Opinion: Baba Obasanjo and my white handkerchiefs

By Fola Ojo


I met Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for the first time in 2002 inside Aso Rock. One of his sons, who is a friend, arranged the meeting. It was to fellowship with the retired General in prayer. Growing up in Araromi Odo-Ona, Ibadan, we had been told that Obasanjo lived next door to our house before he joined the Army. Anytime my friends would come to my room, they would point to a room in the house next to ours that was widely rumoured to have been the former President’s abode as a young man.

Before I left the US for Nigeria, I asked my friend’s wife what she thought was appropriate to give to a sitting President of the most populous nation on earth, as a gift. I couldn’t afford a Rolls Royce or Bentley; and I had only $200 in my bank account. But I was not raised to go visit anyone empty-handed; so I was determined to give Baba something.

My mum of the blessed memory had also told her children that when we encountered an elderly person, it is a display of solid parental grooming for boys to prostrate and fall on their faces in salutation; while girls cave down on their knees. When I arrived the Villa, I did just that. I was shocked when Baba bowed a bit when I greeted him prostrating. He only had 11 minutes to sit down with me on the same couch one-on-one. That was the longest 11 minutes of my life. I sat with a nation’s president for the first time.

Baba was gracious. There were a bunch of people from the North-East who had come to him for some consultation. Then, I handed him the gift. What was the gift? A pack of 12 white handkerchiefs from Wal- Mart which cost me only $9.99! They were the most miracle-working handkerchiefs I ever gave anyone as a gift. And they cost me $9.99! Did Baba give me a contract afterward? No; I am not a contractor. Did he give me an appointment? No; I had a job. Maybe, Baba gave me a ‘Ghana-Must-Go bag” full of money for transport back to the US. No; Not one dime!  Ask those who know Baba very well. That is not Aremu Okikiola Obasanjo. But the physical and spiritual collateral benefits of the gifts of Wal Mart handkerchiefs I still enjoy till today in Godly relationships. And I am sure many more will come. That is how God works with men and women who give; and not just live their lives taking from others.

Benefits that natural eyes cannot measure come from giving gifts to men. If you are a natural-born moocher, and it is in your agenda always to get all you can and can all you get from your rich friends, think again. If you value your relationships, you will not be a moocher. Don’t specialise in feeding off from what your friends have earned, gain from what they have learned that made them a success. What they have learned in life brought what they have earned. They will be willing and enthusiastic to teach you from they have learned if they are certain you bring something to the table, no matter how insignificant you think it is. What is insignificant in your eyes may be the significant thing your rich friend has been searching the whole world for. Give it. Can a human parasite see the kingdom of God? Ask your Bishop or Pastor on Sunday.

My friend, as you read this, maybe, God has brought some people across your path to shift you to the next level. But ignorantly, you keep seeking to take from them without giving something. A relationship you don’t invest in will not profit you. I am happy you have met Aliko Dangote and America’s Donald Trump. I am so happy for you that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet call you by your first name. But what are you doing to nurture those relationships? Just mooching? Or just presenting before them your laundry-list of wants and needs? If you keep up that attitude, you are shutting your doors and killing relationships!

Many rich folks may not need more than a simple prayer or words of encouragement. And many times, and I like this, straight-up smackdown counsel and advice; not sycophantic or hypocritical jabbering that will put some few dollars in your pocket and make you look good before them. Benefits of sycophancy are transient. They don’t last. But the rewards of sincere talk and a candid counsel last eternity. I have rubbed minds with a few heavy-hitter politicians in Nigeria. I give them sincere counsel that I will not scribble on pages of newspapers. Some spoken truths have cost me; but I can live with that.  The sweetest and most romantic bedmate of a man and woman who is going somewhere in life is TRUTH; and telling it like it is.

Life is not just about what you will get from your relationship. You must give to get. Give gifts to your pastors, bosses, biological parents, and people you know deserve appreciations. Invest time, money, prayer, love, and sincere counsel in those relationships. You will reap from them without a doubt.

Networking is not just about an engendered social relationship. It is not about hanging with the “Joneses” and the “Jackies”; or mingling at parties, in church, and other social events. It is not simply an exchange of information that will help you achieve your next level, whatever that is. And it is not a mono-directional teaming-up process. It is not just about what you can get; it is also about what you can give. It is about nurturing the relationship with what you have; and building brick-by-brick a tower of influence upon which you can freely and effectively put your talent and ability to work to achieve your dream.

Networking is about bonding with the PEOPLE you need in your life; so that your needs can be met. Your network has a worth because of how you work it. Your net worth is determined by your network.  Meeting people you need is the first step in networking. Healthily nurturing the relationship is the biggest and most vital step. And this is an understanding many people lack. There is no relationship that will survive the test of time if only one of the parties adds value, and the other does not. Nurture your relationships. It will take you farther than you imagine. Punch


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