A teacher retiring from a Nigerian secondary school calls to say things are very, very tough nowadays for people in Nigeria. He says money is scarce, unemployment severe, and people are struggling to make ends meet. He says Nigerians are straining to survive in ways that are both ruthless and immoral, including, armed robbery, kidnapping, witchcraft, prostitution, and murders.
He says life boils down to a maddening scramble to get beyond the past through acquiring money by any means necessary. The desire to want to get past the past is commendable if done in the right spirit. The purpose of this essay is two-fold: to encourage young Nigerians who are determined to make it despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles stacked against them in Nigeria, and to argue that getting past the past is possible. There are many instances where the past can be unnerving, intimidating, or demoralizing.
I am a citizen of Nigeria, a country beset and besieged by many problems, including frequent power outages, shortage of drinking water, anopheles mosquitoes that give one malarial fever, robberies by bandits, and roads full of pot holes. How do you expect me to succeed in the midst of all these?
Okay, my family is and has been poor; I can't seem to rise above this poverty, and I live in a society where everyone wants to be a millionaire.
I am a Christian in a largely Muslim country, and I am expected to succeed when everything is stacked against my religion.
There is a pattern of divorce and drunkenness in my family.
My family has gone through a lot of things that are related to witchcraft, including sudden deaths, mental illnesses, and unexplained accidents. How do I get past all these?
It is strange I am the first person in my family to attend college.
My grandfather, father, and uncles had been petty traders unable to feed their families.
How do I study medicine or electrical engineering when there is not a single doctor or engineer in my family?
I am always ill during examinations and job interviews; this is perhaps the work of witchcraft.
My father and elder brother think I will not amount anything since my mother died.
I was abandoned before the War, orphaned after the War, and floundering around like a rolling stone since I can remember.
You cannot continue to be shackled to your past. You are shackled when you feel fettered, manacled, chained up, pilloried or put in irons, constrained, restricted, or put in a bind. Your past is gone, and your present in now. Why do you live in the past when you ought to be concerned about the here and now? Past defeats and failures do not mean a thing.
The past is not the way things are or ought to be. There are many Instances where the past may appear to hold us back. We were taught to sing a secondary school song which says: "There are many many rivers in the human life; you have to swim or you drown. There are many many mountains in the human life. You have to climb or you shame."
Although getting past your past is easier said than done, It is difficult to do however, depending on one's thought processes, determination, and beliefs. One must let go of the past and the future, and live in the present. There are important steps to take if one is keen on doing so.
Pick a place, and day, and time to start. Develop an insight, some thoughts about what you want to do and how to do it. Go for it.
Discover that your past has no significance at all ; it is highly irrelevant.
Think of an unpleasant event like an injury you sustained during a soccer game that needed to heal. The injury is inconsequential once it has healed.
Think of a pleasant event that cannot be relived, but will be carried in the mind to motivate you to move forward to greater heights. Examples could be a soccer game your team won, or a day your peers praised you in church for wrestling like Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart and pinning or knocking down your opponent.
We recommend you pull a poem from the internet and read to digest the meaning. The poem is "IF" by Rudyard Kpling. Also, we recommend you read two powerful paperbacks One paperback is " THE MAGIC OF BELIEVING" by Claude Myron Bristol (1991). The other paperback is "THE MAGIC OF THINKING BIG" by David J. Schwartz (1987).
Life is not the YESTERDAY. Life is not the TOMORROW. Life is NOW, TODAY, IN THE PRESENT. There is no better time to begin life than right now. This time, like all times, is the best if we can discover how to make best use of it. Procrastination is a thief of time.
So my family is and has been poor, and I can't seem to rise above this poverty?
Listen to the story of a boy this writer grew up with in Benue State, Nigeria. Tim was an example of a boy who grew up in abject poverty. He came from an obscure village where his father, a coffin maker and palm wine tapper, was a share cropper on someone's land. Money was hard to come by to a family of two sons and three daughters .
After Tim completed primary school which was interrupted by the family's inability to afford money necessary for payment of school fees and uniforms, he was concerned he could not attend secondary school because his parents were uneducated, poor, and uninformed about school choices. He was scheduled to serve an uncle as a houseboy and gardener.
Being a servant and garden boy meant Tim would not see his dream materialize to become as one of those teachers who taught him his arithmetic and spelling lessons and who inspected bodies of his friends for head lice, ringworms, or decaying teeth. Tim asked his father to talk with and seek advice from the local pastor of the Methodist Church with regard to what Tim's way out of poverty should be.
The pastor advised that Tim should work with the pastor's wife in helping to prepare food, wash clothes and clean around the pastor's residence. Cleaning the church on Saturdays for Sunday services and tending to the pastor's vegetable garden were other responsibilities Tim was given. Tim carried out his duties so well that the pastor took a great interest in Tim's education.
Tim completed primary school, and the pastor recommended Tim for admission to the 3-year ETC (Elementary Teacher Training) which Tim completed with flying colors. He taught briefly at the Methodist primary school before seeking admission to the 2-year HETC (Higher Elementary Teacher's College). Tim was a conscientious and self-motivated student with disciplined attitudes and deep moral standards.
Being conscientious meant that Tim was careful, thorough, meticulous, painstaking, reliable, diligent, assiduous, or hardworking. Being self-motivated meant that Tim was a self starter, lively, active, with go-ahead attitudes, energetic, vibrant, forceful, vigorous, or full of life. Tim had deep moral attitudes in that his words and deeds were ethical, good, right, honest, decent, just, honorable, or proper.
These good qualities enabled Tim to complete the HETC and obtain a teaching appointment at the mission school. He then took the GCE (General Certificate of Education) at both the Ordinary and Advanced levels. Tim saved the sum of 18,000 British pounds to begin his college studies overseas. Today, Tim is a college professor with the doctorate degree. Looking at Tim's life and achievements, one can develop Tim's Method of Success as follows: have a burning desire to succeed, commune with your parents or significant others; work conscientiously hard; be honest in all your dealings with people; and cultivate a spirit of humility. Eschew arrogance and showiness.
Finally, bear in mind that money is a treacherous mistress in that Naira is deceitful, unfaithful, double-crossing, or perfidious. The money does not belong to you per se. You are merely the manager of money while your life lasts, and you cannot take it with you when you die, and when you die, others will make use of your money. Consider Abacha and is millions in Swizz banks. It is not "How much money do you make?" that matters. It is "How much can you save?" Money is a good servant but a bad master when it rules over you. Use it wisely to make life easy for yourself and in the process ease lives of others. Again, consider Abacha and Swizz banks. Yes, we say to you young Nigerians: "Yes, you can get beyond your past."