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Ehi Agbashi: We Need to Understand that Failure is a Part of Life

Parents tell their kids to work harder, pastors tell their congregation to pray more, and teachers tell their students to read more, but no one ever tells us what to do if we fail. No one ever tells us about the emotional and even physical effects of disappointment. We are pushed so hard, but no one holds our hands when things don’t go as planned.



“If you continue curving every guy you will end up in Shiloh praying for a husband at 30.”

“Your mates are already university graduates, but here you are.”

“Who told him to run for that office? Look at him now he couldn’t even win after all the noise.”

These are a few of the criticisms I have heard people hurl around. They have been used to remind people that they failed to achieve certain goals at the age the society set for them.

In the Nigerian society, people believe that at a certain age, some things have to have been accomplished. One should be done with school by 22, married with a career at 25, and at 30 an individual is expected to have at least a solid home and children. What no one talks about is what happens when your life doesn’t go as planned?

What happens when you fail at achieving a major goal, and what happens when you never had a backup plan?

A lot of us graduate from secondary school with the expectation of getting into the university immediately, even if we are not sure this will be the case. No one prepares the Nigerian child for failure, even if we all know they will occur.

Parents tell their kids to work harder, pastors tell their congregation to pray more, and teachers tell their students to read more, but no one ever tells us what to do if we fail. No one ever tells us about the emotional and even physical effects of disappointment. We are pushed so hard, but no one holds our hands when things don’t go as planned.

You are expected to succeed and failure is never an option. If a child fails a class, parents believe he/she has been influenced negatively. If a woman isn’t married by 25 people throw snide comments her way. If a young man doesn’t have a job and a house at 30 he is viewed as a lesser man. I have seen people who would rather put themselves through hell than fail. They would rather study courses they have no passion for than appear as a failure to their loved ones.

I think that we fail more when we try to avoid failure, and I don’t blame anyone who is going through this because our Nigerian society at large has attached shame with failure. I really don’t mean to encourage failure, all I am saying is that we need to do more to help ourselves and others around us know that failure is a necessary part of life, and there are ways to make a more positive comeback after it happens.

We need to be able to hug our friends and let them know that they are not a failure just because they couldn’t pass one class. We need to let our children know that it is okay to try again;  if possible, try something new, if their plans don’t go as expected. Religious leaders need to remind their congregation that failure and setbacks aren’t spiritual attacks, and teachers need to encourage students, let them know that setbacks are to be expected in life.

Ehi Agbashi is a quiet and upbeat young lady who graduated with a double major in psychology and biology. She’s passionate about social justice issues, mental health (going to graduate school for clinical counselling) and ethnocultural empathy. She loves sci-fi movies, reading African fiction and exploring new cities. IG:@kyautaa Twitter: @kyaauta.


  1. Valerie

    April 3, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you for this

  2. Ugonna

    April 3, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    This piece is a whole angle! Thank you for this!

  3. Rosalia Nawa

    April 3, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    This is a quite interesting article!!
    Just earlier today, I wasn’t chosen for a contest I took part in.. It was quite painful because this was my first time ever loosing for a contest. I was soo used to winning every time that I never thought about what would happen if I loose some day.. And this right here encouraged me not to ever give up but to keep pushing. We learn from our failures!!!

  4. Esther Ideva

    April 3, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Great piece Ehi!!! I have very much learnt what it means to go through hurdles. my first experience of failure was when I started university and was no longer getting the straight A’s I was used to, it took a blow on me but my faith in God kept me strong. From that day till date I can’t count the number of times I have failed at things, although each disappointment weighs heavily on me and tries to beat down on my self-esteem I try to keep my head up. I refuse to give up and I refuse to back down, I truly believe all these struggles I’m going through is to prepare me for my future. For anyone going through disappointment, hold your head up. You are NOT your grade, marital status, employment status, job, degree, level of education, family history or personal history. YOU ARE YOU AND YOU IS ENOUGH! TREAT YOURSELF LIKE YOU WOULD A LOVED ONE. Take care and God bless.

