My Take on Tai Solarin’s 1964 New Year Speech
I was supposed to be a guest to talk about this speech on a radio show but I had a last minute change of plans which meant I couldn’t make it. Since I had done my research, I decided to pen down my thoughts.
I have to say the most shocking part of this speech is the fact that it was made in 1964. It sounds very much as if it was made a few days ago.
I do feel like I get the spirit of the speech as essentially saying that to be successful and to carry out great achievements we need a stimulus. He does ascribe this stimulus to be “having a hard time or struggle”.
I guess this is the only aspect I may have to disagree. I totally agree that we need a stimulus. But I am not sure struggle or trouble is the right one.
I have heard a similar line of thought whereby people have said the reason why we are not developing in Africa is because we are too comfortable. We don’t get earthquakes, we don’t have hurricanes, and our weather isn’t cold enough. But alas hurricanes get to Haiti and it is still the poorest country in the western hemisphere
Many years ago I saw a quote on a Mercedes Benz advert by Oscar Wilde:
“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.”
I have never been able to get it out of my mind since then. Interestingly this year I saw a similar quote from Thomas Edison:
“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
I will rather take discontentment as my stimulus. Not trouble or struggle.
I want to look at something and just be convinced it is not the best form and that it can be improved. Nigerians need to be discontented with a lot of things going on around us and find a way to make it better. We also need to look at others, see what they are doing and then just plain get discontented with our version and improve on it.
It is so bad that there is even a Yoruba saying that talks about continuing to do things the way we met it!
But that been said, I totally agree with him that we need to take more risks in this part of the world. I also agree that without risks we limit what we are able to achieve. In fact the greater the risks the greater the returns.
As an IT entrepreneur and Consultant I can tell you that Nigerians abhor risks. We fear them. And that is part of why we have been so limited. It can be very funny sometimes when as my part of what I do I proffer solutions to clients, as a result of understanding trends and seeing a shift in my industry, that will put them 5 years ahead of their competition and they look at you and say: But nobody has done this. How do you know it will work in Nigeria if no one has done it?
That’s why a lot of the IT investment happening in Nigeria right now is coming in from abroad. While foreign capital inflow is a great thing. Nigerians have to learn to do more.
Some days ago an HR consultant was telling me how in her work people looking for employees will tell her they want someone who will turn around their company in two months. Yet when Mark Zuckerberg comes to Nigeria we celebrate him like royalty. We forget it took him 5 years, over 600 Million Dollars in investment about 100 Miilion Dollars in loans for him to get to his first profits of 200 Million Dollars on a 700 million Dollar revenue.
So back in the words of Tai Solarin : “You cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg.” But how many Nigerian investors will be willing to take this risk?