The write-up you’re about to read was written by a friend and former colleague, Abiodun Ige. We first met about 8years ago and we’ve shared a very rich friendship since then.
I have his full permission and blessing to reproduce this piece. I believe there is something for you and I to learn from this article.
Do enjoy your reading.
When commencing an MBA, I asked myself that what is the one thing that I must take away from this program. The answer? Perspectives! I wanted to know why? Pastor Onyedikachi said something over 10 years ago that I have not been able to get off my head; he said, “black is not synonymous with lack”. Why I can’t get it off is because the evidence seems to show otherwise. Thank God for the ‘evil-man’ Dangote; there wouldn’t have been a black man in the top 100 richest people on earth. So what I wanted to gain perspective on is, ‘Why is the black race the most backward race in the world’? Now I know measuring it through economic development alone is myopic, but I struggle to find any other area in which we lead the world; be it good or bad?
My findings thus far!
Let start with the ‘why not’s first? It is definitely not intelligence? Brain for brain, at least based on the classes I have attended, and the people I interacted with, my classmates in Nigeria are at least as good if not better than my classmates everywhere else!
Faith or believe is also not an issue. The level of superstitious believe might have been dampened by scientific advances in the west, but our ancestors (African and western) are almost as equally superstitious and diabolical. Flip it to middle east originated religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), there is not much difference; if you back off the effect of science, we believe pretty much the same thing.
So what have I noticed
Diversity of opinion is almost the most stand out difference. The white people seem to have such tolerance for counterarguments that one wonders if they are faking it. It is a faculty missing at home! Most leaders, religious and temporal, surround themselves with yes men. People can hardly question, their professors, parents, local government chairmen, governors, presidents, pastors without been tagged a traitor or rebel. It is funny, because a Yoruba adage says Ile-Ife was built with the wisdom of the old and young (omode gbon agba gbon lafi da Ile-Ife)! One is forced to wonder when we as a people dispense with the idea that there is wisdom in diversity of opinion. Since, I have absorb this principle of listening to other (people that know me in school know I rarely listen to other opinions lol), it has only made my arguments richer and I think the black race need to learn one or two things about diversity of opinion.
Risk taking is another very different view we both take of life! I think the black race have an over-bloated value for life. Let me explain. When they say, there is a forest that no one should go into, for the most part most of us will not go into it. However when oyinbo said the world is flat and if you sail to some point you will fall off the cliff, many people tried it until someone came back and said no cliff anywhere. So many people would have died trying to do a particular thing, be it climbing mountain Everest or whatever, yet it is just another motivation for other people to just want to try. Who tries to fly metals (it is iron and it is denser than the air, it you fly it you die; that is me in 1903)! But you know we will die anyway. Why so many people might disagree (about who is the first person to travel through river niger), but my challenge is why must it be Mungo Park that will discover the origin of a river located between Oyo and Nupe kingdoms? We are about the only race on earth that did not build a boat to sail the world; the first time many black men were together on a transatlantic ship is during slave trade (Except if you count Hannibal the Carthaginian, who most people believe is white, even though from Tunisia). Risk is well correlated with rewards. The less the risk we take the less the reward.
This will be my most controversial (apparently I have not learned not to be controversial). Black people are too wedded to the past. Almost every other nation or race on earth is trying to win the future, we are busy with the past: be it the civil right movements canonized by the event of the Black History months or the civil war in Nigeria exhume recently in the Nigeria discourse! No one can claim the atrocious crimes committed during those times are in anyway weightless, however to the extent that it takes most of our energies it robs us of the resource we need for the future. Carnage and wars are part of human history and they should be remembered and revered but not use as excuse not to conquer the future. The Jews have holocaust, there was the Khmer Rouge (believe by some to be the most inhuman treatment of human in all of history). However people move on and not make their past the only basis for their future.
Lastly, we try to even inequality instead of increasing competitiveness. Check it out, from the Black Economic Empowerment Program (in South Africa), to the Resource Control movement in Nigeria, to the Affirmative Action policies in the United States, we are always trying to even the playing ground. We are trying to take back what we have lost! However, it is easier to take back what you have lost when you are in the driving seat (check out the handing over of Hong-Kong to the Chinese by the British in 1997; China was strong enough a potent threat that the Brit can’t go back on their words). The playing ground is not even; that is the way life is. No amount of leveling will make it even. We need to be competitive as a people against all odds. The adventure of been competitive (though takes longer to come to fruition) has a longer pay back period; check out the Jews.
I recently dabbled into the history of the Jews and was surprise how much persecution they suffered for the 19 centuries (about 70AD to 1948AD) that they were homeless, landless, expropriated, from churches and states. You wouldn’t imagine the horror. The Holocaust was just a culmination of that centuries of untold hardship. Yet this people (agreed they are God’s people, but if they had pity themselves they wouldn’t be here) out of nothing build a self sustaining state surrounded by enemies. Till date, they are on the cutting edge of almost all technological revolution. There is a part of that success that can be ascribed to not pity oneself but always pushing to be competitive.
This is where I am in my perspective garnering exercise. In the spirit of the season and of course of charting a better course for our race, comments in whatever shade are welcome.
Abiodun Ige is a Doctoral Candidate in Policy and Strategic Management at the York University, Toronto, Canada. You can also find him on Twitter (@abiodunige) where he also shares his views.