Last Tuesday, Arsenal football club won the first leg of their Champions League Group F match against German champions and current league leaders Bayern Munich. It was not written in the script. It was not a shabby victory by the way, it was an emphatic two-nil win over a formidable team that were yet to lose a game this season prior to the Arsenal defeat. Then, it occurred to me – Before the match, Arsenal were clearly the underdogs. Not many gave them a fighting chance, but they pulled a rabbit out of a hat by doing the seemingly impossible.
I also remember the build up to the 2015 Presidential elections in Nigeria, the then opposition party, APC were clearly the underdogs. Defeating the incumbent was a feat that had never been achieved by any opposition party in the history of the country. More so, an incumbent party that had been in power at the center for 16 years! The odds were certainly stacked against the opposition who many saw as a fragile marriage of convenience between political parties. But against all odds and logical permutations, the All Progressives Congress did the unimaginable, and today (and for at least the next four years) they are the ruling party in Nigeria.
I recall an incident that happened to me in my final year at the University of Ibadan. We had this elderly lecturer who taught us statistics. He came to class one day and asked me to come forward to solve some statistical problem on the board. It was one of the few courses I hadn’t quite gotten a good grasp of and had made a mental note to get one of my classmates to explain properly to me at a later time. It was just my luck that the lecturer wanted to know if I had been following all along. And so, I quietly told him that I couldn’t solve the problem because I didn’t understand the course yet. I cannot recollect the exact words he said to me that fateful afternoon, but let’s just say they weren’t very encouraging words. Worse still, the man got the instant impression that I was dumb upstairs.
Fast forward a few months later towards the tail end of our course. We had to present seminars on topics given to us individually. The seminar was a seven point course on its own, and we were constantly reminded that this particular course was extremely important and could make or mar our chances of making a particular grade point or even graduating from school, since we were in our final year. All our lecturers and even colleagues from other departments were going to be there to assess our performance and ask us questions. I prepared as best as I could, but was naturally nervous about how things would go. Prior to that time, my highest experience with public speaking was debating in high school. This was a different ball game. I had a lot prove because the lecturer who had all but condemned me as a loafer was going to be there, and I knew I just couldn’t afford to give him the satisfaction of seeing me falter again.
Ladies and gentlemen, I make bold to say that I had one of the best presentations that day to the surprise of some, the admiration of many and the shock of at least one – my beloved lecturer. It was an even more outstanding performance because a few of my course mates who many held in high esteem and long since concluded that they would be star of the day had less than stellar performances to put it mildly. My judgemental lecturer was forced to eat his words that day! Yes, he stood up after my presentation, congratulated me on a job well done and admitted that he had the wrong impression about me. Now, beyond all the applause, accolades showered and plenty of congratulatory messages and handshakes from my lecturers and colleagues, having this man who had clearly underrated me take back his words was the highlight of my day. It was the icing on the cake! It was a very personal victory for me. And up till now, each time I remember that day, a smile automatically plays on my lips. Even as I type this I smile at the memory of that day.
How many times have we deemed someone incapable of something because they look fragile? How many times have we automatically written someone off as unintelligent simply because they are handsome or beautiful, as though it were a crime to be blessed with good looks or intelligence was a function of ugliness. Why do we assume a person will remain in perpetual poverty simply because they were born into three generations of penurious ancestors? Why do we think some people will “make it” while others do not have what it takes? Even the popular belief that blondes are dumb has been refuted as science as shown that hair colour is completely unrelated to intelligence.
The moral of my little story is clear. Never underrate anybody! And for the one who is underrated; the best thing about being in your position is that you know that the people who view you as an underdog do not expect anything much from you, and so it takes the pressure off you! You can bid your time to prove them wrong just when they aren’t expecting it! You know that popular saying ” He that is down needs fear no fall?”…it’s certainly very apt in this situation.
So, I actually don’t mind being underrated, for there’s no sweeter victory than proving the naysayers wrong.