Decolonising the Mind

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

So many of the things we copy mindlessly from the whites are not well thought out. Let’s get this clear, I’m not trying to fan the embers of racial supremacy here. Please, be patient. I’ll get to the point in a minute. This realisation came back to me a few days ago when I had an interaction with a boy who had picked an interest in literature. He had seen pictures of Wole Soyinka when a representative of the Swiss Academy handed him the coveted Nobel Prize many years ago. So, when we met he couldn’t hide his disdain for the way Soyinka was dressed. ‘Why’, he began, ‘ he could have simply worn a suit or even a shirt and trousers instead of the native buba and sooro.’ I smiled. That boy is like many of us. He has yet to decolonise his mind.

I’d rather not bore you with unnecessary preachments. Professor Sophie Oluwole is one of the finest minds Africa has produced. As elementary as this seems, it took this fine woman to open our eyes to the idiocy contained in the popular rhyme: ‘Rain, rain go away/ Come again another day/ Little children want to play. That makes absolutely no sense. Suppose Mr. Rain decides to humour the children. So, he withdraws his slivery fingers and soothing salve and returns from whence he came, what’s going to happen to the crops? What’s going to be the lot of earth’s inhabitants? Let’s not forget that the children will always sing that song every time the rain is about fall.

Pitch that rhyme side by side with that much neglected Yoruba rhyme: ‘Ojo nro/ sere ninu ile/ ma wonu ojo/ ki aso re/ maba tutu/ ki otutu/ ma’ba mu o’. Let’s attempt a translation quickly: Rain is falling/ Play in the house/ Do not play in the rain/ If you do, you ‘ll get wet/ Once you get wet, you’ll catch a cold. Now ask yourself, which is better? One of life’s greatest ironies is the fact that we pay little attention to what we have. Instead, we covet our neighbour’s vineyard. It is the reason we’d rather speak English in informal contexts rather than hold healthy conversations in our native languages.

Decolonising the mind is the beginning of self discovery for Africans. Independence should have started with thought processes. Instead, the colonial masters withdrew leaving behind clones which constantly deferred to them. The educated lady who makes and sells moin-moin in plastic bags is perceived of as refined. She also puts it in a clean show glass for all to see. The illiterate who sells the same moin- moin but puts hers in leaves is termed crude and local. According to those who should know, the refined lady is ‘killing you softly’ to use Lauryn Hill’s words by injecting harmful chemicals into your system. The woman who wraps her moin- moin in leaves is the one you really should patronize. Unfortunately, we’re too civilized to buy from a road side illiterate.

I learnt a vital lesson when I was serving in the north. Right from the camp, we were warned against using perfumes and soaps with fragrance. The reason? The scent attracted bees and other such creatures and they would sting you. I saw guys bathing with local kongi soaps which they had brought primarily for the purpose of washing clothes. These days, I hear that many perfumes and roll-ons can cause cancer. Eventually, we would return to the ways of our fathers and take aspects of the Western culture that are relevant. Why do lawyers still wear wigs when in other climes this has been jettisoned? Why do we even still wear suits when our weather speaks differently? Why are we still keen on going to eateries even though we know pastries go down the wrong way? What is wrong with some of those neat Mama Put joints where amala is served steaming hot and you wipe your brow with one hand while doing justice to the plate with the other?

We must decolonise our minds. We are Africans and we have to stop thinking like White men. Let me leave you with this thought. Mode 9 was reputed to be the finest lyricist a few years ago. He, however, continued to rap like the Americans. When the likes of DaGrin came, the game changed. They rapped in their indigenous languages and the crowd loved them. The times are changing and we must return to the place where the rain started to beat us.


The Lost Generation

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

In scholarly circles, it is standard practice to commence every endeavour with a clear definition of concepts. So, let’s begin with the word ‘lost’. There are a variety of possibilities with respect to the meaning of this word as provided by the dictionary. However, for the purpose of this piece, we will settle for ‘confused’ or ‘to be defeated’. The word ‘generation’ has a variety of meanings too. Let’s be content with, ‘a group of individuals born and living contemporaneously’. The lost generation here, therefore, refers to the demographic below 20. They represent the cream of Nigeria’s young populace. They are rudderless. They are lost.

