I have been accused several times by my wife of refusing to advice people. In fact, I always tell her I do not know much, and that I even need advice. But today, I want to honour her memory by saying a word or two about what I truly feel about life and some of the happenings around us. There is no man or woman who works hard and gives his or her best that will not be eventually rewarded. As such I implore you all to always give your best. The wise and successful people live within their means, but the blessed ones earn above their needs. You can recognize the blessed ones and strive to be one yourself. Nigerians are the happiest people on earth. We can’t even find the time to attend all the parties we are invited to during the weekends. Nigerians love to share. We even go as far as begging the madam of the house to “package take-away” for us at parties. Can you beat that! Life is so sweet. We have been permitted to enjoy everything in this world, but we must not bring harm to our fellow men. We can achieve this by keeping our thoughts pure in order to attain peace and happiness.
In our daily lives, we must be grateful to our country Nigeria. This is a country where one is so free; where you can travel and live anywhere you so desire; and where you can praise or criticize anyone including the president. Nigeria is a country that has never experienced food scarcity (since I was born); there is abundance of everything in Nigeria. The only limitation is the amount of money in your pocket. Nigerian farmers have defied every economic prediction; they have produced enough food at independence to 60 million people and now to a population of 200 million people. We can produce even more.
Then, what are you complaining about? What does anyone have to complain about? Nigerians are free to travel even out of the country and return whenever they want. Everyone including women and girls can obtain the Nigerian International Passport and are entitled to drive their own cars and open their own businesses. We have almost solved the problems of primary and secondary education; there are now more private schools in most of the southern states than public schools to cater for our children. And soon, very soon, private universities will outnumber the public institutions. Yes, they may be expensive, but they are far cheaper than going to the United Kingdom or United States of America for university education. The Federal Government should also extend some support to the private universities and approve even more of them.
There are times many of you have come to me asking for admission for your sons and daughters. Many of you can afford to pay N200,000.00 to a million naira a year for your kids in private secondary schools but grossly refuse to pay more than N25,000.00 a year as university tuition in public universities. You are prepared to vote out any government that threatens to increase fees. But when it is time for admission you come crawling and begging frantically for your children to be admitted. What do you expect? How do you expect the institution to maintain its facilities and build new halls? We can increase the numbers of admitted candidates but we need more lecturers and Lecture Halls. Are you prepared to pay higher fees? The low school fees is hurting the poor people since it is limiting the number of candidates that can be admitted. Those who can afford it take their wards to private universities. Most public universities can double their admission if they are allowed to increase tuition to at least N200,000.00 per annum so that they can build more facilities and hire more lecturers (though government will still have to subsidize fees for children of parents who are low-income earners).
Life comes with many challenges because we need these obstacles in order to attain to the goal. The gifted Ghanaian writer and teacher Ernest Agyemang Yeboah said, “Great men do not experience small challenges. They face great challenge but that is what makes them great…”. What then do we have to complain about? Jobs? There are lots of jobs for those who really want to work. Not everyone should look for a job anyway. If you want to be very rich, go and start a business. Be highly ethical and be prepared to work far more hours and much harder than a regular employee. People always gravitate to the man or woman they can trust; and if you are truthful and consistent you will prosper. Do not expect success overnight but engage in a business that is sustainable over a long period. Do not rush into things that everybody is doing but carve out a niche for yourself. Be unique and take time to think deeply about what you are doing and what will set you apart. There is never an end to improvement; so always reassess yourself and your business.
Moreover, if you are jobless and you really want to work, you will definitely get a job. Most of my graduated students have jobs in government, banks, hospitals and private companies. Yet Biochemistry is not a professional course. I promise them that they will definitely get a job if they write 1000 letters of application to different establishments. Have you seen anyone who has written 1000 applications and is yet to get a job? I have seen lazy people who give up after applying to one or three places for employment; who come to me to help them find jobs; who go about complaining about government and their rich relatives that refuse to “help” them. Well, you have a choice today to take control! Yes, seek and you shall find. You must realize that what you do with your life is your gift back to your Creator. We are all blessed with a gift, a talent and a passion. I see many graduates of English, linguistics and arts roaming the street and none have ever approached me to write my biography. I will gladly pay anyone to write my biography. No one has approached me to draw my portrait; yet there are Fine Arts graduates complaining of unemployment. Highly intelligent science graduates are still eating from their mothers’ pots, yet I am looking for someone to teach my daughter Chemistry during the holidays. If you have a steady job and you still need more money, get a second job that you can do during the evening and weekends, or start a business by the side. Your family will love you and they will be grateful for having a providing father.
