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Ofilispeaks: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence II




This is the concluding part to the article titled: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence

…if number of educational degrees were directly proportional to a nations GDP, then Nigeria will be up there with the giants of the world; unfortunately, we are not.

Ada HAD 8 sisters. 6 of her 8 sisters ran away due to domestic abuse and violence and of those 6 that ran away, 3 of them died from malaria. How many sisters does Ada have left?

In primary school the answer would have been obvious and straightforward: 2 sisters. After all if 6 run away, 2 will be left. But in Secondary school, students would anticipate a trick in the question and probably determine that Ada has 5 sisters left, which include the 2 sisters that did not run away and 3 of the 6 sisters that ran away but did not die. But if it was in University we might have gotten a multitude of answers.

A Psychology major might have argued that Ada still had 8 sisters left. After all, even if 3 of her sisters were dead that will not change the fact that they were still her sisters. An English major on the other hand might have homed in on the fact that the opening statement said “Ada HAD” and that “had” being past tense means she no longer has any more sisters. A Law Major would probably have analyzed both responses above and depending on who was paying would have argued in support of either the Psychology Major or English Major. Whatever level we are at, the focus would be on getting or debating the right answer. But the problem with this question is really the answer. Because the answer is a distraction to the bigger picture and Nigerian education as a whole.

You see the people who get the answer right or argue their answer best…are not the ones that will necessarily change a Nation. But rather the ones who cannot focus on the answer without asking questions such as “why did Ada’s sisters have to die from Malaria? Why was there abuse in Ada’s home? And how is Ada doing now?”

These are the individuals that have what we call social empathy. They are able to see beyond the answers and put themselves in the shoes of others. They are the lawyers that make decisions not based on who is paying more, but rather on who is morally right. It is the banker that creates a financial law not to make profit for himself, but to make owning a home easier for those around him. It is the Engineer who designs his oil equipment not just to maximize oil production, but rather to ensure non-pollution of the environment. At the core of their decisions is a desire to make people happy.

They are not focused on showing how smart or intelligent they are, but rather how their intelligence can make lives better for those around them. But education for decades has thought us otherwise, we are brought up to focus on getting the right answers to the tough questions, which is why out of about 50 responses to the original question on Bellanaija, only 1 to 2 people commented on poverty or abuse, the other responses were focused on what the right answer was. And in our addicted focus to being intelligent we miss the point of intelligence, the point of using the material learned in school to impact our community.

That is why we have so called intelligent people, politicians, lawyers, ministers who wipe out a Nations resources without feeling any remorse. People who can wake up every day and pass by poverty without skipping a beat. And then we blame our problems on lack of intelligence in our national leaders, but the problem of Nigeria has never been a lack of intelligence. We have an abundance of that…it has instead been an abject lack of social consciousness and empathy. The big question now is this…how do we educate both the Mind and Heart in our schools?

I have a few suggestions. First, let’s change the way we offer up scholarships. Scholarships should not be given to only the most intelligent as is often the case in Nigeria. But should also be given to families in need. People who cannot afford tuition should be given a chance to go to school. When a government shows people that they care for the less privileged, students will graduate with a sense of responsibility that they have to care for others less privileged than them. But when a nation focuses primarily on how smart a person is, it creates a dangerous race to the top devoid of emotional connect.

Simply put it is not enough to talk or preach about empathy; government, organizations and individuals need to show it. Also for the sake of God let’s stop writing down the names of noisemakers. I mean we spend 12 years telling primary and secondary school students to keep quiet and then we thrust them into the world and tell them to make a change and speak up against social injustice and then berate them for not taking action! We have to break the myth that a well behaved child with good grades is the ideal student leader! I mean look at people like Gani Fawehnmi, Fela Kuti or Pat Utomi, one would be hard pressed to believe that they were amongst the quiet ones in class. But look at what they have done by simply speaking up and making noise. Let’s eliminate the list of noise makers, because we need them to speak up against social injustice.

Lastly, we need to change the question we ask our children. It is not about what you want to be when you grow up? But rather it should be, what difference you want to make when you grow up? When we change the question, we force students to actively think about how they can use their education to make a difference instead of simply using it to make money. Shifting a students mind-set albeit delicately at an early age, will reap huge returns in the future. Because students will be invested in the idea of creating social change from an early age. At the end of the day we have to realize that life is not always about getting the right answers, but rather about ensuring people are getting the right treatment.

