You can switch careers and it doesn’t make you fickle

History has recorded the following careers linked to Abraham Lincoln:

  1. Boatman
  2. Store Clerk
  3. Surveyor
  4. Militia Soldier
  5. Postmaster
  6. Inventor
  7. Lawyer
  8. Congressman
  9. United States Senator
  10. 16th President of The United States

By most accounts, having as many as ten careers will be labelled Inconsistent and undisciplined by the kindest critic.  Yet, Abraham Lincoln’s name is ensconced in the history books as one of the most successful presidents that ever lived  and the driver of the Emancipation Proclamation that abolished slavery and granted African Americans freedom.

 

TD Jakes, a renowned Christian Preacher, has varied careers in writing, music, preaching, counselling, TV and movie production, public speaking, cooking.  He noted that while these careers seem diverse, there is a single skill that runs through all.  That skill is communication.  TD Jakes is a communicator and uses a plethora of platforms to communicate.

 

The same can be said of Abraham Lincoln.  He used different careers to express his inherent passion of servitude. He was a servant leader.

 

Yes, there is validity in sticking to a singular career path and both men did that.  They developed a specific talent that cut across diverse fields.

 

When you find yourself on an interview panel and you are described as being ‘fickle”, ‘inconsistent”,  “shifting”, “erratic”, lay claim to the singular trait that you have developed in your careers.  It might be punctuality, hard work, detailed-ness, self-mastery, reliability, integrity, passion, etc. You can only be inconsistent if your supervisors in the different careers have conflicting things to say about you. Think about that!

 

Be Bold! Be Committed!

 

Museum of Unity, Enugu: History, Heritage, Harmony

I’ve always been interested in history, world history but particularly African and Nigerian history. My father is definitely to blame for this love but it is one interest I am glad he piqued. Our history discussions spanned geographies, coasts and seas; we talked about everyday living within cultures, influencers and developments. It was and is still very interesting to mentally experience the evolution of a people.

 

As an adult, I am even more interested in Nigerian history especially as I know how that knowledge has shaped my view of my beloved country. I believe it is a disservice that we no longer teach Nigerian history and are missing a critical aspect of ensuring we remain a united Nigeria in thought and deed.

 

I have always lived in Lagos and for secondary education, attended Federal Government College, Enugu. I cannot fully express how that experience has shaped me as a person. I attended this school in an era when unity schools were the most prestigious schools to attend and student population came from across the entire country. I had the opportunity to interact with peers from different cultural, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. In that melting pot, we became one, our unification emanating from emerging behind mom and/or dad to become independent teenagers, needing to survive in waters solely navigated by basic survival instincts. Today, those friendships span a quarter of a century and longer.

 

And so it was with glee that I returned to my roots as Life Skills facilitator on Nigerian Bottling Company’s (NBC) Youth Empowered programme. Enugu, being my city, I thought it wise to spend a few days stomping the city I no longer recognised but which had its imprints all over my heart. Plus, I would get some time away from the mania that is Lagos. As part of my “re-culturisation”, I convinced two of my friends to accompany me to the Museum of Unity in Enugu.  The 4-part display consists of:

 

  1. A unity exhibit
  2. An igbo culture exhibit
  3. A coal city exhibit
  4. A Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe exhibit

 

 

Eureka Moments

 

  1. Established after the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), the Museum of Unity identifies the commonalities in Royalty, Deity and Ceremony not limited to human and agricultural fertility, life and death, celebrations, fairness and equity across the approximate 350 ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. In other words, the displays are not only relevant to igbo culture, beliefs and traditions but to every tribe that makes up modern day Nigeria.

 

  1. The interactions between and amongst the tribes became evident as I toured the exhibits. The values and systems that maintained order in the day-today lives of indigenous peoples were apparent in dress, governance, trade, war and ceremonies.

 

  1. As we toured the Unity exhibit, I noticed that the full dress of the Obi of Onitsha (King of Onitsha, South-Eastern, Nigeria) was made from Damask, a fabric predominantly thought to originate from South West Nigeria. My interpretation of this was that there was extensive trade and transfers between the different groups. Also interesting is that fact that one display clearly alludes to the origin of the Onitsha masquerade as Igala, a tribe in today’s Benue state. Part of its dress aso-oke, also belongs to South West Nigeria.

 

 

  1. Art has always been a part of human existence and often represents beliefs in the tangible. It also was a form of passing on oral tradition with references. I discovered that the oldest bronze sculpture in Nigeria is actually from Oron, Akwa-Ibom state in South-South Nigeria and not from Nok in Plateau State, North Central Nigeria.

