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Tope Fasua

I would love to start by asking at what stage in your life can you say you began living and not merely existing, what prompted you, and what are the first few steps you took?

I would say as far as I can remember. Perhaps somewhere around my early teenage years. I had started forming a sense of self, regarding the choices I wanted to make in life and how I wanted to live. I could say this has stayed with me today. No one has ever asked me such a deep question though.

What prompted such an early choice? Life itself, and the card it dealt me early. I was raised by a strict dad and a stepmom. I wouldn’t say conditions were rosy growing up. So you had to fight for what you got, though there wasn’t much to get in the first place.

I had always been a hardworker. I hardly complain about work; I work as if it’s an enjoyable task. This has stayed with me till today. So the steps would be:

  1. Deliberate living.
  2. Influencing my environment.
  3. Speaking up in the face of injustice.
  4. Embracing hard work.

I wouldn’t say I became overly ambitious but I knew early in life that there was nothing good anyone could do that I couldn’t also aspire.

One of the major hindrances young people face while trying to build their dreams is a lack of self-confidence and self-doubt. How have you been able to establish self-confidence in your career, especially in your ongoing presidential aspiration; what techniques and methods have you used to strengthen the positive self-image you have of yourself?

It started very early for me. I was a straight child and teenager. I dont know how to lie, steal or do dodgy stuff. But I reckon that inside that innocence lied a core of steel. I never believed there was anything I couldn’t learn. Going to school was choppy, but at some point, I had to teach myself the ‘difficult’ subjects.

I got into university at barely 16 and my brain started to open up. I scored unbelievable As in Math, English and almost everything in between and became the best student in class, faculty and school. I didn’t have to struggle or compete with anyone. I never even bought a single textbook. All I had was an analytical mind, and an ability to think through stuff and write a lot down. But I never got overly confident or arrogant. I am still very respectful to people but I can react strongly when someone tries to trample on me, wreak injustice on society, or take my humility for stupidity.

The ease with which I came from being an average student in secondary school to an exceptional student in university with relatively little effort, must have imbued a cool confidence in me such that I did well as a worker in a number of banks where I worked. I never seek for money, and I have zero sense of entitlement – I dont believe that anybody owes me. Rather I owe the world.

I never stayed back to collect any entitlement from any of the places I worked. When it was time to move on, I just moved on. I always have this idea that there is no amount of money I couldn’t make through legitimate thinking. I have thus routed my career through service by contesting for presidency. I am only interested in positively disrupting the way things are done at the very top in Nigeria, so that Nigeria will be alright all over.

To strengthen the positive self-image I have used a combination of selflessness, immersion in service, embrace of sacrifice for the common good, simple living, immersion into intellectual rigor – reading widely and writing, and of course I have pushed my ideas out for the world to see and critique. I never knew I had a gift of the gab until I started writing columns regularly. The critiques and feedback have strengthened me

Have you ever had to deal with fear and intimidation (either the fear of a person or situation) while trying to make major leaps in your life and in your career? And how have you been able to deal with these feelings?

I reckon I deal with a fear that everyone deals with; the fear of tomorrow. I have a very vivid imagination. I think of everything and that enables me take calculated risks. One wakes up sometimes asking questions about the path that one has chosen – whether it is right, or foolhardy. One fears whether those who sold their souls for money are the wise ones and so on. I have dealt with these feelings by going deeper into what I am doing and that I know to be true

Building anything of substantial value, infact building anything at all, could be hard and almost impossible without the help of the right kind of people. How have you been able to find the right kind of people to walk your journey with you ever since the beginning of your career; and how have you been able to build and strengthen relationships with these people?

Sometimes like attracts like. Sometimes opposites attract. In relationships even when opposites attract, they dont stick for long. So in journeying through life people get thrown together. There are relationships I’ve been maintaining since growing up. We have kept those relationships going through mutual respect. I met other people at work. Some of them are still friends and confidant till date.

I believe the trick is to be modest in one’s expectations. I am not that kind of friend who dumps my burden on another. I would rather be the giver – of time, money and the likes. I dont make friends easily. I take a long time to observe. But once a friend, I can be fiercely loyal. I strengthen my relationships by doing the extraordinary.

We live in a frenetic world and people often forget friends. I am that guy who calls out of the blues, or suddenly take it upon myself to pay a surprise visit. I recall standing by two friends way back, after they lost their jobs. I am that person who moves closer when others run from you.

Till date, I am still friends with those two people even though they are now very successful men. I believe they will sometimes remember

You’re a wonderful writer, author and thought leader yourself but usually, the people who speak for people to hear often have to take the audience seat so they can also hear other people speak and catch in on perspectives that might have escaped their minds. What are the top five books that have had most impact on you and that you would suggest to young people who are passionate about a better, successful life?

If You Want to Be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go to School, by Robert Kiyosaki–it straightened my views about what matters in life and that generosity brings more wealth.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins–it straightened my views on how the world is run.

Making Globalisation Work, by Joseph Stiglitz–it straightened my views on international trade especially coming from a former Chief Economic Adviser to a US President.

Empire – The Rise and Demise of the British Empire, by Niall Ferguson–it straightened my views about history and helped me write my first book.

Then several Sidney Sheldons, James Hadley Chases, Chinua Achebes, Cyprian Ekwensis, Elechi Amadis and so on. These were the books I grew on. I read everything including the classics.

What aspect of all the things you do has been most rewarding and has been giving you the motivation to keep doing the things you do?

Honestly I’ve not started to think of rewards. It took me a while to answer this question. All I’ve been doing all my life is investing in life. Maybe the reward will come someday, but what keeps me going for now is the sheer knowledge of knowing I am doing the right thing and sticking to the narrow. Sometimes, peers who chose an alternative route let me know – wittingly or unwittingly – that I am doing the right thing.

How would you answer the questions: “What is the purpose of life?” and “How does one find fulfillment in life?”

The purpose of life is what everyone of us spend an entire lifetime looking for – and never finding. Life’s purpose to each one of us may therefore be different. Most Nigerians believe we are in this world to serve God, and that is perfectly okay. But I believe we should do a little more.

Today, we serve God better using technology and instruments provided by other people. Truly we live an averagely better life all over the world, than was possible 200 years ago. Africans enjoy the products of other people’s handwork and brains but do not contribute a lot to that process or even think it is necessary. So I would add that perhaps we are here to also make the world a better place than we met it. If we deploy everything we are endowed with to make this mark, we will achieve something great.

Lastly, coming back to what evidently interests you most. If Nigeria would be great again, what are those things you think would have to change?

Our thinking and life view has to change. We have a scarcity mentality which masquerades as an abundance mentality. We are not collectively thinking of a bigger, more prosperous country that we shall build with our own hands. So, when in public positions, rather than reinvest the little we have, we steal everything and send abroad to countries where they think right and have infinitely much more than we could ever get.

Therefore leadership must change. We must bring in people who can think and drive this process. Our economics must change. Our environment must change. Our attitude to work must change. The injustice that permeates the way we run our lives in this country must change. We must be less wasteful. We must learn serious resource management especially in public spaces. We must embrace logic more than superstition. And we must be united as a people.

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