Archive | April 2015

The happiest country in the world

By Frederick Mordi

“Action may not always bring happiness … but there is no happiness without action.”

                                                                                                                                        —Benjamin Disraeli

When Switzerland is mentioned, what immediately comes to your mind? It will likely be a beautiful country famous for its classy wristwatches, nice chocolates and secretive financial system.

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But beyond these, Switzerland is also the happiest country in the world, according to the ‘2015 World Happiness Report’ released by the United Nations in New York, last week. Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada, trailed behind Switzerland. The other countries that made the top 10 include Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia. Surprisingly, the United States and the United Kingdom placed 15th and 21st, respectively, on the list.

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The annual report, the third in the series, seeks to quantify happiness as a means of influencing government policy. It used the following factors as yardstick: real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity. The top 10 happiest countries scored high on each of the six indices.

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Nigeria, once regarded as the happiest country in the world, came a distant 78th in the ranking of 158 countries. Nigeria also placed fourth in Africa. Interestingly, war-torn Libya is rated the happiest country in Africa and 63rd in the world.

However, Togo a West African country that is currently squabbling over the result of last Saturday’s presidential election, believed to have been won by incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe, was ranked the least happy country in the world. Afghanistan, Syria and seven other sub-Saharan African countries— Burundi, Benin, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Chad, complete the list of the 10 least happy countries.

Noting that happiness has become a measure of social progress and a goal of public policy, the report said leading experts across several fields of human endeavour including economics, psychology and health, defined how measurements of welfare can be used to gauge the progress of nations.

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One of the editors of the 166-paged report and renowned American economist, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, observed that the top 13 countries—all Western countries—remain virtually unchanged a second year running, even though their order shifted a bit.

“One of our very strong recommendations is that we should be using measurements of happiness … to help guide the world during this period of the new sustainable development goals,” Sachs said. “We want this to have an impact, to put it straight forwardly, on the deliberations on sustainable development because we think this really matters.”

If there is one president that has taken this report seriously, it is German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, whom Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, described as “the most interesting world leader” in terms of her response to happiness data.

Layard, who also contributed to the report, particularly commended Merkel for initiating a grassroots project that seeks to find out “what people want to see changing in order that their wellbeing might change.” This will help Germany improve on its current ranking of 26th.

The report further established that a positive outlook during childhood helps lay a solid foundation for greater happiness later in life. It thus recommends early investment in the welfare of children as a path to future happiness.

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“We must invest early on in the lives of our children so that they grow to become independent, productive and happy adults, contributing both socially and economically,” Layard added.

Although the report seems to agree that factors that make people happy are not the same in all countries, it says personal success and self-expression are important determinants of happiness in a country such the United States. That perhaps explains why celebrities like ‘living large’ in the US! But the report did note that money cannot buy happiness.

While the report may have some flaws, nevertheless, there are some valuable lessons Nigeria can learn, if she is to regain her lost glory. Happily, since the country is on a new path of change, it is not unlikely that Nigeria will appreciate considerably in the next ranking of the happiest countries in the world if the government takes the right action.

Survival of the fastest

By Frederick Mordi

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He punched the keyboard on his iPad frantically as if he was racing against time. The CEO was still speaking when he posted the story. It was only then that he relaxed. A suspicion of a smile lurked at the corners of his mouth.

An hour later, the company’s PR managers were battling to pull down the story that had already gone viral on the Internet. Anxious stakeholders of the company were calling to know the true position. Even the CEO that was copiously quoted in the story, was at a loss for words.

In his post, the blogger had reported that the company donated $5million to the victims of a natural disaster in the country, whereas the correct figure was N5million! The blunder caused no small pandemonium in the listed company. Such is the nightmare that PR managers face these days.

Welcome to the social media revolution!

The evolution of the social media, which are tools and applications that enable individuals to interact on the web, appears to have triggered a paradigm shift in communication. Gone are the days when people reply on the traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and television), as the only source of news.

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The youth and everyone else for that matter, are gradually gravitating towards the social media as an alternative source of news. A poll Mashable—a digital media website—conducted in 2011, confirmed this trend when it noted that: “41 percent of respondents got their news online; 31 percent from a newspaper; 65 percent from the Internet.”

