This month I was going over my speech from TEDxMaitama. It’s been quite some time since then, nearly five years to be exact, yet I can’t help but think the message I was trying to convey then is just as important now if not more. As a country, as a nation, we stand at a turning point.
In the midst of the technology era, we are getting closer and more connected, but also more distant. As communication platforms are on the rise, our communication skills decline. As we push our youth out into the world, we fail to properly prepare them for the harsh realities of adulthood. These dichotomies scare me, but they also motivate me to create change and also instill that drive in others. At this turning point, we rise or fall, and I believe that we, as Nigerians, will rise.
That being said, in the midst of this change, we need to remember the important values that got us this far. Nigerians and Africans, in general, are known for their respectful and polite nature. I take great pride in my countrymen’s courteous nature, and I hope others do too. Do not mistake politeness for weakness. In accepting help and respecting your elders’ opinions, it doesn’t need to diminish your own genius. Accept help, treat others how you want to be treated and uphold those values. I think respect and patriotism go hand in hand for Nigerians. It’s a part of our national identity.
My other main takeaway and what I was trying to drive home for the youth at Maitama that day is that people are capable of anything. You may be young and you may be disadvantaged, but you are also uniquely you and uniquely capable of achieving based on your own gifts. This is a message that will always resonate with me. If you have the drive and motivation – you can do it. You must absolutely work for it though for it to work for you.
I also think it’s a message our younger generations don’t always hear enough. We as a community, too quickly denounce Millennials and Gen Xers based on their whimsical and passionate attitude. We say they lack drive or maturity. In reality, they just tackle problems differently than ourselves. It’s important to make that distinction.
I realize not everyone may agree. If these messages connect with you or they challenge your personal beliefs, I hope you take the time to listen to what I said that day. It might open your eyes. It also might reinforce your beliefs. Most importantly though it may open up an opportunity for conversation.