Conclusion: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence

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Conclusion to the November 16th Article: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence

…if number of educational degrees were directly proportional to a nations GDP, then Nigeria will be up there with the giants of the world…but we are not. This brings me back to the original question from last week’s blog entry:

Ada HAD 8 sisters. 6 of her 8 sisters ran away due to domestic abuse and violence and of those 6 that ran away, 3 of them died from malaria. How many sisters does Ada have left?

In primary school the answer would have been obvious and straightforward…2 sisters. After-all if 6 run away, 2 will be left. But in Secondary school, students would anticipate a trick in the question and probably determine that Ada has 5 sisters left, which include the 2 sisters that did not run away and 3 of the 6 sisters that ran away but did not die.

But if it was in University we might have gotten a multitude of answers. A Psychology major might have argued that Ada still had 8 sisters left. After all, even if 3 of her sisters were dead that will not change the fact that they were still her sisters. An English major on the other hand might have homed in on the fact that the opening statement said “Ada HAD” and that “had” being past tense means she no longer has any more sisters. A Law Major would probably have analyzed both responses above and depending on who was paying would have argued in support of either the Psychology Major or English Major. Whatever level we are at, the focus would be on getting or debating the right answer.

But the problem with this question is really the answer. Because the answer is a distraction to the bigger picture and Nigerian education as a whole. You see the people who get the answer right or argue their answer best…are not the ones that will necessarily change a Nation. But rather the ones who cannot focus on the answer without asking questions such as…Why did Ada’s sisters have to die from Malaria? Why was there abuse in Ada’s home? And how is Ada doing now?

These are the individuals that have what we call social empathy. They are able to see beyond the answers and put themselves in the shoes of others. They are the lawyers that make decisions not based on who is paying more, but rather on who is morally right. It is the banker that creates a financial law not to make profit for himself, but to make owning a home easier for those around him. It is the Engineer who designs his oil equipment not just to maximize oil production, but rather to ensure non-pollution of the environment. At the core of their decisions is a desire to make people happy. They are not focused on showing how smart or intelligent they are, but rather how their intelligence can make lives better for those around them.

But education for decades has thought us otherwise, we are brought up to focus on getting the right answers to the tough questions, which is why out of about 50 responses to the original question on Bellanaija, only 1 to 2 people commented on poverty or abuse, the other responses were focused on what the right answer was. And in our addicted focus to being intelligent we miss the point of intelligence, the point of using the material learned in school to impact our community. That is why we have so called intelligent people, politicians, lawyers, ministers who wipe out a Nations resources without feeling any remorse. People who can wake up every day and pass by poverty without skipping a beat. And then we blame our problems on lack of intelligence in our national leaders, but the problem of Nigeria has never been a lack of intelligence. We have an abundance of that…it has instead been an abject lack of social consciousness and empathy. The big question now is this…how do we educate both the Mind and Heart in our schools? I have a few suggestions….

Firstly, let’s change the way we offer up scholarships. Scholarships should not be given to only the most intelligent as is often the case in Nigeria. But should also be given to families in need…people who cannot afford tuition should be given a chance to go to school. When a government shows people that they care for the less privileged, students will graduate with a sense of responsibility that they have to care for others less privileged than them. But when a nation focuses primarily on how smart a person is, it creates a dangerous race to the top devoid of emotional connect. Simply put it is not enough to talk or preach about empathy…government, organizations and individuals need to show it.

I mean we spend 12 years telling primary and secondary school students to keep quiet and then we thrust them into the world and tell them to make a change and speak up against social injustice and then berate them for not taking action!Also for the sake of God let’s stop writing down the names of noisemakers. I mean we spend 12 years telling primary and secondary school students to keep quiet and then we thrust them into the world and tell them to make a change and speak up against social injustice and then berate them for not taking action! We have to break the myth that a well behaved child with good grades is the ideal student leader! I mean look at people like Gani Fawehnmi, Fela Kuti or Pat Utomi, one would be hard pressed to believe that they were amongst the quiet ones in class. But look at what they have done by simply speaking up and making noise. Let’s eliminate the list of noise makers, because we need them to speak up against social injustice.

Lastly, we need to change the question we ask our children. It is not about what you want to be when you grow up? But rather it should be, what difference you want to make when you grow up? When we change the question, we force students to actively think about how they can use their education to make a difference instead of simply using it to make money. Shifting a students mind-set albeit delicately at an early age, will reap huge returns in the future. Because students will be invested in the idea of creating social change from an early age.

At the end of the day we have to realize that life is not always about getting the right answers, but rather about ensuring people are getting the right treatment. Our interest should thus be that Ada is happy and not how many sisters she has left. Because intelligence alone does not change a world, what sparks a change is empathy…that should be our focus and that should be our addiction…our dangerous addiction…

This article is the shortened conclusion of Ofili’s TEDxZumarock Talk: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence. Complete talk available soon. 

