears to be lost forever.
No matter your circumstances, you always have what you need to take the next smallest step.

As Epicurus so profoundly said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Be mindful. Be present.

Keep going.

One small step at a time.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

What’s Up Mr. President?

It’s over a year now since this government swept the polls at the Presidential election in what was a watershed in the history of Nigeria politics. It was a victory hinged on the change mantra and fuelled by an electorate that had reached the crescendo of their discontentment with the PDP led government. Today, Jonathan is now history but the familiar hardship is still present in the faces of a vast majority of Nigerians. It is either of three things; things have remained the same, or this change is coming at a snail’s pace or so much wreckage was done by past governments that it will take a while to see any progress. If logic permits, it’s probably all of the factors.

It was a poor start by the Buhari led government that it lingered so much to put a cabinet together. The wait was tortuous and inimical to the growth of the country; however, when the list of eggheads eventually arrived, it was a disappointment for the most part and left a lot to be desired. Few months since the assumption of duties of the ministers, more than a handful of those ministries are still teething in direction. The budget saga has also put into question the credibility and competence of the Presidential team. The shenanigans that greeted the submission and retraction of the budget were a shame in itself. That such a document that will oil the polices of the Buhari led government was flawed on many grounds, was bad enough, but for it to have been submitted without those flaws spotted by the kitchen cabinet and even the President himself was a disaster. President Buhari might have made a statement by wielding the big stick against some of the initiators in the Budget and Planning ministry; yet, it still left a bad taste in the mouth. However, even with what was a reworked budget, the holes remain obvious. Two cases are apt here: The office of the Vice President was allocated more funds for book purchases than all the country’s Polytechnics put together. The malady doesn’t end there. The budget for improving the State House clinic was larger than the total budget for Nigeria’s teaching hospitals.

Perhaps, the biggest criticism against this government to date is the lack of an economic direction and framework. It appears everyone is running its own agenda in silo. From the CBN, to the Finance ministry, Nigerians are at sea as to where the economic goal post is. It beggars believe what the Vice President whose primary responsibility is leading the National Economic Team spends his time doing. One can also say same for the Power and Petroleum sector. Fashola and Kachikwu might well restore those notorious sectors but it is not a good omen as at today. For all the promises thrown at us during the campaign era, this is a magnified disappointment at the moment, and that is finding the euphemistic of words to qualify it.

The Buhari led government has pride itself as a zero tolerant government for corruption. The energy along those lines has been encouraging. The crusade against corruption is being fought against the background of the saintly sold image of the president. His integrity remains his greatest selling point but it is apt to mention that while it is great to galvanize this fight around him, the sustenance and gains of this war against corruption will depend on institutions, policies that thwart leakages and a system that is rock solid to deter exploitation. Judicial and legal reforms are the answer. It is not enough to single out few men and make them the ‘poster boys’ of the corruption war. Having said that, this fight is still yet to spread to all facets of the nation. While Dasuki’s 2.1 billion dollars arms diversion scandal remains the biggest exposed corruption headline till date, there are simply more revelations one expects would have been unearthed by now. In addition, the government can say all it wants on curbing impunity, but President Buhari must watch the excesses of some of his own cabinet members. Ibe Kachikwu is surely one of the shining lights in that recycled cabinet, but even he needs to be watched closely. It will take a lot of unconventional guts to restore sanity to the Oil industry, but it must not be done at the expense of an already impoverished citizenry. Rotimi Amaechi, to use the words of Bola Ahmed Tinubu ‘Was the General of the common sense revolution’ that changed the status quo but there are plenty of rough edges in him that means he has to be contained. His utterances, body language and political moves continue to heat up the polity in his state and beyond. He has to be taught to know when to stop.

This government might yet come good, but it doesn’t inspire confidence at the moment and one struggles to see how the change will pan out successfully. Ours is a citizenry that have been pushed to the wall, deprived of the very essence of governance and estranged of any meaningful hope. In truth, it is currently a cataclysmic situation, but make no mistakes about it, it is not irredeemable. Mr. President, wake up and smell the coffee!

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Gender Question: What Exactly Is Parity?

On March 8th 2016, the world was agog with several celebrations of International Women’s Day in every nooks and crannies. It was a time to revisit the gender question and talk about the issues many will rather prefer to remain elusive.