Our interest should thus be that Ada is happy and not how many sisters she has left. Because intelligence alone does not change a world, what sparks a change is empathy…that should be our focus and that should be our addiction…our dangerous addiction… This article is the shortened conclusion of Ofili’s TEDxZumarock Talk: Our Dangerous Addiction To Intelligence. Complete talk available soon.

 Photo credit:

is an award winning primary school teacher motivational speaker, author, success coach and scholar entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitter , facebook or subscribe to his blog for more success TIPS!” To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here. He has written two books, How Laziness Saved My Life and the best-selling How Stupidity Saved My Life, to find out how they both saved his life visit or text STUPIDITY or LAZINESS to 33110 to immediately begin reading the ebook version on your Blackberry (Only available for MTN Blackberry Users).

Okechukwu Ofili is a trouble maker, the author of 4 books and speaks at organizations that are tired of hearing the same old stuff and want the truth. He is also the founder of and blogs daily at You can follow him on Twitter or stalk him on Instagram You can also read his funny books on konga or okadabooks


  1. Lizzie

    November 22, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Wow! i love. Thanks for this piece…

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      You are welcome Lizzie. Thanks for the reply.

  2. chinco

    November 22, 2012 at 8:42 am

    NICE!!! Especially the part about asking the children ‘ What difference do you want to make when you grow up’

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      yep…ain’t that the truth. If we do start asking that question children will grow up with a different focus…a focus on making their community better.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Chinco.

  3. Doks

    November 22, 2012 at 8:51 am

    So Oga why did you ak the question in the first place? Mtchieww.
    Anyway my regards to Ada and her sisters…

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I asked the question in the first place because {read article above}

    • Purpleicious Babe

      November 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      lool….. to test ur intelligence duh(jenifa’s voicE)… and your empathy too. lol.

  4. Lilz

    November 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

    “At the end of the day we have to realize that life is not always about getting the right answers, but rather about ensuring people are getting the right treatment.”

    I love love love this piece….

  5. missy

    November 22, 2012 at 9:15 am

    well done Ofili. Now I need to answer the question what difference I want to make when i grow up so that when I have kids and ask that question, I can table my efforts and successes before them.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Sweet Missy. It’s a question we all should keep on asking and answering.

    • Purpleicious Babe

      November 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      sorry babes you are grown…

      how grown up can we be? someone once asked what i wanted to be when I grew up, i replied saying am grown? I think the question is what difference can I make now so that it shapes my future and where am heading?

  6. titi

    November 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Hmm.thought provoking

  7. moi

    November 22, 2012 at 9:25 am

    You hit the nail on the head! This article should be circulated in all the national dailies too. Empathy can change even a hardened criminal for the better. There’s bias in the educational system; only certain coursese are given preference by the government $ scholarship boards. Almost all depend on grades. Have they ever checked to know these individuals $ their emotional state at the time of sitting for exams? I lost my mum when I was about sitting for my SSCE. As the only girl in the midst of 5 boys, I was taking care of her in the hospital all by myself. Such huge responsibility on my little shoulders. She was buried. So that I could sit for my exams. I was distracted but had 2 distinctions $ 4 credits which were a surprise to me. I wrote that exam in a blur. I sudied a course which is not popular $ so have never been successful in getting a scholarship. I’m very keen on furthering my studies with some assistance. The ‘intelligent’ ones will depend one way or the other on the not so intelligent in the society!

  8. Bellanaijathegreatest

    November 22, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Am still not getting why you used intelligence. Intelligence is a debatable term on a broad spectrum, and the prominent idea right now is that is varies for different people, some can be mathematical, musical, artsy, social etc, all better at those functions than the average person. I doubt Nigerians are addicted to intelligence just a narrow form of intelligence, i.e the sciences, where science is graded above all else, also, grading seems to be a constant in the nation, be it social class, rich/poor, science/arts, this may just be inbred cultural manifestation(intelligence) to make people in NIgeria adapt to their society in order to advance, girls who form do it for a purpose. Howevr, you seem to base your conclusion on social empathy as a necessary tool for national advancement which I would day quite right, but more on cultural re-engineering, disabling those traits that are not good for national advancement and seeing each one of us as equal adults. This is important because, the young are graded low in the cultural strata, while in intelligence it is the young brain that is most productive.

    • iCrossMyHeart

      November 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      I do not understand what your argument is. I think Ofili’s use of intelligence is appropriate here. Indeed intelligence is relative and narrow where Nigeria is concerned. But we are indeed addicted to intelligence. What happens when a child comes last and fails? He is beaten mercilessly despite the fact he got an A in P.E or Drawing. I know very well that I was compared to the students who came 1st and 2nd in class. “Do they have two heads?” My mother will ask me. I always thought this was a rhetorical question, but a question that questioned my abilities to perform on an intelligence level already dictated by our society.

