Opinion: Succeeding Against All Odds! By Ayo Oyoze Baje


‘While you still breathe, don’t give up, don’t lose hope.

Fiercely but wisely fight through the storms of life.

The joy in life is not the regret over the spoils

But in the unmasking of the spoils into bountiful harvests.

-Prof. Chiedozie Okoro

(In his foreword to ‘Contradictions-Lessons from the school of life’ by Somi Uranta).

“We are in trouble as a country. We are in trouble and anybody who tells you he doesn’t know we are in trouble is lying to himself.” I did not make that scary statement. Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Productivity recently said so and he certainly knows his onions. The reasons are patently obvious.

Insecurity is in a total mess. Precious lives are being wasted, virtually on daily basis. Paradoxically, our top political leaders erroneously believe that granting spurious amnesty to heartless killers, kidnappers, terrorists and bandits who have ‘repented’ is the best way out, instead of making them to face the full wrath of the law. So, who is safe anymore?  

What about our trembling economic landscape, gravitating towards the status of an earthquake? Ngige has hit the nail right on its head. It is in dire straits. Currently,  the Naira is in a free fall, with N565 equivalent to a dollar in the parallel market. Job losses are at their highest. As at March 2021, unemployment rate stood at perilous 32.5%. The rate of food inflation has skyrocketed and Nigerians are groaning in and outside the market places.

The borrowing spree continues with the Public Debt Stock jumping from N12.12 trn when former President Jonathan was handing over to his successor, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to the huge amount of  N33. 107 trn as at March 31, 2021. That is according to the Debt Management Office (DMO). Yet, the president has approached the ever- willing National Assembly for another set of loans of $4bn and €710m. So, who will pay these humongous debts if not our unemployed and embittered children?

 As hunger, poverty, diseases and of course, insecurity have become our constant companions  the rate of suicide is on the increase! But we should not despair. The message here is for you, as an individual to rise up above the hitches and hurdles of the challenges we face, scale over them with courage and determination  and stand strong like a baobab tree above the storm.

 Let us take a look at some tit-bits from my upcoming book titled: ‘Goodbye to Poverty’. I decided to write it after spending ten good years reading motivational bestsellers such as ‘How to Think like a Millionaire’ by Charles Albert-Poissant to ‘The Very, Very Rich, How they Got that Way, and how you can too’ by Steve Marrioti, Debra DeSalvo and Mike Caslin.

 The first step is to develop a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) to overcome the poverty mindset. There are people who believe that some are born rich and others will remain forever poor, no matter how hard they try! This set of people have therefore, willy-nilly given up the hope and the struggle to make it in life.

Instead, believe in God fully. Have a special relationship with Him as your Maker who knows why He created you and has deposited in you gold and diamonds to be tapped, polished and brought to the fore, to glow for the world to see. As Brian Adams rightly explains it this way: “Your potential is unlimited,/ aspire to a higher place./Believe in your abilities,/ in your tastes: in your judgment. /Imagine and perceive that which you wish you to be. /Back your feelings with the reality of your new self:/Live in the expectancy of greater things and your sub-conscious will actualize them”.

The next step is to identify your God-given talents, hone them and try to make money from such great attributes. Too often, many people look down on such rare gifts. For instance, some of the globally acclaimed music stars such as Toni Braxton and Maria Carey lived lowly lives until their singing talent was discovered, polished and made public through their hit songs.

It is a similar scenario for some of our notable entertainers today such as Mercy Johnson, Patoranking and K-Peace, the 2015 winner of West African Idol. At one time or the other, they used to hawk sundry goods, including pure water, confectionaries or rat poison along Lagos streets.

It is necessary to manage your resources with wisdom and self-discipline. Those who live far beyond their means would end up in poverty. The experiences of the once applauded American rapper, MC Hammer and basketball player, Dennis Rodman, easily come to mind. Others include Charles Barkley, a former basketball player, Michael Vick, a former NFL player, Harry Kakavas, a former Australian billionaire  and Graham Calvert, the British greyhound trainer who became a millionaire at the age of 28 but fell from grace- to- grass.

We also should overcome the king- slave mentality; thinking that working for others in our active years will make us millionaires.  We should stop adding to our problems in this harsh economic time, like taking undue pleasure in marrying more wives and breeding more children than we could conveniently cater for.

Similarly, we should do away with the wrong interpretation of religious doctrines, stop dependency syndrome, know- it -all mentality, the fear to take risks and always  giving excuses for failure undo us. Rather, we should be problem-solvers by deploying our creative ingenuity inbuilt in each of us. Above all, we must never give up.

For instance, an engineer simply called Mr. Head tried 47 times before he succeeded in making the first metal ski. Dr.Ian Wilmot tried 277 times before producing the sheep Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from a body cell. What would have taken place if he abandoned the research at the 276th attempt?

One of the most popular examples of the ‘never give up’ attitude remains that of Abraham Lincoln who failed ten times in politics at different elections before eventually clinching the prestigious American presidency. The story would have been different if he had given up.

Now read this: John Harold Johnson (of blessed memory) the publisher of ‘Ebony ‘magazine, the most popular ever by any African anywhere in the world, did not have enough money to finance his dream empire. But Getrude, his mother believed in her son’s ambition. She had to sell off her household furniture for $500 for her son to start off the magazine he called ‘Negro Digest’ in 1942. In 1945 he changed the name to ‘Ebony’ magazine. The very first edition sold out at a print run of 25,000 copies.

In 1972 he built an 11-storey headquarter of the famous magazine in down town Chicago with $7 million. By the ‘80s Forbes magazine listed him as one of the 400 richest people in the world with a net worth of $100million.

Even both Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, the acclaimed fathers of modern physics were described as ‘never do wells’ by their respective teachers. But none of these great people ever gave up. Stick to your dreams and see them through to their logical conclusion, against all odds.

According to Queen Victoria, the former Empress of the British Empire,” We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat.” That is human nature for you. Always remember Gibbon’s admonition that: “Winners don’t quit and quitters never win.” And as Napoleon Hill stated: “Those who persist are those who win.” Of course, “saints are sinners who kept on going”.

The history of this world is for only those who struggle and succeed. Nobody remembers those who lost the battle along the way. Even history does not remember those who came in second. That is one of the hard lessons about life. Never, ever give up! 

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