There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.”
It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.”
Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”
Often, when I talk about Africa, I get a few friends asking why I refer to the whole content instead of simply focusing specifically on the country at the heart of my writing or discourse. Well, my reasons are two-fold: first, I think that the balkanization of Africa by Europeans based on politics of economics, created a pseudo-fragmented continent that focused on individual parts, rather than a stronger whole. Thus, we’ve inherited (and perpetuate) a legacy of division rather than of unity.
And secondly, I am a pan-africanist at heart, period. Most our leadership training programs/projects at WWN have exposed me to different countries on the continent. (I am constantly astounded at the number of people I meet in other countries who are look-alikes of cousins, aunties, nieces, nephews etc). In my crazy world, Africa is one. Just as Nigeria is one. Yes, the tongues, tribes, faiths, may differ, but ultimately there an inter-connectedness that is sacred (sorry to sound a tad spiritual and philosophical, but that’s just how I feel). 🙂
Last year when I visited the city of my birth – Lagos, it struck me how almost everyone I met seemed to be committed to reminding me of how bad, corrupt, dangerous and totally unliveable Lagos (and by extension, Nigeria), had become.
Each time I talked about missing the bustle of the city and referred to some of the positive changes, most people were quick to shoot down my observations and instead, regaled me with the negatives. It dawned on me as I suddenly realized that we had gradually become a nation so disappointed in the leadership of our country that we now told a single, VERY damning story about her! (Apologies to Chimamanda Adichie).
And yet, there’s another story of Nigeria and indeed Africa, that we never tell enough of. And I got to see this new, positive side during my most recent visit post elections and I remain (cautiously) hopeful that perhaps, a new dawn is on the horizon.
First, two delightful anomalies (as someone beautifully put it on Facebook) had happened. Nigeria had held a successful elections between GEJ and GMB, largely fair and free, with pockets of violence here and there and at the end of the electoral process, approximately only 50 people died, most of them from the attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. I do not say the number with ‘only’ casually, as if human lives do not matter, rather, I use this term respectfully, in the context of our history.
During the last elections in 2011 (and the main contenders were also Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari), it was reported that more than 800 people were allegedly killed! I would like to acknowledge the past present, GEJ, for his peaceful and swift concession of victory, a selfless trait most African leaders need to imbibe. We hope for a day when this would be the norm and not the exception.
I am not blind to the challenges of infrastructure, systems and processes in Africa. Neither am I oblivious of dog-eat-dog mentality, the kidnappings and killings, the danger and menace posed by Boko Haram and mind-churning, unconscionable, high levels of greed, and of course an intricatley woven, messy web of enshrined cultures and systems, steeped in overt and covert acts of nepotism, incompetence and corruption.
However, I refuse to accept that this is our definitive story! I saw a bud of hope, resilient and unwavering, struggling against all odds to germinate from rough, unwatered, unweeded grounds. And it will survive and thrive, how could it not?
You see, in the midst of the seeming squalor, strife, chaos, rot and corruption, there’s a new Africa awakening. She’s powered by a group of fearless, courageous, visionary, transformational, creative, hardworking and ethical young men and women, both at home and in the diaspora.
They may be few but they are mighty and powerful in their levels of authenticity and solid value-construct. Look around you. There is a new story of Africa that has not yet been told. A generation is here to give us new perspectives about the possibilities within and around us.
Their ripples flow from the creative arts, music, science, banking, education, fashion, social media, faith groups, sports….You won’t find them complaining or blaming. You’ll find them DOING! They do not beg for crumbs, or hustle blindly for a ‘continental/national cake’, they BAKE their own! And they do not go with the popular flow. They CREATE their own unique flow. I got a chance to see, feel and hear their vision and goals at a forum for Unity schools (Federal Government Colleges), held in Lagos.
In my work as a leadership trainer and consultant, I also get a chance to interact with a lot of them via social media, on conference calls and in person; at Universities, Colleges of Education and Secondary/Primary Schools. They are politically engaged and are unafraid to voice their opinions and call out corrupt or non-performing leaders. In the same vein, they are quick to praise evidence of good leadership and extol proven examples of statesmanship.
