One of the programmes that I partook and has lingered in mind is a youth-dialogue with Mr. Bernard Avle about three years ago. On that day, the Nima-Maamobi library witnessed a lush appearance of the youth for a forum organised by a nascent organisation, Young Women Leaders Achievers Network. The forum, under the theme The Next Chapter: From dependent to independent personality, was aimed at empowering youth within Ayawaso East and North constituencies in choosing a sustainable career after their education, and being responsible citizens as they prepare to face the realities of life.
It had as its objectives, self-discovery, civic leadership, understanding higher education, fighting the drug menace, mentorship inter alia. There were five speakers who delivered on several topics hovering around the stated objectives. The deliveries and their reception gave an impetus to the organisers’ careful selection of the speakers – who gave each delivery a lifetime of its own. The last of the speakers was Bernard Avle, whose topic was Provoking civil activism in us, leading for the change we need.
As a background to his florid presentation, he quoted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “the heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night”. As a young boy growing up in Madina, a suburb of Accra, he used to hawk things around just to attract passersby as buyers. He never had an entirely rosy life as many assume, judging from his status today in Ghanaian society and world at large. When he stated the book that readily comes to mind is Chinua Achebe’s magnum opus ‘Things Fall Apart’, which boldly captures our ancestral wisdom in the statement: “Looking at a king’s mouth, one would think he never sucked at his mother’s breast”.
He began his elaborately wisdom-ornamented presentation by stating that he was really honoured to be at the forum to interact with the young and upcoming ones. He reminded the audience that ten years ago he stood on the same platform to address a section of the Ghanaian youth. He then zoomed straight into action by begging to deliver on what he termed “Five Principles for Social Impact’ for the youth.
Bernard Avle began his principles with Purpose. Purpose, he stated, is having something to live for. He engaged the minds of participants that every human being has a purpose for which God created him or her. He likened the creator to the manufacturer of a vehicle who has a purpose for which he designs each specific vehicle with peculiar features. The manufacturer creates a tractor which has a different purpose from a small car. He asked why one dresses for bed in a nighty and wears a jersey to play soccer. Why not the same attire for both functions? It is in the same vein that each and every human being has a purpose for which he exists. And that purpose is larger than oneself. It goes beyond one’s friends and family through his nation to the world at large.
“Purpose is what makes a person go the extra mile because it is something bigger than yourself.” He hinted. No one was created as a nonentity. It behoves all to discover the purpose. As a Christian, his faith makes him believe that Christ came to sacrifice his life for the world to prosper. “Purpose is something bigger than yourself. Success is good, but purpose is deeper. It’s the reason God created you. The reason you are different is that your purpose is different.”
“You’re just seeing me perform but you’ve not seen my preparation,” he began. He stated that his preparation started way back when as a young man he taught Maths and Science in a primary school at Madina. His preparation involved having to wake up day in day out in the early morning as a university student to go work at the Radio Universe; reading scripts, reviewing the news and a whole lot of other stuff, only to be paid a paltry 3 cedis. He cared less about the money and was very concerned with the experience added to the inventory.
“Great people are distinguished by preparation,” he hinted. He stated that the first 25 years in a young person’s life is for massive preparation for the great responsibility called life. He underscored the fact that whatever you are going through is a preparation toward your qualification to the next stage in life. And his presence at the forum to speak to an audience of a minimal number is preparation toward a bigger platform. “If I can’t be faithful in small things, I can’t qualify to go to the next level.” He therefore exhorted all and sundry to use the youthful stages of their lives to make all the necessary mistakes before the greater tasks in life are placed in their hands. “Great destiny will have great preparation; and the greater the destiny, the greater the pain.”
The next principle the man of Citi FM fame talked about is people. No human being exists in a vacuum. You live on an earth full of people. He therefore stated: “You can never make an impact without a people”. He elaborated on the three levels under this principle.
Under this, he stated that every human being must come under the tutelage of an older and more experienced person when coming up in any facet of life. “The first people to help you succeed are mentors.”
He mentioned the fact that he was mentored by a whole lot of experienced people. “I was mentored by one of the very best.”
(Motivators): He was emphatic that a person is the average of the five friends he interacts with. His friends are those he shares a common vision with. “Our friendship is based on purpose not by proximity.” He hinted. There are people he grew up with who he termed as “acquaintances”, because the vision they have is worlds apart from his. “Friendship is by choice not by force. Your friends are to be chosen consciously.”
- People below you
Bernard Avle posited that to be profoundly successful, you must impact those below you. He expressed the fact that if there is no one to take over from him at his current level, then he cannot qualify to the next stage that God has ordained for him. Real leadership is judged from succession. He stated that what you fighting for as an activist may be achieved long after you have crossed over to the shores of the afterlife. It is therefore prudent to train the next generation to take over when one has to leave the stage.
As a young man, he used to walk long distances every Sunday afternoon from Madina to Adenta, just to partake in a programme he believed was in line with what he wanted to do in life. He said though he was penniless, he cared less because he loved it. He was passionate about the things he wanted to do. “The thing you love is a clue to the key God has given you. It’s a clue to your future.”
At a very young age, Bernard had already decided he is going to be a broadcaster and work in the media. “When a young person between 12 and 19 knows his purpose, nobody can stop them.” If you don’t love something you can’t be good at it. At Radio Universe, though he never made any money, he kept going because the love of being on radio alone superseded all other considerations.
The last thing he touched on was Prayer. He stated that: “Faith is very important in success. I think that to keep yourself on the straight and narrow, you need to have a strong prayer plan. Spiritual discipline is very important to your life. You must avoid extremism. I don’t play with my prayer life. Anytime people want to do something and they forget their maker, it is not successful”.
He stated that the never-ending issues that come up each and every day in this country – Ameri, Double-Track system, in-out-out-out, strikes, Dumsor and a whole lot of political issues – require a strong anchorage from the Supreme maker for one to be able to withstand it as a media-man. He believes religion is very important. He said though some people abuse religion, that does not mean it is bad. In a different wording and format, he reiterated the point Emile Whitehead made, that “Religion is seeking comfort in a world which dispassionately considered, is a terrifying wilderness”.
In conclusion, he stated that he believes God has a special reason why he created him and placed him in a geographic location called Ghana. It is therefore incumbent on him to stay and help fix this country. And that though we have enormous problems, we are still ahead of others. “We will stay and fix this country. You must see your life as a sacrifice to save the next generation,” he stated.
The Young Women Leaders Achievers Network (YWLAN) is a network of self-motivated young women who are committed to impacting their community positively – with the focus on empowering the girl child, deprived women and the less privileged persons within rural and urban poor communities in Ghana.
NB: The Writer is a Youth-Activist and the Executive Secretary of Success Book Club