I am the captain of my soul

December 7, 2018 Africa , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Abdulyassar Abdulhamid



The title is the last verse (a line of metrical writing) from William Ernest Hanley’s poem Invictus and I first came across the poem sometime in 2013, when reading one excessively acerbic work of an ardent social critic, who was trying to make a strong point.


In spite of the fact that the title of the poem “invictus”, which means “unconquerable”, manifests itself in the lines of the poem, from reading it I have learnt one important lesson of my life: there are too many challenges and forces in this world; but this may not be a good reason for us to relent in our efforts for self or societal development, to give in to the pressures posed by the challenges or the forces.


I so much believe that we can all make a big difference starting with changing the mode of our thoughts. This may not be possible without understanding our needs, problems and setting goals. Knowing these three fundamental factors that can change our lives for the better is hugely important and ignoring them will lead to lopsided development.


However, one of the most difficult questions to answer, according to the famous Guyanese revolutionary scholar, Walter Rodney, is exactly why different people develop at different times when left on their own? Although this question has much to do with underdevelopment or development in almost all facets of human endeavours, my intention is how in our society only a small section shows the conventional traits of growth, while the rest stagnate.


What I mean by development at individual level, to use Rodney’s words, although there is no conventional measurement of success or its guarantee, is “increase in skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, responsibility and material well-being.”


Often, a greater part of the blame for this lopsided development goes to the immediate environment in which an individual is a member and another goes to superstructure: social institutions in relation to the economy. Today, we can straightway substitute this superstructure with political institutions and the roles they play to develop or undermine the economy or develop the human resources. But my attention is leaning towards one element that self-destructively harms itself much more the two above. For this, for everything, in the center of this argument, I see a soul, a stunted self as the main cause of its torment.


Take for example Walter Rodney himself. He had a vision and concept to guide him and reinforce his vision. He started from the scratch, made discoveries, worked hard, mobilized and launched a powerful onslaught on what he perceived as the main reason for the underdevelopment of the African continent.


From Walter’s perspective there was, indeed there is, something to be done to deliver either humans or their environment and he went about doing that which needed to be done. Because he wanted to move himself, his environment or the whole black race, some inches further, he discovered his worth, his problems and desires; and made some inventions. There was he at thirty, seemingly younger age, one of the refined intellectuals the black race has ever produced.


Do we all think in this direction? For how long have we been pursuing our goals? Are we ready to win or overcome our trials in this world? If truth were to be told, we are only good at the “blame game”. We have no good understanding of our problems, we lack a sense of purpose, we are not ready to sacrifice ourselves for a better future, we want to sleep all the time, but we blame everyone well-off for our woes even though, in most cases, the injuries are self-inflicted. We do not want to work but we desire to reap. And the worst is that a larger chunk of us are suffering from cargo-mentality: meaning that they want to be rich overnight.


Is our society not facing one pressing problem called “lack of direction”? Due to lack of vision and unemployment the youth are seen by many observers as a possible destabilizing force. We have teeming out-of-school and unemployed youth. Many of them have no plan at all. They only have a solace in football or an unnecessary hassle. What an unnecessary diversion!


At individual level the youth lack proper training or skills to pursue their goals. Or do most of them have any goal in life? Are they not called NFA- No Future Ambition except the usual I want to get-rich-quickly syndrome! Many of them do not know about pre-requisite skills or training for a good life. They are confused. They have, perhaps, never put their actions under a careful scrutiny.


At societal level, the social situations are not helping matters. What we have are probably the institutions and not good leadership. Almost all the sectors that are meant to serve the public are degenerating because of one reason or another. Is leadership not a mirror that reflects the type of society in existence?


One way of undergirding this argument is that everyone knows the role education plays in national development. It is vital investment in human and non-human resources. It changes the mind, broadens it and gives it a life of its own. Despite all these mouth-watering advantages education offers us, we have either refused to allow education to consume us or refused to let it pass through us.


Unlike before, when in every household there was a leadership that gives the younger generation good orientation and direction, today most family heads themselves, let alone their wards, need proper training to understand what their responsibility should be and how best to guard their wards.


There is no denying the fact that development at the individual level has a strong connection or tie with the level of development at the society level as a whole; but even the state of society to which individuals are members has something to do with the capacity and skills individuals acquire and use as tools to develop society.


As an anchor, when I was offered admission into the prestigious Bayero University in 2011, I was very surprised to learn later that I was the only person among my peers in my neighbourhood lucky enough to get that chance. That does not mean they were declined by the university. No, they did not have the orientation; or better their families saw nothing worth pursuing in education; neither did they have any business plan or business mentality. Almost seven years after, nothing has changed as per as this wrong perception of life.


The danger of such shortsightedness was not equivocal enough then to me until later after I graduated. Because of a good rapport I had with a councillor and a former speaker of Nassarawa Local Government Council that served our ward for four good years, he offered one organization I chaired two slots for admission into Kano State Polytechnic. A qualified candidate needed not process his admission and the first academic year registration fee would be paid by the local government council.


Instantly, our organization swung into action. We combed all the neighbouring houses searching for qualified candidates for the posts that turned out to be in vain. We had to give the two forms out to strangers. Many of my peers just bit their fingers. Have they learnt their lessons? Hmm, I am not sure.


Another is someone who hurried to me. His intention was to learn how to read and write in a week or two. Why? He was contesting a managerial post at a stall where he works; but illiteracy, in this sense, stood in his way to attaining that lucrative post. He lost to someone because, in the final analysis, he could not fill out an invoice.


The earlier we stop blaming poverty, government or well-to-do for our self-inflicted injuries and understand that we need to make discoveries, understand our problems and make inventions that will lead us to social and economic development and improve our lives, the better.





Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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