      Albert Einsten once quoted, “everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” And that is the malady plaguing our dear country.

      We are so focused on conformity that we lose sight of the outliers. That is, people who do not fit it in. People who have no desire to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, but social engineers. People who want to help instead of profit. I am currently doing a degree that is not widely popular in the academic discourse in Nigeria and I have been asked, “what will you do with such a degree?” “Are you planning to be poor.” These are questions that have enabled me question the psychosis of intelligence in Nigeria. We equate intelligence with money mongering and profiteering at the expense of others. It is always how much can we make? Or how many degrees does he/she have? What school did he/she go to? Because the money one makes and the degree one gets at a particular Ivy League concludes said person is a leader worthy of national embrace. Yet the people we idolize, Kim K, Kanye West, Beyonce, etc, hardly finished school or completed their degrees or attended a school that falls short of global recognition.

      Also, it baffles me that a house on Lekki will sell for 3 million dollars when the roads are not paved, electricity is not constant, women are violently abused, children sexually molested, and men are absolved of any responsibility whatsoever…..

      So yeah intelligence is the appropriate term in this context. Empathy is necessary for social change. But it is not sufficient.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm


  9. zino

    November 22, 2012 at 9:31 am

    lmao @ doks…
    nice article

  10. Nekky

    November 22, 2012 at 9:39 am

    nice piece and insightful. lol @ lets stop writing names of noise makers.

  11. Theodora

    November 22, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Alway great listening and reading your articles ……..lovely

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Theodora…thanks. =)

  12. Aibee

    November 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Deep and thought provoking.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Lol..thanks Aibee. Means a lot coming from a lawyer.

  13. Timibaby

    November 22, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I wish there was a like button at the end of this piece. This is just splendid.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks Timibaby. We would petition Bella for a like button soon

  14. Ginika

    November 22, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Very, very interesting.

    I must say though that the way we were taught ever since we were in primary school wasn’t really to look beyond the words of the word math problem. We have been engineered to zoom into finding the numbers, to calculate them and answer it; ignoring the actual story behind the problem. Except you go into a field like philosophy and social sciences at a later stage in life, you never really look beyond the numbers. One can also draw a similarity with this concept and the argument of Africa receving aid from organisations like the world bank; or the budget speech we tune into, to listen to every year. We hear of millions of dollars being given for problems that have existed with the African continent for decades (and just like a bad rash, wont go away); we hear of how government will spend 1billion naira or more on electricty (each year). However, we never see tangible results of such figures but there are stats drawn up, figures shown left, right centre trying to measure the so-called change or progress that we never really see on ground.

    As you said, questions like: why are we still talking of improving electricity in Nigeria should be asked and why not talks of maintaining supply? How is it possible that 12 of the top 40 richest Africans are from Nigeria and job creation is a problem?

    Well, nice piece and I hope there is a correlation between what I said and your article (and no be see I dey talk off point)

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks Ginika…I actually love love this paragraph…you say it so much better:
      “We have been engineered to zoom into finding the numbers, to calculate them and answer it; ignoring the actual story behind the problem. “

  15. mfon

    November 22, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Hmm! really inspiring and mind transforming. Nice one!

  16. Miss Tm

    November 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Brilliant piece sadly some of us who are not at home may not get to read the whole piece. I am write a research piece on a similar issue and the whole piece would have been really helpful for referencing……. I for help you do small publicity lol. That aside,I lack the right words to express what I feel about this write up. More grease to your elbow Mr Ofili

    • Miss Tm

      November 22, 2012 at 10:02 am

      I meant ‘writing ‘ oops

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      Miss Tm…the entire piece is coming out in my next book (not sure of the title yet) you can wait to buy the book (lol) or just shoot me an email and I will send you the full thing…

    • Miss Tm

      November 23, 2012 at 12:25 am

      Thanks Mr Ofili will keep my fingers crossed and def be in touch………

  17. larakingz...

    November 22, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Nice piece Ofili love the ” what difference you want to make when you grow up? When we change the question, we force students to actively think about how they can use their education to make a difference instead of simply using it to make money. ” Really wish their is a paradigm shift in our thoughts

  18. giggy

    November 22, 2012 at 11:01 am

    thank you for the conclusion… been waiting for it.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      lol…thanks giggy…hope you like it sha =D

  19. Ugo

    November 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Awesome Piece!!!