The need for people to tell their own stories by themselves, rather than rely on others to do so for them, seems to be the key driver of the phenomenal adoption of the social media all over the world.

For instance, according to reports, it took radio broadcasters 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million; television 13 years; and the Internet just four. But it took Twitter, three years, two months and one day to reach the first billion tweets! There were about 1.35 billion monthly users of Facebook (founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg), as of 2014, according to Facebook.com.

This shows that the traditional media that have been the sole authority as far as news dissemination is concerned, seem to be losing relevance with the advent of the social media.

Denis McQuail, a communication expert, believes the new media and the Internet in particular, have made the idea of the ‘personal newspaper’ (the so-called Daily Me), in which content is assembled according to individual taste and interest, a realistic possibility.

“The more this happens, and it could apply to the radio and television as well, the less the mass media could provide a common basis in knowledge and outlook or serve as the ‘cement of society,’” McQuail says in his book: McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, published in 2010.

But the social media are not without their own challenges. For instance, unlike the traditional mass media where the concept of gatekeeping—a process by which filtered information goes through to the public by newspapers, radio or TV—is considered sacrosanct, the social media have no such restrictions. That is why a gaffe can escape unnoticed.

It is also generally believed that the information transmitted by social media networking sites are not often correct, like that post in question. This happens because some online content providers do not take pains to verify facts before they publish, unlike the traditional media where practitioners regard facts as sacred.

Criticisms against the social media

All these have led to an avalanche of criticisms against the social media. Andrew Keen, a leading Internet critic, in his book: The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture, says the law of digital Darwinism governs the Internet where there seems to be survival not of the fittest, but of the ‘loudest and most opinionated individuals.’

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It is this apparent rush to be the first to post information, Keen contends, that makes it difficult for social media users like the blogger that caused panic in the company, to validate their facts. Under these circumstances, Keen, who decries lack of gatekeeping in the social media, adds that “the only way to intellectually succeed is by infinite filibustering.”

Jürgen Habermas, a respected German sociologist, seems to support this view as he was once quoted as saying that “The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet, is the decentralised access to unedited stories.”

Nevertheless, the social media have become one of the most important avenues through which public opinions are shaped in modern societies. They defy boundaries, challenge media censorship, and provide an alternative to the traditional media. Perhaps one of the merits of the social media is the instant feedback that they give. That is why many people saw the blogger’s story on the company as soon as he posted it.

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However, there is a need to strike a fine balance between being the first to report a story and reporting what actually happened. This will save everyone a lot of stress. Proactive organisations are no longer leaving anything to chance. Many have established a full-fledged social media unit that looks after their online reputation.

In the new digital jungle where content is king, and only the fastest survive, it will be foolhardy for any organisation to ignore the power of the social media.

Return of the ‘Big Boss’

By Frederick Mordi

Nigeria's coach Stephen Keshi carried by players

After months of suspense, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), finally reinstated Stephen Keshi, as Head Coach of the Super Eagles, yesterday. This has ended speculations that the NFF is shopping for a foreign coach to manage the national team, following the perceived below average performance of the Super Eagles in the last couple of months.

For Keshi, 53, who has been in charge of the Super Eagles since 2011, it has been a long wait for the renewal of his contract. While the waiting game lasted, Nigerian football suffered greatly. The last two recent outings of the national team attest to this. The team lost 1-0 to Uganda at home in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, and drew 1-1 with South Africa.

Keshi, who won a third African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy for Nigeria in 2013, after a 19-year wait, also took the Super Eagles to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However, the team failed to qualify for the 2015 AFCON hosted by Equatorial Guinea.

Keshi, who is expected to restore the lost glory of the nation’s football, has called on Nigerians to join hands with him to rebuild the team.

“I appreciate everyone and the NFF leadership for this opportunity to serve,” he said in his acceptance speech. “We all have to join hands to ensure we get the desired results in all our games.

“There is so much to be done and I can assure you that I will give you my very best. I know that Nigeria is a great country and I am sure we will get to the highest level possible not just in Africa, but also in the world.”

Keshi’s first assignment would be to ensure Nigeria’s qualification for the 2017 AFCON in Gabon. Nigeria is placed in group ‘G’ along with Egypt, Tanzania and Chad. The qualifiers start in June this year.

