'NIGERIA'LL OVERTAKE US IF IT HAS 24 HOURS ELECTRICITY, SECURITY'
As Nigeria has set a target of being among the 20th best economies in the world, a Nigerian living in the United States, Dr. Anselm Anyoha, has said that the country has the potentiality to excel.
Speaking with Saturday Sun, he said that with 24 hours electricity and security, among others, Nigeria could overtake such countries as United States and China.
He spoke on this and other things.
How would you rate Nigerians living in the USA?
I would identify Nigerians living in USA in three categories. One, apathy: To describe those who have given up hope on Nigeria; Two, confrontational: Those who attack and oppose everything that comes out from the Nigerian leadership at home; three, nostalgia: Those who are looking for opportunities to contribute and to add to the quality of leadership and development in Nigeria. You have to understand that most Nigerians living in the USA have tough love for Nigeria. We all want nothing but excellence for the motherland even though we might be approaching it from different angles.
Since he came to office, President Jonathan has been urging Nigerians in Diaspora to return home. What do you think? Are you thinking of heeding the call to return home?
The president is definitely making the right call at the right time. Roughly, half of my classmates from medical school are abroad. These are the generation of Nigerians that I like to call the 'independent day babies' because they were born in the sixties. Every generation has its domineering psyche. My generation is lucky because our parent's sense of nationalism that existed at this point in historical time rubbed off on us. As such, we carry ourselves differently, we behave differently and we have a peculiar sense of patriotism. The question is where is this generation now in terms of national consciousness? It saddens me to tell you that most of us are languishing in the nebulous cloud called Diaspora. This generation of Nigerians that are repository of knowledge and experience are running out of productive juice. The time to put them to use in Nigeria is now. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not taking anything away from other generations. It is just that those Nigerian born in the sixties are special. The sixties in Nigeria was an era of nationalism. Those Nigerian children born in the sixties have in them that which no other generations of Nigerians have.
With your experience in the USA would you accept government appointment if given?
What do you do when you are going to turn the fabulous 50 and you have practised medicine for the last 25 years? For me, there will be nothing more gratifying and honorable than to serve the motherland in a public capacity. Very often solutions to problems can be clearer when one is looking in from the outside. The same reason taking a vacation is a good thing, because one has stepped outside the confines of one's environment to reevaluate conditions. Therefore looking at Nigerian needs from the viewpoint of united state has some special merits.
USA experience has taught me that premium is paid for only results and hard work, irrespective of one's education and titles. Everybody is rewarded more or less on his or her ability to deliver on goals. In the USA, it is inevitable that one has to joggle many balls and wear many hats at the same time. With a family of three children, I have run my own private medical practice in the United States for nearly 15 years. I have also participated in the Nigerian socio-political mix. I am the chairman of the State of Connecticut branch of PDP, USA chapter. I was also the Secretary General (operation) of the GNGG USA, an organisation that campaigned for the president abroad during the last election. I am the publicity secretary of Igbozue, a socio cultural organisation that caters for need of the Igbo in the State of Connecticut. I am a member of the city of Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce. I am a Major in the American army reserve. I have written a book, published newspapers and so on. Yes, I am at the service of the president or any leadership that needs my participation, energy, and fervour advisory roles in areas of health, medicine, security, power or safety.
What would you say about President Jonathan's cabinet?
I do not personally know the members of his cabinet, to make an informed opinion about them. However, what is more important is not from where each of the president's cabinet members began, but where they would take the country to in the next four months or four years. Hopefully, the president has chosen people he is comfortable with; people that will help fulfill his agenda. I think that the president has genuine intention for the country and abundance of goodwill from the Nigerian public.
People have areas of strength and areas of weaknesses. Oftentimes, public servants start strong only to quickly go astray. To err is human. Developed countries, such as the United States, have recognised this human frailty and have put multiple layers of checks and balances to combat it. For example, government employees as well as their supervisors need to be supervised up to the last chain of command. Regularly, verifiable accountability should be baked in the cake of all public servants. Trust alone, as a measure of moral virtue in public service, is folly.
What do you think will make Nigeria develop like USA? If you set an agenda for the government what will you suggest? And what do you think would help Nigeria achieve its aim of being among the first 20 economically vibrant nations in the world by 2020?
Simple, give Nigeria 24 hour per day electric power and I can guarantee you that the country will take off, like Brazil and China. Add security to the equation and in 20 years Nigeria will overtake the United State of America in development. Who do you think most of the top doctors and engineers and IT experts, and professors, accountants, transportation moguls, scientists in America are? They are Nigerians. Never for a second doubt the trajectory, the 'I can do it attitude' of a Nigerian. Motherland is severely handicapped by lack of electricity and security. And that is why I also have interest in these fields. I know that I can contribute to solving some of these problems ones and for all. Forty years ago I used candles to light my room in the village. In 2010, when I visited home, I still used candles to light my room. This ought to stop.
We understand that you established an annual academic award programme in your hometown. What is this about and what informed it?
Thank you so much for asking me to talk about this. I can tell you without hesitation that this is what I consider my most rewarding accomplishment. I was born into a business family. Every grown-up I knew was a trader. My dad was a businessman. I used the word 'was' because I lost my dad (the Mbamaonyuku 1 of Akokwa) recently. I feel very teary whenever I remember the death of my father. But I found my academic epiphany any in life.
The point is that not every child born in the village or urban community gets an early academic epiphany. Often, there are no significant role models. The Anyoha Annual Academic Award is intended to stir among students the impetus to compete and to be recognised and rewarded. For a young mind, this is certainly a big deal. I give out certificates and financial awards to the first, the second and the third prize winners. A lot goes into preparation and competition. Participating schools in my home town, Akokwa, field in four of their top students at SS3 level. The exam is a 100 multiple choice questions in areas of physics, chemistry, biology, English and mathematics. The exam material are prepared in the USA and mailed to Nigeria each year. My secondary school teacher is one of the exam proctors and I liaise with the town union to give out both the certificates and monetary awards during charismas celebration. The community gets so much pomp and satisfaction doing this. We have done this since 2008. I have given more than N300, 000 in awards only. Proctors are compensated for their time and efforts. Yearly T-shirts are provided and the students get to take photograph with community leaders.
What also informed your philanthropic gestures in the areas of medicine?
Simple gestures do make huge differences in people's life. There are so many medical needs at home. As a paediatrician, I like to consult, diagnose and give out medications at local hospital in my village. Folks are always appreciative. You can see the smiles on their faces. Also I send drugs to community and urban hospitals whenever I can. Sending medicine to Nigeria costs me only hundreds of dollars at a time, but it helps better lots of ailments and suffering. I get lots of positive feedback from the beneficiary hospitals, doctors, parents and children. There are plenty of organisations in the United States that give out medicines to physicians on humanitarian bases. But, of course, the physicians have to pay for cost of transportation to Nigeria. Medications, such as antibiotics and asthma medication, are life savers when used appropriately. This is a little price to pay considering how much Nigeria has done for me. Did you know that I attended medical school for free in University College Hospital, Ibadan? I do not remember asking my father for school fees. But that was in the mid eighties. I have a lot to be thankful for. Giving a little back is the least that I can do.
Are you interested in politics?
I am not interested in 'politicking,' which I define as trickery and deception, but I am interested in politics. Politics, to me, is a means through which interested parties thrash out their differences in order to reach a compromise for their benefits and the benefit of the citizenry in the interest of peace, equity and justice. Humanity will always compete for food, power and pleasure. No two persons think alike and as we begin to dialogue with one another we can accommodate each other's need and that is what politics should be. Good politics create good policies while bad politics create backward policies.