Blame It On Me

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I just saw the recent disheartening video footage of Matthew Ajibade, the Nigerian student who died mysteriously in police custody in the United States earlier in the year, being shocked by police officers while handcuffed to a restraining chair and writhing in pain.

Ajibade, who was only 21 years old at the time of his death, was found dead in jail in the US on New Year’s day. He had been arrested the previous day after his girlfriend put a distress call to 911 for an ambulance following an episode of his bipolar disorder which made him strike her. The police showed up instead and arrested Ajibade despite the girlfriend making it clear he needed medical attention.

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This has become a norm in the United States where young innocent harmless black men are more likely to be gunned down by the police than they would a white. Their only crime is being black. Black people are generally presumed to be dangerous, a threat and always guilty until proven innocent. According to promoters of the Black Lives Matter movement, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement every twenty-eight hours.

In light of the recent extrajudicial killings of black people, I reaffirm my stance as an unapologetic Black man and throw my weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I hate the fact that black people blame everything wrong in their lives on racism.

Black music artistes are often quick to cite/blame racism for their failure to get nominations or win music awards. If American actor Leonardo DiCaprio was black, maybe he’d have taken the same route and blamed his failure to win an Oscar, despite mesmeric performances in a number of movies, on his race. Or the likes of Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitski would have pinned Michael Jordan’s recognition as the greatest basketballer of all time on race.

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I do not know if blaming everything on racism makes some of my black brothers and sisters feel better about themselves but it is about time we took some of the blame for some of the things happening to us. There’s a saying that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.” Magnifying our self-esteem issues by seeking sympathy from the world for being black will give others the power to use us as pawns.

I do not seek sympathy from anyone for being black. Being black is not a plague/curse. Back in Nigeria, being black is becoming a bad thing too. It requires painstaking effort to discern a Nigerian from the crowd these days. We have adopted foreign accents and sound more American and British than the Americans and British people themselves.

You are automatically proclaimed intelligent once you speak well with a foreign accent. Perhaps that’s why it has become a “taboo” for anyone, especially those going into media or entertainment industry, to have a Nigerian accent. Listen to the radio and TV stations now, and you ask yourself “why the struggle to sound white?”

The same Nigerian accent we deride was recently ranked 6th sexiest accent by CNN, higher than the the American accent and a spot below the Queens English accent. However, have you ever seen whites  “killing” themselves to have a Nigerian accent? The essence of language is to communicate but it is also an integral part of a people’s culture. It is one of the things that sets one apart.

Accents define us and grant others information about our lives – where we are from, our history and identity as a people/ race. Our accents depict the richness of our cultural heritage and diversity. You don’t need need a foreign accent to have a high self-esteem rather forcing a foreign accent enhances your inferiority complex.

You are a representative of the Black Community; stop making our kids feel being Black and having a Nigerian accent is a bad thing. So instead of blurting out “Don’t Blame it on me” like John Newman, take the blame today like George Ezra and be proud of who you are. Be made of black!

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Success

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What is success? What does it mean to you? Does it entail money/wealth, fame, academic and career achievements, titles and health? What about family? In all honesty, success means different things to different people. One’s definition of success gives an insight into his mind and perception about life.

Being born and raised in Nigeria, where everyone is crazy about titles and money is everything, it is quite easy to understand why many believe success is all about money – having lots and lots of it and academic titles/job promotions/political appointments. Dr Chris Kwakpovwe, the writer of the popular Bible reading guide Daily Manna once wrote, “Titles may enhance us but they aren’t our identity.” Indeed titles are not our identity. Think about this; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft, Apple and other products we consume today are owned and created by persons, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and late Steve Jobs who have/had no title. Would you say they are not successful because they lack titles? Don’t misconstrue my point, titles are awesome but they are useless if you don’t put them to great use.

I know a lot of people reading this are already asking themselves, what does a young man in his 20s know about success? What has he really achieved? I am still light years behind, both in age and achievements, but I have experienced joy and sadness, success and failure, and had it both good and bad. My success made me have a quasi-outlook on life; because things were quite easy for me, I struggled to comprehend when people complained about same things being difficult for them. However, nothing changes a man like failure and I am no different. Failure changes one’s outlook on things; it emboldens you and makes you hard-bitten.

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Let me paint a mental picture for you. Close your eyes and think about the best and worst relationships you’ve had. Which of them taught you more – the good or the bad one? Hear Robert Kiyosaki, “Inside every problem lies a gem of wisdom, a gem that makes us smarter, stronger and able to do better regardless of economic conditions.” Failure, in its own right, is success coated with indelible lessons, only if you learn from it. My failure and disappointments made me appreciate life and success more. John Maxwell once said, “The greatest lessons in life are from our losses. Everyone experiences loss but not everyone learns from it. Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”

Each and every one of us have experienced (or will still experience) something that changed our lives and we have never been the same ever since. Jonas Guiterrez, a rich Argentine professional footballer, who is living the dream of many said after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, “I think the most important thing in life is health. Health and happiness. Sometimes we get into a lot of trouble for things that aren’t significant.” Sometimes we get caught up or engrossed with frivolities such as acceptance and fame on social media (virtual world), fashion trends etc. Thanks to satellite TV and social media, everyone is “close” to the fabulous lives of their favourite celebrities and yearn for their lives.

Numerous chats with people down the years made me realize most youths long for success but a few are prepared to put in the effort. Regardless of your definition of success, one thing is certain – it is a long continuous process. Even Kim Kardashian, who is often criticized for lacking talents apart from her beauty and good derriere, works hard to maintain her success. Success does not fall on one’s laps – like manna from heaven. It has to be earned through hard work, perseverance, persistence and determination.

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Michael Wardian, after becoming the World record holder for 50km on the treadmill said, “I think about my goal. Don’t give up because it gets hard or something gets wrong. It is the middle that’s tough. People cheer at the starting and finish line. The middle miles need mental toughness.” Oh Yes! Everybody likes to be associated with success; failure is an orphan. In other words, who no like to embrace the winner? Cast your minds back to when you got accepted into the University, everyone was ecstatic for you and you became an overnight celebrity at your matriculation ceremony. The same thing reoccurs when you finally graduate and everyone adds Dr, Barr, Engr, as the case may be, to your name. However, only a few understand what you had to go through to obtain that degree – the mental, emotional and psychological stress heightened by sleepless nights.

Every successful person you know today has had it rough but never gave up. If you aim at being excellent at what you do, you ought to be willing to sacrifice a certain part of your life. You have to do the work; dot the ‘i’s and cross the‘t’s. Tim Gower wrote in his book, RELENTLESS:  “There is no privilege greater than the pressure to excel and no greater reward than earning the respect and fear of others who are in awe of your results.” He further described three types of personalities in the book; the coolers who let others decide whether they are successful or not, the closers who feel they are successful once they get the job done e.g. African footballers in Europe and the cleaners who never feel as if they have achieved success because there is more to do.

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the easiest examples of cleaners today. Debate about who is better than the other has divided the football world. Despite what these two football greats have achieved, they don’t rest on their laurels. Their hunger for success is what drives them and they have created a legacy for themselves.

Our environment determines our path; it is the most powerful teacher of all in our success quest. If you aim at being successful in your chosen field, it is pertinent to identify the right environment that allows you take advantage of your three brains – right, left and subconscious – to achieve your dream. Crowd mentality can’t get you to the sky, where we all believe is our starting point but by creating a niche for yourself in your field and proving everyday why that niche deserves to be yours.