Salihu Tanko Yakasai: Jack of all trade, and master of none

The say ‘dreams come true if you pursue them’. But do we really pursue our dreams? I recently met a friend of mine Khalid (Not real name) whom I consider the best story teller during my school days. So good he was we used to call him waziri aku meaning The Apprentice parrot, a fictional character from the popular Hausa book Magana Jarice. He literally tells stories just for fun and so good were his fictional stories even teachers wanted to listen. There was this time when a teacher was late for a class and he accepted to tell a story before the teacher came in. Ten minutes into the story, the teacher arrived and decided not to interrupt, so he joined us and listened quietly. It was one of the best two periods of my school days.

At the time, I thought he will attain the heights of Soyinka or even Shakespeare, a great story teller and a great writer. But my recent encounter with him told me he joined public service after his undergraduate program before becoming a banker few years ago and had recently applied for a job in NNPC. He looks alright like every middle-class bank employee. Yet, I kept thinking that’s it? What about the stories? I mean this guy could have gone international; his stories could have been Hollywood adaptations like Rowling’s and Tolkien’s (writers of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings respectively), but I reckon Father Land pushed him to become a banker and hopefully, an oil company employee.

I believe the basic motivation behind going to school is to be educated and then use the knowledge to attain great heights in your own specialty. Its only in Nigeria that a graduate of Education will become a banker, or a zoologist will become a reporter, and many more of such examples, where one does not get to practice what he learned, or even worst, become jack of all trades, and master of none. Though there’s nothing wrong in that, the problem as I see it; is lack of passion in most cases. The majority of people go to school not to really learn and develop what they specifically have interest in, but just to pass through the system in order to get the qualification and get employed.

In developed nations, one’s own interests and talent are noticed right from childhood; kids’ interests are being noticed and encouraged so that the kids can capitalize on it with support from the parents and the society. They start grooming their children right from nursery school at a tender age, through primary and secondary schools, and unto tertiary institutions. They get support from all angles, family, friends, neighbors and society at whole. They pass through so many competitions, just to perfect and improve their skills. At the end of it all, they have naturally mastered whatever it is they set out to do. With so much time and resources invested in a particular field, why won’t one excel after going through such a vigorous process?

I was born into an extended family; surrounded by about 30 family members. My father was a political activist during the pre independence struggle and has been actively involved in politics since then and is considered an elder statesman today. These naturally gave me a platform to be able to interact and mingle with a lot of people, and as such, naturally became good in the art of adapting to different kinds of people. These shaped my interest in people and I started engaging in activities with NGO’s to help people before I studied mass communication and went on to become a broadcaster with a radio station in my state, which lead to me being a free-lance reporter for CNN International.

In a nut shell, I didn’t become a Richie but I get paid to do something I love and have passion for, that’s how wonderful it gets when your job actually matches your talent. You always appreciate the little success that comes and don’t have to chase it somewhere else. Take a look at the career of Nigerian twin artist P Square and the heights they have reached, they went from local wedding dancers to internationally recognized artists. Perhaps you can relate to that.

In today’s Nigeria, it’s all about what you earn, not the interest. All the professions that will fetch you high wage are the ones people are rushing to. Gone are the days when we even have active guidance and counselling units in our schools. Today, the parents don’t really pay attention to the kind of qualities and talents their kids possess for them to even encourage them to develop. If a graduate gets employed in one of the top oil companies or government agencies, that calls for celebrations in the family, again not that there’s anything wrong in that, but let it be because of what he studied, something that he is passionate about which led him to work at these lucrative companies and agencies based on merit and the kind of qualification he has that is in line with what the company or agency does. For example, let a kid study IT because that’s what he has interest in and then get employed in an agency that deals with IT. I have this image of; me following a queue of Khalid’s book signing session and walking up to him for an autograph just to congratulate him in a surprised way and see the happiness in him. For me, its quiet unfortunate and sad that father-land has turned my image into a mirage.

Unless and until we go back to encouraging our younger ones to pursue their dreams and aspirations in different and diversified professions, then we run the risk of alienating a lot of other professions simply because majority are rushing towards some handful of professions that are considered instant success. Let us try and notice our children’s interests, and assist them in developing them and studying them to become professionals in those fields while loving what they do and being passionate about it. Master that which you are naturally good at, and don’t become jack of all trade, and master of none.


Salihu Tanko Yakasai was born on the 25th of October, 1976 in Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State. He studied studied Corporate Management and Mass Communication. He worked with the  National Assembly from 2003-2007 as a legislative aide, then after that, He went into politics and NGO related activities, full time. He is married with two kids and He is currently a journalist by profession, working with Freedom Radio, Kano and also an International Freelance reporter for CNN.

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