I live on African news. On a certain evening in late October, I was having dinner and listening absent mindedly to the London based Nigerian reporter who hosts the BBC Africa podcast. I liked her pace, voice and near casual delivery. I threw down whatever crumbs of food I was eating and walked away from the speaker that filled the apartment with the news. I was going to pace the entire square foot of the living space with no real aim in mind until I gave up and went to bed. Then the story of Dr. Ismail Ahmed, the founder of World Remit came on. There was mention of his having been let go of while he worked with one of the UN agencies; the UNDP, to be specific. He was working in the remissions department and had noticed a gross whirlwind of corruption and intended to blow the whistle. I rolled my eyes. This was truly a whistle blowing age we lived in. He was so concerned he wanted his superiors to support him while he changed the world and straightened things up in the specific UN office yet that was sadly not going to happen. He was told he could lose his job if he went ahead with the probe and outing. He eventually lost his job, doubled his fiery determination to make a difference and started World remit. Dr. Ahmed was recently named first on the 2019 UK power list in recognition of his success so far with World Remit.
My UN Experience
I worked in one of the UN offices in Accra for a year. While I think I didn’t work long enough to notice any activity worth whistle blowing over, I did encounter an image that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Naturally, any young graduate who cared enough about change would have stirrings in their spirit over the pace of work and things to be done. This was me in 2013; I had graduated with a bachelors in liberal arts and a foreign language under my belt. These diplomats had better make room and watch me change the world! My equally ambitious friend and I often spoke about books, travel, places to eat after work and the lady in the HR department who we asked the same question each morning. Did she need a hand with projects? Did she need help with pending work, help with future work, anything? Did she want us to clean her office even? We probably would have, but each time, the answer was a curt NO. The lady was a whole topic of discussion because unlike our boss boss, who practiced an open door policy with us, this one was very different. She was hostile, passive aggressive and never willing to assign or offload work to us. We were after all interns and there to work! Anyway, outside this, we quickly noticed the bureaucracy of the UN. To back the frustrating realization of this clogged up system, there was an image in our office of a dog. The dog appeared in many versions; imagine mugshots that continued for the span of about 14 boxes. Essentially the dog was captured looking excited in the very first shot and not so excited in the last. The images were a gradual and dismal transition of emotions and energy, from total motivation to eventual frustration. The dog was a representation of the effect work in the UN could have on you; – you would come in excited, eager to change the world; and eventually withdraw your excitement in exchange for a trite acceptance of the reality that changing the world might actually take a lot more longer than you’d expected….And this image was in our office! The presence of the image in our office was a bold and saddening admission that we all knew, and somehow accepted all we saw.
Francis Ngannou’s Story
Francis Ngannou is a successful mixed martial artist from Cameroon. He lived in poverty growing up; the crippling type of poverty that stifles any chance or effort to be resourceful. He migrated to France, met nearly the same amount of suffering if not more and then walked randomly one day into a training studio where he met a man that would train him, cultivate his skills and hone him into the world star he is today.
Shoe Dog is an intimate memoir by the creator of Nike, Phil Knight. Throughout the thirteen hour audio book, I have been unable to shake off the tremendous contribution of his coach, in the shaping of knight’s character, intellect and spirit. Phil Knight tells of his coach’s resilience, industriousness, strength, force. Bill Bowerman’s conviction that the type of shoe an athlete wore had a direct relationship with performance. He is Nike’s cofounder and the brain behind some of the brand’s very first creations.
The three individuals from these three encounters definitely worked hard. However, I am still mulling over the contribution and convenience of the relationships and steps and events that came their way that led to their success. Their stories enforce for me that….
…..the dots always connect.