Meanwhile, the Media Officer of the Super Eagles, Toyin Ibitoye, has commended the NFF’s decision to sign a new contract with Keshi. He expressed the confidence that Keshi will deliver as he has the right pedigree for the job. However, he appealed to Nigerians for their understanding and support for the new coach.

“With commitment and dedication, we will go places,” Ibitoye said.

Is admitting a mistake a sign of weakness?

By Frederick Mordi

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The story is told of a professor who once required his students to present oral readings in class, while he listened. When it came to the turn of a certain student, he stood up just like the others, and held his book in his left hand.

Before he could read, the professor barked at him: “Take your book in your right hand, and be seated!”

The student flinched at the professor’s harsh tone. The looks on the faces of his class mates seemed to suggest something was amiss. But the professor was too angry to take note of the body language of his students. He took serious offence at what he considered a disrespectful gesture on the part of the student.

The other students fidgeted in their seats as the young man in question raised up his right arm, awkwardly. His arm ended at the wrist. The right hand was missing. The professor struggled to contain his emotions. It was obvious that he had never felt so embarrassed all his life. Without a word, he walked up to the student and hugged him. He could not stop the tears from rolling down his cheek.

I am sorry

“I never knew about it,” he said, “please, will you forgive me?”

It is said that this singular act of remorse made a lasting impact on the student. But it often takes a great deal of humility, maturity, and even courage, for most people to admit it when they are in the wrong, probably because they feel it is a sign of weakness. Admitting it when you are wrong is one of the elements in the time-honoured principles of human relations.

Aaron DeCamp reinforces this view: “Admitting your mistakes is not a sign of weakness. It shows you have the courage to know your wrong, and that you have become stronger.”

John Maxwell puts it this way: “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

The world will be a better place if people start to act like that professor.

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14 Principles of Human Relations

H  Have self-confidence

U  Understand the viewpoint of others

M Make yourself the friend of all

A  Admit it when you are wrong

N  Never make promises you cannot keep

R Respect and courtesy are important

E Explain thoroughly

L Look, listen and learn

A Avoid arguments

T Try to be approachable and sociable

I Insist on selfless service to the community

O Others first, self last

N Never criticize in public

S Stress and positive always

Should Keshi stay?

By Frederick Mordi

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Embattled coach of Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, Stephen Keshi, has been having a running battle with the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) for some time now over extension of his contract.

Although Keshi has been reportedly offered the job in principle, it does appear from the body language of the NFF that a foreign coach cast in the mould of a Jose Mourinho, would be preferred. While a stalemate persists, Nigeria’s ranking in football has been on a downward slide. The team is ranked 41st in the world and seventh in Africa, as at March 2015. This is certainly a poor record for a country once adjudged the 5th best team in the world, following the impressive performance of the Super Eagles at the 1994 World Cup in USA.

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Interestingly, Keshi, the out of favour coach of the Super Eagles, endeared himself to Nigerian football lovers when he led the team to victory at the 2013 edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), ending a 19-year old wait for the trophy. He also took Nigeria to the Confederations Cup and qualified the country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

However, Keshi’s boys have been recording poor performance since then. They failed to soar at the Confederations Cup; they could not go beyond the second round at the World Cup; and they could not qualify for the 2015 AFCON. The Super Eagles’ outings at two recent international friendlies have been quite disappointing as well. The team lost 1-0 to a lowly rated Uganda at home in Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria, and drew 1-1 with South Africa. All these have led the clamour for Keshi’s sack. But is there a ready replacement?

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Some football pundits, who say it would be difficult for a Western foreign coach that does not understand African football, to handle the Super Eagles, want Keshi to be given another chance. Others believe he should move on and allow a more experienced foreign coach to take over. For instance, this latter group say former manager of Chelsea, Avram Grant, currently in charge of the Black Stars, the Ghanaian national team, is doing a good job.

But the NFF seems to be in no hurry to take a definite stand on the matter. Until then, the fortunes of Nigeria’s senior national team may continue to dwindle both at the continental and global stage.

However, one thing that is quite certain is the fact that Nigeria does not lack quality footballers—both local and foreign based. Since football is a strong unifying factor among Nigerians, all warring parties must sheathe their swords and work together to ensure that the lost glory of the Super Eagles is restored.