  20. Funmi

    November 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    “I have a few suggestions. First, let’s change the way we offer up scholarships. Scholarships should not be given to only the most intelligent as is often the case in Nigeria. But should also be given to families in need. People who cannot afford tuition should be given a chance to go to school.”

    Very good suggestion……….I love this piece it has really blessed me as a parent God bless you

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      Yay! Glad I can help out a Parent…time for me to start having my own children =D

  21. efe

    November 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    This is one great piece,l must say.l have been thinking to myself lately how to start making my 3 year old daughter do and think differently,looking at the way the situation around us is,with so much poverty In Nigeria in the midst of PLENTY,and l have found the right words to say to her what difference do you want to make as and when you grow up.
    Thank you ofili.

  22. Yinkus Pinkus

    November 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    “In our addicted focus to being intelligent we miss the point of intelligence, the point of using the material learned in school to impact our community.”

    Absolutely loved this article (and part 1). Nice and insightful read.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Ahh thanks Yinkus Pinkus. Glad you LOVED it =D


    November 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I Love this especially your take on scholarships ! Like Moi, I wouldn’t say I was the most intelligent but I was and I still am, I went through secondary school having battled through a lot as a child especially my parents divorce which led to a series of things only I could carry. I went from being top of the the class or at the least top 3 in a good primary school to average. I wrote my SSCE exams just because I had to no other option, you miss it, you loose that year and all. I was terribly ill, high temperature to the point of halucinating but I had to, nurses around me and teachers motivating me to go on I tried I made 2A’s 2c’s and plenty P’s and of course thats as good as nothing as maths was a P. Meaning no uni! Luckily I got an admission abroad where more things, interviews and all are in place to assess your level of intelligence, I made it through, this really boosted my confidence, I got back to where I initially was top of the class, graduated with honors and a first class in my second degree, in very good schools. All I think about is, if I didn’t get a chance? what would have happened?I would have been trapped in that stage. Thank God for His grace and the intelligence to explore options. Did I mention my brother who was seen as the dullest of all passed his SCCE in flying colors, good grades in Jamb(he was intelligent not just the way Nigeria/society/family defines it) but couldn’t getting an admission for more than 4years when he did it was rubbish, not what he had applied for until he moved abroad. Its pathetic, our educational system has to be properly and adequately reviewed for all! No one should be left out except its his or her prerogative.

    • Nwamaka

      November 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      I felt your pain and can also relate with your success.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Your comment is too sexy and you know it! You hit too many nails on the head. From your story to your brothers story. We really really need to give people a chance and not just so-called intelligent people. In other countries, poeple judge you on your leadership skills, service to community and academics. But here we judge simply on academics…shoot our leaders aka head-boys are normally the most intelligent.


    November 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm


  25. Ify

    November 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Great piece! Empathy is an attribute that we should all aspire to. it makes us human, we care and are driven to make a difference. When our goal is solely to make money and become wealthy, we become so narrowly focused and we miss the point in our work and endeavours. We will not be remembered for the money we made but for the impact of our lives and our work. Lets keep our eyes on the big picture!

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      gbam! Well said Ify: “We will not be remembered for the money we made but for the impact of our lives and our work”

  26. zerovacancygal

    November 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Yes Boss…….these tips should be part of parenting 101 curriculum and also dem teachers who stifle the “mind and heart ” of our little darlings…all in the name of ” conforming to society’s norm/expectation of well behaved = Mr. Achiever/Innovator of his/her generation? without even asking who made the darn norm in the first place and and heck whats to say the norm is the qualifier for the future holds for these young and impressionable minds….

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      You don’t even want me to go into the teaching aspect. Our teachers need to be overhauled and re-taught. The thinking of some is so myopic it blows my mind.

  27. deedee

    November 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Very interesting piece Ofili, people like you really awaken our consciousness. The part that really touched me the most was the aspect you stated that scholarship should not only be given on the basis of most intelligent, but also to the less privileged. Come to think of it, how many most intelligent people are employers of labour? The most intelligent sometimes turn out arrogant bcos, they are used to being the centre of attraction and reference points. I think that Most employers of labour are those who did averagely academically, who are not used to getting attention from teachers, parents and the society at large. these are people who earnestly look for ways of touching lives without drawing attention to themselves, thereby positively impacting our world. I also agree with your point that, there is a problem with our value system. Nobody wants to do things for the sake of the well being of others in the society, rather the focus is on how to make money for ourselves alone. At this point, it is not enough to read beautiful write ups like this and to analyse/criticise, but to act on what’s right for the benefit of the society at large. ( we all have the God given gift of discernment, to know what is right and wrong).
    Fareed Zakari of CNN identified one of Nigeria’s problem and he compared our political system to that of the western world, where he said that Nigerian politicians go into politics to make money and rip the people off but the westerners make their money to enable them go into politics. What a world we live in!
    Lets all see what we can do to help, not what we can get from our society.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Wow…thanks for the Fareed quote…quite simple but poignant.

