Journeymen and Comeback Anecdotes

I returned finally from Abuja last week, 10 days longer than planned. My trip to the Capital will be remembered for many firsts. None greater than my first driving experience there. I’d summarize my experience in one phrase: smooth and wide roads without traffic and terrible-careless drivers. But beyond beautiful roads and bad drivers, my journey brought me in contact with men plotting financial comebacks. From Maitama to Wuse, Asokoro to Lugbe, Abuja is not only about politics and power. It’s also about heroes past seeking a comeback. Unlike Lagos where engaging in commercial hustle or activities can bring turnaround in fortune, Abuja is about engaging and developing your networks. Even Lagos topshots are in Abuja frequently to engage and pursue their network for more success. Its little surprise then that my trip allowed me witness respectable men at low points of their lives, seeking to make a comeback from the challenges Nigeria has thrown in their paths.

Big houses and luxury cars, sharp apparels and sweet smelling perfumes all serve as distraction from the truth that the rich also cry. For the ‘once’ financially buoyant people who possess shiny luxuries of yesterday but with barely enough to get through another day, week, or month, their misery runs deeper than is obvious. People afar, including friends and workers sometimes, have little idea how desperate things have become. In bedrooms and corners of plush homes, big (wo)men breakdown in tears; prescription pills for high blood pressure nestled in bedside drawers. The heat is on. Challenges real and imagined have turned dreams of once blossoming entrepreneurs into nightmares. So yes the rich also suffers. And for those of them tired of tears or who won’t accept the hand fortune has dealt without a fight, they set out to plot financial comebacks. During my trip to Abuja I came across many such men.

Abuja is about engaging your network of contacts. Not to go plate in hand begging; the doors of friends can shut as quickly as they open if that’s your best plan. You have to have something to offer. A service, an idea or opportunity, soliciting a contract, whatever it is, you need to offer something and offer it from a position of strength with the interest of your contact built in. You may be down, but you definitely don’t want to give vibes that tell you’re out. And herein lays the conundrum for people seeking a comeback: finding the balance between humility and pride. Nobody is above you and nobody is below you but everybody you encounter on your road to a comeback deserves respect. People you may be tempted to dismiss as nobodies could hold the key to a contact who thinks you are nobody and so aren’t worth his/her time.

Let me share an experience. Though we came highly recommended by our contact who is the boss of a government agency too, we had repeatedly tried to see the boss of another govt. agency to no avail. The man had a habit of not picking calls either from us or our ‘highly placed’ contact. But we needed to see him. In the course of a separate meeting, a journalist walked in, dressed in ill-fitting shirt, big trousers and heavy boots. My boss, seeking a comeback himself, is never too proud or shy to ask for an introduction or talk about what we’re into to anyone blessed with ears. This brings me to probably the most important point of this article; being open to conversations when seeking a comeback. In the process of ‘marketing’ to this ordinary gentleman, it was discovered he had close ties to the govt. official we were trying to meet. He said ‘buy me N2,000 recharge card and I’ll make it happen.’ We happily did. And when he called, the govt. official’s P.A answered the call and promised his boss will call back. Indeed, 5 minutes later, the ‘almighty’ man called back. We were introduced and now the rest is history.

It is true that pride goes before a fall. But after a fall, pride keeps you down. I met some men in Abuja who, though seeking a breakthrough, refused to accept they were down and so unwittingly kept themselves out. Humility can sometimes be the difference between being down and out or down and making a comeback. On your journey through the world, you need to make a choice between which is more important. The shadows of yesterdays achievements or the reality of who you’re yet to become. Personally, I feel lucky to be in a position to observe these lessons, seeing as I’m only just setting sail. In the home of one of the most respected elder statesman from the Niger-Delta region, I was humbled when he picked up the serving spoon and began dishing out breakfast to myself and others at his dining. It wasn’t a one-off; he mirrored this same attitude in other aspects of his life.

It is inevitable that we rise and fall through life. ‘Falling’ is life’s common gravitational pull which makes rising and flying high even more remarkable. It is while on the ground we have the opportunity to prepare for what it takes to rise… to climb… to fly. To rise and fall is not as great a disaster as to fall and never rise again. Comebacks are made of rise and falls. ‘Rise’ is singular ‘falls’ is plural and that, I suppose, summarizes what we can expect of life. Lessons we learn on the ground and at our lowest points will serve us well at our highest peak. Comebacks are the point where life seeks to pass through us that we may cut out the BS of what life is not about and better understand what it means to be called a (wo)man. Sometimes we have to give-up to get up.

Happy July 🙂

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