The price of liberty

I wish all readers of this column a prosperous and fruitful 2020. May the year bring you inspiration and achievement beyond human understanding. This month marks another anniversary of this column. It is therefore in order for me to give thanks to God Almighty for His grace to have done this for thirteen unbroken years! And to you my dear reader for keeping faith all these years! Your encouraging feedback and positive comments are the major reasons why I am inspired to keep doing this. Thank you immensely.

Growing up, I never attended a private school, either at elementary or tertiary levels. In fact, when I started elementary school, there was no private equivalent in the part of the then Western Region where I schooled. So, I was not exposed to nursery rhymes or fairy tales that characterize elite schools. But my Mum was a teacher in one of the few private elementary schools in the entire Western Region at that time, Ibadan to be precise. When I entered Secondary school, I used to travel to Ibadan to spend a good part of the long vacation with her. Such trips birthed my introduction to nursery rhymes. Yes, I was already in high school before I learnt my first nursery rhyme!

As I meditated on what to write for this week, one of the nursery rhymes came to mind because of its relevance to the issue of discourse. It is titled “Who Killed Cock Robin?” I never really understood or made any sense of it beyond a melodious song/rhyme until recently. For want of space and time (the rhyme is a fairly long one), I will not reproduce the entire poem. But summarized, it tells the story of Cock Robin’s murder and the quest to know who did it. The sparrow owned up to the crime. The fly testified as an eye witness. The fish cleaned up the blood. After which the beetle offered to make the shroud. The owl volunteered to dig the grave. In all, we see ten creatures who offered to do one thing or the other to ensure a decent burial for Cock Robin

From the murderer to the one who tolled the funeral bell, we are not left in doubt as to who was to do what in the responsibility chain that led to the resolution of every issue arising from the demise of Cock Robin.

Compare this to another scenario. Three people were eating from the same bowl. One of them said, “Hey guys, the rate at which this food is reducing is worrisome.” The second person said, “I thought I was the only one who noticed”. To which the third guy responded, “I’m glad that you both observed it”!

Responsibility is the price of true liberty. True liberty is not won through a plebiscite or the barrel of the gun.

It is the time of the year when our atmosphere is suffused with all shades of declarations and prophecies. Churches declare extended prayer and fasting periods to ‘activate’ their thematic guide of the year. No matter how enchanting the proclamation or prophecy may be however, it must be worked out through the grind of responsibility. It demands getting off your bums, rolling up your sleeves and stepping up to the plate to embrace the responsibility to make things happen. You do not qualify to feature in a future you are not willing to take responsibility for!  Progress and civilization are contingent on a chain of responsibilities. Most human tragedies are the product of one or more persons abdicating responsibility at their link in the chain.

In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey defines responsibility as “response ability”. Ordinary people usually react to situations with an escapist mindset that never wants to readily take the blame for an error. As the Yoruba are wont to say, nobody usually owns up to having used a lost knife to peel his yam.

Responsible people on the other hand never hesitate to own up to their mistakes and are never slack in remedying them. The blame game is as old as Adam in the garden of Eden. Adam refused to own up to his error. Instead, when confronted, he heaped the blame on his wife and by extension, God, for giving him a wife! Like Adam, the fear of sanctions or consequences makes many shy away from taking responsibility for their actions.

While the average person always believes that someone has to make things happen to them, responsible people operate with the dictum, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me”.  Taking initiative is a forte of responsible people. Undaunted by the unknown, they have no qualms sailing in uncharted waters where many would dare not swim. Instead of trembling by the bank of what appears to be a flooded river, they seek ways of building a bridge over it or finding a way round it. They are daring and not afraid of failure because they anticipate the learning curve that failure provides.

Responsible people have a nose for spotting problems but not from the attitude of helplessness and complaints. When a responsible person identifies a problem, instead of grumbling and cursing those who may have caused it, he simply steps out of the problem, puts on his thinking cap with a view to coming up with a solution.

Every day on social media and tabloids, I read scores of analysts and critics who never see anything good in whatever any government does. They pontificate on every issue and blame everyone blamable – except themselves – for the ills of society. Every night at drinking joints, scores of people sit down and, in-between copious gulps of beer and spicy pepper-soup, dissect the problems of the society and who is to blame for them. They even go ahead, to proffer solutions which only they seem to have. The problem? They see the speck in others’ eyes but will conveniently ignore the log in theirs! The last thing they would do is to lift a finger to solve any of the problems within their own purview. Thoroughly inebriated, they disperse in the wee hours, only to repeat the cycle the next day!

It is not enough to revel in an inspiring revelation, prophetic declaration or a flaky new year resolution. You must be willing to put legs to your faith. You can dream of being a billionaire and give Dangote a run for his money in your sleep. When you wake up, you had better strap your boots and start taking responsibility to solve a significant problem; a solution so relevant that it produces the quantum of reward that guarantees the reality of what you dreamt about, failing which, life will give you the rude awakening that money made only in your imagination can never be legal tender in the daily market of real life. It is possible to live in opulence in your dream while you die of hunger in your reality.

In the new year, the only bridge between what you saw in “la la land” and your reality is responsibility. Embrace it!

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

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