Every man, except the pampered child of fortune, ought to have a vocation in order to earn a living. In ancient Jewish society, acquisition of vocational skills was required. Apostle Paul of the Bible added tent-making to his location, while Jesus Christ earned carpentry skills from Joseph, his foster father.
Vocational education demands the training of specialists in various fields. There are institutions for imparting various types of specialised training to help people qualify for this. Our society demands specialists in every facet, be it office, factory and even educational institutions. Acquisition of special skills can lead to self-reliance.
Self-reliance is the great asset everyone ought to possess. By being self-reliant, a man gains glorious independence. He depends on his own powers and abilities and may not need to be helped by others. He has a heroic attitude to life and he is host to himself.
Life to him is a great adventure, full of interest and great excitement. He never feels dull or dispirited. Cicero, an ancient Greek, once said: “Most happy is he who is entirely self-reliant and who centres all his requirements on himself.”
Thrown upon his resources, the self-dependent accepts the challenges of life and develops new ventures, new qualities. He is full of devices and is ready to take the initiative. He is always confident of finding a way out of difficulties – economic, political or social.
At this period of radical economic difficulties, the lesson of self-reliance is needed because the average Nigerian is by nature fatalistic in his attitude. He tends to depend too much on fate or chance. Fate is the scapegoat on which he places the heavy responsibilities of his failures, which he always calls misfortunes.
This mindset destroys the springs of action. But if one has courage, initiative or is daring, one may become the master of one’s destiny. There are many who make their fortune by their own effort and then call it fate. They think it is an act of piety and humility towards God. But even this attitude is improper.
If it is God who has given us strength of body and power of mind, he surely expects us to help ourselves with them and not to be whining for divine help always. It is our duty to develop the gifts he has given us. Self-reliance is the parent of many virtues.
The self-reliant man is patient and persevering. He does not change or complain. He does not shirk his responsibilities. He is satisfied with what he can achieve by himself and is always striving after success. He does not envy others; nor does he think of begging favours from others.
The self-reliant person faces misfortune with a quiet courage. Emerson calls it “the essence of heroism, the first secret of success”. One who is self-reliant feels neither fear nor shame to labour with the hands because he understands that there is dignity in labour.
He is always learning new lessons, gathering valuable experience. His example is an inspiration to others, while his achievement is a model. Failure cannot shake his well-grounded self-confidence. Rather it spurs him to renewed enterprise. Confidence in himself wins him the confidence of others.
The great Italian artist, Michelangelo says: “The promises of the world are for the most part vain phantoms”. If we trust in them we delude ourselves. At the proper time, they invariably betray us, help to underline our weaknesses and breed in us a feeling of inferiority, a ruinous distrust in ourselves and a pathetic dependence on others.
As Bernard Shaw pointed out: “it is easy – terribly easy – to shake a man’s faith in himself”. And nothing does this more effectively than the habit of relying on others, of expecting the world or government to help us in the face of every difficulty.
Therefore, as we howl or bay through the biting economic hardship which manifests in loss of jobs, rising inflationary trend, capital flight, etc, emanating from the economic reforms and state of insecurity in the country, every Nigerian must imbibe the spirit of self-reliance. There is no way out of it. This country is undergoing a strange phase of her economic life, and it is only the self-reliant that can brace the trend.
Our dependence on government largesse has to wane and those in paid employment must begin to develop their capability for self-reliance, as uncertainty trails every employment. However, government has to create the enabling environment for the realisation of individual and corporate economic potentialities.
Human achievement is indeed a record of man’s reliance upon himself. Great heroes, great scientists, great merchants were all self-made men. For instance, Benjamin Franklin was born of poor parents who could give him little education, yet by relying on his own God-given powers, he made his name memorable in science and statesmanship. Michael Faraday was a builder, but rose to be one of the greatest scientists of the world, among others.
If we fail to think properly of our own abilities, if we look to others for guidance at every step, we shall continue to faint at the mention of retrenchment or joblessness. We shall lose our confidence. Paupers shall we be perpetually, and be buried in unmarked grave of poverty.