The ant-hills are not built by the elephants but by the collective efforts of the little “rejected” ants.
– African proverb
Young people, I know the tension because of the paralysis in Nigeria. There is no debate that many are concerned about what the future will bring as opportunities continue to diminish. Yet, in that miry clay, there is something to be hopeful. You are the HOPE Nigeria has. More than 90% of those running the affairs of Nigeria today graduated when there was largely zero unemployment. Those days, graduating from a PRIMARY school was celebrated with a gun salute because the student will begin a good job within weeks!
An Igbo proverb says that the “the ant-hills are not built by the elephants but by the collective efforts of the little ‘rejected’ ants”. Certainly, no one is rejected. But the point is this: we are the future we are asking for, says the big brother in America (Obama).
We are the “ants” that will build Nigeria. And there are many things to learn from the ants. If we “become” like them (ants can teach us many things as I noted in this Harvard Business Review piece – The Leadership Lessons of Ants), out of the global capitals, the world will see a hopeful, prosperous, and honourable nation on the horizon. The fact is this: the government has failed and even investors have made that a constant, even as they invest in your startups. Like ants, we can build the ant-hills of Nigeria!
As I challenge the Nigerian youth, I want to specifically challenge the Igbo young men. Uwa bu ahia [the world is a market], and I will introduce a new meaning (not literal and axiomatic within ancestral Igbo usage of words) to write that if you win the markets, you will win your world. Calm down.
From that HBR piece, we learn the following:
- The ants worked as a team: I will form a team, bringing professionals together.
- The ants trusted one another: I must do away with the notion that only by working alone can I ensure quality.
- The ants were open: I will share the idea with like-minded people. I later got a Boston area professor to lead the design. When ants discovered food, they informed others, who came along and helped.
- The ants were partners and of different sizes: I will bring help and make the task our project, not mine. As much as possible, each team member will get assignment based on his capability.
- The ants were diligent and focused: The team must keep working, even slowly. Deadlines will give us focus.
- The ants regrouped: I will be open to try new ideas if present ones are not working.
Build the ant-hills.
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