- – Shyngle Wigwe (Read full lessons at y8bodjaa)

For Shyngle Wigwe, 83, an accomplish­ed engineer, broadcaste­r and soldier, the road to the top came with a blend of passions. Wigwe, now a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), was also a recipient of the Leader Without Title (LWT) award from the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), Lagos. In this life lessons interview, Wigwe said that finishing well in life requires the grace of God and applicatio­n of some wisdom nuggets. Enjoy the lessons.


1 He who keeps his mouth preserves his life

It is often said, that the fish that closes its mouth escapes the hook. That is the truth. When I was in the Army, I was sent to Kaduna on a short posting to man the One Brigade workshop. There, I shared a flat with Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, one of the leaders of the 1966 coup. There was a particular day a Brigadier summoned me to his office and spoke derogatori­ly against the Igbos and the GOC (General Officer Commanding) then, General Aguiyi Ironsi. I felt bad about that and I related it to Nzeogwu who tried to calm me down, promising that he would deal with the Brigadier and his likes very soon. I didn’t know how he was going to do that being just a Major. But shortly after I returned to Lagos, there was a coup and without knowing those who were behind it, I reasoned that Nzeogwu must have done this! But I didn’t say it out. If I had, I would have been arrested as part of the coup plotters and probably killed because soon after, it was announced that the leader of the coup was Nzeogwu. I would have been arrested and accused of having knowledge of the coup plan. But thank God that I didn’t say anything in the hearing of anyone. That taught me a lesson: if you want to keep your life, you have to keep your mouth shut. When you open your mouth too wide, you are heading for destructio­n. That is why I don’t talk anyhow. I advise people to watch their tongues.


2 It is not every decision you share with others.

After the Civil War, those who were Nigerian Army officers but then fought on the side of Biafra were screened. Some of us who were willing were reabsorbed into the Nigerian Army, but I refused to return to the Army. Eventually, I was discharged with all my entitlemen­ts. I asked my wife to live with her parents in Calabar, Cross River State, while I stayed in Port- Harcourt. I, then, took a decision

to work for myself. I searched for contracts and I got one: the constructi­on of drainage along Aba Road, in Port Harcourt. While at it, I felt the workers I hired were not digging it well and I decided to show them how to do it, just about the time I was digging my wife came visiting. She saw me digging and broke down in tears thinking I had become a labourer. I didn’t tell her I had become a contractor, just as I didn’t tell her when I was going to join the Army. The truth is that when I am strongly convinced about a course of action, I don’t allow people to dissuade me, and I do that by keeping it to myself and that has really helped me even in the choice of my wife. The truth is that by the time you begin to share with people what you want to do, you get all kinds of advice and sometimes you could be discourage­d - a big lesson here.


3 You must change your attitude to change your altitude. When I was in secondary school, Enugu was the capital of the Eastern Region (of Nigeria). That was where we went to do the labour exchange programme. My father was based in Enugu and I lived with him until I had a job and secured a room. I would always give my entire salary to my father who helped me to manage everything. He would give me transport fares and I would still have some change left till the end of the month. But after some time, the Police authoritie­s transferre­d him and I was left alone. In the first month after he had left, I finished spending my salary five days before the end of the month and I had nothing left on me. I had to drink Garri for five days, and I had diarrhea. I had to reason that if I should continue that way, I might not live up to 30 years. So, I changed 4 There is always a day of judgment. There is always a day of judgment; you will always have to give an account of your stewardshi­p. I got this lesson very early in life. My father was a Police officer and an itinerant one for that matter: he had to move from place to place. To ensure I had a stable education, he decided to leave me with a relative in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. During the holiday, I decided to visit my father in Enugu and my uncle, the guardian, gave me one Shilling. It was a lot of money then. At the rail station, I spent it on frivolous things, leaving just enough money for the transporta­tion. My father eventually got to know what happened ; he gave me heavy beating and some other humiliatin­g punishment. As he was flogging me, I kept emphasisin­g that I did not steal the money, that I was given the money to buy things. He said, ‘yes, the money belonged to you, but the point I am making is that if you had not spent the money extravagan­tly the way you did, you would have been able to save some of it for the rainy day. The money would still be yours. You would always give an account of things put in your care even if it is your money, talk less of what belongs to


my attitude. First, I started saving money and ensured that I did not spend up to what I earned. Over time from my saving, I started ordering used books abroad for my personal developmen­t. Those two things helped in advancing my career; and I would say that they helped me also to become who I am today.


5 God has stationed helpers for us on the way.

On April 10, 2013, I went to Port-Harcourt to preach after which I decided to visit my village to preach also. It was a Sunday. While preaching, I started feeling uncomforta­ble and I quickly ended my message and returned to my seat. But the situation worsened, and I was rushed to the hospital from the church. At the hospital, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) doctors who were there, because it was a local hospital, did not know what to do. But as God would have it that moment, there was a female doctor who came all the way from Abraka, in Delta State. She wasn’t working in the hospital, but she came from time to time to attend to her mother who was hypertensi­ve. So, she was there that particular day. When she saw my condition, she took charge and was able to stabilise me. The question I asked is: what if she was not there that day at the moment? I would have been dead. Now look at her story, she said she actually contemplat­ed going to church first, and thereafter come and attend to her mother. However, on a second thought, she decided to first come to the hospital before going to church and it turned out that she was sent there to save life. That is why I say that God has stationed helpers for us on our way. There is the hand of God in the life of every man. If we keep close to him, no one will die one second before his time. He stationed a helper for me in that hospital to wait for me. He knew I would be going there; He knows the end from the beginning.


6 The life you live in your youth matters.

You must have a stable family. If you don’t have a stable family, you have no wife around you, your children are not sufficient­ly responsibl­e, and when you get old you are on your own. You need to have people that care for you. It does not really matter how much money you have in your old age because you can’t look after yourself. You need support all the time. A stable nuclear family is very important because you have no control over your extended family. You must keep a decent family; you must look after your family. When you grow old, you also see people who will look after you. It is not about the amount of money you have saved: you need caring people around you. Again, you must be interested in the welfare of others.


7 Leadership is earned through sacrifice.

My father lost his father while he was still in primary school. So, he was not able to school beyond Standard Six then. That also affected his ability to shoulder our education beyond secondary school. He went through a lot of denials to train us. After my secondary education, I got a job with the Nigerian Broadcasti­ng Service (NBS) in 1954. That same period, my junior brother and I got admissions into the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology but my father could not finance us due to his financial situation. After reviewing everything, I then came up with a creative scheme which my father accepted which was that I would give my slot to my brother while I worked things out to take care of his school fees and upkeep. As God would have it, things worked out positively as I was able not only to be able to finance my brother’s education, I also was also able to be trained abroad as an engineer. There was nobody in our family, not necessaril­y my direct children that was qualified to go to school that was not sponsored. There is joy in the family because of the sacrifice. Leadership is not what you can get out of the system, but what you can give.

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others.’ So, I learnt that lesson, and I have lived with it since then.
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