Are You Giver Or Taker?

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I verily believe that the biggest problem we have in our nation is that we have too many takers and very few givers. Poverty and hopelessness bestride our fatherland because we give nothing and take everything.

Give a Nigerian the nation’s pension fund to manage and he takes all the money and leaves the pensioners hungry on the streets. Give a Nigerian Army General money to buy arms to fight the terrorists traumatizing our people, the General will take all the money and bury it in a soak-away pit and send innocent soldiers without weapons to go and die in Sambisa Forest. Across the country, everyone is in a mad scramble to take. Very few are willing to give. Pastors are on the take, civil servants are on the take, judges are on the take and policemen are on the take. And we want to build a nation? How?

Give a Nigerian governor money to run his state and he grabs all the land across the state and builds mansions for himself, his wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and generations unimagined. Meanwhile, he leaves the roads without maintenance, hospitals without drugs, government workers without pay and the citizens without hope.

In my service in different organisations in the creative industry I have witnessed a number of people fight tooth and nail to join the different boards not because they want to provide service but because they want to ‘chop’. Once they find out that the board is about work and not “chop”, they get frustrated and head for the exit with so much noise and nuisance.

How then can we grow when it should be clear that there is no nation, no state, no organisation and no family that can make progress when everybody is taking and nobody is giving?

Next week, in Anambra State, the body of a gentleman who in the Nigerian experience was truly uncommon, will be laid to rest. I can bet that John Ewelukwa Udegbunam had little money, no big house and no fancy car when he passed on about two months ago.

However, events after events are being held in different parts of the country in honour of this great Nigerian who cared deeply about everyone. Nearly everyday since his death, he has been celebrated expansively on social media. Last Sunday at the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Onitsha, a big church service was held in his honour. Two days before, at the Chuba Ikpeazu Stadium in Onitsha, the music industry gathered, despite the heavy rain, to pay tribute to the man fondly called “Eweson”. On Tuesday, there will be a first-class Red Carpet Tribute Night in Lagos to celebrate the great Udegbunam.

When Honourable Udegbunam buried his mother in Ora-Eri Anambra State about five years ago, over 40 catholic priests stormed Ora-Eri to perform the Requiem Mass at St Mary’s Catholic Church Ora-Eri, the same church where an unprecedented Requiem Mass is scheduled to hold in his honour next week. That is the kind of high esteem that this man with little money was held in the Catholic Church, a man who touched many lives.

Udegbunam was the immediate past National President of the powerful Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN), Nigeria’s biggest association of owners of copyright in sound recordings. He fought music pirates with both hands and everything else he could muster. He could easily have become rich by collecting money from the pirates and looking the other way. He did not.

Udegbunam was a staunch member of the Board of COSON, Nigeria’s most respected and successful copyright collective management organisation. Do you know that nearly all COSON Board meetings are held in Lagos? In 11 years, Udegbunam who lived in Onitsha never missed one COSON Board meeting, never missed one COSON AGM and never missed one COSON Week event. Not once did he ask for a flight ticket to come to Lagos or seek accommodation in a fancy hotel as he travelled by day and by night. His 100% focus was to defend the rights of the thousands of members of COSON. He could have exploited the immense power he had on the COSON Board for personal enrichment. He did not.

The incredible guy was a university-trained musicologist, composer, music teacher, producer and label owner and National Music Director of the Praise & Worship Ministry of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria (CCRN) which he helped spread across the nation. If he was not on the road for CCRN, Udegbunam was on the road for MORAN or on the road for COSON amid many other responsibilities he undertook despite the fact that he had to run his own business, Eweson Communications Ltd. Udegbunam was a giver.

Udegbunam gave no excuses for not doing what he had to do. If he said he was coming, he would come. If he said he was going, he would go. He could have abused his position in CCRN to make money for himself. He did not.

I had just arrived New York when I was informed of the death of Udegbunam. I usually do not cry over the death of any man but I broke down and wept like a child. I used to call him “Madu Asaa” (7 persons in one). If you have Hon. Udegbunam with you, it’s like having seven persons behind you. He was unshakable when it comes to standing with the truth, even when everyone else is telling lies. He had great strength of character. Udegbunam was a giver.

Giving is what builds nations and institutions and families. It is the giving by many of their intellect, time, love, hard work and sometimes, their lives that have created those countries that we admire and whose visas we are desperate to acquire.

Just look at the New York subway and imagine the giving that went into building that incredible network of rail lines under the dizzying skyscrapers of Manhattan. The marvelous road network in Germany, the Autobahn, is the product of giving.

Across the world, you see nations with structures and systems that work so very efficiently. Why? It is because these nations have people who are happy to give of themselves.

There is nothing wrong in making money if the objective is to try to bring happiness to the greatest number.

Considering that we come with nothing and go with nothing, is it not curious that we spend so much time acquiring, taking and taking things much of which we do not need?

Think about it, Nelson Mandela did not become great by being a taker. Martin Luther King did not become great by being a taker. Mother Theresa certainly did not become great by being a taker.

Fare thee well Honorable, my brother and friend who gave his all for the good of all.

See you next week.

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