The Fear Of Mr. Unknown

The Fear of Mr. Unknown
Date: September 12, 2007
Time: 8.30pm
Departure Point: Office, Guaranty Trust Bank – Victoria Island
Scene of Incident: Mid-Way Link, Third Mainland Bridge
Destination: Home, Yaba – Lagos Mainland
Lead Act: Unknown
Supporting Acts: Bankole Williams, John Odusina

It was pitch dark (obviously because of the time of the day), a black moonless night; the perfect “working” conditions for armed bandits to operate. They were the guys who believed that their job in life was to usurp the proceeds of other people’s jobs in life. I was half asleep on the reclined chair – on the “scrub’s” section of my own ride being driven by my friend, John Odusina. This was my lucky day and it was an opportunity to grab some rest as my friend had offered to take the wheel.

I have a vivid recollection of various robberies on this bridge in the year 2007. It was not uncommon to see grown men and women take to their heels at about this time of the day on third mainland bridge. It is the longest bridge in West Africa (about 11.8 km) and it serves as the link between most people’s residences and their offices as most employees in Lagos live on the Mainland and work on the Island. It is the connecting bridge between people’s homes and their source of livelihood yet back then, many lost the proceeds of their livelihood while traversing it. Thankfully, things are a bit better these days.

Lagos being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria was (and still is) traffic prone. Most employees exit the business district for their homes via this bridge in the evenings hence it experiences serious vehicular movement at about this time. I was always glad that I could veer off using the mid-way link/bridge which led to Yaba. Hence I didn’t have to endure the traffic on the entire stretch of the bridge. The mid-way link scarcely had as much traffic as the main bridge yet it was also a notorious zone. Whenever these crafty con artists showed up, you were limited to just three options. The first – jump off the bridge and swim your way to the pearly gates. Second – wait in the car and become a victim of these miscreants. The last and most sensible option – Run for your life! (obviously in the opposite direction).

My torpid state that night was ironically one with one eye open because I was conscious of any potential threat in my environment. It’s funny how information in circulation and past experiences affect our minds and our bodies. As we journeyed slowly through the customary traffic on the bridge, we eventually took the bend midway through the bridge. As we turned off, I noticed the car come to a halt and then I woke up. Suddenly, my senses were alert and sleep vanished. I peered into the dark searching to see what was responsible for the many brake lights in front of us. The silence was deafening and it didn’t help matters as I could sense pulses racing.

All of a sudden, from the horizon, I could spot different head lamps in the wrong direction. Something definitely was wrong. Instantly, some cars started to reverse, while others swiftly attempted to make u-turns back to the main bridge. No one had answers, neither was any one ready to find out except the daring driver of my car.

On the spur of the moment, my friend decided to advance and stepped on the pedals.
As I turned to face John, I saw this unflinching look. My caution bells began to ring because I knew this stubborn look well enough.

“Are you crazy, John? Can’t you see people reversing?” I yelled.
“Bankole, let us at least go forward and see what is happening in front. Going back to the main bridge would add extra hours to this already tiring journey,” he replied.
“Why do I have a knack for keeping up with insane friends?” I thought to myself. “Dude, its better I add extra hours here on earth than ask for an extra life in heaven!” I yelled yet again in an attempt to convert my friend.

For some strange reason, John was unyielding. Suddenly, this felt like a scene from a horror movie where the white guy was determined to find the source of the squawky sound in a haunted house. I sat there bewildered by his resolve. He actually drove forward! He also kept asking other drivers why they were changing direction but no one had valid answers. As we advanced beyond these “scared cats” (to use John’s words), we observed a lone car proceeding from a distance. We suspected others must have taken their cue from him so John drove close to this car.

“What is going on in front,” John asked when we reached the car.
“Nothing, I missed my way,” the driver replied as he continued to navigate his way backwards.
There was stillness in my car followed by an outburst of uncontrollable laughter. John had gone hysterical over the man’s response.
“You mean there’s nothing happening in front?” John asked me derisively. “Well, there’s only one way to find out,” he added when I didn’t say a word as he stepped on the accelerator.

As we drove on, the road was so free; there were no obstructions whatsoever. Apparently, the other cars had been misled by the guy who missed his way. They got stuck on a freeway because of the fear of the unarmed bandit – Mr. Unknown.

Imagine how many destinies have been altered because of the fear of the unknown. Many people without any real facts have refused to venture into their desired future because of other people’s unfounded opinions. Lots of folks are living false lives because they have taken cues from people who have gone wide off the mark. Several employees, who should have been entrepreneurs with great enterprises, stay on a dead end job because they have wrong references before them.

