The story of humans is full of struggles. Over time, individuals, families, nations, groups and organisations have jostled to gain certain levels of advantages over others. This struggle is responsible for wars, conflicts, murders and the social vices that are rampant in the world today.
The same struggle has a positive face, however. It has oftentimes led to innovations in many economic and social areas. In business, strategies are designed and executed to secure a competitive advantage over rivals. The path to this advantage is taught in business schools all over the world.
Similarly, political parties, ethnic groups, religious organisations and other bodies struggle to design ways to outmanoeuvre their competitors. The focus is usually on the advantage to be gained rather than the value it confers. In this process, few ponder over the concept that advantages inherently also have disadvantages built into them.
Some advantages are natural or inherited. Some people are born into rich families or with above average physical attractions or good physique, health, etc. Goliath’s extraordinary height and unparalleled war experience gave him boasting rights over the army of Israel. It was recorded that his voice sent shock waves down the spines of Israeli soldiers. He bestrode the fighting arena like a colossus and no one came out to challenge him for 40 days. However, Malcom Gladwell in his book, David and Goliath, recorded that it was the disadvantages of Goliath’s commanding heights that gave David victory over him. He was afflicted with gigantism (caused by hypersecretion of growth hormones), which gave him the size that was intimidating to his opponents. This advantage was accompanied with blurred vision that, in turn, put him in a disadvantaged position against expert slingers like David.
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the infamous, durable and lightweight assault rifle, the AK-47, wished later in life that he had created a lawnmower instead of the destructive gun that once conferred advantages on its holders. Even the great Albert Einstein regretted making the atomic bomb, a device that won the war for America against Japan. He wished he had been a watchmaker.
After World War II, America spent hundreds of billions of dollars to acquire military capabilities that eventually catapulted her to the status of the most powerful nation in the world. With this advantage, America became the Chief Policeman of the world and acquired the self-imposed burden of having to respond to developments in all regions, thereby incurring civil and military expenditures that now seem beyond its means.
In this process, the advantages of being the world’s only superpower turned into a major disadvantage. Most of the country’s manufacturing activities have since been outsourced to other nations, leaving it with decrepit infrastructures (e.g. airports) that are lagging behind in facilities available in smaller and less powerful nations.
Donald Trump latched onto this perceived disadvantage to rally Americans to his side, promising to bring back lost production, restore jobs and upgrade infrastructures. He won against all odds.
In Nigerian hospitals, doctors are the dominant bosses. They have clear advantage over the other health professionals because of long term headship of virtually all health institutions, closer ties with the powerful people in government and the very delicate and sometimes critical nature of their jobs. They offer no accommodation to other healthcare professionals who are forced to accept whatever the doctors decreed or be crushed.
Over the years, this advantage has been stretched to the limit. Doctors have become a law unto themselves, going on strikes for all manners of reasons. Today, Nigeria has one of the worst health indices in the world and our public hospitals are no longer the health sanctuary that they once were. The doctors have lost some, if not all, of the credibility they once enjoyed in the public sphere. The advantages doctors enjoyed have been grossly mismanaged and the disadvantages have risen to the top of public perception.
Pharmacists, too, have an advantage of employment over others in the pharmaceutical industry. They are preferred in community practice, manufacturing, sales & marketing and other support services. Under the law, a pharmacist is required for the registration of a premise for pharmaceutical services. For too long, many pharmacists relied on this advantage to the exclusion of other requirements for a successful business operation. Today, the pharmaceutical landscape in Nigeria is dominated not by pharmacists but by those who must struggle at the point of entry to prove themselves worthy of employment and retention.
In the Nigerian polity, certain tribal groups historically gained certain advantages over the other ethnic groups. The Yorubas, for instance, had early exposure to Western education and are, by far, the most educated ethnic group in the country. They are thus more vocal and quicker to challenge political authorities. The most vociferous opponents of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Yoruba political flagbearer in the early years following the country’s independence, were from his ethnic group.
Yorubas are divided and can barely speak with one voice on any national issue. The advantages gained from their early contact with the Western colonialists were not properly managed and today, the ethnic group struggles to reach its potentials in the Federation.
The Igbos of South-East Nigeria are adept in commerce and can be found everywhere in the country. Diligent, industrious and fired by the need to revise the setbacks suffered during the civil war, the Igbos can be found conducting trading activities in the major cities of Nigeria. They dominate in Nigeria’s commercial city centres. This advantage has conferred on them the bragging rights of being the ‘Jews’ of Africa.
In his writings, the late renowned Igbo author, Chinua Achebe, commented on the tendency of his kinsmen to show off their hard-earned wealth through extravagant displays that often drew the ire of some other Nigerians. The disadvantage of this advantage has shown in the group’s complaint of marginalisation despite having the entire nation in their ‘hands’. The
Northerners are deft political actors who have dominated the political landscape right from the First Republic. They have used their privileged position to garner some advantages for their region. The allocation of resources to states and local governments weigh heavily in favour of the North.
However, this advantage has been the bane of the Northern states as the free flow of resources has not resulted in any meaningful development of the region. The region lags behind in all indices of development in comparison to her southern counterparts. The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has alluded to this in his recent public addresses. The disadvantages of the advantage that the North gained in her struggle over other regions are reflected in the indices: High poverty, low literacy rate, etc.
The point being made here is simple: whatever advantages enjoyed by a group or an individual will most likely last only for a short time. Eventually, the disadvantages of such advantage will crop up. If you are being oppressed by others who have an advantage over you, do not despair. Review the situation critically and figure out the disadvantages inherent in their position. Exploit it. Let us resolve to make the world a better place to live for others around us. In that way, we will all be in an advantaged position.