Pictures courtesy of the World Bank Photo Collection and

Ofili is an award winning primary school teacher motivational speaker, author, success coach and scholar entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitter , facebook or subscribe to his blog for more success TIPS!” To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here.

He has written two books, How Laziness Saved My Life and the best-selling How Stupidity Saved My Life, to find out how they both saved his life visit or text STUPIDITY or LAZINESS to 33110 to immediately begin reading the ebook version on your Blackberry (Only available for MTN Blackberry Users).



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45 comments on “Conclusion: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence

  1. Ofili, you never stop making my day with your well articulated write ups. Thank you for sharing this piece! True, as a nation, we are ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ to social empathy. Everyone talks about self self self…..

    Although, some people would rather have you ‘drowned’ with them in their ‘low ‘ state, even when you are empathetic and literally offer to help.

  2. Felt like you wrote my exact thoughts here. I can’t stress enough how our lives goes beyond just obtaining degrees to endow our pockets the more and while there’s nothing wrong that, I am a true believer that pure satisfaction in life comes with reaching out to others to afford them the same opportunity one had.
    Great article and it’s good to know that there are minds out there aligned in the same direction.

  3. Hmm… As always Ofili, you give one reason for sober reflection. I am completely with you. We are more concerned with having the best answers than providing solutions.

    As someone who went through our primary education system and did some tertiary schooling here, I can remember only too well raising up my hands in class and asking something along the lines of “Why the hell are people having to live the way Ada and her sisters do?” and being made to feel like there was something wrong with me for doing so. Ironically, thinking like that and expressing those thoughts quickly get you labelled as an over-sabi or difficult student by your mates and teachers. Unfortunately, students like that have to either quietly nurse those tendencies in order to pass or let their view on the world confirm to suit the status quo. It can be lonely. Parents are generally more bothered with grades than with what their child is actually learning or more importantly capable of sharing with the world.

    I remember, when worrying about the increase in school fees at uni, getting told by my parents to just be grateful that they could afford mine. When I replied by saying, “But what about my mates whose parents could barely manage to pay the old ones? What about my mates whose parents had to sacrifice one child’s education for the other because they couldn’t afford it?” my Dad was silent and my Mom said a gentle “God forgive me for being so selfish” like it never occurred to them that the issue was never just about us and that it didn’t need to affect us directly before we could feel for others. They are both devout (born again) Christians. I am not judging them. No one is perfect but still, it seems that even the most deeply religious are affected by this lack of empathy. No wonder atheists are not interested in God!

    I am digressing I know. Still, I think the issue goes deeper than our educational system. The corruption, fallen education system are just symptoms of a deeper issue. There is something fundamentally wrong with a country where all we seem to care about is whether we are all okay. If everyone else is suffering, that is not our problem! The heart of the matter, as they say is usually a matter of the heart. Our value systems are messed up and this is indicated in everything we do or touch.

    I guess I just need to make sure that with my own kids (and any children around me) to work hard to encourage them to see the world as they do and share their perspectives, even if it is only with me. I can do all I can to instill in them the sort of values that will make them people of basic decency, who whether with great grades or not, are able to do things that make the world better, whatever profession they choose.

    • Honestly, Cheche, between what you and Ofili have said there’s not much else I can say. I’m glad you & I share a viewpoint of changing our immediate environment – family, friends, colleagues – in the hope that they would in turn be inspired to change their own immediate circles. And like a ripple effect, this immediate and personal change could keep spreading and reaching out till we attain the moral standards that seem so elusive in Nigeria today. As, Ofili pointed out, the ‘right’ answers are not often the ‘best’. I admit to thinking in terms of number as to how many sisters were left but I knew it was a trick question and something kept tugging at the edge of my sub-conscious about the malaria but I didn’t pay attention to it. Some of us who may have (or may have had) empathy for our neighbours tend to lose it because so many things are broken and it seems like no one cares to fix it or no one knows that it can/should be fixed. Tunde also pointed out how some people would want you to keep company with their misery rather than help them climb out of it. At some point you just go, “What the h**?! I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t care anymore!!”; and that when it’s hard to see any positivity around you, that’s when you become like ‘everybody else’.

      I oneday hope that being the most civil I can be, standing up for what’s right against the tremendous amount of wrong, teaching my kids how to love all men & women equally and showing kindness to as many as I can – stranger or no – would make some impact, would be of some benefit, no matter how small, to making Nigeria a better place.
      Toni Osai latest post is Don’t Grow Up, It’s A TrapMy Profile

    • Cheche, your example about the school fee increase is so on-point. It is something that each person has to push themselves to overcome…the ability to always and always put themselves in other peoples shoes.

      Also I so feel you on being looked at as strange when you have differing opinions in class. Our educational system is so so rigid. It is sha one step at a time, we will get there.

      Okechukwu Ofili latest post is Conclusion: Our Dangerous Addiction To IntelligenceMy Profile

  4. Phunmike on said:

    Oh- feel- it,
    so I was one of the people who actually took to my pen and paper and started calculating,without thinking about Ada or what happened in the first place.
    Nice one boss boss!

