I could not help but concur with a friend who told me recently that “Nigeria market women and day laborers are contributing more to the development of Nigeria than the PhDs and college graduates”. Think about it.
In the last couple of months, I have been invited to join several fora where some of the best and brightest Nigerians with great minds deliberate, debate and engage in intellectual discourse. Candidly, sometimes I feel I am not knowledgeable enough to be in some of those fora because of the degree of intellectual competence and insightful analysis demonstrated by the members.
Indubitably, Nigeria has been blessed with some of the finest minds in the black race. Some years ago, it was reported that the Yorubas are the most intelligent people among the black race. Whether you disagree or agree to that claim is another subject for discussion. But it gladdens me that Nigerians (whether Edos, Yorubas, Hausas, Igbos or any other Nigerian tribe) were considered as the smartest people among the black race. I see some of these amazingly smart Nigerians doing great things as Medical Directors, multi-million dollar Project Managers, Senior Engineers, Legal Advisers, Financial Advisers, and Political Advisers all over the world.
But truth be told, Nigeria today is like a nation of unintelligent people who lack the capacity for creative thoughts to change their sordid and dysfunctional society. The question is what happened to all these intelligent and “good” Nigerian people that they cannot come up with a decisive and transformational strategy to move the country forward?
I have been pondering on this question lately and discussing it with my fellow compatriots. Although my findings are not new but a reminder that we as a people need to go back to the drawing board and re-calibrate the governance parameters we defined years ago.
My teenage experience is a quintessence of most young Nigerians. When we gained admission to the university, our parents told most of us not to join the “Student Union Government” because they are bad boys there. All of them are mostly cultist. “They will kill you if you join them ooo; I no get pikin wey dem go kill”, my mom will yell.
My mother’s sentiment is what most of us grew up to hear and see in Nigeria politics and political process. We were warned by family members and even our teachers that “politics in Nigeria is a dirty game and a do-or-die affair. It is for thugs and not for the intelligent ones.” Nigerians are all too familiar with that cliché.
In those early years while our world views were being formed, we heard stories of our neighbors whose parents studied Abroad. When they returned to Nigeria to work and participate in “building Nigeria”, they were either killed or frustrated by Nigerians because they refused to join them in perpetuating corruption, malfeasance and sleazy deals. It is hard, very hard indeed to get those stories out of one’s head. They still reverberate today.
Visiting Benin City some years ago, during the former Governor of Edo State administration, I went to Ring Road (center of the commercial city). I noticed group of thug-looking middle-aged men indiscriminately whipping traders, kicking them in such a dehumanizing way. Majority of the traders were women. Some of the women had babies on their backs. I just could not take the sight of the abuse; I brought out my head from the car to ask them why they would be whipping women with babies on their back.
My relative quickly covered my mouth, told me to get my head back inside the car and said “you wan kill us?” I asked her why she said that. She said those are “Bob Izua boys oo”. Who is Bob Izua? I asked inquisitively. They narrated stories of him and the amount of control he has over the government and people of the city. When I inquired more about his background, I could not believe this was someone who cannot even make a complete sentence. However, he’s extremely rich through the Nigerian factor and controls a large part of the city’s transportation business. Only in Nigeria!
The story is not unique to that in Benin. All over Nigeria, we are controlled and ruled by some of the most docile minds you can ever come across because the intelligent ones refused to get involved and take over the affairs of running the nation. So I blame Nigeria technocrats who complain daily about the entropy and rot in the country but do nothing to get involved and change the status quo.
The more I see the downward spiral of the Nigerian state, the more I find prowess to get over the trepidation and apprehension of my mother. Should we continue to complain about thugs and feeble minds parading themselves as rulers or leaders in Nigeria or should we get involve and change things? This is a dilemma that many good, intelligent, technocratic and well meaning Nigerians grapple with everyday.
No nation of the world has progressed and developed when insipid, stale and visionless minds inundate the entire system of governance. Not until the technocrats took over Brazil, Russia, India, China, Singapore and Malaysia that those countries witnessed growth and development. Just less than a decade ago, these countries were still called third world countries on same par with Nigeria. But today, they are flourishing with productive and educated workforce because of the policies and reforms executed by technocrats.
Many Nigerian technocrats have jobs, legitimate businesses, political and non-political positions that provide them and their families decent middle-class living. So why get involve with the semi-literates and illiterates death-squad thugs that run the daily politics? This argument has been made but does no longer hold water if Nigeria must move forward.
Nigeria Technocrats need a new strategy and ideas to re-configure the current socio-political and economic landscape in the country. This is not about getting a large sum of money from a godfather sponsor to run for a political office. There is no new idea in that strategy. It is about using knowledge and modern thoughts that the old dogs lack to mesmerize them; thereby subtly and systemically wresting power out of them without gun shots. Think of Obama’s Community Leadership strategy that pulled the rug from under the feet of the Republicans. Before they could say Jose, he became the president and started fixing the damage done by the Republicans policies that brought economic woes to America.
Candidly, we never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, we need to build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
Nigerians are all too familiar with the guns and bullets approach. That approach is the path of least resistance. A new knowledge-based paradigm shift is the way to go. I have seen the knowledge-mesmerizing approach work when the thieving Nigeria politicians get to the Western World with their stolen wealth. They become like the proverbial “chicken” begging for explanation for everything. They shiver at the thoughts of speaking with an American just to hide their ignorance. Look at most interviews where a Nigerian politician had to speak with a foreign news network. You will see the lack of exposure on display – Christiane Amanpour Vs. Goodluck Jonathan might be a good place to start.
To save Nigeria, the skilled professionals, technocrats, knowledge-based state actors with the “interest of Nigeria at heart” would have to rise up and take over the affairs of the nation. Notice in the preceding sentence that “interest of Nigeria at heart” is in quote? Anyone with his country’s interest at heart will not siphon his country’s wealth and take it abroad to buy houses and keep it in their banks to develop those countries. Anyone with his country’s interest at heart will develop his country and people because of the future of their children and children children’s future.
Let me end this by re-iterating Edmund Burke “that when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle”. All that is necessary for evil men to triumph is for good men do nothing. God bless Nigerians and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Paul Omoruyi (Blog – www.diasporascope.com)