Tope Fasua On the Modest Expectations of True Friendship

Tope Fasua is a businessman, seasoned economist and author of six books including, Things to Do Before Your Career Disappears and A Change Will Come.

He worked as a senior manager and director in the banking sector for over a decade before founding and serving as the CEO of Global Analytics Consulting Limited, an international consulting firm with its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.

As a political reformer, he founded the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) and was elected in February 2018 as the Party’s National Chairman. In May 2018, Tope Fasua announced his intention to run for Presidency in the 2019 General Elections.

Amid a tight Presidential election preparations schedule, I met Mr Fasua at the 2018 edition of TEDxUngwanrimi. Some weeks after, we had this brief dialogue via email.

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 profound question, though.

What prompted such an early choice? Life itself and the card it dealt me early. A strict dad and a stepmom raised me. 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 hard worker. 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. Conscious 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 to.

One major hindrance young people face while building their dreams is a lack of self-confidence and self-doubt. How have you established self-confidence in your career, especially in your ongoing presidential aspiration; what techniques and methods have you used to strengthen your positive self-image?

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

I got into university at barely 16, and my brain started to open up. I scored unbelievably high 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 secondary school student to an exceptional university student with relatively little effort must have imbued tremendous confidence in me such that I did well as a worker in several banks where I worked. I never seek money and have a zero sense of entitlement – I don’t believe that anybody owes me. Instead, I owe the world.

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

Have you ever dealt with fear and intimidation (the fear of a person or a situation) while making significant leaps in your life and 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 to take calculated risks. One wakes up sometimes asking questions about the path one has chosen – whether it is right or foolhardy. One fears whether those who sold their souls for money are the wise ones. I have dealt with these feelings by going deeper into what I am doing and what I know to be true.

Building anything of substantial value, in fact building anything at all, could be challenging and almost impossible without the help of the right people. How have you been able to find the right kind of people to walk your journey with you since the beginning of your career, and how have you built and strengthened relationships with these people?

Sometimes like attracts like. Sometimes opposites attract. Even when opposites attract, they don’t stick for long in relationships. 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 confidants to date.

I believe the trick is to be modest in one’s expectations. I am not the kind of friend who dumps my burden on another. I would rather be the giver – of time, money and the likes. I don’t 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 frantic world, and people often forget friends. I am that guy who calls out of the blue or suddenly takes 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 me.

To 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 an excellent writer, author and thought leader, but the people who speak for people to hear often have to take the audience seat so they can also hear other people talk and catch in on perspectives that might have escaped their minds. What are the top five books that have had the 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 broadened my views on international trade, especially 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 given you the motivation to keep doing what 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 mere 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 fulfilment in life?”

The purpose of life is what every one of us spends 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, which is perfectly okay. But let’s 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 much to that process or even think it is necessary. So I would add that perhaps we are here to make the world a better place than we met it. We will achieve something great if we deploy everything we are endowed with to make this mark.

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

Our thinking and life view have 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 hands. So, when in public positions, rather than reinvest the little we have, we steal everything and send it abroad to countries where they think they 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 permeating how 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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