Even before the invitation and consequently the reception and selection of this topical issue, any good head supposedly should have at least observed in the contemporary #society the ills which emanate from the decadence of a morality regarding a work-success phenomenon, whereby the society has evolved or is still evolving into a tendency to making a leap, in contradistinction to the phenomenon that holds that the nature does not make a leap. But the questions are: is such work-success decadence perennial? What is work-success phenomenon? Does work truly make or mar an individual? An attempt to answer these questions will not only further expose the ills and aberrations found in the society today, but as well proffer a working and feasible solution to if not eliminating but reducing drastically such anthropological and ethical issues.

However, this piece tends to delve into investigating whether #success comes before work or the converse, whether the work-success decadence stems from the family or the geist (spirit) of the modern #era, and whether there are mental, spiritual, physical, psychological and sociological rewards and benefits of an antecedent hardworking while achieving a consequent success in life. Albeit, this piece follows this outline in actualizing its objectives, thus: What is Work-success Phenomenon? The Work-Success Decadence in Today’s Nigeria; N’ezie, aka aja aja, o n’ebute onu mmanu mmanu ? Finally, an evaluation and conclusion will be tendered.

What is Work-Success Phenomenon?

To further elaborate and expose the objectives of this piece, it is pertinent to have a view of the distinct meanings of work and success. ‘Work’ is any activity which involves a mental or physical effort exerted or done in order to achieve an end or #purpose or result. In Physics, a force is said to do a work, if when acting, there is a displacement of the point of application in the direction of the force. In his work, Knowledge My Compass (2017:11), Ukata explains that “the Greek verb ergazomai refers to engaging oneself in a manual labour; and the noun ergasia denotes trade or business as well as profits gained from such enterprise. In Latin, that the word labor refers to man as he engages himself with the aim of satisfying his own needs.” All these simply are encapsulated in saying that the human being is a homo faber – a working being. Hence, the human work which is rational is quite different from the brutal work which is instinctual. ‘Success’ is obsoletely seen as the good or bad outcome of a given undertaken. Presently, it is seen as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the completing of an objective or reaching of a goal. Success can be expanded to encompass an entire project or be restricted to a single component of a project or task. It can be achieved within the workplace, or in an individual’s personal life.

However, the phrase ‘Work-Success Phenomenon’ is a personal coinage to the writer of this piece. Having seen what work and success mean, it is not out of place to posit that work is a necessary condition for success, and success a sufficient condition for work, in that, work serves in this context as an antecedent while success as a consequent if taken analogically. In logic, a valid argument is one which its third premise basically in Aristotelian Syllogism successfully and connectedly follows from the two antecedent premises. Thus, if one achieves a success in whatever s/he does, it simply means that there cannot but be a prerequisite work prior to the achieved success. Conversely, every work must have a success, either good or bad success, as thought in the ancient age. Nevertheless, the work-success phenomenon simply engrosses both the natural and cultural conditio sine qua non that for there to be a success, there must be a work exerted or done whether mentally, physically, psychologically or sociologically; and this amounts to an expression in Igbo culture: onye ruo, ya erie.

The Work-Success Decadence in Today’s Nigeria

The Work-Success Phenomenon has established that work implies success, and success implies equally that there was an antecedent work. But is this presently the case?  Do people especially the youth truly want to work to achieve success, or to achieve success with little or no work? The answers to these questions are inevitable. In Nigeria today, people seek for a shortcut to success. They want to achieve all successes but do not want to put or exert an effort. Some want to achieve this success in ill-slated ways, that is why it is heard of today, that the Police arrested some numbers of people for alleged theft, pick-pocketing, stealing and picking of used feminine pads and pants, yahoo plus boys as known as G-boys, cultism, ritualism, occultism, human trafficking, baby factories, and so on. Many of the youth imitate the Music and Nollywood celebrities without the knowledge of their showbiz, hence dressing like they do while displaying their home and music videos, and modeling their present unethical life of having or not having, of being or not being baby-mamas or baby-papas. All these cannot be exposed, without reminding the reader of another reigning societal aberrations, namely, sugar sons, daughters, babies, mummies and daddies; as well as homosexuality – that is both lesbianism and sodomy. The other academic decadence is the emergence of miracle centers, young people no longer want to study but desire to make academic success – this is an absolute academic deterioration.