Why are they lost? Don’t be quick to snort in derision. The facts are available and they stare at us in the face everyday. If you’ve noticed, these set of Nigerians are totally alienated from their cultural roots. They only speak English and even then, it’s mostly rotten English which they nasalise. They don’t hide their disdain for anything local and many of them have never sat at the foot of their parents to enjoy the rich stories revolving around the tortoise and his exploits. When they write, you’ll cringe in horror. For them, ‘because’ is ‘ bcos’, ‘before’ is ‘b4’, ‘that’ is ‘dat’,etc. It is regrettable that space won’t permit one to really thrash out this matter. Maybe one of these days, we’ll return to it again. You must forgive me. I’m already jumping ahead of myself.

The problem, it is pertinent to note, begins from their various homes. There is something about many of these contemporary parents. They are embroiled in a race of ‘my children are better than yours’. They discourage indigenous languages when talking to their children. Sadly, some of these parents themselves struggle to string sentences together. Any child who speaks any of the Nigerian languages is termed ‘bush’. The ones who speak English like an ‘opeere’ hardly know their right from left. For instance, they start every sentence with ‘as in’. Here is an example:

Man: What’s your name?

Girl: As in my name? ( man nods)

As in Rita.

Many of them don’t know the difference between the subject case and the object case pronouns. So you hear, ‘ us came to your house’, ‘ This matter is strictly between you and I’ or even expressions like: ‘ The worstest part is that…’, ‘ You’re still owing me fifty naira’. The strange thing is many of them don’t even care to know what’s appropriate. When corrected, they are often quick to offer a riposte, ‘ who English epp?’.

Let us come to the indigenous languages. Here, many of them can’t even pronounce their Yoruba or Ibo names correctly. If they try too hard, they’ll most likely chop off their tongues in the process. As a teenager, I had the privilege of reading Tai Solarin’s autobiography. He explained that students learn faster when concepts are explained to them in their native languages. I have also read recently that people think better and reach sounder decisions when they use their native languages. This is why the decision by the Ministry of Education to begin teaching science subjects in native languages is laudable. The wisdom of the elders is incontrovertible. How best can we tap into this wisdom? Proverbs! Many of these proverbs are witty, apt and there is always something for a particular occasion. Our children have lost it. The only wisdom they rely on is the one that is gleaned from video games and social media interractions. I once met a teenager who said learning to speak Yoruba language will make her pick up a bush accent. My good friend and editor, Peju is a Fulbright Scholar because her command of the Yoruba language is sound. So, what did I say to the foolish girl? Nothing! I simply walked away.

When we were children, we looked forward to those times when our parents would regale us with folktales, especially those ones were the trickster tortoise was at the centre. In the evenings on Sunday, we also had the good fortune of watching Tales by Moonlight on NTA. From those tales, we learnt the values of honesty, kindness, patience and so on. Of course, even in those days, there were children for whom these things seemed a waste of time. We also read books like Chike and the River, Koku Baboni, Ade, Our Naughty Little Brother and so on. These days, there are no such books. We now have cheap books riddled with unbelievable blunders and spelling errors. Surprisingly, parents are too busy to see these things.

As shocking as it sounds, many of these children can’t write properly. Undergraduate essays too are an eye sore. Many of them stupidly carry over the abbreviations they use when chatting with friends on social media to their examination essays. Worse still, is that they can’t spell. I have heard some say, ‘ I don’t like to spell’. What song does one sing to that kind of beat? You see for these children, their problems are many and the parents are at the base of it all. Why in heaven’s name do you want your child to speak Queen’s English when the same child is a dunderhead? Fela has labelled this ‘Colo (nial) mentality.’ All the Soyinkas, Osundares, Ofeimuns of this world speak exquisite English, yet they do not fake an accent. In the scheme of things, it is not your nasalized expressions that matter, it is the strength of your character.

