Of peace and the pencil

e3d7b2ecf211c81296b08deab3f3614dWe owe our education to the pencil more than any other educational material. If we assume that the pen is more important, well, we may not be right because we encountered the pencil first; besides, there is pen in the PENcil!

The same logic makes the pen(cil) superior to book. This is because there can be no book without pen as any book produced must have been written first. Little wonder that we correctly write letters with the computer nowadays just as we read online newspapers though we hold no paper while reading them.

The pencil came to the front burner as part of a Keynote Address I was asked to present by the Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Students Association (PESCORSA) of the National Open University (NOUN), Ilorin Study Centre, at the first Kwara Youth Summit on September 18, 2014. In the presentation, “No Need for Conflict, Really?” I discussed the inevitability of conflict as a natural phenomenon as well as how to manage and convert it to positive ends based on the utilitarian perspective.

As Hugh Kerr tells us in his, “The Spirituality of Imperfection”, “All wisdom is plagiarism; only stupidity is original,” I also shared the story of the pencil, which is relevant to peace in this season of political intrigues in Nigeria.

The story is about a grandmother and her granddaughter. The grandmother was fond of writing with a pencil always. This drew the curiosity of the granddaughter who wondered why she always preferred to write with it.

“The pencil has five qualities that if you manage to hang on them, you will always be at peace with the world,” she began. “First, you are capable of great things but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God and He always guides us according to His will.”

She added, “Second, now and then, I have to stop and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little but afterwards, he is much sharper. So you too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows because they will make you a better person.

“Third, the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.

“Fourth, what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.

“Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality is that it always leaves a mark. In the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in every action you take.”

The implication of the foregoing for Nigeria today is that first, our political leaders must put God first and allow themselves to be guided by Him. All this noise about certificates and hubris are contrary to God’s will. Let’s allow God’s will to be done.

For Nigerians, the pains being experienced today would make us better tomorrow. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” applies here as tomorrow promises to be better. Then, instead of living on lies, let our lying leaders apologise and move on.

Besides, they should introspect and reflect on life after power and therefore be of good character. Their overall assessment will largely define our perception of the “graphite” in them, their character, their mettle. What is the legacy of telling lies, breaking promises, back-stabbing and biting the finger that fed one?

Finally, they should leave good marks because everything now soon becomes history. Steering the ship of state to the sharks that kill Nigerians in their thousands in Baga and elsewhere in the North-East is not a good mark.