In Nigeria, the journey towards gender parity in every strata of society has been a long crimsoned task, foisted with its own oppositions. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2014), the population of Nigeria in 2013 was almost evenly split along gender lines. Men account for 50.5 while women make up 49.5 of the overall population. Thus, from a statistical point of view, the parity is a given, contrary to preconceived opinions. It goes without saying that more than ever before in our national life, the narrative on gender equality has assumed a prominent place in the discourse. There is no gainsaying that women in several facets of the society have shown that it is possible to attain the crème de le crème of any heights. These women have served as both glaring ‘poster boys’ in the narrative and a source of inspiration for their other female counterparts.

However, while it is true that we have made good progress in the gender journey as a nation, it is far from uhuru, and a lot still needs to be done in sustaining the gains and challenging existing structures. Statistics are sketchy but if patchy analysis is anything to go by, the numbers of women in senior positions across the corporate and political sphere are paltry. The myth that women as CEOs or Presidents will mean taking gender parity too far, still has to be continually challenged. There are also structural premises that have to be turned around its neck. There is a malady in the Nigeria Labour Laws where it states that the only night shift jobs women could do is a hotel or hospital job. This law irrespective of how well meaning it might be is an example of those societal blind spots that opposes the parity journey. For such laws, it is fundamental that it realizes that women should be given an option to make choices and not make hasty conclusions. There is also the belief that a woman’s success is primarily hinged on the kind of home she runs. While it is easier to say a woman is successful if her home is in order, their male counterparts don’t seem to be perceived as such. No doubt, some of these norms and beliefs have been entrenched in our national subconscious and while no one expects an overhaul overnight, it is sacrosanct to keep the discussion ongoing and continually challenge the existing structures.

It is salient to note that in the parity question, it is really not about giving women an undue advantage over their male counterpart. Rather, it is about giving a level playing field for men and women to compete accordingly. No woman will want to be given a position simply because of her gender. It is really about what she brings to the table and the likes of Ibukun Awosika, Oby Ezekwesili and Kemi Adeosun to mention but a few have proven that they attained the status they did solely because of the substance they bring to the table. Indeed, every lady wants to earn her own stripes.

In the journey towards parity, it is often asked: What does success look like? No doubt, the statistics will continue to tell us how we are faring on this subject, but this is the kind of journey where success will be measured beyond what statistics insinuates. It is in altering status quo, changing the gender narrative, challenging micro inequities and rewriting cultural norms that we will know what ‘success’ looks like when we get there.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

15 Mantras that Will Give You Strength (When You Need it Most)

1. No matter what, you can always fight the battles of just today. It’s only when you add the infinite battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overly complicated.

2. Never assume that you are stuck with the way things are right now. Life changes every single second, and so can you.

3. Life always begins now – right now – not tomorrow or the next day or the next. It means you can have the new beginning you want whenever you want.

4. The best people all have some kind of scar. Don’t be ashamed of yours.

5. A positive present changes a troubled past. Looking back, you do not find what you left behind.

6. You are not a victim. You may have been challenged, hurt, betrayed, beaten, and discouraged, but nothing has defeated you. You have been delayed but not denied. The person or situation that hurt you is weaker than you, because you’re still here. So don’t let this experience weaken you – let it build you.

7. Even when it’s tough, wear a smile. Smiling doesn’t always mean you’re happy – sometimes it simply means you’re strong. And you are.

8. When we stop feeling sorry for ourselves, we start feeling stronger.

9. It has been said that the highest form of prayer is giving thanks. Instead of praying for different circumstances, give thanks for what you have.

10. Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break this negative habit today. Talk about your joys, your loves, and your dreams instead.

11. The more you live, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. Feeling incomplete is completely normal and healthy.

12. Think of all the hundreds of thousands of steps and missteps and chances and coincidences that have brought you here. In a way it feels like the biggest miracle in the world, doesn’t it? Keep this in mind, and meditate on the fact that you are a work in progress, and every great success requires some kind of struggle to get there.

13. Sometimes, to be successful tomorrow you must be wrong today. So don’t let the fear of making the wrong decision prevent you from making any decision at all right now. At the end of your fear is the person who you want to be, one way or the other.

14. What’s most important in this moment is positive focus. Make the moment important and vital by doing something meaningful. It’s that simple. In the end, that’s all success really is.

15. Do the best you can right now, and find peace in knowing that you have. No further judgments are needed. Sometimes you’ve got to go through the worst of times to get the best. And sometimes the best of times come sooner than expected.