GARBAGE REMOVER IN CANADA EARNS MORE THAN NIGERIA'S BANK MANAGER
As a child, he had great dreams of becoming a Catholic cleric. In the house, he became the unofficial chaplain and deacon of his family. From tender age, he was waking every member up for morning devotion, as well as praying for those who were in need.
After his primary education, Humphrey Achor was admitted into Okpala (Catholic) Seminary, where he spent five years, and later, moved into the Seat of Wisdom (Catholic) Major Seminary Owerri, spending four years, which prepared him to study philosophy. He graduated with honours from the Pontifical Urban University, Rome.
But when he arrived Canada, he did his postgraduate studies at the elite University of Toronto (UTM), and majored in Politics and International Relations. This stage sort of prepared him against what he had set out to be - a priest as he moved farther into some other fields than pasturing a church in white cassocks.
Today, he is a certified independent energy marketer in Canada. Achor has worked with various International NGOs and governmental agencies like World Vision and CIDA. He has designed development programmes on civil society empowerment, adult education, branding, and power alleviation initiatives, that have proved very successful in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
The ex-seminarian is actively involved in Canadian politics. In the 2006 federal elections, he met with former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin. In the same year, he received the Canadian House of Commons Award for Citizen Engagement. This was sequel to his roles both in politics and humanitarian/social services. In Canada, he is a mediator with Afro-Canadian Mediation and Community Aid Services in Toronto.
Achor visited Nigeria and spoke with Saturday Sun. The man who left priesthood to become a family man with wife and children has so much he would want Nigeria to learn from Canada.
'I am a very busy man in North America and beyond. I live in Canada alright, but my occupational activities take me beyond there. I do international development. I design programmes to develop rural communities in Africa. I work with NGOs, international non governmental organizations, as well as inter governmental bodies. I am the CEO of Leadeque Global Consults in Canada. I am also an independent energy marketer. This involves almost every aspect of energy such as: solar, electricity, commercial energy, hydro and wind turbines, etc.
Many people say Canada and USA are not ideal to raise children. How true is this?
No, I don't know where you are getting that from. Definitely, this is a wrong notion. To be frank with you, Canada is one of the best countries to raise your family. Generally, it still doesn't matter where you raise a kid. What actually matters is how you raise the kid. After all, I know that a good number of well to do Nigerians still send their kids overseas to get training. I know that the royal families of Britain send their children to Australia for training, at a certain point in their lives. And similarly, many Arab royal families also send their kids for training in America, and Britain. What matters most is how you train and develop your children. Again let me assure Nigerians that Canada is one of the greatest countries on earth, and a lovely place you can raise a child or family. In Canada, everybody has equal rights. It is such an organized society, and offers maximum religious freedom. The people of Canada also intermarry freely with the outside world. Canada is one of the most diverse nations of the world, and they are proud of their diversity.
An under-aged child overseas can easily call the police to report his parents, which is quite un-African. What does that tell you about the abuse and rights of a child?
I don't think it is un-African. This is because the African societal values are built on mutual respect. If one happens to be a kid, and you find yourself in a very sorry and ugly situation, and you feel your rights as a child are threatened, that means, you have to protect yourself. And mind you, the highest instinct in man, is self preservation. And if at the moment of protecting oneself, that child considers it imperative alerting the authorities, he or she would quickly do it. It is a good thing, and we expect a thing like that to start happening in Nigeria. In Nigeria, a lot of kids have been abused, and housewives battered and thrown out, yet nobody is talking about it. I expect we should have a more organized society that should protect the rights of kids, housewives, husbands, employees, the aged, and the handicapped members of our society. You don't train kids by abusing them. It doesn't happen that way. So I don't think is unAfrican, rather I feel is a global human system, that kids should not be abused. Any parent(s) that abuses kid(s), should lose the right to parenthood.
About half of Nigerian youths dream of living overseas. What do you consider responsible for this mentality?
A lot of things obviously are responsible for it. To an extent, I don't blame them because, the goal of life is happiness, and nature abhors vacuum. If somebody is trying to leave his country of origin in search of greener pasture, definitely it means something is lacking in that environment. For instance, a lot of youths, upon graduation from the universities think of travelling overseas. Commonsense quickly gives you the answers, as to what would make them relocate abroad. It is either in pursuit of further education, or gainful employment. Normally, after graduation from school, the society should be able to provide jobs for the graduates. The objective of going to school is to make a living through education.
And when you graduate, you would pick a job, that would help you settle down and sustain life meaningfully.
Is it true Nigerians overseas do demeaning jobs to survive?
