I studied Philosophy in the university because that was what they gave me to read. It wasn’t my choice. When I came to Lagos after my graduation I found myself doing a job I hated. I did it because I had to leave home every morning before they call me a jobless and lazy youth. But I was miserable. I hopped from one rickety bus to another every working day and was once a victim of the notorious Lagos pick-pockets. I trekked miles and jumped over dirty gutters just like many people do today in Lagos. It was a horrible life of struggles and frustrations.

I was not happy with my life. Yet, I saw people doing their dream jobs, driving their dream cars, wearing nice clothes, and living in their dream houses. Occasionally, I saw a few happy couples and I wished I was like them. I saw very wealthy and influential people but I had no access to them.

I had many questions on my mind but there was nobody to ask because everybody around me was not living the kind of life they wanted. Almost every moment of the day I kept asking myself the following questions:

  • How can I become successful like these people?
  • Were they just lucky or was there something else they knew that I didn’t know?
  • Were they all from wealthy homes?
  • Does dream actually come true for everybody?
  • How do I know which career or business to pursue?
  • What kinds of books do I need to read now as a starter?
  • How do I overcome my current challenges?
  • How would a young person like me without connections and wealthy parentage achieve his lofty dreams – build a great company – reach the peak of his profession – lead his field?
  • How do I become powerful and influential in Nigeria without stealing public funds?

Then, one day in the press library of Daily Independent Newspaper I laid hold of an interview story of one of the most powerful and influential Nigerians at the time, Professor Charles Soludo, published by ThisDay. He was the Central Bank Governor of Nigeria at the time. One idea at the right time can change the course of your life and put you on the path to incredible success and a glorious future. Soludo answered all my questions. And I wouldn’t be what I am today if not because of those answers. He mentored me without knowing me.

Many of the happiest men and women in the world today are those who, at a certain point in their lives, got up and walked away from a situation that they finally realized was not making them happy or fulfilled. They had the courage to decide that they were going to do what they loved to do, rather than what they felt they had to do. This often changed their whole lives.

Soludo got up one day and walked away from his first job after five months. The company was the number one accounting firm in Nigeria at the time.  He walked away from one of the most lucrative jobs and a reputable firm at the time. Instead, he left for a low-income job that would lead him to the field of his dreams in the end. He chose to pay the price now rather than later.

People laughed at him but that singular decision changed the trajectory of his life. Without making that single decision, he wouldn’t have become a distinguished Professor of Economics; a sought-after consultant to World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, Asia Development Bank, United Nations, and the Economic Commission for Africa; a visiting professor to top UK and US universities; and eventually becoming the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria before the age of 44. Yet, he came from very humble origins.

Soludo’s story taught me how to make tough choices today for tomorrow’s gains. He showed me the kinds of books that would prepare me for a successful career. He taught me the principle of delayed gratification and how to pursue my dream in an environment that is very hostile to young dreamers without connections.

The governorship of Soludo may be what Anambra has been waiting for to become, indeed, the ‘Light of the Nation’ in Nigeria.

A hearty congratulation to my mentor and Governor-elect!

Tochi Okafor,

Executive Director, INSPIRE YOUTH AFRICA

Abuja.

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