Nigerian parents are grooming alienated children. Children who have no cultural foundation. Children who think the only way is the western culture. This is why it is so easy for many to buy results for their children. The standards they have set for their children are unattainable. So they must achieve their set goals by hook or crook. The real malpractice begins at home. When children look down on their culture and venerate another’s to the high heavens, it is a sign that danger looms. It is the beginning of the end.

May We Be Forgiven

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

Forgive me, I have appropriated the title of A.M Homes’ fine novel. Sometimes, life is hard as a Christian. Maybe it isn’t, really. Maybe it’s because some of us still have a long way to go. A couple of weeks ago, a lady sauntered into church while the sermon was on. I was listening intently( or so I thought) to the sermon when she passed. Because of the size of the church, I often sit upstairs in a corner where there’s a screen. So, this lady passed in front of the screen. For a second or so, I went blank. I thought I saw something. I looked again. Please, be content with the word ‘massive’. That’s the word that describes both her hips and her boobs. Of course, I quickly looked away. What surprised me was that nearly everyone on that axis, both male and female, looked too. And each face had that palpable shock.

In all honesty, we are no strangers to such matters. Thank God for friends with whom one can act and talk without any fear of being unduly judged. I can freely discuss matters like these with Gbenga, Abimbola and Faith. Back to that day when that lady walked in, two things happened immediately. The first was that my neck developed a life of its own. It turned of its own volition. My eyes simply followed the order given by their superior. The fact that people also looked shows that even as Christians, the flesh rears its ugly head every now and again.

Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to these things. There’s no point pretending. I guess we just have to fight and shake them off regularly. Personally, I have a problem with those who pretend to be Super men and Wonder women. Especially when one finds out eventually that beneath their hard-line posturing is a rotten, degenerate soul. So, when we admire a beautiful lady or commit some other subtle sins, our hope lies in the certainty that Jesus is kind. If we make it a habit, well then, that’s a much bigger problem. I have often argued with my friend, Abimbola, that pretty ladies are born lucky. Whether in the church or on the streets, people often go out of their way to help these beauty queens.

A fine illustration, you’ll agree, is with the way we treat children. When a child is pleasing to look at, we buy him gifts and even take the child off his mother’s back just so we can play with him. When a child is ugly, however, we just wave from a distance and call the obviously ugly child ‘fine girl’. In doing this, we’ve dealt wickedly with that innocent child. May God be kind to us. Our sins are many, almost numberless. One of my friends has converted the back of her sermon note to a ‘wall’ where she records the grammatical infelicities of her pastor. I have often told her, ‘ your pastor is not an English language professor, cut the poor man some slack.’ My friend has been relentless. One day, I jokingly said there is a file in Heaven where Apostle Peter is keeping a photocopy of her entries as it concerns her pastor and that when she gets to the pearly gates, this might stand in her way. ‘Shaaraaap’, she screamed smiling at the same time.

For those moments when we refuse to act the part of a good Samaritan, for those moments when we daydream about a woman’s boobs, for those times when we keep quiet in the face of injustice, for those times when we flagrantly flout the admonitions of our Master, for those days when we inflict pain on those who love us, for those little sins that we enjoy, for those times when we look at what we’ve accomplished and say: ‘ How great I am?’, for those times when we pretend ‘Mr. A is my friend’, yet treat him like dirt, for all the times we refuse to forgive yet expect forgiveness from the Master, for those times when we show cruelty to animals, may we be forgiven.

Depression: Get up and Fight!

