Thursday 23 April 2015

Hustle! Hard!

Image of African man arranging his tomatoes to sell.
African man arranging his tomatoes to sell.
Image: The Fiscal Times.

I am really irritated with able-bodied people who are lazy.

Let me start by telling you a story of someone I am going to call Ahmad.

I went out to get some eggs one evening. The shop which I usually get provisions from was out of eggs and I was directed to the nearest Mai Shayi. When I got there, I saw a line of men waiting to be served. The speed with which the noodles and eggs were prepared was a testament to constant practice. The Mai Shayi had all four of his stoves on, plus a firewood fire for the huge pot of tea. It was a study in efficiency.

I am sure Ahmed must have thought I was waiting for dinner like the rest of the men. He didn’t speak to me immediately but I was fine with it. It was an opportunity to watch him and how he ran his business, how he interacted with his customers, how he timed his meals, and how he served said meals. I watched him for about 15 minutes before he saw me. He asked what I wanted. I said eggs. He asked if I wanted pepper with my eggs. I said I just wanted raw eggs. He said they were N35 each. At this point, I smiled. Even though most people sold eggs for N30 apiece, I told him to give me two. As soon as he had answered me, he completely deleted me from the framework of his mind. This was at 9:20pm. I went home quite impressed. He had shown a good degree of management in running his small business. I wished more young people were like him, eager to work hard and make that money.

On another day, this time in the morning, I went out in search of a place to charge my phone. You see, we had not had power for days and though my Nokia battery was faithful, it had given up on me. As I walked down my street, I took my time to search for a phone shop. It wasn't long before I got to Ahmed's shop. He was already busy at his shop. As usual, he had a line of people waiting for him. As I registered the fact that this guy worked for at least 12 hours every day, I caught sight of a charging joint, which was a surprise to me because it was just adjacent to Ahmed's shop. I quickly went there and realized that the shop belonged Usman; who turned out to be Ahmed's brother. I felt really inspired by these two brothers. They ran businesses for at least 12 hours per day and they seemed to be doing well. What was really interesting to me was how obvious it was that they were not formally educated yet so industrious. On the flip side, many young people are unproductive because they feel they are graduates and should be paid at least six figures in a plush company with heavy benefits and vacation in Fiji before they should work. I must say I was quite impressed with Ahmad and his brother.

Another thing I saw that really inspired me was a Mai Ruwa who was physically challenged. Now, for many people who do not understand the concept of a Mai Ruwa, let me explain it a bit. A Mai Ruwa is a person who pushes an Amalanke (a mini truck or maxi-wheelbarrow as the case may be) with about fourteen or sixteen 50-liter jerry-cans of water. It requires large upper-body strength to push the Amalanke uphill (as most Northern towns are). Most Mai Ruwa are lean, lithe and very strong. Back to my story. The Mai Ruwa, like I said, was physically challenged. He has just one hand. Looking at him, I could tell that it was a lot of hard work pushing his Amalenke to his customers, balancing it when he needed to stop, maneuvering it when it got stuck in sand or a collection of gravel and generally, transporting each jerry-can to the homes of his customers. Yet, with all these limitations, he still gets up every day, heads out to where he fetches the water, transports his goods and sells them. If that is not inspiring, I don't know what is!

One of the secretaries in my former office whose name is Mary is a very industrious and wonderful lady. I don't know anything about her academic background but I know that she can hustle! Her 8-4 as a secretary is quite stressful but it doesn’t deter from going to her shop to sew clothes for people as soon as she closes. She seems to make lots of money from that venture – or so I assume – because most ladies in the office use her services for their African dresses. And to add to that, she bakes! And girl can bake! Her cakes are great; they might not stand a chance against Cake Boss' but they are okay. And when she is free, she also plaits women’s hair. In essence, she is an enterprising young woman who knows how to get her hustle on.

Why am I inspired by these people? It is quite simple. In a country where many youth are 25 and lazy, depending on the government to provide jobs, refusing to be innovative and what not, these people are shining examples of productivity. Nigerian youth are content with hand-me-downs instead of maximizing their exuberance. Quite frankly, it really is telling on our economy.

I have to give it to the Igbo people though; they know how to hustle hard! They begin to groom their kids from about age ten in business and enterprise. Before they are eighten, these kids begin to branch out with their own side hustle and though I have never been to Aba or Onitsha, I know that great goods which could boost our economy are created there. Already, we have made-in-Nigeria cars by the Innoson group. Add that to the vast human and natural resources we can cash in on, and you know we really need to be more productive.  If the entire nation had the hustle of the Igbo man, I am pretty sure we would be among the G-8 nations by now.

If we all hustle hard, and keep on pushing with innovative ideas, we just might compete with the like of Germany, Russia, China, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Having said that, we cannot do it unless the largest population of this country – the youth – becomes more innovative, more industrious and definitely, more productive! The world has no room for lazy people!

Time to hustle!

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