Professionalism has a very high attainment level in Canada, as they believe the professionals will always do it better. But let me tell you, the mentality of people living abroad is quite different from our perception. Here in Nigeria people are afraid of risk, such that they don't want to leave their comfort zones to make trials, towards achieving success. If you are a Nigerian, you should know that people do worse jobs in the country, than in overseas. To tell you the truth, a garbage remover in Canada, has a higher quality of life and earns more than a bank manager in Nigeria. In civilized countries, there's nothing like dehumanizing and demeaning jobs. It all depends on the situation you find yourself in terms of job offer and occupational services.
One thing I have found is that when educated Nigerians go overseas to seek greener pastures and ensure higher quality of life, most of them might not continue with the profession they had back home. It takes a while for you to start doing things. Some Nigerians go overseas to pick up those jobs you referred to as demeaning yet, from that job, they build good houses and buy landed properly in Nigeria, train siblings or children in institutions. But in a sharp contrast, such jobs are not available in Nigeria. And even if you find them they are not payable, and no man can survive on them.
In the last five years, over 500 marriages involving Nigerian families have broken up in Canada and the US, and more than 65 deaths of spouses caused by their partners. Why?
I don't want to discuss families because every family is unique. I don't know how you got this. I cannot attest to that, because I don't have the statistics. But I do know that one of the reasons or factors that could make people separate is what I call irreconcilable differences, or finance. These are the two things that put pressure on a relationship. I am not for divorce. I am against it. Yet, I cannot tell people how to live. I am a married man, so I deal with my family's issues myself. It will certainly be difficult to do same on another family. It happens everywhere. We have a wonderful Nigerian community in Canada. They are very eager and passionate about what happens here in Nigeria. Anytime you meet three or four Nigerians together, and by the time they discuss for three minutes, they're talking about what goes on in Nigeria. They know there is no place like home.
The call by government that Nigerians in the Diaspora should come home and invest, have fallen on deaf ears, each time. What are your fears?
Most people in the Diaspora believe the country is turbulent, unsafe, and insecure to invest. Our people overseas have had that notion for long that Nigeria is not a fertile ground to do business. They have the eagerness to come home, but the assurance of safety of their lives and properties are not given. You come home and drop money, and in a short time everything you have laboured for is in ruins, or in sorry state. I give you an instance, one of my friends returned from overseas to build a very big 4-Star hotel in Aba.
But right now, the hotel is in a mess, deserted and unkempt, because of the security situation in the South East, the robbery, the kidnap, the assassination of people, political violence, etc. Meanwhile, there is no more patronage, and all the workers have gone; no more customers, because of growing wave of kidnapping and murder. Such things are making our people afraid to bring in their assets, money, and oversea partners down here. While these things last, the masses are the worst hit, as unemployment continues to soar, and families suffer. It is a chain reaction. President Jonathan has assured Nigerians home and abroad of his readiness to turn things around and lift the country.
Jonathan represents change. All over the world, there is a wind of change blowing across nations in leadership. Since Margaret Thatcher left office, Britain has produced Prime Ministers who are in their early 40s on assumption of office. They include John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and till date, David Cameron. Today, USA is being ruled by a youth also, in the person of Barack Obama. Putin of Russia was 39 years when he mounted the saddle. The same goes for the current ruler of Iran, Ahmadinejad. There are many of them like that. Our octogenarian politicians should retire permanently.
Are you home to participate in local politics?
There are always rumours. Man is a political being. I am into politics all the time. I am involved in Canadian politics. But above all, everyday I think of my people, my community where I come from, and what I can do for them. I dream of good roads and potable water for people, and other infrastructure that help people live a decent, modern life. I do community development in any capacity whether as an industrialist I can do it, or through partisan politics. It is with the same zeal that I'll want to serve other parts of Nigeria. I am from Ngor-Okpala, and have always had the burning desire to lift my people. I have the fear of God in me, having been trained and brought up by the Catholic Missionary.
The Canadian House of Commons gave you an award sometime. Four years after, many are still saying you were too young for that prestigious award.
For your information, achievements and honours do not come with age. That came to me as a surprise. It was indeed God's doing, and I am humbled by it. I am proud of it, and what I have achieved. The awards came in 2006, because of the roles I played in their federal elections. Canada is a country that when you sacrifice, you get the reward. They appreciate and recognise you. I owe it to God, and my family, for their support. It was a great moment for me to have received this big award in a foreign country. I am now more encouraged to come home, to see what I can do for my country. My belief is that, if Canada can recognise me this much, and I stepped into the House of Commons to receive the award, I am also sure, if I do remarkable things in Nigeria, this country will appreciate it so much, and the government will honour me with even higher award. This is why I am home. I want to contribute to nation building.