Sharp Guy No Be Thief

Has anyone ever known that he could get away with cheating someone, and not taken advantage of it?  If so, he deserves his wealth, and everyone will praise him for his generosity. – Sirach 31:10b – 11 (GNT)

In Nigeria, there is a general belief that everyone is out to manipulate you until proven otherwise. As a result, we try to “outsmart” everyone in our path. After all, that’s what a “sharp guy” does – scheme or get schemed. 

In the Nigerian context, a sharp guy is someone who wastes no time in taking opportunities (or should I say taking advantage of others) whenever the chance presents itself. It is our default survival tactic and defence mechanism against manipulation and scam. Infact, you either “get sharp or get schemed.”

This mentality is ingrained in us from an early age so we often mistake “dishonesty” for smartness and “integrity” for stupidity. As a consequence, a person who clearly states his terms and keeps his words is seen as a fool or a “mumu.” 


We pride ourselves in what should be termed ‘indecent behaviour’, believeing we are smarter than the next man. We exhibit this “smartness” even when it is unnecessary. For example, the average Nigerian would rather make funny attempts at something (s/he knows nothing about) than accept that s/he doesn’t know.

Why do we do this? The answer is simple. Even though it is obvious that life is a continuous learning journey – in which we learn, relearn and unlearn, we have a disdain for being tagged a learner or a dulling guy

Are you a learner? Don’t dull! These two statements were popularised by two Nigerian music artistes – Olamide and Wizkid- respectively. These have become an integral part of the daily Nigerian conversation used to mock a beginner or someone who is starting or  learning a new skill, trade or profession. 

In these situations, the rules of engagement are well laid out but one wrong step and you are left to rue your mistakes. The moment you acknowledge that you know nothing about whatever thing you may be involved in, you have shown your hand and managed to relegate yourself to the background. In every card game, you don’t show your cards lest you lose the game. The same applies here because at the end of the day, that is what is it is – A game!

Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), our future encounters/deals with others depend a lot on our ability to deliver on our promises/words. Every deal tests our integrity, trustworthiness and reliability. Money is the ‘acid-test’ of people’s integrity. It’s often reveals who we really are especially when we are under pressure. And the thing about business is there’s always another one coming.

For many, inability to keep one’s end of a  deal automatically rules out any chance of another deal in future. That’s it! The bridges have been burnt. No one likes being cheated or taken for a fool.

Don’t lose your integrity over just one deal.

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Life is All About Relationships


Last year was a huge lesson for me both personally and professionally. In my bid to create a better future for my unborn kids, I had to make a lot of round trips to different cities. Luckily, I was never lonely even for a day despite all these trips. I always had a friend whose family was willing to take me in and make me feel right at home. I also had to make phone calls to people in different time zones to get things done for me and they all delivered.

Then it hit me, life is all about relationships. Infact, relationship is the only important thing in life. Normally, whenever relationship is mentioned, many think about the partnership between two lovers but relationships is larger than that. It encompasses your relationship with your God (if you believe in any), lover/s (I heard some are inclined to polygamy so I had to factor that in), family, friends, customers, readership, co-workers, teachers etc. 

Think about it, would you go into business with someone you don’t have a relationship with? Would you refer someone for a job if you haven’t built a relationship with the said person to vouch for his or her capabilities? 

Naturally, human beings are tribal; we try to form a tribe with the people we like and are comfortable with. This is because biologically and psychologically, from childhood, we depend on others from survival and growth. According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, our brains are wired to connect whenever we engage with others. 

As a result, relationships are an essential source of learning. Everyone has something to teach you; everyone has a lot to learn from you as well. It is through relationships that we get to understand our true self. Through series of interactions, ideas and connections, we develop into who we really are. 

The quality of our relationships has a great influence on our perception of the world – bursting with curiosity, openness to new experience and ability to see the inter-relatedness of things around us. Without others pushing us to the limit or providing assistance in one way or another, our creative muscle atrophy and we lose our critical thinking hats.

Therefore, it is safe to say that a lot depends on how we handle our relationships with others. It determines how far we’d go in life. Nearly everything in life is made possible because of someone else, from the tools to the skills that make them useful.  

The connections we form with others create options and opportunities that are hard to come by. If you take a trip down memory lane, you’d notice that some of the best opportunities you’ve had in life were somewhat created by those you had formed a relationship with. 

No wonder Keith Ferrazzi described success in his book, Never Eat Alone, as the sum of the people you meet and what you create together. Ferrazzi believes success has nothing to do with class but about access, which some gain through birth or money. 

I couldn’t agree more. Every career you can think of is about managing relationships. How well we manage these relationships determine how far we would go. A reference is only as good as the referee’s word and is dependent on the relationship between the refereee and the ‘refered’. We project and deal with people we know and trust hence every business deal or transaction is a human enterprise. 

However to achieve this, one must be willing to give something in return. You can’t separate giving from a relationship. You can’t be a leech who has three daughters, all named “Give Me” and expect your relationships to be genuine. There must be some of form giving interms of time, attention, money, advice, a smile, a handshake or any other form of help. This way we make a lasting impact on others. 

When you are consistently reliable, offer some reflective feedbacks, have an interesting conversations with others, genuinely help others or connect them with ideas or people that can help them achieve their goals, you are making a huge deposit into your social account. This is because people tend to help those who help them.

 In the long run, social capital is the most valuable currency. It is worth more than money, education and/or credentials. Have you ever seen anyone who’s faced with death that thinks about money, success, career achievement or titles? 

Make deposits into your social account everyday by building, maintaining and valuing the relationships you have with your God (if you believe in any), family, friends and others because at the end of the day, that’s all you have.

P.S. I am sincerely grateful for all the reliable people in my life and also hope that they find me reliable.