A Letter From My Heart To Young(er) Friends By Chinwe Ifediora

I attend a 30-minute meeting most Sunday mornings at 7, at one of those meetings a few months ago, Oby (I usually refer to her as aunty Oby but for this article, I’ll drop the “aunty” bit) presided, as she spoke to us about character, she added that there is no “accursed” thing in her home, the implication of what she said jolted me into a pensive mood because Oby served the Nigerian government a few years earlier and intuitively I knew she was neither lying nor exaggerating.

I started to ponder my life, at the end of 2007, I took a firm decision to be a better person. No to be the best I could be, it was no easy decision, no one coaxed me into it and I was determined not to be an hypocrite. I made steady progress, disappointing myself occasionally but strove on.

I’ve made many wrong choices- In school, I never worked hard or pushed myself, albeit being very smart, I was satisfied with mediocre results/achievements, even when I write & pass exams presumed highly competitive, I feel neither satisfaction nor a sense of accomplishment because prior to 2008, I’d never done my best at any endeavour; not striving for excellence wasn’t the only area of my life where I failed, I also stole (I hate to remember how much stealing I did); I engaged in pre-marital sex, in fact I dated men I should never even have associated with. I was nothing I wanted any younger friend/sibling to be BUT all that changed in 2008. I worked on my integrity FOR ME and for the first time in my life, I knew what inner satisfaction was, when you do the right thing not because someone is watching or because you want commendation for it, you feel such satisfaction, it is gratifying.

My dad made a profound impact in my life, dad, this has nothing to do with being my dad, he was really special yet there were things dad didn’t really talk to us about.

From 2008, I sought/met certain people, I listened to them speak, read books they authored and learnt more: I stopped cutting corners, for instance I would never adjust my PHCN meter so as to pay less than the quantity of energy I consumed; I would never run traffic light no matter what time of day it is and no matter how free the road is; I learnt how dehumanizing lying is and stopped it not even white lies, people close to me soon learnt they could take me at my word; my Abuja dad, Chinedu detests “African time”, so I learnt from him to almost always be on time for meetings; I would never slander or debase my soul by envying anyone; I don’t talk or jest filthy; I have no desire to impress anyone-No home-grown foreign accent, no falsehood…I’m brutally real; I would never cheat at an exam because I do the best at studying before the exams; I’ve been celibate for over 5 years. I haven’t always been this way, this change began in 2008 and NO! Life isn’t boring neither is it a torture. I’m still striving to be better.

Many times I’ve imagined what life would be now if I met/ had the privilege of associating with these people who impacted my life when I was in elementary or even secondary school.

When Oby spoke at that meeting a few months ago and as I sat pondering my life and that of millions of young Nigerians taking the wrong path, I thought how I could be a change agent as others have been to me, how do I encourage young(er) people especially in Nigeria where most young people are becoming ever more despairing to do things right and not cut corners, how do I convince them that it ultimately pays to do the right thing in spite of whatever flitting gain there is short-term, how do I encourage young(er) people to do what is right even if every other person is doing the wrong thing. I find that although you feel the odd-man-out doing right when others do wrong, being consistent at doing right makes you develop such conviction, sooner you don’t feel odd doing right.

I took this decision to change my lifestyle for the better and build a strong character/integrity after I attended a meeting the last week in December 2007, incidentally, Oby was the one who spoke at that meeting. I do not agree with everything Oby says but the effect of her speech at these meetings have been beyond profound for me.

My sincere intention in writing this is perhaps, for one young(er) person, it will be the catalyst for change, change for best, change to take the longer, narrow route through hard/smart work to success. If I can cause what Oby and some other wonderful people I am eternally grateful to have caused in my life in the life of ONE young Nigerian, I’d have achieved something in life.

– Please work hard, don’t just work hard, do the best you can. Let me explain, there were times I wrote tests and scored maybe 72%, that’s an “A” but because I didn’t put in my best at studying for the test, I felt no satisfaction, I could have scored 90 even a 100% if I’d put in my best (I imagine you wondering what difference that makes, an “A” is an “A”, well not quite, when you begin doing your best, you’ll spot the difference). Likewise there were times I studied the best I could and made a “C”, I felt satisfied and determined to find new ways to grasp the subject better/answer the questions better.

Never take anything that doesn’t belong to you, even if it seems no one will get hurt, DON’T!

Internet fraud, over-invoicing, embezzling, syphoning, stealing? Don’t!

Believe me, the consequences of sex outside marriage isn’t worth it. You can abstain.

We don’t need “Aristos”! If you’re not working and cannot conveniently afford the brazilian weaves, designer bags/shoes, jewelry…Wait! Work hard and you’ll earn it.

Remember I’m speaking from experience.

Do your bit as a citizen, don’t throw stuff out of your car, don’t run traffic lights, don’t dump your refuse on the road, take your turn on the queue.

Be on time, “African time” should stop! It isn’t cool to stroll into an event/meeting 15 mins after you were meant to be there.

Don’t be silent when you should speak. Silence isn’t always Golden.

Be real and true, you’re a beautiful original (this doesn’t mean not to improve, just don’t be fake- all things western isn’t necessarily better).

Don’t be a hypocrite! You know who you really are in spite of what reputation you’ve built, when your reputation and who you really are differ, you know you’re a fraud…Not a good feeling.

Don’t smile if you don’t want to, you don’t have to laugh at every joke.

Listen to your conscience-there were times I did stuff so as NOT to appear naive/unsophisticated. Now I know better.

Be your own person positively, trying to please everyone will cost you your happiness.

Change isn’t always pleasant…I got discouraged sometimes, I cried sometimes, I endured deprivation sometimes, endured ridicule, but I kept at building character, I’m still at it and I’m so proud of how far I’ve gone in 5 years and how much discipline I’ve cultivated.

Never criticize anyone NOT even the government for what you are guilty of in any way. If we all do this, not many can justifiably criticize anyone. Most of us will work at being better ourselves if that is the ONLY condition for speaking against anything.

If I’ve made any sense, please join me in this change for BEST.


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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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