I recall when I decided to leave a good paying bank job for my dream job in the peak of a global recession. To others, it seemed like a stupid decision at the time but for me it was perfect timing. I knew the longer I stayed on the job, the harder it would be to leave. So I planned my exit and resigned.

After working in a management consulting firm for some time and gaining necessary experience, I decided to launch out into the deep. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make but it was worth it for me. With this tough decision came tough situations; I had it pretty rough out there. A few times I contemplated going back to paid employment but deliberately refused for two reasons. The first was the compelling picture of my future, no matter how I tried walking away; it kept tugging at me. The second reason was because I realized that a wrong decision to go backwards would become a reference for other people with similar dreams.

Imagine you are stuck in traffic without really seeing the cause of the traffic. One car ahead of you decides to make a u-turn but you don’t budge. Then the number of cars making u-turns start to increase and as they increase you suddenly feel compelled to do the same. Ever wondered why this happens? Well here’s your answer: the more references you have to back up an idea, the more likely that idea becomes a belief that governs your actions.

However, the challenge is that most people have formed beliefs based on the wrong references. If I had gone back to my former bank job, my story would have become a bad reference. Today by the grace of God, I am a successful management consultant with unbelievable results; I guess my decision to stick to my guns has become a good reference for risk taking and sticking to your guts. Do you have a big dream yet you are constantly surrounded by the wrong references? You need to consciously look for good references to replace old ones so your dream doesn’t end up being choked.

The crippling effect of negative references paves way for the fear of the unknown to snuff out life from people’s dreams. People generally are more cognisant of impending failure as opposed to the promise of success. What if the founders of Apple Computers, Microsoft and Ford motors were conscious of this “unknown”? Imagine a world without tablets, personal computers and cars. What would this world be like if your dream is not actualised?

That night in the car I learnt a valid lesson – There is no unknown. If only you decide to advance into your future you’ll discover like we did that day, that your fear is just an apparition. So just start! Take the first step and you will discover that walking becomes easier as you advance.
I had always wanted to write a book but I just couldn’t because of the fear of something that didn’t really exist. One day in 2011, I found a good reference and decided to just start. By October 2011, I was launching my first book and last year I won an award for it. Guess what? I have three friends who have now written their books because they found a good reference – me. Suddenly, writing for me has become easier; this is evidenced by the copy of my second book which you have in your hands right now.

There is a world of possibilities in front of you, what if you succeed?

Closing Credits
Special thanks to;
Steve Harris – Author of ‘From College Drop-out to Corporate Sell-out’ for being the good reference.
My three friends – Ibrahim Suleiman, Eizu Uwaoma and Daniel Okosun for writing their books; making me a good reference.
John Odusina – For daring to venture into the unknown
Mr. Unknown – For refusing to show up (as always)

The Fear of Mr. Unknown
This poem you are about to read is dedicated to every dreamer; I trust it will serve as a good reference for you. There is no Unknown and if there is, I bet the “Unknown” is afraid of you!

Mr. Unknown is the man with many quotes
Mr. Unknown is a ghost, the ghost of a hoax
Mr. Unknown is the tree that starts to grow
in a ground where a seed was never sown
He’s got no I.D, we’ve got no evidence
Where is the proof of his existence?
Mr. Unknown is the enemy of Success
A friend to them who regress, who regret

But he’s a midget definitely not a giant
yet many fidget, involuntary pants
Mr. Unknown is the smoke without a fire
yet you choke although you respire
Mr. Unknown is the beat without a drum
the heat that you feel without the sun
Is this man or it’s an illusion?
Darn! It must be an apparition!

Your dreams, ambitions and your hopes
Your visions of unborn tomorrows
are dangling from a Grim reaper’s ropes
Hanging on the sinister gallows
Yeah I know, tomorrow never dies!
But this tomorrow, you never gave life
You lost a future which we’ll never know
All because of Mr. Unknown

Your chains are as light as feathers
you’ve been enslaved by mental fetters
He hears the sound of an army’s legs
Whenever the lepers match ahead
Mr. Unknown starts to fear
Alas! He disappears
when we defiantly dare to engage him in warfare
A man or an illusion? I lay the cards, it’s your decision

Break free from the curse
Break the hold of the shadow’s claws
Before you say No to your cause
Hold up a min, please pause
So many trains have been derailed
Because they thought “Mr. Unknown was real”
Remember the words of my poem;
There is an empty throne, there’s no Mr. Unknown!

Bankole Williams
Dec 11, 2012

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