Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

I remember one of those electric mornings in primary school. We were asked to pick a song to march into our classes with after the assembly. The chosen song was ‘wherever you go’ and like a well-trained band of miscreants, we screamed ‘Gogogongo!’, ‘Sisi Eko!’ and ‘Baba Ibadan!’ louder than the actual words of the song. Our proprietress was so livid that she asked the whole school to kneel down as we wondered what our crime was. To our surprise, she said we had sung the song all wrong. Wait…. what?

If you never sang this song as a child, what can I say but apologize on behalf of all the cool kids.

A few days back, the words to this song drifted into my mind and I realized an important lesson hidden in the last line of this song: DO NOT SAY YES WHEN YOU MEAN TO SAY NO.

As we grow into adulthood, we learn to hate ‘NOs’. We learn how painful it is to want something so bad and face rejection. We have seen unrequited love, job rejections, failed academic applications, failed marriage proposals among others and realise that they are not palatable experiences. We quickly learn that No’s can be very painful.

Beyond being on the receiving end of ‘NOs’, we also decline to give our consent. Think of situations when you have had to say “no” to people you care about or people in more powerful positions than you. It is one big internal tussle. We even say no to good opportunities that don’t align with our values or don’t meet our expectations when it comes to financial remunerations. ‘NO’ is one of the most important words we ever learn to say in our lives.

When you agree to something you are averse to, you open yourself to inconvenience (in the present) and indignation (in the future). A man pressured to ingest alcohol or drugs, a lady pressured for sex, a child pressured into doing a course for parental satisfaction, a civil servant pressured into collecting bribes all sell parts of themselves when they succumb. The repercussions of these compromises may lead to a tangled web that many never recover from. Peer pressure is forever and can grow into pressure from powerful people and you have to find a balance in these situations.

Saying “NO” requires a certain level of self-actualization because you are more amenable when you are insecure or unsure of yourself. The idea of giving in to ‘let peace reign’ is also botched; because, even though you have avoided the external conflict, you have subjected yourself to an internal war. And internal battles are some of the longest and hardest battles we ever fight. This plays out in relationships where one person accepts everything done to them by their partners, at their own detriment, all in the name of being the bigger person. With time, you become resentful and this is the beginning of the end. It is always better to speak up, have a discussion and move on than give in and keep a grudge.

So, the next time you are caught at a crossroads between holding on to or selling yourself, let the lyrics to that childhood song remind you that:

Wherever you go (school, work, abroad, family gathering)

Whoever you see (friends, celebrities, parents, boss, lover)

Do not say YES, when you mean to say NO.

If you said Gogogongo! Sisi Eko! & Baba Ibadan! In your mind at any point, just know that I’m judging you.

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Ajayi Tobbi

Ajayi Tobbi

Content & Copywriter based in Nigeria, with 10,500+ views and an M.Sc. in Architecture. I curate emotions through storytelling and thought-provoking Op-eds.