By Francis Ewherido
Avwiorovwe is what the Urhobos call the least favoured wife in a polygamous marriage. The favourite wife is amebo. The amebo could take over the husband’s bedroom for two out of three months, while the other four wives share the remaining one month.
Children of amebo could get away with murder, while children of avwiorovwe could be banished from the family house for minor infractions like stealing a piece of meat. And the mother (avwiorovwe) could be vicariously liable for the infractions of her children.
Consequently, a sensible avwiorovwe and her children treaded with caution. As much as possible they stayed out of trouble. The children also worked very hard in school (and in other endeavours) to get good grades because failure could truncate their education.
Why this preamble? I have been interacting with some youngsters recently. They are understandably frustrated with the Nigerian system. They feel that the few available jobs are being taken up by children of the privileged, using man-know-man tactics.
Favouritism is real in Nigeria, it is part of our life. No need running away from the truth. Favouritism will continue to work against people who are not connected as long as the system, to which we are all contributors, remains. But does that mean there is no hope for people who are not connected? Not at all, there is hope for everyone.
The first lesson youngsters from humble backgrounds must learn is that greatness comes mainly from within not outside and 80 per cent of what will make you great is already in you; only 20 per cent is out there.
So, instead of lamenting day in day out, roll up your sleeve and get down to work. Start something legitimate. If you need to drive a cab, till the soil or join workers at a building site or factory for a START, do just that. Your starting point is inconsequential, your destination is what counts.
But wait a minute, do you even have a clear destination in mind in this your life journey? If you don’t, that is the first and real problem you should deal with, not worrying about government or external forces.
Like children of avwiorovwe, youngsters, who are not from privileged background must come to terms with their circumstances, go the extra mile at all times and work very hard. Survival of the fittest is very rampant in our society. So, they must strive to be among the fittest so that they can grab every opportunity that comes their way.
But that is not what I am seeing in many cases. They blame the system for their unemployment, but take no blame for their situation. Let me cite some instances. A job opening comes up and applications pour in. If you read some of their application letters, they are like Abakaliki rice of old. There are stones, sorry errors, everywhere.
Once the recruitment people start processing applications, all such poorly-written application letters are the first to be trashed. Who do you blame for that, the system or yourself?
Next, recruitment people move to curriculum vitae (CV). Some applicants do not include their age in their CVs for jobs where there are age specifications. What do you think the recruitment people will do? They will trash any CV that carries no age of the applicant. It means all such applicants are out. Under referees in their CVs, many youngsters write: “Referees available on request.” For real?
You want a recruitment officer to write to you to beg you to supply the names of your referees? Not a chance; they will simply trash your CV. Again, instead of some applicants to attach their CVs to the email they are sending, they paste it on it. So you want the recruitment officer to copy your CV, paste and arrange it for you? They will treat you like you sent no CV and move on.
If you see the CVs of some applicants, you want to throw up. They are poorly arranged and very unattractive. Every applicant, especially those who are not from privileged backgrounds, should enhance their chances of getting an advertised job by having very good CVs. If you do not know how to go about it, get help, there are people who can help you knock out a great looking CV. You can also go online and learn how to prepare and present CVs.
Next, you should prepare for interviews harder than the way you prepared for exams while in school. Thoroughly research the position you are applying for. If you know someone who currently occupies such a position, go to him for tutorials.
If you know the company you are applying to, go to their website and study everything, including their corporate culture. Google the name and read as much literature as possible about the company. The extra knowledge will make you more confident. Just like your exams in school, you do not just wake up, wash your face and go for an interview, expecting to outperform people who have been preparing.
On the day of the interview, be well groomed. Dress smartly and corporately, if it is a corporate organisation. Borrow clothes if you have to do so. People before you did. Some people fail interviews because of their appearance. How can you dress casually for a corporate interview?
An applicant even went for an interview in a corporate organisation, wearing a shade of yellow trousers! That is sacrilege. Many applicants inevitably take public transport to interviews. Leave home early. This will enable you get there before time even if you are delayed; do not risk going for an interview late. Also it gives you time to freshen up if you were ruffled in the bus.
Every job seeker needs to update himself continuously. If you graduated three to five years ago and you have not been updating yourself, you have become unemployable. If a bodybuilder does not exercise for three years, he will go flabby. That is how the brain is. How then do you expect to get a job?
When you do these, you give yourself a fighting chance. Man-know-man certainly exists, it was there even before I was born, but merit still reigns in many organisations, especially the multinational companies.
There are organisations where at least 95 per cent of new entrants are employed on merit. These should be hunting grounds for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. A friend told me how the daughter got a job in an organisation where neither he nor the daughter knew anyone. She was part of 360 applicants who applied for six vacant positions.
She got one of the six spots after a series of tests and interviews. Though not from a disadvantaged background, she got the job totally on merit. Work your socks off like children of avwiorovwe.
Be extra determined. Pull down doors that refuse to open and run into walls you cannot jump over. Some of the movers and shakers of Nigeria that you see today came from lowlier backgrounds than yours. But they did just that (pulled down doors and ran into walls 20, 30 and 40 years ago). Today they are enjoying the fruit of their perseverance. It is difficult to see someone, driven by purpose, who stayed focussed, who did not ultimately succeed.
Quit this self-pity and defeatist disposition. Your parents scrapped to send you to school so that you can graduate and uplift your family. That should remain your mission and your focus.
Stop giving excuses and live like someone on a mission. Nigeria is a tough place, but when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. The tough ones are making their little progress in all sectors of the economy. Nigeria does not baby sit or spoon feed anyone, especially if you are from a humble background. Like children of a sensible avwiorovwe, be tough people, stop living as if your father has an empire waiting for you to inherit. And just in case, if you mistook this for a motivational material, it is not; I am just reminding you of the harsh realities of your world.