2021 was a firework…
(Well, I didn't really blow...)
It's the festive season wherever in the world you are right now, and you've probably been deadened to the sound of fireworks this deep into it (especially if you're Nigerian). And, if I could liken my approach to this year with anything, it'll be that; a firework. I came into this year feeling like I had just been lit waiting for my fuse to light up the explosives and for myself, my name, and brand to go up in the air with gleeful delight — finally recognized. Needless to say, I came into this year just a little bit more optimism than is healthy.
Right of the bat in January, I applied to be part of the School of Politics, Policy and Governance' (the SPPG) first cohort. It was slated to be 100% fully-funded for us pioneers, and you can't imagine my joy when I heard I got in. Prior to then, I had only dreamt of learning more about government but hadn't really qualified my learning goals academically. The SPPG was my first experience with learning what I have come to know as Public Policy and Administration, and what an experience it was. From March all the way up to October, I had the privilege of learning first-hand from Nigerian greats like the SPPG's founder herself, Dr. Oby Eze-ekwesili, Nigerian freedom fighter Mbazulike Amechi, and even Rtd. General Abdulsalami Abubukar, and a host of other contemporary pacesetters — Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr. Sam Adeyemi, Dr. Ola Brown, Mr. Frank Nweke Jr. (a former Minister of the federal government), and so many others that time would fail me to list. Even more special would be the bonds built with classmates and "dear colleagues" — like we were fond of being called by the Dean of the SPPG, Dr. Amina Salihu — particularly my class group 2, and our capstone project at my alma mater Kings College Lagos.
But my experience with the SPPG was not all glamorous. In fact it was rather gritty. As from February till April I had to learn while concurrently working as the Programs Intern for African Students For Liberty (ASFL), a volunteer-organization which I have worked with learning about and spreading the ideas of free markets, individual freedoms and limited government for the last 6 years. This is my highest experience volunteering as working with ASFL tested my capacities to their limits. Designing all graphics content for an organization of that size with monthly meetings, events, competitions, etc, was no mean feat. Also, I had to juggle all this while managing leaders on a local, national and even continental level, and a thousand other roles.
But, then came May. I had the rare opportunity to intern with the CATO Institute, a US-based libertarian think tank. And woaw, this was when I had a quick reality check. At the SPPG, I had gradually gotten used to not being the smartest in the room, but this was were I actually began to question my own ability. I was among not just some of the best minds globally in diverse fields ranging from economics, to political theory, to financial policy, to race relations, and a plethora of other subjects in the persons of the brilliant CATO scholars. But not just them, even my fellow interns. My experience at CATO was the first time in a while that for 4 months straight (May till August), I never felt smarter than anyone. There was literally a writing competition that I didn't even make top 3 in and my article was darn good. I must say this though; the best place to work at CATO is definitely Libertarianism.org. From the office culture, the staff, and even the games; it all made my stay at CATO easier than it would have been if I was just trying to make some kind of statement throughout.
There’s only so far a match stick can burn, and by mid-August I was experiencing burnout. I had just launched my policy-opinion website (simplefixnigeria.com ), while I had been having to manage attending daily 3-hour lectures with the SPPG from March till then while first working a 9-to-5 with ASFL, and then a US 9-to-5 (2pm till 11pm WAT) with CATO. My gas was out really, and I was just coasting through the rest of the SPPG’s program.
In September, through a colleague at SPPG, I learnt about the MindSwap Program with Mr. Tonye Cole. I applied and somehow again I got in. It was another roller coaster experience of learning about leadership, vision pacing, and networking. I had a refresher to actually think about the Nigeria I want to see, and sit and begin to work towards it once again. And I can't really overestimate the experience to gleaning from Mr. Tonye Cole's vast experience and wisdom from a variety of fields; business, politics and life generally. In some way, it was a primer for the kind of legacy I dream to have by the next 3 decades and I feel privileged to have had his eartime for my immature questions in those 8 weeks.
Well apart from all the doings, October-November saw the close of my program with the SPPG with my groups capstone project during which we trained over 80 students at King's College Lagos in the basics of citizen responsibility, governance and leadership. It was such an experience to speak to and inspire young Nigerians in the very halls that groomed me back in the day.
Well, at this point I'm weary of writing and maybe you're weary of reading so I'd just get to my lessons. What has this year taught me? And even more pertinently, what have I learned?
- The first thing is that success can’t be quantified by what you do or how much you earn, but really, by who you are. I’ve learned you can have everything and yet have nothing.
- I’ve learned a little bit of humility regarding your perception of yourself and abilities would make your life a whole lot easier.
- I’ve learned to stay outside my comfort zone but just on the edge of it; not too far from it or I’d drown, and not too close or I won’t progress as much as God and my potential would allow.
- I’ve also learned that going at life alone isn’t brutally hard. It’s depressing (and yes, I’ve had my fair share of depression).
- I’ve learned that life loses meaning the more you achieve without satisfaction and purpose. I want to achieve more next year, but I don’t think I’m willing to trade my peace of mind for it.
- I’ve learned to live within my means.
- And finally, I’ve learned that the only way to life, love and happiness is living with a sense of purpose of God’s will, and even more, an awareness of His timing.
I definitely can wait to get into next year. That’s my honest opinion because really I’m fagued out. I spent at least a cummulative of 4 months of 2021 on Zoom calls so believe me when I say I’m tired. I look forward to writing articles and getting published more, writing a couple of policy frameworks (look out for those), and possibly starting a Masters Program in Public Policy and Administration in the UK or the States. Thanks to my time at CATO and SPPG which revealed my ignorance in these things to me.
Speaking of thanks, thanks to my dear colleagues of group 2 of the SPPG cohort 1. Thanks to friends like Michael, Purpose, and Deborah who listened to my bitter depressed rants in my lowest of times. Thanks to my colleagues at SFL; to Femi, to Linda, to Bayo, to Eric, to Sanni, and the entire team at SFL UNN. I’m proud of you guys. Thanks to friends from CATO, especially to Meghna, my fellow best intern ever at Libertarianism.org. It really was funny to learn the American version of stanning; “I’d die on this hill". Thanks to Queen for inspiring me to write this yearly review in the most unconventional means (na we know how you do am). And, thanks to you for taking the time to read about my progress, and I’d be glad to read about yours if you share with me.
Most importantly, thanks to God for 2021 for I truly see the man I am made of now; gifted and admired, yet weak and despairing for His Strength. Thank you for helping me find my faith when I lost it.
Abeg... E don do. See you all in 2022.