This was a twitter thread by Vincent Okonkwo ( @TheOkonkwo_Esq ) – An IP & Tech Lawyer; a Writer ( and a Founder (

Forget hard work. Forget talent. Access is a better determinant of the quality of your success. I will tell you why. A, a smart and hardworking Nigerian girl of upper mid-class standing, finishes from Vivian Fowler and goes on to study Statistics, Economics and Finance in UCL.

As an undergraduate, she interns at EY London and a London based accounting firm. 12 years into her career and she is back in Nigeria and is Executive Director, Finance & Strategy in one of Nigeria’s Telecoms companies and racking in the plaudits.

B, a smart and hardworking Nigerian girl, makes stellar grades in secondary school, scales Jamb and is happily admitted to study Accounting in a Nigerian University. For 5 years, she toils against a vexatious system, and finishes frustrated by a less than deserved result.

She graduates with no internship experience (unless she schooled in UNILAG or maybe OAU), and less than functional commercial/industry awareness. In one scenario, she gets retained in the University, which she accepts, despite not being particularly interested in the academia.

She isn’t much aware of the full implications of that choice. In 12 years, she is attending a conference and is lucky to listen to the Executive Director, Finance and Strategy of one of Nigeria’s biggest telecoms, who has had stints in EY, Goldman Sach and IFC.

In a second scenario, she graduates, does her NYSC in Jos and probably ends up working in an accounting firm in Jos. She does not bother attend conferences. She build a modest career, which she accepts as much as she can. It could be worse.

In a third scenario, she toils to get commercial awareness, gets a few roles in outfits in Lagos and 12 years down, she is advices a Nigerian startup, lives in Ikate and drives a good Toyota. She is not doing bad. She might speak at a webinar or two.Success is measured differently, yes. But it is bullshit to assume that every success is coequal. You can barely rig your out of the implications of lack of access. Which is why it is so damning.

First because, with lack of access comes both lack of awareness of critical things that make the difference – between good and better, between doing fine and doing stellar – and lack of awareness of the lack of awareness. You can’t know what you don’t know you don’t know.It is also damning because it barely ever depends on what you are, or what you know or what you can do. It is mostly a factor of the things around you. If you don’t have access, you don’t have access. There is only so few scenarios in which B becomes ED in 12 years.

Most would involve B going for further studies, preferably abroad. MBA from a business school in the top 20 Forbes rating, gives her a strong chance. But she hasn’t rigged her way through though. An MBA is access. A masters is access. Going abroad is access.We romanticize hard work and exalt talent. That is fine. But the proceeds of access have no equivalent. And like most things that are true, access is unfair. There is no equity; just arbitrary conditions we either enjoy, endure or strive to improve. Sometimes we can. Not always.

You can only become the greatest basketballer if you grew up in a country where you had access to basketball and could afford to learn. You can only be the first black president of the USA, if you happened to have been born a US Citizen (preferably as a half-white).Sometimes access is in the barest privilege. You can only be a great ballerina if you had the opportunity of learning ballet from age 5 or there about. You would not be one of the best writers in Africa, if you grew up into agriculture.

Some people flip the odds. Others succeed in another right. Michael Jordan could have been a good surgeon. B could get an MBA from Harvard and get access 10 years on. And that is the thing about access – there is no real equivalent.

*What are your thoughts on this piece? Leave us a comment and let’s know if you where you stand. Thanks

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