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

A couple of weeks ago, I heard of the sad passing of one of my former students, Pelumi. She was one of the prettiest girls I have met. She always wore her smile like an ornament. I don’t think I ever saw her raise her voice or flare up in anger. She seemed like one who was always in control. She had moved on to become an OAP with Cool FM in Lagos. For one who was so young and focused, the world would have been her oyster. One of the most enduring lessons in life and literature is the dichotomy between what is real and what appears to be real. Sadly, her beauty, her dreams and her laughter speak differently from the state of her inner recesses. She committed suicide and left what seemed like a suicide note on Twitter. One thing is clear. You cannot commit suicide unless you’re depressed. Please, see my post

According to World Health Organization, ‘depression is a common mental disorder that presents with depressed moods, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy , feelings of guilt or low self worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, and poor concentration’. It is instructive to note that depression as a disorder is different from depression as it concerns a time of sadness or disappointment. The difference is, while one is temporary, the other is sustained over a long stretch of time. Depression as a disorder occurs when an individual is unable to move on long after something bad has happened.

It should interest you to know that more than 22% of Nigerians suffer from depression. That’s alarming. What are some of the things that can make one vulnerable to depression? Sustained negative thoughts,lack of motivation, feeling of abandonment and hopelessness, health problems, grief and loss, drugs, poor nutrition among others. Is a person suffering from depression a weakling? If depression is an illness. It follows logically, therefore, that when one has this disorder he is suffering from an illness over which he has no control. To this end, people who suffer from this disorder must not be looked down upon. They are not weak.

Unfortunately, we live in an environment where people judge our actions and inactions. If you’re celibate, you’re impotent. If you have too many male friends, you’re a slut. If you’re thin, you’re poor. If you’re fat, you’re foodie. We’re so relentless about passing judgements, we don’t even wait to interact with people sufficiently before we write them off. This is the reason most people can’t afford to seek help from professionals when they’re down. As it’s typical, we’ll label them ‘mad’.

Do you suspect that you might be suffering from depression? Then, you need to seek professional help. May God bless our pastors and spiritual mentors but unless your pastor is a psychiatrist, you’re talking to the wrong man. Betty Irabor is the publisher of the popular magazine, Genevieve. She sought help. She was constantly misdiagnosed because depression is , sometimes, hard to pick up. She went from one physician to another and each added something to her already long list of prescribed drugs. Her worries are over and she has written a fine book where she narrated her travails and her journey out of the woods.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that the best way to deal with depression is to get up and fight. The desire to get out of bed each day may be nil, pull the curtains aside and get up anyway. At the end of the day, we must endeavour to make a success out of our stories. If we fail, there are friendly foes waiting anxiously to say: ‘We always knew you won’t amount to anything’. Somebody said: ‘success is the best revenge’. If you’ve been fired, dust yourself and fight. If you’ve been disappointed in love, take good care of yourself and love again. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I wish it were possible to leave you with something more soothing. You may have heard of Winston Churchill. I fell in love with him many years ago. I have read a few books about this remarkable man. He said something noteworthy: ‘If you’re going through through hell, keep going’. I’m almost certain he wants us to understand that as long as we continue to make an effort towards getting out a quagmire, we will get out. You should take his advice Take care when you notice tendencies of depression. Don’t keep quiet. Talk to a psychiatrist. You know I love you. Take a handshake over the miles. Hugs and kizzzzzizzz.

How to Win Friends and Be More Likeable.

‘Dele Oladipupo©2018

Photo credit: F. Amo

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted someone reading Carnegie’s classic: How to Win Friends and Influence People. If my memory serves me right, I read that book some fifteen or so years ago. It’s a fascinating read any day but as I moved away, I kept wondering if the rules are still the same given that the terrain is no longer what it should to be. Take for instance, parenting is no longer what it used to be. When we were growing up, our bodies bore weekly tell-tale signs of flogging either from school or from our parents. The rod of correction wielded much influence back then. Until you reached your twenties, you were not spared. Things have changed radically now. You can’t even flog a ten-year old without getting on the wrong side of the law.

