On October 11, 2017 VANGUARD Interview
By CHARLES KUMOLU
This encounter with Rev Ladi Thompson presents an unambiguous picture of a man, who by the virtue of being born into a cosmopolitan home got the exposure that saw him having a broadened worldview.
The experiences garnered at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, ABU, his ministry and business early in life combined with others to make him an instrument of positive change.
Today, he bears the burden using the lessons from his trajectory to raise a new generation of value-oriented Nigerians. This is a personal testimony laced with impressionable scenarios. He is the founder of Lagos-based Living Waters Unlimited Church and the international coordinator of Macedonian Initiative, a non-governmental organization.
In the beginning:
‘’I attended Government College, Ibadan when it was still an institution with quality. I did my Advanced Levels in 1979, after which I proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria where I studied Architecture. A lot of work I do today was from the lessons I learnt at the university. In those years, ABU was one of the best schools to be in the word. The friendship between the North and South was there. Some of the religious undercurrents were there but they could not find expression.
I can remember that it was in ABU that I first knew that I am a southerner because I had been in Southern Nigeria before then. But within a few minutes of arriving in Zaria, I realized that I am from Southern Nigeria. Most of the experiences I had then did not find meaning until 20 years after. I graduated with a Second Class Upper in Architecture in 1983. In 1985, I did my master’s programme.
Sound education, moral upbringing
“When I was in secondary school in the 1970s, we were used to hearing martial music and after that, we will hear a voice saying ‘’fellow Nigerians.’’ And the people behind this thought they were doing good. But we have discovered with the benefit of hindsight that a certain generation dictated what we are today and have continued to push the society in that way.
My generation and a few after us were fortunate to receive sound education but the decisions taken by those ahead of us destroyed the values we had. And most of us, who followed have never been in the position of authority in this country to dictate the direction things should go.
So, a lot of investments in terms of critical thoughts, sound education, moral upbringing were completely lost. There was a generation that became governors at 37 and 34 among others instead of doing their bit and stepping aside with dignity, they stayed on the stage for too long. And life has become such a nightmare today that youths are trekking across deserts to escape hardship in the country.
What were the things that shaped your upbringing and perception?
One of the greatest assets I had was to have parents, who were academics. It was not in terms of working in the academia because my father was a medical doctor and one of those, who helped in setting up the health system in Nigeria. My mother schooled in the UK and in Queens College and she was a highly polished person. One of the influences that helped me was that my mother had a lot of friends, who were whites. From a very young age, we did not see racism.
We saw friendships across the colour bar. And it helped us to understand that they were just friends. With my father, who was a Permanent Secretary and a Harvard product, we saw life differently. It was so because the easiest trap in Nigeria is materialism. People are mostly concerned about being like their neighbor. They want to drive a car, whose engine they don’t know how it works. People want to build styles of buildings that they don’t understand the architecture. With such habit, some Nigerians will spend 40 years of their lives copying people without knowing why they are doing so. But when someone comes from a background like mine, he will learn lessons.
Lessons from my father
“I remember when my father was a Permanent Secretary and he complained to me that people brought bribes to him. He queried why people will attempt to bribe him. When I heard the millions that they brought, I was imagining why he would not want to collect the money. As a teenager then, I didn’t understand the depth of his commitment and his understanding and moral rectitude. While wondering why he refused, I didn’t understand that his actions were having positive impacts on me. Maturity is the ability to delay gratification. My father died at 94 and when I looked at the kind of estate he left behind, I wondered if others, who embezzled money were able to leave such an estate behind. Through hard work, wise planning, patience, and conservatism, he excelled.
Benefits of early exposure
“In my family, exposure came early and it made us understand so many things. For instance, there was an experience at a restaurant in France where my wife, sons and I were not attended to by a white boy because we are blacks. He felt that it was a highbrow restaurant and was not happy we were there. His father came to serve us and was apologetic. But we did not recognise the racist attitude. One can feel insulted when he recognises an insult but we didn’t recognise the insult. If it was meant to be an insult, it could not penetrate me because of the years of values that were already built into me by my parents. I speak with Nigerian English accent, refusing to change it despite my exposure across the world. But we have so many people, who imitate people even without growing up in Europe or America. I call that inferiority complex. We must learn to give values in this country from the family level to other levels. I knew my values before I left my house.
Do you consider your experiences as sources of inspiration?
“The greatest lesson that I feel can be learnt by this generation is that we have to rethink life better for our youths. They have to take the mantle of rethinking life for themselves. I will be 60 in a few years and I am going to be dedicating the greater part of whatever God gives me to ensure that there is a paradigm shift in the life of the African youths, especially Nigerian youth. It would help them develop earlier and find a good life early. Once I turn 60, I will do that. Right now, I am still working with many other generations but once I hit 60, there is no point working for the older generation. I will work for the generation to come because as I am speaking right now, the generation before us has borrowed the money of four generations ahead. It is not only that, they borrowed their future, their destiny, and inheritance. So, my own generation now is even borrowing into the future of the next generation and nobody is thinking.