The wide and easy road of sowing seed or praying and fasting or harassing well-to-do relatives will seldom lead to employment. It is not easy to follow the hard and difficult narrow road laid with stones and thorns of writing a thousand letters of application, travelling to where the jobs are, and shacking up uncomfortably with friends or relatives. But it will lead you to the kingdom of employment with monthly salary. If you follow that wide road of laziness and procrastination, or join the crowd waiting for their miracle, you will end up a pauper. Whatever a man sows that shall he reap. A man or woman must work; must be active and must use the talents bestowed upon him or her. The greatest tragedy that can befall a man is idleness. Look around you and you will know where to find the idle people who love to congregate and talk and feel good about themselves. Be careful how you associate with them and ignore their criticism and their better than thou attitude. Do we really serve God by begging? Listen to their prayers that are filled with asking and begging! We should worship and serve our Creator with our being, with our daily activities and make wherever we are better than the way we met it. We are in this world to find supreme happiness, but we should endeavour to know the purpose of our existence. We must be role models and ideal human beings. We need to live our lives such that others will emulate us.
Let us stop placing blame on the government. We must realize that the faults we condemn so much in others are also in us; hence we find them so annoying. Shakespeare wrote that “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves ……” We as a people deserve the government that we have; the government is a reflection of its citizens. But we must give back to this great country that we so love to bash. I always caution those who try to encourage me to participate more in politics. If you make a mistake of placing me in government, you will pay taxes. Why do we run away from paying our fair share of taxes? We want good roads yet we do not want to contribute anything. If I have my way, every vehicle on the road will pay monthly for using the road: salon car N2000.00, jeep N3000.00, lorry and tipper N4000.00, and trailer N5000.00. I am sure some of you are already complaining; but imagine if we all can pay this road tax every month, all our roads up to the village streets will be paved within 10 years. And why can’t we pay? Many of us spend ten to thirty thousand naira on petrol for our cars every month; so what is N2000.00 that we cannot pay? And why can’t we also pay something monthly to the government for the houses we own or live in? An average rental price for a two-bedroom flat in Sapele is about N25,000.00 a month, and we cannot pay N1000.00 as tax for that? Those living in mansions should pay at least N3000.00 every month. The government needs all this money to provide amenities, recruit more policemen and pay them well, and repair and build more schools. We must pay our own fair share if we want to live well.
Therefore, I am also advocating that at 12 noon on the 1st of October, every Nigerian should stop and stand still for one minute. We should stop whatever we are doing and stand still for a minute in veneration. We should stand still to reflect on ourselves and this great country that we have been permitted to be born into. We should stand still to be grateful for our freedom from colonialism, from slavery and from ignorance. We should stand still for a minute to renew our commitment to work for the progress of the greatest Black Country in the world. Yes, we must stand still to honour the great men and women that have gone before us and reenergize our resolve to resist any oppressor or transgressor. We will stand still to remember that Nigeria is greater than any of us.
The future of Nigeria rests on us all. I would like to end by giving you a quotation I read somewhere: “Go forward courageously and you will please God.”
Thank you and God bless us all.
A speech delivered by Professor Nyerhovwo Tonukari at the Okotie-Eboh Grammar School Old Boys Association (OGSOBA) Annual Dinner, Saturday 21st April 2018 at Richard Continental Hotel, Sapele, Delta State. Professor Tonukari teaches Biochemistry at the Delta State University, Abraka and he is the editor of the African Journal of Biotechnology. He has co-authored two patents and numerous research articles.
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