  28. somebody

    November 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    WOW! Thanks for this Ofili. I agree…will work on myself as well. Keep ’em coming bro.

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks somebody…I will!

  29. Purpleicious Babe

    November 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    How is it possible that 12 of the top 40 richest Africans are from Nigeria and job creation is a problem?

    @Ginika good points raised but the last sentence alarmed me (I am not attacking the point). Nigeria is an over populated country, how will 12 people create job opportunities that is sustainable for all? if I understood your point right.

    Personally, have always said it and will say it society change is a Process. Society is not made up of a person it made by individuals who share a common interest. I don’t think our society share or believe our common interest (A better Nigeria). They believe their own common interest which is likely to be self seeking and self glorying (not everyone that thinks about having a business thinks about the impact of creating jobs, some are moved by other things). I don’t the issue it creating job, it deeper deeper and deeper.

    In a nutshell, we need a reformation and how that would happen I don’t know. The situation Ofili pointed out today is still happening in other nations and even some developed nations. Those the nations that have moved on had to go through this stage and come out of it. For anything significant to happen, a change has to occur.

    A change is a process and it takes a while, most importantly what makes a change a change is the ability for it to make a significant difference. Until we change as individuals and begin to fight rigid, polluted and unrepentant system. Am afraid we will remain intelligent trying to deduce the answer and do NOTHING.

    For me to make a ground breaking change in Niaja such as speaking against the norm and being radical. You have to be selfless and not think much of your life but the LIVES of those that you will change. Ask Martin Luther KING. Every great hero had to die for his belief. Not that am saying we cant still go on to make little differences i.e. donate etc. But to challenge and try to get people to see or steer them from what they know is the truth. mehn………………………………………………

    The post is well written, thought out and makes sense hope it makes the impact and we the see the evidence.

    • Purpleicious Babe

      November 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      kia…. excuse the blunder in the English sentences… MESSED UP….

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks again for sharing Purpleicious babe.

    • iCrossMyHeart

      November 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm

      Purpleiscious Babe, what also baffles me is how 12 out of the 40 richest people are Nigerians and yet Nigeria, according to the recent statistic, is the WORST PLACE TO LIVE IN. The irony. There is something those 12 people are not doing right. Most billionaires come from DEVELOPED (US) OR ON THE WAY OF BEING DEVELOPED (CHINA) not poverty-stricken, crime-ridden country. But who is checking?

  30. cindy

    November 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    ofilli diz z a very nyc article,it has really changed my view about intelligence.growing up in Nigeria with the suppossed intelligence syndrome has made so many of us think that what life is about.with the knowledge i have acquired through this article,i think i would do nothing more than to put it into pratice and encourage those having challanges in that area.God bless

    • ofilispeaks

      November 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      (ofili dances Azonto)

  31. K

    November 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    My guy, you too musshhh

  32. iCrossMyHeart

    November 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Ofili I understand you are inspiring change through writing and speeches, but I am curious, what exactly do you do to help the less privileged?

    • mm

      November 22, 2012 at 7:42 pm

      Atleast he is using his talent to inspire people. That counts atleast.

    • Okechukwu Ofili

      November 23, 2012 at 2:40 am

      stuff…you can check out my site to see

  33. iamfascinating

    November 22, 2012 at 9:27 pm

  34. @miss_nwawe

    November 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    #reasonswhyiluvofili he hits d naiil on d head.. i wish my parents will read this, in my family everyone studies professional courses. imagine when i was in sec schl i told my dad i wanted to study theatre acts and he said thats not a profession its a hobby and today here i am battling for a 2.1 with honours in engineering. i can get y they advise my siblings and i to do well and why they flip when we fail maybe bcos things have not really been rosy but i think they crossed the line..

  35. OmoMakun

    November 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Ofili you speak the truth all the time, you have inspired me to think differently. Kudos to you my brother and keep challenging us!

  36. Chidinma O.

    August 29, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Yes the children are our future and that’s why it’s up to all of us to provide an avenue where kids can learn empathy, compassion, love and respect for others from an early age. it’s not only about intelligence you know?

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