Please, don’t get me wrong. Carnegie’s wisdom is almost incontrovertible. The 21st century, as we all know, presents peculiar challenges. To meet them, we must continually be on top of our game. We must constantly re-invent ourselves too. So, you want to be a more friendly person? You want to be likeable? Please, read on. You may add your opinions in the comments section of this piece. That way, we can drink from your well of wisdom. That way, we can be even better.

First, if you want to be more likeable, you need to smile more. I think it was Charlie Chaplain who said: ‘ I have many problems in my life. But my lips don’t know that. They always smile’. I didn’t learn this early. A few years back, the Professor supervising my thesis asked why I always looked worried. ‘You don’t smile’, she added smiling. I felt really stupid. Why do we even frown? There is a Yoruba proverb that roughly translates as: ‘there is nothing the Heaven will throw that the Earth cannot contain’. A frown does not even lighten anyone’s burden. If anything at all, it makes us age faster. It is common knowledge that a smile makes you attractive. According to experts, it also boosts your immune system, improves your mood,lowers your blood pressure and keeps you looking youthful. From the foregoing, it is possible to argue that anyone who refuses to smile may not live long!

Second, you need to have a fine sense of humour. Everyone gravitates towards the one who can see the jocular side of things. It’s almost laughable when you hear some say they like it when a man has a sense of humour and they themselves can’t take a simple joke. There are very few ladies in the class of my good friend, Lizzy. She told this story many years ago. Her boyfriend had just lost his father. So, he called Lizzy on the phone and sounded lachrymal. She rushed to his house to console him and found that the door was just closed not locked. She looked everywhere. Eventually, she decided to go and check him upstairs in his room. She found him seated on his bed with his legs stretched out in front of him. He wore boxer shorts and a singlet. According to my friend, his eyes didn’t wear the ineffable sadness of one who had just lost his father. In that instant, Lizzy burst out laughing. He was shocked. She asked him whether he was really sad or whether he had something else in mind. You get the point? For one who had just heard of his father’s passing, a bed is the least of places he is likely to be mourning. The guy got the message too. He laughed hard and long. He even got up and made himself a meal after she had reminded him that his father didn’t die in his prime. That’s the power of humour. Pure, simple and life transforming.

Third, you must help and support people. Nobody is the centre of the universe. You must help people grow their dreams. We need to support our friends in anyway that we can. When you help people you feel quite happy with yourself. On those days when I get the chance to help a stranger, I’ve noticed there’s often a springiness to my steps. There are quotes to the effect that if you don’t build your dreams, then others ‘ll make you build theirs for them. How is that even bad? When Einstein was asked why we are here on earth, his answer was: ‘ We are here to help people’. In the strict sense, nobody is self made. A self made man is that fellow who has closed his eyes to the innumerable sacrifices people have made for him. He is an ingrate. He is a wet blanket. A wet blanket is immediately useless. Be a builder. Encourage people. Lend a hand whenever you can. It is almost impossible to support somebody’s dream and that person won’t have a soft spot for you. When people know that you’ve got their back, they’ll love you to the moon and back.

Finally, if you really want to be likeable, you need to stop worrying overly about being liked. One of the reasons why people fail is because they are unnecessarily keen about being liked and accepted. So, they lose respect for themselves and become doormats. There are people who will never be impressed with you even if you play football with your butt and shout ‘Halleluyah’ with your legs. The point here is to focus on dealing with positive people. The moment you realize that somebody’s default reaction is to pick holes in the fabric of your efforts, it’s pointless wasting time. Don’t dissipate your energy trying to make them like you. Don’t waste time with people who take you for granted. They’ll frustrate you anyway. It’s infinitely better to steer clear of them. Like we say on the streets, just concentrate on ‘shining your shine’. You are not perfect and to think that everyone will like you is to live in a fool’s Paradise. So, there you have it folks, a few additions to Carnegie’s wisdom. I’m certain you can think of many more. Let’s have them in the comments section, please. I look forward to reading them. Have a fine week. From here, it’s xoxo.

What is the Value of a Good Deed?

