(Dedicated to Salaudeen Oladipo)
One August evening some years back, the then 43-year old veteran boxer, Saoul Mamby, said something that every student or youth should bear in mind. It was in Westchester, New York, and the veteran boxer had just beaten the 24-year old Larry Barnes “Little Tyson” in a fight.
Asked how he managed to beat another younger person, Mamby said, “It is just a gift from God. You live right and you do right and blessings will be bestowed upon you.” So many things were packed into the two sentences that they are worth digesting.
Mamby did not stop there, he also mentioned his strategy. “What I did in the beginning was I learned how to box. Most people can throw punches. My first thing was to block punches. Any fool can throw punches. That’s one of the reasons why I can compete with these young fighters,” he said.
When I came across Mamby’s words more than two decades ago as a freshman, they struck me hard and I wrote them down in a notebook I still have. I studied the words and I felt they were more compelling than what preachers would spend hours to address without having the same impact.
In our world that is increasingly going amok and our country that is serially going adrift, it is beneficial for every young person to appreciate Mamby's fundamentals of success. Success is not guaranteed by hard work alone because porters and labourers work hard. Working hard is very important but it is not enough, one always needs God’s grace.
Based on Mamby’s words, the first thing for every student who believes he has a future ahead is to be adequately educated to acknowledge God. Everything without God is null and void, useless. Everything we have, knowledge, beauty, power, strength, skills, etc., is God’s gift. God gives gifts to whomever He likes or chooses but there are things one can do to make God like one.
Acknowledging God is the foundation of a successful life, yet it is not all. You have to live right and do right to deserve His blessings. Living right concerns your relationship with God and doing right is about relationship with your fellow human beings. Living right is all about living according to the template provided by God and doing right is just doing good, to the deserving and even the undeserving.
As Mamby pointed out, what follows automatically is blessings: “you live right and you do right and blessings will be bestowed on you.” Just fulfill your own part of the bargain and wait if God’s part will not be fulfilled. Whoever doesn’t give should not expect to get.
Besides, it is also important and worth emphasising that part concerning learning and acquiring skills. Many students these days are interested in schooling and acquiring certificates only, not obtaining education. Among those who even receive education, those who are chosen are few.
The problem here is that many students in school learn theories without learning how to “block punches”. Many futures have been ruined during the school years by many young men and women who do not block the punches of future destroyers in the name of pleasure. All immoral and socially irresponsible acts are devastating punches that one must block against oneself.
George Pryron once said, “Pleasure’s a sin and sometimes sin’s a pleasure.” Though it may be debatable that all pleasure is sinful, the unassailable point is that all in the name of catching fun and seeking pleasure, many young people in our various institutions do not live right and do not do right, thereby forfeiting their own future. They are therefore “punched” out of God’s favour and they continue to struggle in vain forever. It is true that those who put everything in God’s hand will always see God’s hand in everything.
It is never too late to make a new beginning because every new day is a new opportunity. If you resolve to put God first and decide to live right and do right, blessings will descend on you and various opportunities will appear before you. As the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo once remarked, “More often than not it is opportunity that makes the man….” Without opportunity, talent withers away fast like a plucked flower.
Every student reading this has a choice to make, the Mamby’s path or the popular path. The ball is your court. Your future is in your hands. The future is now.