When I was in Form Three at Government College, Ughelli, my Geography teacher made a profound statement that has helped form my life.
Mr. Bamuza, a very fine Ijaw man said, “valuable as knowledge is, the power to acquire it, independently, is more valuable”.
This statement shaped my approach to the quest for knowledge. Coming from a very poor background, I realized very early that getting knowledge was what would break the yoke of poverty. I also realized that certificates or report cards do not make you knowledgeable. They only show that you have passed an examination at a certain time. What stands you out from the crowd is the understanding, application, and display of what you know. I found out early that knowledge has depth, width, and height.
Parents and students, today, are more interested in marks, grades, and certificates; this makes them cheat and cut corners to move to the next levels of academic certification. I recently found out at Post Graduate level that many Nigerian graduates are very ignorant because they don’t read outside what is in the narrow sphere that will make them pass examinations. People go to school because they want to graduate and work, not necessarily to be cultured and schooled.
The Bible says, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures”.
A knowledgeable man is not empty; while the empty individual is focused on flamboyant dressing, noisy music, drinks, and flashy cars, the fullness of a knowledgeable person is in his mind.
I recently did a Master’s course in a University in Public Administration. Some of my course mates were questioning my simple lifestyle. When the first year result was released, I had 6 B’s and 2 A’s with a GPA of 4.25 out of 5. Suddenly, they started respecting me more. I don’t have respect for anybody who doesn’t know what he is doing.
To get knowledge is a personal effort. You must go to school; you must listen intensely with the sole aim of drinking and absorbing knowledge. I get the same sensation a drunkard gets when I acquire new knowledge. Knowledge intoxicates me. You must read your books, solve your problems yourself, and seek explanations if you don’t understand. You must spend time and money on books and materials. I buy more books than clothes or shoes every year. I read voraciously and my mind is always eager to know more. I question nearly everything.
The independent acquisition of knowledge is a level of mental development. You develop your mind to the point where you can learn on your own. This is the real freedom that very few black people ever have. Most black people just follow trends; they have no opinion of their own. This ability or skill comes from meditating on information over a long period of time. It is different from memorizing facts.
As a preacher, I have taken time to independently acquire knowledge and find out mysteries from the initial teachings I received from my pastors. He who has this ability to think through leads others. People consult you when you know more than them. The present day church, particularly Pentecostalism, encourages docility of intellectual capacity.
Ideas rule the world; the man who knows how rules over him who does not know. No wonder it is said that knowledge is power. The desire has always been to trade in knowledge. That is how I make my money. I sell knowledge and I demonstrate knowledge. My prayer for my students and those who learn from me is that they synthesize knowledge and market knowledge to their generation. Nothing sells better than knowledge that is timely.
When teachers and parents help children to cheat in examinations or want their children to be promoted to the next levels despite flawed academic foundations, they take away this vital energy in them for independent thought and deductive reasoning. That is why very few black nations can do things on their own; we need expatriates to farm for us, construct roads, and even help train our soldiers.
The black man must cease to be a parasite on other people’s effort to know and return to what our ancestors did in Egypt by placing the greatest premium on knowledge.