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

Sometimes,we worry needlessly about how our goals have developed K-legs and then forget the things that matter. Yesterday was one of such days for me. I’m sure you know that feeling. You wake in the morning tired and dispirited because yours plans aren’t taking the shape you had envisaged. A corollary of that is the fact that you wish you had more money to meet your needs and solve the problems of those whom you love. You wish had a robust bank account to deal with problems as high as Kilimanjaro. Matters like these are sufficient to make a man wake up tired.

So, as I started out on this day, I found myself looking at some of the passengers on the bus with me and engaging in my favourite past time of trying to figure out people’s psyche merely by looking at their faces. Don’t tell me. I know I’m not likely to ever get it right. I do it only to keep my mind busy. After all, it is common knowledge that you do not ‘ judge a book by its cover’ and ‘ the taste of the pudding’, as they say, ‘is in the eating’.

I felt a gentle tug on my sleeve as the rickety bus roared on leaving a cloud of exhaust fumes in its wake. I looked to my left and noticed a beautiful little girl smiling at me. Her mouth was toothless and her laughter warmed my heart. I smiled back and fixed my eyes on her, winking intermittently. She began to laugh even harder. Her mother noticed this. She looked at me, smiled and began to tickle and rock her baby at the same time. The mother, despite the hijab which covered a portion of her face was quite young and beautiful. As I looked at the happy duo, I wondered whether one could equate all the achievements and diadems of this world to the innocence and the happy smile of a child, or even the joy of a proud mother? Those are things money cannot buy. Those are things we easily take for granted.

As I approached my bus-stop, I noticed that the lady was also planning to disembark. For the first time, I noticed she also kept a big Bagco sack in between her legs. She handed her child to me without saying a word. She just smiled. I took the child and began to play with her as the woman made attempts to both balance her load and tie her wrapper in readiness to back her child. The bus was tight and this left her arms little room to manoeuvre and position the wrapper properly.

When the bus stopped, I handed her the baby and offered to carry her load. She beamed with joy and echoed: ‘ thank you, sir’ even genuflecting at the same time. As we moved away from the road, I asked: ‘are you crossing to the other side?’ She nodded. I quickly carried the Bagco sack and moved as fast as the load allowed. She walked behind me with her hands clasped before her: ‘thank you. God bless you’. She probably said that fifty or more times before we reached the other side of the road. All the while, I kept wondering how she would have managed it. How can a woman with a frail physique and a child strapped to her back carry that big sack? I didn’t have any child strapped to my back yet sweat streamed down my forehead as though I had just been baptised.

When I offered to help up to another point farther down where the motorcycles were, she opened her mouth in utter disbelief. Eventually, she got on a motorcycle. I noticed that her eyes were rheumy with gratitude. She waved and waved until she became a tiny dot receding in the distance. At this time, my well ironed trousers had become rumpled and stained. I was sweating too. To be honest, I wasn’t in the least bothered. You should have seen me smiling sheepishly like one who had just won the lottery of a lifetime.

As I walked back home later day, I was glad I had gone out of my way to help somebody I might never meet again till I die. Maybe the next time she sees me will be when I throw my hat in the ring to run for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I hope she’ll vote for me. LOL. So, folks, what is the value of a good deed? The value of a good deed is the joy it gives you. After going through a lot of stress for somebody who may not be able to repay you, you’ll suddenly forget your worries, your sorrows, your rumbled trousers, the engagements you’re attending late, the foiled plans, the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations. The worth of a good deed is felt by the helper, not the one who is helped. There is an aspect to it that reaches the core of your being. When you show kindness, it is so that you may experience genuine happiness.

On Humility

‘Dele Oladipupo ©2018

A few years ago, I had the privilege of having a remarkable man in my Use of English class. He, like many in his department, had been admitted for a different programme but were compelled by university regulations to take the course. This man always walked in early. He always sat at the back too. He didn’t seem brilliant and, at first, he never asked questions. One fine thing I noticed about him was that he always scribbled as I taught.

