These days, many young people, students and graduates alike, are disillusioned about the true meaning of success. Due to this disillusionment, success has been narrowed down to travelling out of Nigeria to Europe and America especially.

The extent to which this trend has been ingrained among the youth hit me when I met a young man some years back who devoted five years after graduation to the career of seeking the American visa. Though he eventually got it, I couldn’t help but wonder how one would mainly embark on such venture for five years while putting life on hold.

Not many others are as lucky as he is. Young Nigerians undertake perilous journeys along the Sahara Desert in a bid to get to Europe. Those who survive the Libyan concentration camps end up in the belly of the seas or perish on the way if not kidnapped by various factions of gunmen along the way. Many Nigerians are today going through unspeakable trials and tribulations in foreign countries based on the fixation that travelling out of the country at all costs is the almighty formula to a life of success and prosperity.

For the purpose of clarity, travelling out of the country is not a problem. Journeying and sojourneying elsewhere are part of necessary education. The problem is being obsessed or desperate about it as well as believing that there are no opportunities in Nigeria. If there were no opportunities, the Chinese and other nationals would not be coming to Nigeria in droves to explore her various opportunities. Why are we blind to the opportunities around us still beggars belief.

A foremost African American activist and scholar, Booker T. Washington, stressed this much in the allegory of the ship on the high seas seeking water. In his Atlanta Compromise Speech delivered in 1895, Mr. Washington noted that a ship that was lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. There was a signal at the mast of that unlucky vessel: “Water, water. We die of thirst.”

In the words of Washington, “The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ A second time, the signal, ‘Water, send us water!’ came up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ A third and fourth signal for water was answered: ‘Cast down your bucket where you are.’ The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.”

There are at least three inferences that can be drawn from this story. First, many people do not realize that the solution to their problem lies within their reach. Rather than being thoughtful enough to solve their problem, they continue to beg for assistance whereas they have the resources to change their situation.

The second inference is that no matter how clear or obvious an issue is, people may not see it because they have been classically conditioned to view things in a particular way. This is why despite saying the same thing, “cast down your bucket where you are” three times, each time, the vessel in distress still begged for water. The vessel had not been conditioned to believe that solution lied outside through tokenisms from a foreign land or a friendly vessel. This is why until we change our thinking, we are liable to see black as white and blue as green including the security and sociopolitical situation in Nigeria. You must mind your mind!

The third inference is that rather than give people pittances of fish, it is much better to teach them how to fish. Rather than given tokens, it is better to enhance people’s capacity to be self-reliant. The friendly vessel had to keep on repeating the same instruction until the message sank into the distressed vessel. This means that even when people think that they need help, it is more helpful to help them to help themselves.

Thinking that success lies only in travelling to America, Europe, Asia or other places smacks of poor thinking. Being desperate to travel abroad at all cost is an affliction. The earlier you look around you and think of the opportunities, the better.

In spite of all our problems and challenges, opportunities still abound in Nigeria but only the sighted would see them, not the blind. Remove desperation and excessive fixation from your mind. Rather embark on a perilous journey, open your eyes and cast down your bucket where you are.

You shall succeed.

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