 

  1. The exhibit without meaning to, became evidence of transition from wholly indigenous societies, albeit with local interactions, to one with western influences through first trade and then colonialism.

 

  1. Money evolved from brass (so we’ve been smelting iron forever and of course knew some technology), to cowries, to fabric, to beads and then to glass. Don’t ask, I don’t understand the rationale either. We did have our traditional medium of exchange that sufficed until we were told we needed a more formal currency.

 

  1. The ancient linkages were clear. Nigerians have always co-existed and thrived.

 

Conclusion

The Museum of Unity in Enugu was a revelation to me in many parts. It achieved what it was designed to do; I learnt about other tribes, I saw similarities, I discovered we had been exchanging ideas and adopting best practices amongst ourselves for a long time. I felt a deep appreciation of the belief systems that drove ancient peoples; most of all, I felt truly Nigerian.

I recommend you visit this museum if you are ever in the Enugu area.  It will enhance your appreciation of the nation and our tribal heritage; that Kings and Queens were revered and we had functional governments with participation by both sexes; that our societies worked effectively and our beliefs were enough to provide a moral compass that ensured fairness, equity and justice. I saw that our commonalities are a lot more than our differences. I saw Nigeria.

 

Addendum

Thank you ‘Gbubemi Atimomo for pointing out that Nok art was made from terracotta. Old Benin Empire, also in the South-South region of Nigeria is typically the reference for bronze works.

World Culture: Experiences and trying new things

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

― St. Augustine

 

I remember the very first time I saw and felt snow. It was a wonder, different from anything I had experienced before then. Not because it is something spectacular, though it was in a sense, but because for a very long time I had read books, seen movies and listened to songs in which snow was central to the tale… Christmas was always ‘white’, as was the description from the eponymous ‘Snow White’. For me, snow represented something far away, magical and fantastic. That was a long time ago. Nowadays, whenever it snows, I think of the fact that it can be quite treacherous and dangerous to walk or drive on once it turns to black ice. Something you never read about in the fairy tales. To me, this simplistically exemplifies the marked differences that might exist between an idealized version and reality of something.

 

To a greater degree, such differences also exist between what we might read or hear about, and the reality of a people or place. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once wrote that there is a danger to a single story. ” … the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In my experience every place I have been to, and people I met there, has been quite different from the reality. My experience of the Middle East, including some of the apparently most conservatively religious countries there, has been markedly different from the preconceived ideas, shaped by the narrative pushed by the media, I had prior to my going there. I have fond memories of Jeddah and Riyadh, including eating Kabsa with my hands and drinking very sweet Turkish coffee, whilst sitting on the floor in a tradition Arab setting. I have come to make friends of people that I might have feared as the bogeyman ‘other’. The most fun part (besides the amazing food and shopping!) of traveling is meeting new people and making new friends. You meet people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. You will learn valuable lessons and stories from each person you meet that will make the trip even more memorable. You’ll gain insights into their way of life and their beliefs. Not only will you gain tons of knowledge, but your personality will also develop. You’ll come to see and appreciate your own culture from a different perspective. You can even keep in touch with them when you come back home and continue to experience and share from across the world.

 

It is interesting to note how preconceived notions and generalisations, often imbibed from our family and friends as we grow up, are torn down once we get to meet and experience the very ‘other’ people the notions target. Some might think that bigotry is only a white versus black thing. I would argue that tribalism is a facet of bigotry. Ask any detribalised Nigerian, and he will tell you that he/she is well travelled across the nation. Ditto anyone who has travelled the world. You learn to become more social, flexible, open minded, and independent. Exposure to different cultures or diversity will lead to better judgment; you will meet people of different religions, colour, race, educational and professional backgrounds as well as points of view and political persuasions. In case you needed a scientific reason for traveling, studies show that individuals who experience or adopt new cultures have enhanced creativity than individuals who hadn’t experienced a new culture. These interactions facilitate idea flexibility, increase awareness of underlying connections and associations, and helps to overcome functional fixedness.

 

So, do yourself some good, go to the ranch at Obudu, go snorkelling in the Maldives, shop at a souk and visit the massive 17th-century Blue Mosque and the circa-1460 Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, go see the Taj Mahal or visit a night market in Bali. Wherever you go, do yourself a favour and go explore the world. It will be more beneficial than you might think.