One day, I gave a test. It’s the exception rather than the norm to return test scripts in many Nigerian universities. The week after the test, I returned to the class with all the marked scripts. Their performance had been dismal and discouraging. There was one shining light, however. It was this old man. I think he scored 17/20. The arguments in his piece were compelling and he demonstrated a fine understanding of what we had taught so far. After commenting on the scores, I encouraged members of the class to make a photocopy of this man’s script at the end of that day.

As I stepped out, this man walked up to me:’Excuse me,’ he began. I stopped and greeted him as he continued: ‘ I found that I scored 17/ 20 in the test you gave. I just thought I should ask you what I should do to score higher next time’. My mouth dropped. When I regained composure, I explained a few things to him. Permit me to put this man’s reaction in a proper context. When a man in his sixties begins to attend lectures with teenagers, then you know he’s most definitely in search of knowledge. He scored the highest in the test. The percentage of teenagers in that class couldn’t have been less than 85. He dusted them all and complacency didn’t set in. I believe that it is humility rather than ambition that keeps one soaring.

That night, I tossed and turned on my bed for a long time. For many of us, our default reaction would be to lift our shoulders high and immediately turn ourselves to demi-gods but not this man. I concluded that God used him to show me what true humility is. Humility in the sense that he has a proper estimation of his self worth. Humility in the sense that rather than lift his shoulders high, he recognised that there is still something better.

What then is humility? It means having a true picture of one’s ability. In Latin, it is ‘ humilis’ and it means ‘to be from the earth’. The same word from the Greek variant means to be ‘lowly in spirit’ or ‘unpretentious’. According to G. K Chesterton, ‘it is always the secure who are humble’. What that tells us clearly is that arrogance is the badge of the insecure. I read somewhere that in Japan, it is commonplace to find managers sweeping factories. They don’t consider themselves too high for such lowly endeavours. Here in Nigeria, a manager is some kind of ‘Jesus’. His eyes are too celestial to behold a broom.

The absence of humility manifests in several ways. It manifests in carriage, in mannerisms and in an argumentative nature. Here in Africa, big men with minds the size of a walnut keep people waiting for them for hours. They assume it shows how busy and important they are. I once waited for six straight hours to see a man. When he came, he acted as though it was normal to wait that long. He rifled through the day’s proceedings. No apologies. No explanations. I felt like giving him a slap.

‘What do we have that we have not been given?’ The day we understand the full import of that question is the day our outlook will change for good. Everything is a gift. Your warm smile. Your beautiful face. Your rich husband. That great job. The luxury house you built at thirty. Your handwriting. The air you breathe in. Your life. Every single thing is a gift. If you don’t use that gift with humility, it will be taken from you and given to somebody who already has more. That’s a biblical fact. One of the ways of showing our gratitude is to carry ourselves with humility. People often fail into the error of arrogance because they compare themselves with others and conclude they are far better. The truth is, everybody you meet is better than you are in some way.

One of my friends has a very fine head for figures. He can commit numbers to memory with ease. He is, surprisingly, one of the laziest readers I’ve met. He would struggle to read a very slim book for four months. The fellow who can finish the same book within hours isn’t better at all. We don’t have the same strength. None is superior. None is inferior. Each man is unique in his own way.

Mother Theresa’s admonition is noteworthy: ‘ If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are’. If you are humble, you won’t see everything as a personal affront. Praise won’t turn your head. Disgrace won’t ruin your life. How many words can ever fill a basket? If you’re humble, you’re humble. If you’re arrogant, you’re arrogant. You can pretend to be humble. This is called false humility. How can you tell that a man is humble? Lao has solved the problem. He explains that a humble man, ‘ puts himself in the background yet is always to the fore, remains outside but is always here.’

So, why should you be humble? Simple! It is the quickest path to the multiplication of grace. We have been told time and again that, ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble’. So, if we want to be better at the things that we do, if we don’t want to be detested by God, the path is laid. The decision is ours.