They understand the overwhelming challenges and yet consciously choose to focus on and seek the opportunities instead. They are the realistic optimists. They’ve mastered the arts of PRIORITIZATION. They believe that we are all created EQUAL before God. The fires of love, respect and honour still burn in their hearts.
They do not play the ‘victim-gender-ethnic-religion-poverty’ game; they recognize and avoid the ‘woe me’ trap! They have chosen to reside in the ‘wow me’ zone where results, solutions and value abound. Excellence is their modus operandi and they are willing to stumble along, as long as it is in the direction of their dreams.
They LEAD themselves first, and empower others around them with their examples. They are everyday people, and cut across different educational, economic strata and diverse backgrounds. They are the seekers and the believers, the hopefuls and the patiently persistent souls. They are laying a foundation for a future of their dreams. They will not be deterred by their corrupt politicians or rudderless rulers. They will travel far and wide in search of knowledge, opportunities and growth!
They are passionate advocates of meritocracy and choose it resoundingly over all forms of mediocrity and incompetence. They shun the notion of ‘Federal Character’; they respect and treat people based on the value of their character!
They hold their head up high, always hungry for change & transformation, AND are always willing to commit and take ACTION in little ways, Every.Single.Day! It’s a new dawn for mother Africa. The truth is that no one else can heal our homeland. Only we can do that. Whether you’re 16 or 60, the day you awaken is your morning. Ask yourself: What if there’s a story that I can join in telling? What if I begin to see myself and my world around me differently? What if I really can make a difference?
Are you still sitting on the fence? Arise and take ACTION in your own way. No act of service is too small. Simply choose to live and share your truth. Volunteer in your community. Lead or become a part of a team and undertake a worthy cause or project. Change and empower just one life each year.
Every positive action counts. Simply BE and B.E.A.M: Be Everything And More. Dig deep and finally be the reason your ancestors rejoiced at your birth! LIVE passionately, powerfully and purposefully! All of us, you and I, we all have the power to change the story we want told about our Africa. It is our story, after all. Live the story you want told. We have the power to co-create the society of our dreams.
Be the best version of you at home, work , worship and play. Engage in and contribute to your community. Every act is important. Be a part of this re-birth! Join us at Whole Woman Network as we engage, educate, and power YOU to take ACTION now!
A quick story of a positive experience I recently had in Ogidi, Anambra State.
The power of quality education and the beauty of excellence: The driver who took me to the Enugu airport from Ogidi was so courteous and professional, I just had to engage him in a lengthy conversation. It was raining when he arrived and he had an umbrella to lead me to his car.
His car was very neat, as in, the whole works: lovely air freshners, kleenex box, he had a copy of John Maxwell book and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, fashion magazines and newspapers for clients AND a note at the back seat, giving people permission to take a picture of his license plate and complain if his services were below acceptable standards. He asked if I preferred the radio or a CD(he had several options to choose from, I picked Asa😀😁).
His story’s quite interesting…He’d graduated from Unizik a few years back and after he failed to secure a job, he took up driving (he always loved driving but never considered it as a career option until he couldn’t stand the shame of begging friends/family for upkeep money). He incoporated his learning trom school into his everyday business life. Now he has one other car and 3 kekes in his fleet, driven by others who remit daily returns to him. He hopes to have more…Inspiring stuff!
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Love, Light & Truth!
-Juliet Kego Ume-Onyido, MBA (www.julietkego.com)
Poet | Master-Certified Leadership Trainer-Coach-Consultant |
Co-Founder & Executive Director, Whole Woman Network
Raising a new Generation of Transformational and Creative African Leaders
Postcards From Africa is a WWN Feature about creating a new, positive, empowering narrative of Africa by Africans. This is a movement about igniting an empowered citizenry to make a difference by bridging the integrity gap. It is about changing the status quo, from waiting passively for ‘leaders’, to our embracing a new paradigm that WE are the leaders we seek.
WWN seeks to advance ideas, causes, projects that transform our communities for the better, by first inspiring us to ‘see’ ourselves in a brand new light. We are committed to empowering and/or celebrating a new generation of Transformational, Ethical and Creative African leaders (T.E.C), who are actively engaged in nation-building, one idea, one person, one project and one community at a time!
Do you know anyone, idea or cause that should be featured? We’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org