Today, the first working day of the year, I am led to talk to us about interactions with other people, sort of setting the tone for the year ahead. To do this effectively, I am going to share two short stories that are very illustrative:
Sometime in 1999/2000, I had just been promoted to AGM Environment in the Engineering and Environment Consulting firm I was working with at that time. So, one Friday, a distinguished looking man, in Buba and Sokoto, came into the office, to seek help with an environmental assignment. He was directed to me. But, that day, I was dressed in Jeans and T-shirt (my preferred dressing, especially when I have field work). He looked me up and down, and insisted on seeing the MD. Of course, he was taken to the MD, where, upon stating his requirements, the MD called his secretary and said: “Please take him to Ade Ojo”. And then to the man, he said: “that’s the person who can help you resolve the issue.” So they brought Mr. Man back to my office, and he sat down, looking at me all the while. By the time we had spoken for 5minutes, he knew he was in the right place. And then, he had the grace to say: “Please, pardon me for the way I spoke earlier. I guess I looked at your dressing more than anything else”. I smiled, and continued what I was saying.
I saw this story on a WhatsApp Group I am in, and it dovetails nicely into the subject matter. Its about a man, a clerk at a University Faculty, who wanted to join the Nigerian Military, at that time. He saw an advert for the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) and applied. He was called up for admission examination and had to travel to Kaduna for the exam, all the way from Osun State (it was Oyo State at that time). While contemplating where to stay (having written to an Uncle based in Kaduna, and not getting a response), he brought the issue up in his office, and a cleaner in the office, called Kabiru in broken English, interjected that he knows someone right inside NDA. Upon pressing, he went further to say: “the commandant op za NDA na ma classmate and ma priend”. He scrawled out the man’s name, and wrote his own name underneath, in a scrap of paper, and gave to the man.
Upon arriving Kaduna (having travelled by train from Osogbo), he went to his uncle’s house and found that he had moved from his last known residence, and left no forwarding address. Stranded, he decided to test the veracity of Kabiru’s claims. He went to the NDA, and as soon as he mentioned the name of the man, the guards at the gates responded swiftly, and detailed someone to take him to the man’s office. When the commandant got the scrap of paper on which Kabiru wrote his name, he shouted from the office and followed the secretary outside to usher the visitor in. “where do you know kabiru?”. The man replied: “He’s my colleague in the office” (Gone the derisive “who can a cleaner know”).
To cut the long story short, the commandant hosted him in his house, gave him tutorials on what to expect in the exams the next day, and when the results came out, his name was number 4 on the list.
He concluded the story by writing: “Friends, I put it to you today that relationship is a currency. Every man needs another man to move up and that man may be the neighbor you look down on, may be the taxi driver you so despise or even the house help you think is a nobody today.”
They say in Yoruba: Aso nla ko ni enia nla. Your greatness, or otherwise, is not necessarily defined by your dressing. There is an odu ifa (ifa panegyric) about this. Orunmila, the originator of the Ifa divination, was going to meet his cloth weaver to collect the Aso Ofi he ordered from him. For those who know, Orunmila’s uniform is white. He doesn’t wear any other colour. Anyway, on his way to the weaver, he dressed shabbily, and passed by a particular community, where he was ignored and shabbily treated. On his return, he was dressed in his white aso ofi, and looked quite resplendent. Immediately, the same crowd that had cast aspersions on him, and looked at him anyhow, when he was going, immediately began to hail him, calling him enia iyi! Eni nla! Enia Pataki (Man of honour, big man, important personality). And then, Orunmila said to them: Aso le ki, ee ki enia! You have recognized the dressing, not the person wearing the dress.
How many of us are guilty of this? How often do we look down on people because they are not dressed to “taste”, our own tastes? Look, big clothes do not necessarily signify a big person. In our world today, a lot of people mask the cesspit of corruption and decay that is inside them with flashy dressing. Relationship is a stream of income, everything in life actually reproduces on the basis of relationship. Those we know in life matter. You may be talented, but you need a cup bearer that will tell Pharaoh that there’s a Joseph that can interpret dreams.
As we go into the new year, my admonition is this: Do not look down on anyone. Use the currency of relationship wisely. Whether you meet in real life, or on facebook. Whether the person in question is the Mallam who does menial work for you, or you children’s teacher, it doesn’t matter. Don’t look down on anybody. Many people have alienated their destiny helpers by looking down on them, forgetting that sometimes those who crown kings don’t look like kings. Aso nla ko ni enia nla. Big clothes do not necessarily indicate a big person.
Happy and prosperous new year ahead.
Peace and love!
(Thank you Ade Bronco )
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