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January 6, 2024

Nature Vs Nurture: Can Destiny Be Altered? By Muyiwa Adetiba

Nature Vs Nurture: Can Destiny Be Altered? By Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

Massey Children’s Hospital in the heart of Lagos Island used to be called a baby factory due to the sheer number of infants delivered in a day there. So prolific was the hospital in delivering babiesalmost by the hour, that it was suspected – and rumored- that babies sometimes got mixed up in the past.

This led to a popular street coinage ‘kiomo ma daponi Massey’ (lest babies get mixed up at Massey) – a way of saying let us know who is who- when contributors to a common goal want to differentiate items or actions.Contrary to what some people might say, most babies are largely indistinguishable at birth. They are simply too tiny, about 2.5 to 3kg in weight and about a mere 24 inches in length, to be easily differentiated.

Some identical twins are indistinguishable for most of their adult lives, often confusing friends and even parents. Yet, despite being largely indistinguishable, each infant is unique in its own way, with special talents and peculiarities which are inherent. Several cultural mythologies state that every child comes with its own destiny which is then shaped and helped along by the challenges of life. A Yoruba proverb says in part ‘a kunleyanniat’aiyeba’ translated roughly to mean what you choose at birth is what you meet in life. A Professor of neurology in Europe went further to state in a seminal work, that almost everything about each of us, is pre-programmed before birth including certain idiosyncrasies! 

 As simplistic and even fatalistic as this is, it explains many things. It explains for example why children raised and nurtured by the same parent sometimes turn out very differently; or why identical twins follow different trajectories in life. It explains why greatness can be seen in a toddler – I was a mere teenager totally unsure of what to do with my life when someone prophesied I would be well known and I was going to see the world; it seemed a most unlikely prophesy at the time given my state of mind and stature in life.

It explains why the most brilliant in college doesn’t always be the most successful in latter years. It was said of a CEO of a successful bank in Nigeria that he was below average in college. Yet he found himself in a position to offer jobs to his above average classmates. It explains why the young shallbe worshiped by the old as in biblical Joseph; or the youngest to become a king over his older brethren as in King David.It explains why one of a pair of identical twins – Jacob and Esau – was preferred by God and destined for greatness while the other was destined for infamy. It explains why Tinubu is the President of Nigeria today in spite of daunting odds.

Yes, the concept of destiny explains many things. But it also leaves many unanswered questions. Are there inputs to destiny like education, diligence and environment? Or would destiny still be achieved in spite of them? Would General Obasanjo have been his country’s Head of State for example if he had been born to a different mother? Would he have been blessed with that position twice if he had chosen a different profession other than the military?

Or was choosing the military part of his destiny?Would little me have achieved this level of professional recognition if I had remained in my chosen lane as a science student? In other words, would I have been asprofessionally successful as an Engineer? Did destiny influence my change of course? Can it and does it do that? And if a wicked and incompetent person leads his country to war and penury, is it destiny at work? Or is it destiny gone wrong?

A case in view is Nigeria. Many around the world believe the country is destined for greatness given the abundant resources at its disposal. Yet, it has been on the brink of becoming a failed State for a while now. Are those resources a mirage to lure its citizens into thinking greatness is theirs for the taking while in fact poverty is the destination? Or the destiny? Has Nigeria’s destiny been altered by external factors? Can destiny be altered by external factors?

Can it be altered by internal factors? What place do factors like discipline, hard-work and self-application have in fulfilling destinies? Ronaldo is believed to be perhaps the greatest footballer of his generation. While he may not be the most talented, it is acknowledged that he is about the most disciplined and hard-working person to have laced soccer boots when it comes to preparing for a match. There obviously is a nexus between nature and nurture in fostering greatness. And probably in the fulfillment of destiny.

A New Year is pretty much like a new baby. It is, like all new births, the wonder of the future unfolding. One year is hardly distinguishable from the other at the beginning.We all sing the Happy New Year chorus hoping it would indeed be a happy and prosperous one. But it would take a psychic – sometimes known as a prophet –  to tell from the onset, which year would be joyous and which one would be woeful. The rest of us have to prepare and apply ourselves for the greatness we want during the year. We know from experience that the days would speed by.

We know from experience that slothful and laidback attitudes are difficult to change. We know from experience that the greatness or fulfillment we want will not meet us on our bed. We know from experience that signs that lead to a realization of destiny can be cryptic and difficult to read. It can also be tongue-in-cheek to the unwary. So the main option left is to put in our shift by working hard, applying ourselves with integrity while obeying the laws of nature which is that what goes around, comes around. We are also aware, even if we don’t care to admit it, that sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, what will be will be.

May we all earn our place in the Nigerian space by helping our dear country change its course towards a better, more prosperous place. Here is wishing all dedicated Nigerians, a fulfillment of their dreams. And the realization of their destinies. Happy New Year!!