…whatever you do for a living, keep doing it. Keep practicing because practice makes perfect. PRACTICE! PRACTICE!! PRACTICE!!! You will get to a point when you’ll be sought-after for being one of the best in the area. In every profession, there are experts… When theories meet practicals, then education or rather knowledge truly becomes POWERFUL.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Knowledge is Power” a gazillion times. The first time I came across the saying was in my primary school days when I saw it emblazoned on the back of a 911 truck owned by Inyang Ette or Chidiebere. Not sure which one it was now, of the two most popular transport companies in the South back in the day. Anyway, I recall engaging my father when I got home from school that day and he explained the saying in the clearest manner, as he always did.
So, knowledge is truly power. One of the easiest ways to explain this, for example, is when a doctor is discussing the causes, effects and treatments of malaria or any other form of sickness. You would know the doctor had studied these. This is why education is important. Education is the surest and most effective way of acquiring knowledge. I do not want to dabble into or try to contradistinguish between formal and informal education. For this purpose, let’s say education is education.
Now, beyond education is experience. This is when you put what you have learnt (what you know) into practice over a period of time. It gets even better when you do this over and over and become a master in it. That’s why they say experience is the best teacher. Let me put it this way, you cannot compare a rookie pilot or doctor to another who’s been in the business for 30 years! It is like comparing a fresh Mass Communication graduate to me, who has been practicing since 1990! Don’t mind me; I’m only kidding about myself, but I’m not kidding about my 30 years experience.
I actually want to tell you a story about experience, which I recalled while sharing some Christmas stories with a friend, recently. Now, let me state upfront that I’m NOT celebrating Christmas this year. It is not because it is not truly the precise birthday of Jesus Christ. No. 2020 has been what Latin calls Annus Horriblis (a horrible year) and so there’s nothing MERRY about this Christmas. Let the year quickly end so we can celebrate a New Year, which, by the grace of God, will be better for all of us reading this and our families and friends.
Very good. So, to my story: As a much younger man, I used to travel to the village from Lagos every Christmas. I started, naturally, by taking the luxury buses days before Christmas (with all the hassles), to driving myself and my siblings (with its own kind of hassles). At a point, we started travelling on Christmas Day, when the road should be a lot freer and the rush much calmer. I think we did it twice or thrice before I completely backed out of travelling by road.
So, December 1999, we had prepared, as usual, for the Christmas Day trip home (Mbaise). One of the rituals was to service my car. The other, of course, was to shop. You wouldn’t want any surprise on the way, you know. With all the boxes ticked, we set out on that fateful Christmas Day from Ikeja, where I lived. Sadly, even before we got to the first Toll Gate outward Lagos, the Honda Accord (aka Honda Halla) started jerking (or joking, as my mechanic, Taye, would say). The jerking go so bad, we had to turn back to Taye’s workshop.
Mind you it was Christmas Day. And it was also early morning. We had driven off dutifully at 7:00 a.m., with the hope of getting home in good time, say by 3 p.m. The roads weren’t so bad then and there were no highway robbers or “herdsmen”. Besides, the highway Police were always on there watching the roads and, of course, collecting one naira here and two naira there.
So, it was just about 7:15 a.m. or so. There were no mobile phones then, you can imagine. So, the only thing we could do was to wait for Taye and co. to open their workshop. Christmas Day! He had told me they would work half-day, thankfully. I was too disappointed and annoyed to even say anything. Then, I remembered the saying that “every disappointment is a blessing” and took solace in it immediately. My siblings were as “weak” as I was. Yet wWe waited.
Taye eventually resumed an hour or so latter and started guessing what the issue might be. From cleaning the plugs to blowing the fuel filter to cleaning the fuel pump. He tried all he could. Then, he test-drove the car and returned with a smile. Happily, we loaded back our stuff and took off singing. Not much further than the toll gate, the “joking” started again! Goodness me!
Now angry, I drove right back to Taye’s. On seeing us, his countenance fell to rock bottom. He basically took the keys, opening the bonnet and went back to work. I was seething with rage at this point but managing to hold myself. I mean, my parents and other siblings were anxiously awaiting our return and must have been counting down the hours to our arrival. Under my breath, I cursed David Mark who was credited with saying that, “telephones were not for the poor” (a fact at the time he said it, though). Other thoughts were going through my mind. Postpone the trip? But how would our people know? They would be worried knowing we had left already and then didn’t make it. One of my brothers suggested we called a hotel near our house in the village to leave a message. I considered the idea but elected to tarry awhile. I really wanted to be home for Christmas. I won’t try that s**t today (pardon my French).
Well, Taye tried and tried and tried. Other mechanics in the complex chipped in one idea or the other, but the result was no different. The car was still “joking”! After the third test-drive, I felt the game was up and it was time to heed my brother’s advice to call and leave a message that we’ve had to abort the mission. Just then, an elderly looking man, obviously a mechanic too, who has been sleeping most of the time, or so I thought, got up and came over to the car. He looked into the engine, asked Taye a couple of questions, went back into the workshop and returned with an old fuel filter. He took off the one in the car, replaced it with the old one and asked Taye to start the car. It started and ran smoothly. Taye went to test-drive it for the fourth time. He came back and asked me to test-drive the car. The vehicle drove amazingly smoothly.
I returned in excitement. My siblings got the memo on seeing my face and they were happy too. The old man told us he’s been listening to all the discussion while trying to sleep and his mind kept telling him it would be the fuel filter. He proved it by blowing some water from his mouth into the transparent plastic fuel filter and blowing air into it. The fuel filter was leaking and so, the pressure was escaping and not getting enough fuel to the crankshaft! Negodu experience!!!
I couldn’t thank the old man enough. I paid N100 for the fuel filter, gave the old man a tip of another N100, glared at Taye and the other jokers – and we zoomed off to Mbaise. There was no joking and no stopping at Umunede to eat pounded yam and bitter leaf soup with bush meat on the way (those who are familiar with that route will understand). We made it home safely and thankfully but pretty late. Throughout the trip, I kept marvelling at the little thing that almost ruined our day. I also marvelled at the perspicacity or rather experience of the old mechanic. And for the most part, I was grateful that the old man brought his experience to bear and saved the day.
So, whatever you do for a living, keep doing it. Keep practicing because practice makes perfect. PRACTICE! PRACTICE!! PRACTICE!!! You will get to a point when you’ll be sought-after for being one of the best in the area. In every profession, there are experts. They didn’t become experts only by reading books. Of course, from the books (education) will come knowledge but the practicals are much needed to make it perfect. When theories meet practicals, then education or rather knowledge truly becomes POWERFUL. We must have heard someone say, Dr. XYZ is one of the best in the area or Mr. ABC is one of the finest journalists in the country. And so on and so forth.
Thank you my dear friends for staying with me through the year. For those who are so inclined, enjoy the Christmas. As for me and my family, we are staying home, safe and happy. I urge you to do same. Together we shall breast the tape of the New Year and old things, including Coronavirus, shall pass away.
Emeka Oparah is vice president, Corporate Communications & CSR, at Airtel Nigeria.