Deal with the waste!

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much.

…The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

– Seneca, in On the Shortness of Life

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

– Charles Darwin in The Life & Letters of Charles Darwin


It does not take a genius to know that in these parts, we have a terrible culture of waste. It shows in practically every sphere of our corporate life. The average Nigerian ‘nouveau riche’ flaunts his new status by buying cars he does not need to impress people who hardly care about him. Then he builds a house that is aesthetically slaying but functionally deficient. Visit the average government establishment, ministry or parastatal. You will see our culture of waste so boldly displayed in the number of cars abandoned as unserviceable while they buy new cars with every budget. After all, it is more convenient to simply buy a new car than go through the stress of fixing a broken down one! Corporate organizations make a social statement by being so top-heavy that the organization practically bleeds form the humongous overheads that have a substantial chunk servicing executive perks! No Nigerian corporate executive that I know has only one car. It has to be at least two or more. Some even move in a convoy of vehicles! In many cases, the cars are simply depreciated over a period of about three years and a more up to date one bought while the executive gets to keep the present one or pays peanuts for it! And our parties? Even outside the shores of Nigeria, Nigerians are celebrated wasters when throwing parties. Even people who can hardly afford a full day’s meal spray money at parties not minding that they took a loan to fund the party!

Nowhere is this affliction more pronounced than in our public life. With over 80% of our national budget spent on recurrent expenditure, our overheads on running government are simply mind-boggling. Each time we’ve had a measure of increase in our national income, instead of infrastructural development, our leaders simply increased the size of government. Even Special Advisers have Advisers and Special Assistants. From our Legislature, the most expensively run in the world, to the Executive with eleven aircraft in the presidential fleet, and the Judiciary, our governance reeks waste.

However, great leadership abhors waste. It thrives on resourcefulness more than it does on resources. While I was thinking about this in the context of our current national experience, I came across a write-up on Facebook by a gentleman named Efe Okposio. It addresses the subject appropriately. I promptly sought and got his permission to reproduce it in this column. I have taken the liberty to make a few amendments for editorial purposes. Enjoy!

“I was taught a lot of stories about Jesus Christ in Sunday school. One of the stories that struck me the most was the story of Jesus feeding five thousand people.

Think about it this way, He organizes a gospel crusade with over five thousand people in attendance. After the crusade he decides to feed them but the available food can’t even feed his team. Five loaves of bread and two fishes, it was a hopeless situation, but hey, it’s Jesus we’re talking about here.

So, He commands his disciples, “Tell the people to sit down”. I’m sure they must be wondering, “Does he want to explain the situation to them?”

He takes the five loaves and two fishes, lifts them up, blesses and breaks them and says, “Give them to eat”.

In what would seem like foolish obedience they started distributing the food. Strange enough, the food went round. Five loaves and two fishes, feed five thousands!

Now here’s the amazing part, he tells his disciples to gather the leftovers. They did, and gathered 12 baskets full!

What does he want to do with 12 baskets of left over bread and fish? May be he did that so as not to litter the environment. Perhaps the environmental laws those days may be very strict or it could be he wanted to donate the leftovers to the nearest Jewish orphanage.

Why would a man that fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes be concerned about leftovers? The Bible never told us what he wanted to do with them, but we can deduce that he did that because he hates waste. If the One who is author of the whole universe can stoop to the level of gathering fragments, it says a lot.

We live in a culture that perpetuates waste. We waste time, food, money, space, airtime, we waste people, investments, we waste our health etc. You are perceived a freak if you’re not wasting. Attend a typical Lagos party and you’ll be amazed. In the midst of pervasive hunger in the land, the food people waste is usually more than what they eat.

Nigerians spend hours on the phone discussing irrelevant matters. People waste their investments by not investing enough time in their business. It’s painful because this culture of waste has crept into our government. An average Nigerian politician earns more than his counterpart in advanced countries. A government official that doesn’t have any business traveling is traveling.

Our underdevelopment is largely a product of waste. Jesus didn’t gather the fragment because he wasn’t sure of more supplies. He gathered the leftovers because it would have been irresponsible of him not to. An irresponsible person cannot manage wealth. An irresponsible government cannot create wealth for her citizens. Nigeria is not poor because of corruption alone. Nigeria is where she is largely because of the culture of waste that has eaten deep into minds of her people and government.

The Bible tells us the story of a young man that got his inheritance from this father, traveled to a far country and wasted everything on riotous living. He ended up in poverty feeding pigs. That is the result of waste. Jesus didn’t ignore the leftovers. He gathered them.

Begin with yourself. Cut the waste. Start gathering the leftovers in your life today. Start from your kitchen, then to the time you spend talking on phone, then to your relationships, then to the number of people on your team. To be honest, you don’t need everybody hanging around or that you hang around.

Poverty is knocking at the door of every individual that won’t heed this simple advice. The culture of waste has ruined so many nations. Don’t let it get to you.”

Thanks Efe, it couldn’t have been better put!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!


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