We say that tough times don’t last but tough people do meaning that no matter how tough and difficult the situation is, the patient and the diligent will always survive. It may be extra demanding, sometimes it may seem like an uphill task but the tough people will always survive.

Right now, there is a clarion call for toughness, for those who will tighten their belts, roll up their sleeves and face life challenges head-on. There is a lot of struggling going on right now; people are barely able to keep their businesses afloat. For a lot of persons, putting food on the table for their families is getting tougher as prices of food items soar daily. It is a general problem; I face the same challenges as indeed many business men and women do, and constantly, I try to share with people the mantra that I work with; ‘stay focused, trim off unnecessary items of expenditure and ride with the storm.’

There is no entrepreneur that does not battle with the tides as the economy changes and turns from the blue columns to the red. Survival becomes the mantra. I have one firm belief; no matter how harsh the economy seems, there are organisations and entrepreneurs hitting the ten figure digits in their turnovers and profits. For instance, many businesses hit their highest income while COVID-19 was ongoing. They are not magicians; it is all a matter of positioning, preparedness and sheer determination. Another thing that I believe is “if it is possible for one, it is possible for others.”

I was rubbing minds with a group of entrepreneurs recently as we considered how to position one’s self and business along the lines of success especially in the period of economic tightness. While I was sharing my nuggets and principles derived from study and experience, one of the participants obviously felt that I was not really the right person to deal with that subject. He raised his hand and asked a question.

“Don’t you think it’s easy for you to say, Prof?” He asked me. I was intrigued. “With your background and pedigree, you are already miles ahead of the majority of persons.” He said.

Interesting, I thought and asked him to explain what he meant by ‘background and pedigree.’

“You come from an enlightened background,” he said, adding for effect, “your father was a judge.”

He did his homework, I thought, as I nodded.

“You studied in Harvard, one of the most prestigious institutions of learning in the world,” he said again.

I nodded. I did indeed get my post-graduate degrees from Harvard but it wasn’t because my father could pay for me to be there , it was because I studied hard and got a scholarship to do my Masters and PhD in that institution. There are quite a number of young men and women who have passed through that institution through scholarship and sponsorship just by sheer merit and not because their fathers were judges. The young man did not know these and I let him continue.

“You also served at top management level of an international petroleum company and later became a Minister of Petroleum in your country.”

True again, I said nodding. I noted the smug look on his face. He was saying “you are not qualified to talk to us; you can’t feel our pain.” I smiled to myself, what did he know?

I didn’t dwell on my personal story, instead I asked all the participants to name randomly at least five highly successful men in Africa. We picked five of the most mentioned names and traced their history. What they had in common was not background, neither was it the institutions they had attended. What they had in common were diligence, a never-say-die spirit, courage to take difficult decisions and see them through, and constant learning.

As a young man, I read the biographies of great men and one thing that was common to them all was the love for knowledge. They loved to acquire knowledge. They were very well versed in their fields and I desired that trait. It was my thirst for knowledge that brought me in contact with people who further showed me the way. As a business man or woman, you must aspire to know all there is to know about your area of operation. Know your business, your audience and your demography. Keep abreast of developments in those areas.

Another trait is clarity about intent. Some people do not clearly outline what they want to do and so they keep shifting focus till they are shifted out of the market. Clarity about your area of business will help you know all the traps and holes in that business so that you can develop templates on how to navigate through. Imagine a school proprietor saying that his biggest problem is getting parents to pay school fees on time. That problem is a big and glaring issue that he should have developed a solution to even before he registered his business, if he was clear on what he wanted to do and achieve.

Success in whatever enterprise one puts his hands to also depends on consistency. Be focused. Don’t jump from one area to another. Exporting cocoa is bringing in dividends and you jump into the bandwagon, tomorrow they say that importation of motor spare parts is the real deal and you instantly change focus. Be known for something and be the highest authority and the best in the field.

In addition, surround yourself with people who share similar passion and can propel you to do more. If you are the most successful person in your circle, you need to also join another circle where there are people much more successful than you who will encourage you to grow.

To buttress my story, I shared a story that my Ghanaian friend had told me about three friends that were apprentices under one master.

