LAGOS – The City of Charlatans

(By Uzor Ngoladi)

I have come across several Lagosians who are prolific storytellers. Their endeavour stops at word of mouth. The energy they should have channelled to sharpen and polish their skills are diverted to spinning blatant lies and fabrication. You know very well that this is not your line of business, why brandish business cards and tear the roof with imaginary exploits? The truth has become a scarce commodity among most Lagos entrepreneurs and I wonder what we expect from politicians. People choose to claim what they are not. They offer any service under the sun while operating as middlemen, facilitator, connector or any other nomenclature.” 

HE always spoke eloquently in class. His use of English was relatively impressive and impeccable. He claimed to be a Brand Strategist who creates out of this world designs that can make Microsoft green with envy. He left no one in doubt about his wizardry in media advertising and brand management. Throughout the programme nobody got to see his works; we only made do with what we heard him disseminate via elegant and elevated grammar. He carried his shoulders high and spoke tactlessly to any opposing view.  Those who sat close to him in class were eager to witness his creative ingenuity.

  In a class of 50 entrepreneurs, anybody can claim to be a maestro at his game. After all, we were carefully selected from more than a thousand candidates who applied for the sponsored programme in Lagos. And so this ego-tripping classmate of mine was contracted to design the advert that would go on a national daily to express gratitude to our sponsors and showcase the 50 lucky brands that are graduating in flying colours.

  It was time to prove his dexterity at creating mind-blowing brand designs. Not a few people were shocked when the advert was published. Our grammarian strategist did a very shoddy job, lacking in creativity and steeped in mediocrity. The 50 brands were enmeshed in a suffocated flat font that can hardly be read. Some of the brands were incorrectly spelt in identical fonts! His ego did not permit him to present the advert, which cost the class a fortune for appraisal before rushing to publish.

Such is the nuisance created by most Lagos dwellers who habitually find it difficult to identify with reality. They forget that success does not respond to grammar and phonetics. Other fakers who claimed expertise in class could not deliver quality service when they were contracted by fellow classmates. And I began to wonder how they scaled through the rigorous selection process for the course. I did not need to look further.

  Most Lagosians are renowned in self-deceit, fakery and making bogus empty boasts.   Mediocre abounds in this centre of excellence.  They are loud mouthed, egoistic and talk before they think. They love to take the centre stage forgetting that genius and inanity cannot be hidden for a long time. Another class member who claimed that anybody can mentor her business and declared a medical doctor to be her magazine publishing business mentor presented a muddled crap when her publication finally graced the newsstands. I realized that those who made so much noise in class were actually presiding over a lackluster enterprise and they were legion. The few who were calm and calculated allowed their work to speak for them.

  A lady caterer whom I never saw boasting in class baked the best cake I had ever seen for the class party. Another lady who ran a Chinese restaurant gave the class a most delicious and captivating Chinese cuisine when she hosted the party. All her delicacies including the hall were on point. Others gave a good account of their skill in photography, publishing and party deserts to mention but a few. These people were humble businessmen and women who allowed their work to speak for them. Your creativity does not need a thunderous trumpet. Creativity, discipline and industry speak louder than the personality behind it.

  I have come across several Lagosians who are prolific storytellers. Their endeavour stops at word of mouth. The energy they should have channelled to sharpen and polish their skills are diverted to spinning blatant lies and fabrication. You know very well that this is not your line of business, why brandish business cards and tear the roof with imaginary exploits? The truth has become a scarce commodity among most Lagos entrepreneurs and I wonder what we expect from politicians. People choose to claim what they are not. They offer any service under the sun while operating as middlemen, facilitator, connector or any other nomenclature.

  I came across a gentleman who regaled me with tales of his resourcefulness at designing websites and managing web solutions. At the end of his gibberish, I requested for his company website and the story changed. Another Lagos clown bragged about his online clothing business, assuring me that his business was top notch and attracted high net worth clients. Again, I demanded for his website since the clothes he wore made no impression as a serious clothier. His website was nonexistent! Lagos liars easily forget that internet phones are in surplus and that we can easily ask Google when in doubt to confirm some discrepancies.

I want to challenge Nigerian youths to aspire to greater heights with modesty while honing their skills and improving their abilities. Be yourself. Seek out people who have travelled that road successfully and drink from their wealth of experience as you embark on your career or vocation journey. A single or divorced man can teach few things about marriage but can the lesson be as qualitative as the advice of a man that has celebrated his silver or golden jubilee in the marriage institution? Let’s bear in mind that no man ever lied his way to greatness and success. You must imbibe humility to learn at the masters’ feet and resist the temptation to boast and brag about empty and nonexistent accomplishment.

  Our popular musicians such as 2face, Psquare, Whizkid, Don Jazzy etc do not need introduction any longer. Their work speaks for them. Find out why other Nigerians that have done well in their various vocations always cut a humble picture. They hardly boast about achievement. They don’t need to prove anything to you. Emulate their character traits and put your hand to the plough. Be consistent and innovative in your chosen field and kings will seek you out. Be a good listener, see opportunities and talk less.

  An acquaintance of mine who was born and bred in Obalende is a champion at concocting lies. No sentence of his is devoid of lies and this attitude made me christen him ‘Lienus’. Yes Lienus was not contented with his phony inventions, he transferred some of it to people around him and manufactured appropriate lies they could tell at any given situation. His introductions came with chief, prince, barrister or Dr. I had to sincerely enquire why such a talented young man choose this path of falsehood. And he revealed to me that the only way to get people appreciate you in Lagos was by creating an image of affluence and influence. Unless you talk big and claim bourgeoisie, people hardly take you serious. But I challenged his submission and made him understand that people can easily see through his mendacity. Even when they pretend to believe you, your integrity meter would have gone down to zero. Why claim blue when you are actually in the red? You may miss great opportunity for life changing assistance just because of one stupid lie.

  Honesty remains the best policy that I know. This generation must eschew impersonation and other subtle manipulations that go with it. Those charlatans that are into every form of business from oil and gas to real estate to ICT must have a rethink and settle for a profession. If any career interests you as a passion, your best bet is to settle down and acquire the basic skills from the experts.

  The year 2014 is a New Year and a new dawn. Turn a new leaf and desist from telling self-destructive lies. Drop your ego and pride and acquire a skill that can guarantee you a genuine means of livelihood. Lagos as the centre of excellence will not uphold mediocrity whether you are a JJC or born and bred here. In the words of Randall R McBride Jr. “Success will not lower its standard to us. We must raise our standard to success.” Happy New Year to you as you make this critical decision to remain pure and true to your dream.

• Ngoladi, a writer, author, biographer, actor and entrepreneur lives in Lagos.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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