Ambition should not be open. Ambition should be selective; it should also be guided
By Godwin Adindu
Youth is fun; it is also responsibility. Youth is the stage of life driven by hope and aspiration. Ambition is the watchword of the age. It is the driver, a motivator even an obsession. The entire society advise the youth to be ambitious. They consistently hand out that counsel as a mantra of life. So you set goals. You aspire for great heights and earnestly work hard to attain the utmost height. Good!
As a youth, you have your full strength both mental and physical. You have stamina and the vigour for great exploits. But, there is one thing you must know in your journey of ambition. You must know that what constitutes the good life is your sense of values even as it regards to your ambition. You must realize that your duty to life is to help build communion and community. And you cannot achieve this if your ambition is not tamed, if it is not well nurtured and well-directed. So what is the bench-mark of the ambition you intend to pursue? Will it promote the common good? Will it build communion and community? Is the method or process of attaining your goal, of achieving ambition fair?
The Edinburg Professor of Ethics, William Barclay, argues that Wrong Plus Right cannot be right — ( W+R =W). Ambition demands responsibility. This emphasis has become imperative in an age of high-flying ambition by the youth, the age of restless youth. The age of the fast-lane. The mentality of the Fast-lane is a cankerworm eating up the youth. You know the fast lane; the extreme corner of the road where drivers throw caution to the wind and challenge the speedometer of their automobiles.
The fast lane, beyond the expressway, is now a metaphor of action and behavior. It has transformed into a social construct and speaks of men and women who want to “make it” quick; who are in a hurry and desperate to achieve a world of comfort. But, in the process they hurt society. They step on toes. They injure the community. They inflict pain on our collective patrimony and heritage. They are burden bearers of a conscience that is seared, to whom, what matters is self. They are persons of low moral sensitivity.
Indeed, the persuasion to achieve could be a very terrible thing, a very dangerous inner drive and outer resentment. Ambition not guided by law, norm, justice and divine creed is a potential missile of mass destruction and the purveyor is a danger for mankind. An unguided ambition drives the mentality of the fast lane. For us to build a new world order of peace and mutual co-existence, we must begin to redefine ambition. We must begin to teach the nature of ambition and emphasis duty and responsibility. We must begin to set the agenda for the ambition that promotes the common good, foster global order and unite us as one common humanity.
The reason we are having a whole generation of Yahoo-Yahoo inclined youth is the failure of integrating values with ambition. We cannot leave ambition open. We cannot ignite fire without guiding it or else it will rage into unexpected places. Most vices associated with youth today including drug addiction, armed banditry, kidnapping, campus cultism, etc are rooted in unguided ambition. So while we inspire the youth, we must, at the same time, emphasis duty and responsibility. We must tell our youths that the end does not necessarily justify the means; that an unguided ambition is a dangerous landmine. We have a responsibility to direct the youth on the right path.
Our society is witnessing a disastrous ambition by the youths. This is a challenge to leadership. In an age characterized by terrorism and all manners of societal ills, there is need for a new re-orientation for our youth. This has become even more pertinent with the new encouragement for youth participation in governance. We must prepare a new generation of youth who will be committed to duty and responsibility, whose ambition will be driven by the common good. We must cause a review if not a total reversal on our ambition.
There is one man I love to talk about who had a personal reversal on his ambition and also personally re-orientated himself. He realized that his ambition is not promoting the common good, not building communion and community. His name was Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemical engineer and industrialist who was famous for his invention of dynamites and ballistite, two weapons of mass destruction. Nobel set out very early in life with great ambition – to be wealthy. Surely, before his death in 1896, he was a very wealthy man, after his explosives, especially ballistite had been used in wars to kill a numberless people.
But, before his death something happened that changed the course of his life. Another man died whose name was also Nobel. A section of the press mistook this man for Alfred Nobel, and focused their story on the destruction that he would have caused the world through his inventions. They painted the picture of the number of deaths that one ballistite detonated at a busy business district would cause and multiplied that with the number of ballistites that Nobel manufactured in a year and in many years. They recalled war situations where the ballistites were used and the attendant destruction. In fact, Alfred Nobel read his obituary alive and was troubled by the legacy he would leave behind for the world.
From that moment, Nobel took a step for a paradigm shift. He took a decisive action to change the story of his life. Nobel ceased from producing arms and instituted the Nobel Peace Award. He willed a substantial part of his assets to the Nobel Peace Foundation and set the terms. According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who “…shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”
The lesson from Alfred Nobel’s story is that there is an ambition that, when actualized, will not help to build communion and a better community. A violent politician that deploys thugs against his opponents is not aiming to build a better community. An ABSU student who has spent his days on campus in cult activities is not inspired towards a better community. The passion for internet fraud amongst the youth is an antithesis to a better community. All transactions that are tagged, “Business” or “ deal” may not be fair or decent.
Ambition is a two-edged sword. There is the positive and the negative, all fixed into one generic name. It is ambition that drives a thief, a prostitute, an assassin, a terrorist, a tyrant and a coupist. It is also ambition that drives the inventor, the scientists, the humanitarian and all well-meaning people of the world.
Today, we have a task to engineer a new orientation as it relates to the thought process of the youth. By working with them to review their ambition, we shall be preparing them better for the duty ahead and making them better instruments of the new community and the new nation of our dreams.
Text of Speech delivered at the first Abia State University SUG Annual Legislative Summit, by Godwin Adindu, Director-General of Abia Orientation Agency (ABSOA)