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I just came back from Africa, and to be specific, Nigeria. I had to be emphatic on where I went to because people as dumb as Boris Johnson think Africa is a country. He isn’t the only one in that category; many in the west who we all thought had an element of civilization truly don’t know simple geography, yet they’re the first to run their mouths pretending to know their social studies.

Back to Nigeria; a microcosm of Africa, it is so apparent how the economy has taken a devastating blow. Those on the driving seat appear to have lost control or probably do not know what part of the forest they’ve found themselves. Before they took over the reins of leadership, they bubbled with enthusiasm and professed how in a thousand seconds they would turn around the economy of the nation. Rather than go for skills and experience, they became partisan, and put in position those who don’t know the difference between cacophony and substance. When the robbers hit the road, they ricocheted, and made sure the rebound was always on the heads of their predecessors. That was where I met my beloved country!

Apart from poor leadership, one angle of economic adjustment and adaptation by certain people has got me thinking. Poverty mustn’t be a reason to lose one’s conscience or to throw away the willingness to do good and not expect a payback. I noticed that nothing goes for nothing. What do I mean? If you are in a shopping complex or airport for instance, and you ask some people for direction within the complex, rather than tell you where it is, they prefer to take you there themselves and then ask to be tipped. If I have to tip someone, let me make the decision. If you put me under compulsion to do it, it becomes illegal.

Something happened on my way back to the UK. I saw one of the airport assistants helping one disabled woman, and I was moved by his kindness. I told him that after checking in, I would like to offer him a few coins (even without him asking). And my generosity paid off. How? After being checked by a Nigeria Intelligence Agent, rather than tell me to go meet the immigration officer, he just waved me in, and like a sheep without shepherd, I followed the movement of his hand, heading towards the direction of the aircraft. It wasn’t until the young man I promised to give some change alerted me, my passport wouldn’t have been stamped out, and UK immigration would have questioned how I got on the plane. If I see that young man in the future, I will tip him over and over again. You see; sometimes, you don’t need to ask to be given. Some asking is lack of integrity. This brings me to talking about influence.

In my mother-in-law’s little sitting room sat two of my niece-in-laws. I never in any way premeditated that I would have some words with them, nor did I plan what to say. Somehow, I started talking about the differences between money and influence. I told them that money doesn’t always buy influence but influence can always buy money. Nelson Mandela wasn’t a billionaire, but was very influential. If when he was alive, he wanted two billion dollars, his influence would make him get it without breaking sweat. I advised that in addition to education, developing and applying skills that give a person substantive edge are paramount in determining the success of individuals. Many young people go for money first without realizing that a great character makes one acquire lifetime skills and attitudes that congeal into immutable benefits. Influence is the biggest strength that empowers the polity and beyond. With influence, you make things happen. Influence is spawned by the acquisition of unusual skills, qualities and enduring attributes. All these come at a price and the cognitive disposition to embrace integrity and unbiased mentality to continue standing where honesty prevails.

With influence, you don’t make immediate gains; and sometimes, you don’t make what is considered gains at all – what most consider as gains are material wealth and the measure of liquidity or opening and closing balance in your bank account. These aren’t the stuffs that develop people, and they aren’t the stuffs that grow great economies, race or nations. When we look beyond money or the material world, we see something bigger, and on a short or long run, the physicals will on their own accord loom. Money is great, but influence is greater!

Pardon my ignorance; I have never seen a fan with rechargeable battery until I visited one of my relatives in Lagos, Nigeria. I was born and raised in Nigeria, but after more than a decade of relocating to Europe, a lot have changed. As the west with their harsh economic policies batter Africa, they expect us to shrink, melt and die, but they are bewildered, as the black skin bounces back with unpredictable resilience. The tougher the situation, the more willing the people aspire to conquer. With this inspiration, new ways of doing things emerge. Even when the resilient doesn’t know ‘how to,’ he indeed knows what his challenges are, and he tells his challenges to those who understand how to fix it, and China always comes up with something. Thank God for China!

The energy crisis in Africa is formidable, but somehow, renewable energy is solving part of the problems. The people are adapting and becoming so innovative in thinking, in surviving and in reviving. In spite of the challenges, great developments, especially in the property market are growing daily. If you are an African stuck in the west, or one who believes that the continent is backward, you better think twice. A lot is happening in that continent, and if you aren’t part of the speedy positive change taking place, you would one day bite your nails. Those you left behind are actually ahead of you. Everything you have in the west are now in your village back home. If you don’t get involved by at least, repatriating part of your skills to build the young ones, they will go on YouTube to learn it, to your own shame. And they’ll even do it better!

Wherever you come from, be part of the real change taking place in Africa. We don’t live on trees; we live in mansions – and that’s a fact! Like any other place, it is far from perfection, but it is definitely on it’s way to perfection. Your contribution to build a better continent or nation isn’t lost in the ocean of needs. If everyone plays his role, step by step, we’ll get there. We aren’t there yet, but everywhere you go, you see the signs that it wouldn’t be long before we win over our detractors. I know that everywhere you go to in Nigeria smells fuel because of the constant use of power generators, but soon, as we strive, there’ll be clean energy. I refuse to accept the conclusion of a Nigerian colleague in London who claims Africa will never develop because it is spiritually cursed. I think he is sick in his brain. Man has the power to change destiny if the will to do so is available. We have the will. Let’s make it happen!

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Ken is a leadership Motivation, Strategy and Personal Development Writer, Blogger and Speaker. He writes for a number of magazines and blogs. He is also a mentor and published author of several books.

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