WE are living through trying times in Nigeria; heading swiftly to a point where “the centre can no longer hold.” Still, Nigeria has such a resilient spirit and uncommon Grace from Above such that it has consistently bounced back from the brink from such adversities that make other nations history. Born of unusual historical circumstances, it seems that no diabolic machination will stop it from achieving its historical destiny as the “Giant of Africa,” of which it is at present only a mere potential.
However, the heavens only help those who help themselves, as they say. Accordingly, every genuine citizen desirous of a change to that mighty and just republic must wake up now and begin to do the needful rather than leaving it to fate. Believe it or not, the change we desire must begin with us all as individuals. Leo Tolstoy said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself/herself.” There, precisely, lies the contradiction. Whereas there are overwhelming social conditions that form a person’s character, the same adversity that turns one man to a bandit is the same that turns another, right by his side, into a scholar. It is a matter of personal choice based largely on birth, upbringing and self-development.
This is why we have made the choice today to inspire ourselves with some words on learning and making a difference. To make a difference, the first thing to do is to learn, and learning does not take ages. There are so many sayings that point to the fact that knowledge is everything: it is what builds wisdom, character and skills. It is said that “wisdom is better than silver and gold,” “knowledge is power,” and “my people perish for lack of wisdom.” The misconstruction of what knowledge is all about is indeed at the root of Nigeria’s vagrancy almost to the edge of self-annihilation today.
Learning and knowledge is definitely not about certificates for plum job and is not to be obtained solely from the schools. According to Marcus Garvey, “To be educated is to be learned in all that is worthwhile knowing. Not to be crammed with the subject-matter of books or the philosophy of the classroom but to store away in your head such facts as you need for daily application of life, so that you may be better in all things, understand your fellowmen and interpret your relation to your creator. You can be educated in soul, vision and feeling as well as in mind. To see your enemy and know him is a part of the complete education of man; to spiritually regulate oneself is another form of the higher education that fits man for a nobler place in life, and still to be able to approach your brother by feeling of your own humanity, is an education that softens the ills of the world and makes us kind indeed…”
As said, when this notion is gotten wrong in trying to formalise the acquisition of learning, a society is on the way to doom. Indeed, at the entrance gate of a university in South Africa the following message was posted for contemplation: “Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students. Patients die at the hands of such doctors. Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers. Money is lost at the hands of such economists and accountants. Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars. Justice is lost at the hands of such judges… The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”
To remedy the decades of institutional damages to knowledge acquisition process, the onus is now on us all to learn by ourselves, as the basis for a quick rethink, reflection and action to redeem ourselves and our nation, and project it to its true destiny, rather than succumb to simplistic agenda that only leads to chaos and destruction, offering no good to any common man. We must embrace learning and run a quick course for ourselves in being our best, for ourselves and for the society. The way is to return to our study desks, and for those who can read to widely do so and then write and teach those who can’t. The Sage, Obafemi Awolowo, emphasised this discipline when he said “while many men in power and public office are busy carousing in the midst of women of easy virtue and men of low morals, I, as a few others like me, am busy at my desk thinking about the problems of Nigeria and proffering solutions to them. Only the deep can call to the deep.” Thinking correctly is a function of good learning.
Learning is available everywhere for those seeking it, for those that desire wisdom, character and skill. The first task is to pause in our routine of being busy doing mostly nothing other than surviving, and resolving, in addition to hustling for mere survival, to seek knowledge; convinced genuinely that being maximally useful to oneself and positively relevant to the community, not to mention relevance to the larger society, the nation and the world, is simply impossible without adequate learning.