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Something tells me that Nigerians, whether at home, or in Diaspora, are very highly educated, indeed one of the most educated people in the whole wide world. We love academics, and it will not be too far from the truth, if I say that Nigeria has the highest number of persons per capita ( Degree holders as a percentage of the population), with undergraduate and Post-graduate degrees in the whole world.

An analysis of US census data revealed that Nigerians-living in the US- don't only value education but surpass all other US ethnic groups, in the acquisition of academic degrees. According to a US census data in 2006: “37% of Nigerians living in US had Bachelor's degrees; 17% held Master's degrees; and 4% had Doctorates degrees.” Comparatively, the same census data revealed that “Only 19% of White Americans had Bachelor's degrees; a tiny 8% held Master's degree, and only minute 1% of white Americans had PhDs.”

The story would be the same if you beam your searchlight to the UK. Shift your survey lenses and you will see that Nigerian PhDs and Professors run South African universities and to some extent a significant proportion of US Professors are of Nigerian parentage, 90% of whom got at least their first degrees (Bachelor's degree) from Nigerian universities before relocating to these foreign lands to do their post-graduate degrees.

The question in my mind, therefore is “Why, with all these many highly qualified Nigerians, home and abroad, are we so lagging behind the rest of the world in all endeavours of study, particularly in Science and Technology, where Nigeria is paying very high prices because of its pre-historic and antiquated technology and infrastructure? Could the reason be that our graduates in almost all spheres of study "rote-learn" and lack underlying knowledge behind those fanciful degrees? And possibly rote-learning and reading just to pass examinations, without grasping the underpinning knowledge of those degree courses we like flaunting and totting about are to blame for our lack of progress in application of knowledge for development. Nigeria may not be alone in this poor application of knowledge: It appears to be an African malaise, but then again Nigeria trumps every other country in the world- when it comes to acquiring degrees and post graduate studies, never mind poor African states that Nigeria should be leading in all spheres of endeavour.

Nigeria is seriously lagging behind Europe, America, China, Japan, Singapore, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia- indeed below some third world countries when it comes to building a Nigerian car, Airplanes, Jets, Sewing Machine, Trucks, Industrial machines for our Factories ( if they still exists); Biotechnologists and Green-Energy policy and production. Our Computer Software Engineers-also produced in large numbers and scattered across the world, many in Nigeria- cannot yet produce adequate and applicable Software to drive the poor state of the economy and socio-political conditions of Nigeria. They still rely on Software written and produced in UK, US, India and even Taiwan and Malaysia to do anything- whether it is in Medicine, Architecture, Accountancy and Payroll, or even Security and Control programs (Any wonder Nigeria can't deal decisively with the rag-tag “Boko Haram,” six months after billions of Naira, military might and lives were committed to the mis-adventure?)

Let's even leave Science and Technology out of it for now and check out other areas of studies that needed only little application of brain work, with no Engineering tools and technological equipments, seriously lacking in Africa, required to make real impact across the globe, when juxtaposed against countries of the world, including Europe, North and South America and even Asia.

Let's go to Social Sciences and Business management. What are our Economists (many with PhDs in Development Economics, public Finance, and Monetary Economics) doing, or have been able to achieve?They have not been able to develop any theory of significance to the world of Economics; non have ever won the Nobel prize for Economics, despite their large numbers, and long history of producing PhDs in that area of study, neither have they being able to develop economic models that would transform the mess-called Nigerian economy- bedevilled by corruption, poor income distribution and abject poverty among the vast majority of its people in the midst of untold wealth in the hands of a tiny band of Locusts and Leeches- for over 30 years that we have been producing PhDs and Professors of Economics in large numbers.

Our Accountants are even more pathetic! They think the world of Accounting ends with passing the equally pathetic ICAN (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria) examinations; they do not take seriously CPDs (Continued Professional Development), and so are our Lawyers in the legal profession. I have argued in several forums that Nigerian Accountants and lawyers are to blame, largely, for the high level of wastages and endemic corruption in public and private organisations across the land. Nigerians waste so much time and resources in so many areas of their lives, yet Nigerian Accountants cannot put a monetary value to time wasted on Strikes, School closures, shut down of businesses on Election days (very ridiculous indeed, for elections that will be rigged anyway!), and even closures to register to vote ( Voter registration exercise for the 2011 elections cost School closures across Nigeria for 3 weeks because Prof Jega and his gang of wolves in INEC promised Electronic voting, committed so much resources and gullible Nigerians time and money to electronic registration, whereas they knew they will aid and abet the ruling party to do manual "Thumb-Printing in the real general elections held April, 2011!) Too much time wastage and laziness going on there in Nigeria and nobody (No half-decent Cost and Management Accountants to cost all these wastages of time and money, including opportunity costs of such closures of Schools and Businesses!) No one seem to care to count the losses, or have the capacity to profile all the Costs elements and quantify them in Naira terms. As a result government declare all sorts of meaningless holidays, shutting private business up, to celebrate Nigeria winning African cup of nations and such other mundane and ridiculous celebrations and sometimes “bereavements!”

I cannot think of any field of study where Nigeria and Nigerian graduates and PhDs have excelled in: Not even in the humanities, Arts and Philosophy has any Nigerian beat the best of the world, except perhaps the modest gains in the area of Creative writing and Literature where the superlative Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, and late Chinua Achebe won a few prizes in Literature- including the “Booker prize” but still could not win the Nobel Prize, probably because of politics, as the world class award could not be given to two Nigerians in an era, after Soyinka had won it in 1986.

I think the way forward is to place less emphasis on Academic degrees and focus more on Vocational Education. There are just too many universities in Nigeria today, most, of not all are underfunded and passes for no more than “glorified” Secondary Schools- both in infrastructure and quality of their products. Nigeria can't be parading over 100 universities- all poorly and inadequately funded- yet we do not have enough or appropriately trained Artisans in the system. It is a recipe for disaster!

Our Carpenters ( Cut and Nail, and can't measure a straight line, because of poor training from Road-Side Carpenters, ill-trained themselves) Plumbers, Mechanics, Bricklayers, Hair Dressers, Cloths Machinists, Electricians needs to be trained? This is the 21stcentury, for goodness sake! Our Artisans are pure junk; that's why I argued with Bolivia Ojumah ( a hospitality and hotel management analyst) that our Hotels may look super from the outside but internally the finishing and decorations are poor compared to world class standards. Nearby Ghana are producing decent Artisans and that's because they have good vocational study centres. Somebody should tell President Jonathan that we don't need a new university in Otuoke, Bayelsa state, his home village, instead that place should be turned into a vocational study centre or College. Vocational Colleges have the additional benefit of producing graduates who are capable of opening their own businesses- becoming job creators instead of job seekers- unlike the half-baked graduates , totting fake degrees about, endlessly searching for non-existing jobs in a near comatose economy, the products of poor education occasioned by inadequate and poorly funded universities, with corrupt, ill-equipped lecturers, who are producing misfits ( not fit-for-purpose ) graduates in this 21st century when the world is turning into a truly global village. Nigeria certainly is in trouble!

Tony Ishiekwene
([email protected]).

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Tony Ishiekwene and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Tony Ishiekwene