  5. †ђξ Real girl on said:

    Oh my God! Sad to know that I actually wanted to read d answers to be sure I will get †ђξ best answer. And this what we have uncontiously being moulded to be. Competition in everything,we all want to be better than †ђξ other which have actually led to kill †ђξ feelings for others’ weaknesses! God hv mercy

  6. Good words Indeed!!!! I strongly agree with you on the scholarship issue. Sometimes I wonder why children of rich men get s/ship, and the poor are left behind simply in the name of connection. It makes no difference. I keep wondering why people will be coming from UK and USA to seek for scholarship in Nigeria. I mean, why can’t you leave this think for people that can’t even go to Ghana. If your parent were rich enough to send you to a foreign land to school, they can equally fund it till you finish. Js Sayin’
    Raymond Akpan latest post is Nigeria’s Creative IndustriesMy Profile

  7. on said:

    This piece has got me thinking in my ‘previous’ scope of thought once again. However, it’s very easy to detach oneself from this accusation, but we are all guilty of lack of empathy in one way or the other. Why? It is easier to FEEL emotional about other people’s sufferings than to DO something about it. I can assure u that there are people who are WILLING to help, but laziness and/societal pressures and experiences wouldn’t let them. For example, imagine driving at night and seeing a person stranded and in need of help in NIGERIA. Would you stop DO something about it? Or helping convey an accident victim with your car to the hospital In NIGERIA. The environment before has to support a person before that person’s heart can DO something about the empathy he/she feels. . The people you want to help must be ready to receive that help. You have identified an addiction to academic intelligence as a problem, you have played your part by bringing it to our awareness, how many of us who reads this will go back think and DO?

    Great. Piece ofili. Thank you. These deep thoughts could only have been from some divine source.

  8. Reallaw on said:

    Really Niiice conclusion! We already have enough “noise-makers” clogging up social media. Concrete action speaks louder than words … 🙂

  9. Bukie Oluyemi on said:

    Offili, I feel humble reading your piece, you keep me refresh and open my mind. Your use of word is amazing and good examples to drive your points. Am grateful to be on your list.

  10. This is awesome! That is exactly the problem with our country. If people had empathy, corruption would not exist. If people had empathy, there wouldn’t be bad roads, delapidated school structures, poor hospital facilities, erratic power supply, fake drugs & products…… mention but a few. I am happy we feel the same about what is wrong with our society. Now, how do we communicate this ‘change’ to the people? How do we bring about this ‘change’? You know this saying, “we are the Government” True! I believe, just that at the rate Nigeria is plunging down, we also need the help of Government (the Leaders) in terms of better policies. “Everything rises and falls on leadership”
    Thank you for this wonderful write-up.

  11. The priest in my church will have 2 spice up 2moro’s sermon with this!! Lol

    #Nice one Ofili. 2geda, we’ll work 2 spread this message of empathy!! It’s our best bet as a nation.

  12. Hmn…. Great piece here, but still even those you think must have read this, and have got the wherewithall to change things right from their neighbourhood won’t! Sorry to post this…. Imagine those that have got loyal followers that heeds to words, like your write up above. Imagine a Pastor educating Church members about your write up. Imagine how many families would have tapped from it. Empathy, yes “Empathy” could there be a measure or can it be enough! I’ll say no no no. Nigerians love doing something, and all they think about is their ROI*.

    How I wish our Big Pastors show this, and don’t feel its ever enough. A price of a jet+maintenance would see families of less previledge children outta school, and this ones like you said will in turn have that sense of responsibility to help the less priviledge too.

    It shouldn’t be the Govt. only, but Organizations, people, the Mosques and Churhes can subscribe to this and not feel their a limit…. Thumbs hurts! Thumbs Up for @Ofilispeaks Brilliant piece here.

     222CE563

  13. Thank you for making me think again about what I’m going to ask my children about their future. Hahaha! This article reinforces my belief that if change must come, it must start from me not my neighbour. Change yourself in your little corner and you change the world.

    Empathy! Love, kindness, the little things that aren’t so little. When did we miss it?

    Great article boss. Thanks!

  14. Chidozie on said:

    Ofili, you never fail to humor me while stating the facts. I could almost laugh at every sentence (I actually imagine a lot of things when I read) and thinking to myself how so true.

    Your analysis of the Ada puzzle is so revealing and actually made me do some soul searching.

    I once read an article where the author was talking about the concept of omnipotence, being all-knowing vs being all-wise, and he put across the fact that if Jesus Christ had been asked the value of pi(3.142), he probably would not have given the answer or may be state the formula for finding the Area of a Triangle. Assuming He was unable to give these answers, would it have reduced the value of what HE stood for?

    These and very more should be food for thought for all of us.

    Looking forward to reading your next article

  15. Ofili, thank you for thinking creatively, errm, empathically… and teaching others to do same. Great job! I’m glad I saw this.

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