On rail track
“What we have now is like a train track which is not leading anywhere. It is a track that they started laying for us in the early 1960s. I was born a year after independence. Except we get certain set of people to assist the youths in order to make them rise above their present status, they will find out that their tomorrow has already been borrowed. Unknown to us, that era of martial music brutalized the nation’s psyche. That was a period first class professionals were graduating while soldiers who were never trained were in leadership positions without giving us direction.
Greatest lessons learnt as an architect, minister, businessman
It helped that I was at Zaria because I made friends with cultures that were not my own and I discovered that behind every culture there are people. And it is the cultures that mould people in different directions. We all arrived as babies with a blank check. The greatest lessons I have learnt as an Architect, minister while doing business in my younger days is that someone’s best future is not a function of his experience. An individual can learn from his experience but must never be limited by experience.
“For instance, the Sheik in the miracle called Dubai said when his father and his grandfather were working on it, they found out that they had two options. They said in the world when any nation wants to make progress, it is either it copies some people or it goes back to think and aim higher like those people. Dubai did itself a favour by going back to think. They said they didn’t want to be like the UK, they didn’t want to be like Japan, the US and they didn’t want to be like Saudi Arabia. They said they wanted to be better than them. If we think like that here in Nigeria, the world would hear us soon. Our greatest problem in the country is our thinking. We must aim higher. Through my studies, I found out that Nigeria will never have its destiny until it accepts that it was created by God to champion the life of Africa. If you look at the life of the African youth in all the countries on the continent, you will find out that what he has is a life of wretchedness lack, deprivation, short lifespan, no promises of fulfillment of any potential. And for the African youth, ignorance is his greatest friend that prevents him from committing suicide. This nation needs to set its vision. Length and breadth of Nigeria ‘’ I have travelled the length and breadth of this country and found out that critical thought is the greatest problem. Until the people think right, they will not see right and plan right. For instance, in solving problems, some people are so trapped in the past by becoming prisoners of the past. So all the solutions they keep making across this country give me stomach trouble. I am saying this because there is a historical example of King Saul., who was in battle with the Philistines. Both King Saul and Goliath were prisoners of the past who believed in close contact combat. When fresh thinking arrived, it came through a youth called David. This I want Nigerian youths to take note of. The old school used an armour while David used stones. What used to work for one person may be an encumbrance to another person. On fresh thinking ‘’David put on the armour and said he could hardly move his hands. The guns and bullets today were started by David, who used smooth stones that sent messages to enemies in far distance. But the old school was involved in seeing the enemy eye to an eye. That was why Goliath was surprised to see David with small stones saying he would use it to kill him. So, while Goliath as in a far distance, the youth, who had fresh thinking, came with his sling and sent a message to the forehead of Goliath and every old school person was shocked. This is what Nigeria needs today. So, if there are lessons from my life, I will say that without fresh thinking the old school people will put the nation into trouble. What I am saying is without any bias. Unless some younger people come up with fresh thinking and they get to a position where they will be able to influence fresh thinking, we may not get it right. We need to free our youths so they can think at higher levels because the Nigerian youth is so involved in thinking about what he will eat. There is a genius inside so many youths that cannot be unlocked because the environment is toxic. On cherished values ‘’In other nations that are credible, the creditability allows for the creation of jobs. What the Nigeria takes as value is defined in a western way. It has never occurred to us that we can generate values and credibility within Nigeria. If we generate value and credibility, all we have to do is to look for great thinkers, who know how to redefine the values that have already been created. In Europe, children are brought up in a nuclear family. In Africa and Nigeria it is an entire community that brings up a child. All the economic models that we are struggling with today were built on the nuclear family. And the integrity was generated within the nuclear family. It is a wonder to me how we have left our values untapped and tend to foist cultures that never work on our people. It will shock the world to find out that Nigerians are discipline people but the motivation for that discipline is lacking. Cultural differences ‘’In the year 2000 when Christians were being slaughtered in Kaduna it made Southerners to begin to avoid the state. But in the middle of the trouble, I went there because Kaduna is not for Muslims or Christians. It was a city for Nigerians. I had friends, who were based in Minna in those days. We used to travel to Minna and I will blend with them and even pretend that we fast together. There was no difference between us. While others were scared of those places I was visiting those places. If I had not lived in Northern Nigeria’s I would have been seeing northerners as different peoples. Our cultural differences do not really matter. If we start thinking differently the way we were thought to think of history and go by inspiration, our potentials will be unleashed. ‘’
Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/10/ladi-thompson-dads-rejection-bribes-perm-sec-still-inspiring/