Have you met some folks who seem to have no drive to do anything? I knew a guy like that. He used to live across my grandma’s house in Lagos. Every morning, he stood bare-bodied on the exit corridor of the multi-room compound and stared at people going to work and traders jostling the streets. At this time I was home taking care of my grandma and working at my dad’s Law Chambers, which was also in the same building where grandma lived. In the evenings, this 30-something year old guy would dress up and go hang out with friends at adjoining streets, doing nothing but having loud conversations.
Lagos Island was littered with such young men, guys coming from somewhere but seemingly not going anywhere. From Campbell street to parallel streets like Igbosere, Bamgbose, Tokunbo, to sides streets like Ricca, Odunlami, Joseph, etc with a fearsome population, these were the boys of the area (I use that because the term Area Boys have become quite derogatory. These boys however were not all illiterate and dangerous). I spoke with a lot of them, and we interacted on the make-shift football pitches all around the corners of the Brazilian Campos Square.
These were disillusioned young men with raging hormones, freelance street politics and sports commentators, football/table-tennis/snooker playing, Ewa Agoyin and Agege Bread eating, boys tired or bored with school work. They constantly searched for the slightest and easiest opportunity to make money, then run to Mandilas corner off Broad street to buy the latest Italian baffs and prey on gullible feminines of their kind. Some of them ended up popsie-ing five kids from five different women.
What constantly impressed on me was how intelligent these young men and women were. They argued systematically, applied a lot of traditional wisdom, wanted a better country, and a few were situational spirituals. I was very intentional in my relationship with most of them and they gave me quite a healthy respect since I wasn’t fully committed to their circle, didn’t quite speak Yoruba well, had a Lawyer father, and seemed to be a ‘focused’ young man. You could sense some substance to their hustle or non-hustle, as the case may be, but it was and intangible one. They felt like a lost generation waiting on something that never was. For rhymes’ sake, they felt displaced, misplaced, untraced, and replaced.
However, in the early 2000s, when the computing revolution had gained proper footing in Nigeria, something changed for some of these peeps. Cybercafes were opening up in every community and young people were exploring other worlds they previously only saw in movies. One of them discovered the CD burner as well as the new audio compression format called mp3 and his mind went wild. He figured he could sit in a cybercafe and download some of the hottest billboard topping songs and burn them to CDs and sell. Eureka!
He became an instant success and years later eventually opened up a music and video store from where he expanded to sound equipment rentals and video recordings. He was impressive in his ability to manage the business, hire and train others successfully. Today, he is a living example of how a person can change when he meets the right opportunity that resonates with him.
I have come to know that there are many people who are not living up to their potential simply because what will invite them to the creative table hasn’t yet been created or invented. If the internet, CD burners, or mp3 music format wasn’t created, I seriously wonder what that young man (now middle-aged man) would have had to do with his life. I am not suggesting that the prognosis is doom, but I wouldn’t be wrong either to guess the likelihood of his becoming a social nonentity like a lot of his colleagues ended up being.
Some will find such opportunities early in life, while others later. Some will find it while meandering through school, while others will find it from the dark alleys of work life. However, there are those who will find it from the lazy chairs of the living room while watching TV, or from the fluffy beds of the sleeping chamber while reading the pages of a junk magazine. Whatever the case, most will discover their calling once something is created or innovated. This is why we must never write anyone off no matter the circumstances we find them in, even if still feeding of mama’s pot at 45 years of age (That’s extreme I know). Interestingly, our concocted socio-economic system seems to produce a lot of human ‘wastes’.
The idea in your head now might be the lease of life someone else is waiting for. Every idea is powerful enough to create a whole new system if carefully fed the ingredients it needs to mature and begin running on its own. When it becomes a system, it will need people to keep it running and spurning off new ideas or embellishments of itself. This is the intricacy of life and the point where all human connect. For some people, they will be given the ideas to change their lives. For others, they will have to latch unto what has been created by others. In both cases, we should be faithful in giving expression to those amazing thoughts troubling our heads and tickling our tummies.
In my earlier article on The True Power of the Internet, I asserted that the burst of ideas is the real treasure cove of the internet. It is the single most powerful platform that has given many people access to make a contribution to humanity. Today many feel empowered to write stuff and put out there for others to read. Others have found ingenuous ways to sell even the most ridiculous of items. If the internet hadn’t come, I suspect that many of such people would have lived ‘boring lives at the fringes of humanity’…or maybe the periphery is where the burst of new life will really come from.
So let’s create something when we can. It might save a life somewhere dying for relevance. Don’t you think so?