By Francis Ewherido
Politics can be very divisive and polarising. Last week’s article, “Middle-Aged Men are dying” got entangled in politics in some quarters. One group blamed the current government for the hardship being experienced by some middle-aged men.
The other group countered that these men started working in the 80s and early 90s; they were working during the governments of General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Dr. Goodbuck Jonathan and now Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. They argued that middle-aged men ought to be financially stable by now; they should not blame the current government for their economic and financial challenges. In the confusion the core of the message was lost. What was it? Self-help; solutions that centred on self rather than others-centred solutions
The message was that when you are in your 50s, especially in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment like Nigeria, you need to come up with ways to be in control of majority of the variables that shape your life. The only ones that should be outside your control are those you have no control over: government policies and actions and matters in the divine realm like death. A middle-aged man should develop internal mechanism to manage the effects of up and down on his life. Grab life by the scruff of the neck, come what may, no dulling. It is easy to look in the way of government and other external forces and commence lamentations and the blame game, but how does that help you or lift you out of your financial predicament. It is better to look at how to salvage the negative situation.
Many middle-aged men are in all kinds of situations. I was watching a documentary on Animal Channel. A monkey lost a baby, but refused to accept the reality that the baby was dead. For about two days, it was carrying and protecting the dead baby until the stench became unbearable for the entire troop of monkeys and the mother monkey had no choice but to reluctantly let go. That is the lot of some people in their 50s. They are hanging on to skills and businesses that are “dead.” Technology and other factors have rendered those skills and businesses worthless, but unlike the monkey they are still hanging on to them, even as the stench stinks to high heavens. It is time to move on. If you have read that little book, “Who Moved My Cheese,” the source of cheese around you has dried up; you must leave your comfort zone to new, unknown and uncharted territories to get cheese. Unfortunately, I cannot assure you of an easy search. The road is bumpy; it is akin to an old dog learning new tricks. But what options do you have? If you remain where you are, you will sink deeper into a life without fulfilment; a life of despair, hopelessness, regrets, sickness and finally death.
Some other middle-aged men are luckier, they still have requisite and much-sought-after skills. Their problem is that they have never charged fees commensurate to the services they render. Let me tell you, it is in the nature of man to want all the good things of life free. After all God gave us air, life and many other great things in this life, free. But you are not God, who is Father Christmas, ensure you are well compensated for your services so that you can generate reasonable income and start saving/investing for your retirement/old age. In a similar vein, some people in their 50s get good money, but spend every kobo because of their life style. To such contemporaries, I say nothing lasts forever. You are lucky you are still getting good money; amend your lifestyle drastically and start preparing for retirement. There is a time for everything. Market don close. Go home. Na only mad people and destitute dey sleep for market.
In this race to right wrongs in your middle-age, there is no retreat or surrender. You might not have the strength and agility of youngsters, but you can develop their enthusiasm to life. In your 50s, you should not really be engaged in economic activities that do not bring you joy and fulfilment. If you haven’t already, start gravitating towards what interests you; your passions. Doing things you do not enjoy doing at this stage of your life can only bring you more pains and misery. First enjoy the activity and then brainstorm on how it is going to generate income. Every passion and area of interest is a potential income earner; ultimately yours should not be different.
Arise! Enough of this pedestrian life. God created us all winners. Everybody is a potential winner. God ensured that when deposited over 50 gifts in us at birth. It does not matter whether you are in your 50s and nothing has clicked before now. First get your fundamentals right and keep walking/working. The beauty is that as you walk/work, you will get new experiences, meet new people and reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Ewherhemuepha (in the midst of it all, something good will emerge). It will not happen when you wrap yourself in your cocoon in self-pity and bitterness.
Nigeria is tough, but He that is in you is tougher than the Nigerian situation. Go deep into your recesses to tap into strengths you have never used before. We have all heard or read Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, “I have a dream.” I learnt that the “I have a dream” portion of the speech was not part of the original speech he had in his script. Those words, which have resonated round the world for over 50 years and remain evergreen, were spontaneous and came from his inner recesses. Every man has a large reservoir in his inner recesses. There are talents, skills, network of old friends (former colleagues and acquaintances), knowledge, experience, wisdom and a great deal of other abilities waiting to be released and unleashed. Tap into yours.
Also in your middle ages, you should be making fewer mistakes because you ought to have learnt from the many mistakes you made in the past. You might not be rich in physical assets, but you should be rich in intellectual assets. In your 50s, your task ahead is well cut out: see your children through school and keep something aside to take care of you in your old age. If you are one of those with their backs against the wall, anything outside these two might just be unnecessary baggage that should be jettisoned. Kindly do a priority self-audit.
At the end when you have done your bit, and even as you are doing your bit, take advantage of your relationship with the divine. With Him all things are possible.