The Psalmist in Psalm 11:3 asked a question: “if foundations are destroyed, what can the just man do?” The reason behind all these societal ills and aberrations mentioned above is a lack or an omission or a decadence of a particular morality, namely “Value or Virtue”.  Between the Mid-Twentieth Century and now, the traditional standard of morality began to deteriorate drastically, though such deterioration had began subtly especially in Politics when in the Renaissance Period, the Italian diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli had written in his magnum opus – The Prince, that “the end justifies the means.” This Machiavellian assertion is a reversion of the traditional standard that “the means justifies the end.” Thus, in Nigeria today, people for instance the Politicians use this lofty Machiavellian principle to achieving a bad success – a bad success in that it gives no internal fulfillment to both the doer and the entire society. The lost of the value in the society has brought about work-success decadence, so that people no longer have discipline to determining their futuristic success. In his book, ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’ (1983:27), Achebe captures the following: “Indiscipline pervades our life so completely today that one may be justified in calling it (Indiscipline) the condition par excellence of the contemporary Nigerian society. We see and hear and read about indiscipline in the home, in the school, in the public service, in the private sector, in government, and in legislative assemblies, on the roads, in the air”. So, indiscipline has a huge role to play in the Work-Success Decadence in Today’s Nigeria. Achebe further elucidates: “The malaise takes so many different forms – sometimes brutally crude, at other times more subtle – that a comprehensive definition of it would be very difficult. For our present purposes let us say that indiscipline is a failure or refusal to submit one’s desires and actions to the restraints of orderly social conduct in recognition of the rights and desires of others. The goal of indiscipline is self-interest; its action, the abandonment of self-restraint in pursuit of the goal.” People today brag with indiscipline, and are influenced to be undisciplined and as well glory in it. Many Graduates even when qualified no longer get appointments by merits but by nepotism and favouritism. Many parents can no longer discipline their children for the reason that they, themselves, are not discipline, since nemo dat quod non habet – one does not give what he has not. Be it as it may, this ill-orientation ought to be reversed in the society. People ought to begin to know that the dignity of a human being is in working out oneself to success ipso facto there is a natural possession of an essential rationality.

N’ezie, Aka Aja Aja, O n’ebute Onu Mmanu Mmanu? (Does Working Lead to Success?)

This normative and likewise prescriptive expression in Pan-Igbo traditional setting: aka aja aja, n’ebute onu mmanu mmanu , simply encapsulates the semantic and syntactic deconstruction of the foregoing ‘Work-Success Phenomenon’. Any person that is truly of Igbo ancestry, have to know, digest and internalize the milky knowledge that gushes from such an expression. This sub-heading is seen to be a question: N’ezie, aka aja aja, o n’ebute onu mmanu mmanu ? Does work lead to success? Or does tilling or soiling of hands bring about oiling of the mouth? (To soil ones hand, as a linguistic Igbo adage connotes being diabolical; thus this connotative meaning does not suffice here, since the phrase is used literally in this piece.) However, the answer is: Eeeh, aka aja aja, n’ebute onu mmanu mmanu , that is, work leads to success, or that tilling or soiling of hands brings about oiling of the mouth. This is to establish that anyone who works also earns; and so people should begin to learn how to engage themselves into meaningful activities and works to create for themselves and their family a bright and happy future, ut iter dicem ; and not seeking for any dubious, barbaric, cultic or occultic way of achieving success. Just as this piece was achieved from someone’s intellectual perspiration. Success is great, but must come via hardworking and legal way. Success leads to happiness, but not in all cases, for there are cases where one is successful but not happy, or happy but not successful. For one to be internally happy and at the same time successful, there must be an effort to work hard in a very legal and honest medium, and yet follows the precepts of nature, for nature does not make a leap, but it is orderly, well arranged, free and to an extent determined (that is a combinative force of freedom and determinism), as the name of the Universe is ‘Cosmos’ – from the Greek transliteration of the word Kosmos – which means ‘orderliness, well arranged’. However, this piece is so significant that the society should learn, know and live out to the moral expectations of the Kantian Categorical Imperative. To this end, may all and sundry put hands on deck, to refurbishing and reconstructing and restructuring and recovering the societal norms and values that have been lost especially in the 21st Century. Parents should learn and teach and train their children in honesty as the family is the first in the social stratification, for if it shatters, there cannot but be bondages of abnormalities, ills and aberrations.

Evaluation and Conclusion

From the foregoing, it is to be seen that a human being is a homo faber , a working being; so humans ought to see work as a necessity and not as a suffering (that is, suffering should not be seen in its ordinary societal understanding of being a pain or punishment), for the verb ‘to suffer’ comes from the Greek pathos and the Latin suffero which means ‘to offer, hold up, bear or suffer’, hence the Latin adage homo faber fabricandum fit – a worker is made by working’. That is to say that one has to bear or hold up with the many challenges and plights he encounters in life – they are parts and parcels of nature – they are what make life so interesting. Encountering them only tells that life is not only meaningful, but also worth-living. Whoever does a work ought to do a very legal and honest one, for ne libeat tibi quod non licet – let not that pleases you which is not lawful.

Nonetheless, this piece sets a pace for others to follow so as to have a natural enthusiasm and honest inclination towards work in order to know that to work is to attain both personal and societal development. Singapore was in the third world, but now in the first world due to her ability to engage into workable and feasible projects and innovations via sound rationality. Therefore, let Nigerians who do illegal and dishonest works stop it for it will not help the society to grow, but rather will mar and break down the society. Let Nigerians learn how to work with all enthusiasm, learn to be discipline, learn to be truthful, and learn to have the sense of common good – bonus communis, and finally learn to have the sense of collective consciousness. All these will skyrocket the society to the zenith or apogee of all round successes via good hard works, so that one may get his mouth oiled after getting his hands tilled or soiled, since aka aja aja, n’ebute onu mmanu mmanu .


Okorie Chizoba Sebastian is a Philosopher, a Logician and Metaphysician. He hails from Nigeria, as he articulated this article in the Nigerian context.