Imperatives Of Adopting Extra-curricular Nation Building Approach

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi    
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Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

A path-breaking study has shown that globally, governments are resource and bandwidth-constrained.. And hence needs to prioritize productivity-enhancing policies. To do so requires information on the nature and magnitude of market failures on the one hand, and government capacity to redress them successfully on the other hands. This piece however believes that the second responsibility (capacity to redress market failures) remains the greatest challenge in the country’s leadership discourse, as it abbreviates development and breeds policy decisions that perpetuate poverty and consolidate powerlessness.

Despite this observed leadership shortfalls which daily distorts social justice and economic empowerments, my recent conversation with one well foresighted and quietly influential Nigerian based in the United States of America (USA), however, reveals that all hope for building a Nigeria of our dreams is not lost. As he argued that the holistic and sustainable solution to Nigeria’s problem is for the leaders to stop copying the people who handed over the country to us. 'We should stop copying London, to have a better society'. Nigeria and Nigerians, he submitted, should look for practical solutions rather than reading books and following curriculum. We should be extra-curricular in our approach.

On the nation’s education sector, he stressed that the educational system is faulty just like every educational system is faulty. The United State Educational system is faulty, but if there is no fault in any system, then, there is no improvement. What we call fault is a challenge and that is the basics of development. Now, our educational system is not faulty. Our educational system is still very sound. It is still the most applauded and encouraged all over the world because parents in Nigeria still train their children up to educational level. America doesn’t do that. Germans don’t do that. Nigeria is one of the countries where people still train their children up to university level. So, we still have one of the best educational systems in the world.

Regardless of what the outcome is, we are being judged by the outcome, we are being judged by how many people get employment. Having worked with the medium industries in the United States, I keep employing people who have a bachelor degree in Chemistry as people who end up as Cashiers. I have employed many people who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in medicine or doctorate degree in Law and they were employed. So, Americans have got used to it, that is why they are pursuing their education, they can just get a job that Nigerians have not gotten because everyone that graduates in Nigeria with a bachelor degree in engineering wants to work in Oil Company. And anyone that graduates with a bachelor’s degree in education or biology wants to teach.

That is not what they are supposed to do. Bachelor’s degree in education is just training to have the ability to listen to research. You just need your education to know where they are selling high and buying low. The truth of the matter is that our children have to know that working for multi- national Oil Companies is not the best result for studying engineering. And they have to know that teaching is not the best result for studying education or biology. You will just have a bachelor's degree because you will have the ability to research and your research could be knowing where palm kernel can be sold for N4,000 and knowing another place it can be sold for N10,000.

To Nigerian youths, he captures it this way; this is what I tell the youth because I am very happy that I started as a youth. Anywhere you are in Nigeria, you can be successful. You don’t have to come to America; you don’t have to get to Lagos Agbor or Asaba. At the age of seventeen (17 years), I was taken to Abuja. And I remember I was living in the village of Kubwua and I remember that at 17, when my brother went to work, I usually as a young boy come to the Abuja/Kaduna expressway to watch.

And it was then I discovered that even tankers carrying petrol carried baskets of tomato as well. That is when I discovered that the south consumes so many tomatoes. And the only thing I did was to go to Zuba market and meet with people selling tomatoes and start collecting rotten tomatoes. At nineteen, I told my brother I was leaving Abuja and I went back to Delta state and started farming tomatoes. And at the age of 20, 1990, I made my first million from selling tomatoes. Then that was when I decided that I wasn’t going back to Abuja. By 1992, I had made over five million naira (N5million) farming/selling tomatoes.

By 19, I told my brother I was leaving Abuja and I went back to Delta State and started farming tomatoes and by age 20, that was in 1990, at least, I made my first One million planting tomatoes. That was when I decided that I wasn’t going back to Abuja and that was when I decided my village was the best place for me, including the United States. So, by 1992, I had made over 5 million farming tomatoes. Then I was about 22 years old. So, if I go back to Nigeria today, I would be in my village and I would be making on average about 50 million a year.

Away from the youth unemployment challenge to the nation's health sector, he again queried; do you know that to have improved healthcare in Nigeria, we don’t need doctors? More people, he observed, collapse when they are at a burial ceremony or at the church than when they are in the hospital. People don’t collapse in the hospital. So, why do we have to keep training doctors on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? We should gather some personnel and train them to revive people anytime somebody collapses, it might be in a compound and the man is the only one available. They should train every pastor, or better still, make it part of qualification for ordaining pastor, to know how to do the cardiopulmonary resuscitation. So, if someone fails in the church, they(Pastor) will know what to do.

There are in fact, more people who have telephone numbers of their pastors than the phone numbers of their doctors. In similar style, he said, the government should train pastors and our local religious leaders on economic development strategies/policies. Rather than waiting for professors of economics- particularly,, as evidence has shown that People respect their religious leaders more than professionals.

So, religious leaders have become our primary healthcare system, they have become our primary stand, our primary economy, even our leaders. Take as an illustration, If some pastors tell their members to close their eyes while walking on the road, they will do so. That is the difference between America and Nigeria. The American government will call all the pastors and train them and now tell them to develop the nation. That is why you see churches in America preaching the same thing because they realized that people believe more in their pastors than in their leaders. So, you have to give the pastors more incentive to make the country develop.

Thus, What I tell the federal government as a holistic solution is that they have to understand the people who are ruling the people. Not to just understand that the law is what is guiding the people. You have to know the people in the motor park. You have to understand the pastor is running their lives and you have to train the pastors so that they can inculcate development of the nation into the people. So, the federal government has to figure out who is ruling the people. Is it the pastors, Nollywood/movie industry or the music artists?

On the prevailing spate of ritual killing in the country, he has this to say; the truth of the matter is that our youths who are listening to prescription are not educated. Most of these ritual killings are prescriptions from uninformed people. And, once we increase our level of education and they understand how useful they (youths) are, they won’t be involved in ritual killings.

What the youths need to recognize is the fact that if you don’t have a job in Nigeria does not mean that nobody is looking for you in Spain. Somebody may be looking for you in Spain, Poland, France and somebody who needs you more may be looking for you in Canada. They have not been able to exploit all the available resources. That is why they give in to the local prescription of ritual killings. That is just it. Ritual killings are a desperate attempt to gain power and success. He concluded.

I think there exists some ingrained lessons that both states and the Federal Government must draw and domesticate from the above admonition.

Utomi, is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374.


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