  5. upeksha

    April 4, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Love this article!Thank you for pointing out that its okay to fail sometimes. As Failure is where the lessons are learned to succeed.

  6. Kris

    April 4, 2019 at 8:45 am

    You sound great dear

  7. GirlOnTop

    April 4, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Awesome write-up. So true!!

  8. Eunice Marnda

    April 4, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Well said Ehi, life isn’t all the way perfect sometimes so failing at something or not reaching your goal at a particular age doesn’t mean one is a failure or It must be a spiritual attack like you said, we have to understand that sometimes failing at something can be an encouragement to achieve something better. It is okay to try again and again.

  9. by_stander

    April 4, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Lets quickly get somethings out of the way

    1) failure is not something to be happy about but more of something to learn from.

    2) Not everything is a failure(especially when there is something to learn and it isnt finite) – its more of a case of opinion if you ask me, so for example if you are trying to impress others etc…

    3) failing while trying the same thing over and over again is the worst kind – maybe even a case of metal illness.

    and 4)

    In the context of Nigeria – the system has been specifically designed by Lawyers and Accountants to ensure that you fail.

    I am trying to talk about this without getting into the Chicken and Egg problem.

    So if you are failing in Nigeria it doesn’t necessarily mean you are bad at what you do or you lack the skills. Its just set up that if you are not a Lawyer or and Accountant you are highly likely to fail in this system.

    So i am bit worried about the authors assertion and i hope they are not trying to normalize failure to cover up the fact that the Legal industry is responsible for the biggest disaster so far known to Nigerians which could be responsible for countless number of deaths and making the lives of over 140 million people uncertain all for the financial benefit of lawyers, accountants and any other rent seekers out there that have no value to add to society.

    • Zsa Zsa

      April 4, 2019 at 8:51 pm

      The authors article was hardly an assertion. Just stating very relatable facts about growing up in Nigeria and the reality that failures/obstacles/temporary set backs exist but the society (you, me , everyone else) fails to acknowledge it. In most homes, failure is punished or ridiculed which shouldn’t be the case especially with children.
      I will not go into your views on the role of accountants and lawyers in Nigeria.

    • by_stander

      April 4, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      @Zsa Zsa

      like you said i think we can all understand that and maybe distinguish between mistakes and failures. and even more finite failure.

      over the years, i have come to accept that there is wisdom in Nigerian cultures. So if Parents are expecting that their children accomplish certain things by certain ages, that like a kind of milestone or assessment, can be a way to check errors in the system.

      And if those things are not happening then there can be cause for concern. just thesame way if a child is not talking or walking by a certain age.

      If mentally and physically a human child is okay, then we have to wonder what is causing anything we have come to determine as a failure.

      with that said we move to the realm of the environment, since this also has a huge effect on human beings. in our case, we find that Africa is the most conducive place on the planet for humans however it has the highest relative poverty rates – more especially Nigeria.

      That should be ringing alarm bells, because by all natural accounts Africans and Nigerians especially,should be the most prosperous people.

      In fact you will not find any reason otherwise, until you start looking at the policies and legal framework that governs Nigerians and anything that is related to prosperity.

      when you dig deep enough you will discover the architects of the system are lawyers, accountants and just about any other rent seeker out there, that has nothing to offer society.

      you will come to discover why there are so many distractions and may be appreciate that our culture reminds us that certains should have been done by a certain age.

      So for me, an article like this makes me wonder if the author is just naive about the system or if its a deliberate attempt to normalize and cover up the root cause of the problem.

  10. Cele-Ughanze Ifeoma

    April 5, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Well said Ehi, keep up the good work,as you keep enlightening the public may the Lord remain your strength and helper ?

  11. Anumudu Goldheart

    April 5, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Weldone Ehi,this is amazing.And i have learnt a lot from this article. Bless you dear.


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