(To continue next publication)

Stay focused.

Fatherhood with Ibe


Back when we were teenagers, I had a friend named Ose (not real name). He was a jolly fellow, gregarious and vivacious, the life-of-the-party kind of guy. He could lose his temper over the most inconspicuous thing and even get ready for a fist fight but he was kind and loyal; he could give his last coin to help a friend. He was also quick to get over a fall-out and make peace. Ose was popular, he had a lot of friends; male and female. He started dating before all his friends and he kept many girlfriends at a time and thought it was fun to play games on them. Quite unbelievably, one day, Ose announced that he had met his missing rib, the girl he would marry. We were all between ages 19 and 22, marriage was not in our to-do list, maybe it featured in the sometime-in-the-far-future list.

At first, the concept of Ose in a serious relationship was all a joke, like, how could the head boy of the Players club stick to one girl and how could he be talking marriage at age 21?

Finally, sometime about when we were in our final years in the university, we met Angela. Ose called her Geegee and it was Geegee to us all. Geegee was a beautiful girl. She was bright and warm and seemed to bring a freshness and radiance into every space she entered. In just a few hours, she had drawn even the most hard-hearted of us into her sparkle. She was a part of the circle without becoming one of the guys – she was too much of a princess.  Before our vacation was over, we were convinced that Ose had met his wife. She brought out the best in him. She made his good sides even more glaring and sort of doused his unruly temper.

I left the country to further my studies and I was certain that their wedding would happen before my return to Nigeria. However, the reverse was the case. The two lovebirds split up. The cause of the break-up was even more unbelievable; they said Geegee had met another man and taken in for him while Ose was on a six-month course. I was shocked to hear this but it was confirmed by a heartbroken Ose so I believed the story and put it down to one of those occurrences that help us to know that the only one to trust fully is God.

We all got married one after the other and soon settled into our careers and the business of building our homes. I didn’t see much of Ose but we kept in touch. Then out of the blues, two years ago, I heard that Ose’s marriage had packed up and that he was seeing Angela again. I didn’t see that one coming. Why Angela again? I asked, it had to be about 35 years since they split up. Why go back to her after the betrayal?

“I was young and stupid.” Ose replied.

I didn’t understand.

“I truly cared for my wife and was dedicated to my family all these years but a part of my heart still belonged to Geegee whether we were together or not.”

“What about the man she had a baby for?” I asked.

“It is one subject she refuses to talk about. You know she moved to Kano after we broke up and she never married the guy. She delivered the baby and raised him alone.” He said, his voice laden with emotion.

“Are you sure there was even a man? I always doubted it because….”

Ose cut me off.

“There obviously was a man. That child wasn’t mine so it had to have belonged to someone.”

“Did you see the baby?” I asked.

“No! I told you she moved up north. All those don’t matter anymore. I still love Geegee,” he said, massaging his forehead as if he had a migraine.

“What do you want to do about it?” I asked, although I had an idea what he was going to say.

“I want to marry her. I want to do my best to make her happy for the rest of our lives. I just want her with me.”

“So… what are you waiting for?”

Ose let out a breath.

“She won’t marry me. She won’t even move in with me. She insists on staying in her apartment and tells me it is too late for us. I need you to talk with her. You used to get along very well those days.” He pleaded.

I smiled; my friend was desperate and it was a funny sight actually.

I told him that the best option was to talk to her child who was already a grown man. I was sure he would be happy to know that his mum was with someone who loved her so passionately; he would plead Ose’s cause.

Ose was excited by that advice and told me he would keep me posted about the outcome.

Then two days ago, he called me, wailing like an infant.

“She’s gone,” he said. Who?

“Geegee is gone. She died this morning.” He sobbed.

“You don’t understand. She is dead. A part of me is dead.” He sobbed for quite a while and my own tears formed a line down my cheeks. “Do you know the worst thing?” He asked.

“Pull yourself together.” I tried to calm him down but he sobbed even more.

“That baby was mine. She told me before she died. She gave me his picture, my exact replica…how am I going to face him?”

Tears were running down my own eyes. I felt helpless.

Another true love story gone wrong; gone awfully wrong!