By, Victor Asemota
A common response by Nigerians online to posts indicating progress or wins of others is “God when?” A phrase that reveals a lot deeper than we fail to realize even when we think “it isn’t that deep.” It is an indication that we are only just waiting not actively asking “why not?”
Why not? Was the question I asked myself one day as I was jogging from Parkview into Banana Island while still living with my uncle in Lagos. I saw a beautiful new apartment block and was thinking that new occupants would be “lucky people” then paused and asked “why not me?”
It was at that moment I realized that I had defeated myself in the past by thinking that progress was linear and maybe one day it would be my turn. I was optimistic but there was no determinism in my optimism. I decided to have an agenda. I wanted to live in one of those houses.
I didn’t move to one of those houses immediately, I first went back to school in England. A struggle in my mid thirties with a fledgling startup that I was restarting again after it had died before. I had to be in Nigeria monthly. An almost superhuman feat that helped me later.
While still in school and struggling to pay fees and salaries, I decided to move to a 2 bedrm apartment at UPDC Estate at Lekki. It wasn’t Parkview but it also had 24 hours electricity and clean water. Prerequisites I needed to function. I ended up at one of those places in Accra
I used to have an office on Awolowo Road in Ikoyi but I traded that office for co-working at my uncle’s Regus offices so that I could afford the UPDC place in Lagos. In Accra, I could have both. I had a Cantonments office and I lived at an East Legon apartment, not Banana but I eventually moved to Ridge the equivalent of the Banana Island apartments after I was burgled twice in East Legon. I was forced there by circumstance and had to find a way to afford it. I lived there for 5 out of my 10 years in Accra so far. The next attraction was townhouses
We’ve moved to one of those townhouses that I admire and now, I have decided that maybe I may want to own an estate instead of just a house. It never stops but it drives me. My uncle is my greatest inspiration when it comes to property. He always punched above his weight and won.
He made me realize that the first rule of success is to be organized. The best way to remain organized is to have basic comfort. When people call those Banana apartments “Luxury apartments” it is self defeating and they miss the point. That is how it should be. The basics.
Someone mentioned here on Twitter recently that the reason why people migrate from Nigeria is not because of wealth, it is because of comfort. Comfort also helps you create wealth and it is not just the other way round.
Rwanda has made me realize that we don’t make progress Nigeria because we largely create discomfort and love “the struggle.” Poverty or struggle is NOT a virtue. Comfort is not a vice, it is a means to an end. That end is more comfort and eventually luxury.
I look at Rwanda and I don’t ask “God when.” I am also no longer in a hurry to relocate here. I have decided that we can create something better than Rwanda in other parts of Africa simply because Rwanda exists. This place is a template for progress and prosperity so “Why not?”
Progress should always be an inspiration and not a way to spur desperation.
Victor Asemota is founder of SwiftaCorp, a pioneering African software and technology services group with subsidiaries and operations in over 14 African countries.