NIGERIA has hardly got its priorities right. A situation where the rent seeker is capable of paying the Professor’s salary and still left with a comfortable balance; and where the semi-literates parade chains of chieftaincy titles and live in ostentation while the Professor’s take-home pay can hardly take him to the next bus stop; the question that quickly occurs to the youth is “why kill yourself reading, only to be able to speak grammar?”
No matter how we look at it, the future belongs to the educated. Education and appropriate recruitment processes make the difference between success and failure. They make the total difference between Singapore and Nigeria – while Singapore has rapidly moved from the third to the first world, Nigeria is struggling to avert relegation to the fourth world, so to say.
While Singapore ensures that there is a school for every child that wants to go to school; Nigeria erects a barrier, which ensures that less than 10 percent of its citizens who want to go to school meaningfully have the opportunity to do so beyond the so-called Senior Secondary School level. While Singapore sponsors its students to the best institutions across the world, after the looting spree, Nigeria is left with nothing to invest in education.
We have since stopped wondering why things may not be working the same way for Singapore and Nigeria. Singapore has a cabinet of 20 members: one Prime Minister; 2 Deputy Prime Ministers; and 17 Cabinet Ministers. The Prime Minister, Lee Hsieng Loong, attended University of Cambridge where he graduated with a first class degree in mathematics and diploma in computer science (with distinction) after which he completed Master of Public Administration, MPA, at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The first Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, attended the University of Manchester where he graduated with a First Class degree in electrical engineering and management science before obtaining a Master of Science degree in Computer science from Imperial College, London, with an MPA degree at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
The second Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, BSc (Economics) from London School of Economics; Masters Degree in Economics Cambridge University; and MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
The Minister for Trade and Industry (in charge of Industry), S. Iswaran, attended the University of Adelaide and graduated with a First Class degree before obtaining an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The Minister for Trade and Industry (in charge of Trade), Lim Hng Kiang, attended the University of Cambridge, bagging a degree in engineering before obtaining his MPA degree at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Chan Chun Sing, attended the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with a First Class degree in Economics before attending the MIT Sloan School of Management. The Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from Stanford University and a post doctorate degree at Cornell University.
The Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say, attended the Loughborough University, United Kingdom, where he graduated with a first class degree in electronics, computer and systems engineering before earning a Master degree in Management at Stanford University. The Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, attended University of Wisconsin–Madison in the United States where he had his BSc in Economics before obtaining a Master of Arts degree in Economics at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, and another MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University….
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan chose a postgraduate specialisation in ophthalmology and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K. Shanmugam, studied law at the National University of Singapore where he graduated with a First Class degree and top of his class….The Minister for Finance, Heng Swee Keat, attended University of Cambridge, where he obtained a Bachelor and Master Degrees in Economics before obtaining an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, graduated with a First Class degree in Engineering from Nanyang Technological University with an M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the National University of Singapore and another Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from the University of Southern California.
The Acting Minister for Education (Schools) and Senior Minister of State for Transport, Ng Chee Meng, obtained a BSc in electrical engineering at the United States Air Force Academy before securing his Master of Arts in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu Hai Yien, attended the National University of Singapore where she completed a Bachelor of Accountancy and an MBA. The Minister for Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin, attended the London School of Economics for his first degree before attending King’s College for a Master of Arts degree.
The Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Senior Minister of State for Defence, Ong Ye Kung attended the London School of Economics where he obtained a first degree in Economics before completing an MBA at the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland.
By any standard, this Cabinet is impressive.
Evidently, a ministerial appointment is purely administrative and assignments to the professions cannot always be rigidly made into a watertight compartment. But that is hardly an excuse for the overkill we have in Nigeria today – the Minister of Agriculture studied French; the Minister of Education studied accounting; the Minister of Solid Minerals studied International Relations; the Minister of Communications studied Law, the Minister of Transportation studied English; the Minister of Labour and Employment studied Surgery; the Minister of Budget & Planning studied Law; the Minister of Foreign Affairs studied Medicine; the defacto Minister of Petroleum Resources studied Law; and so on.
Where do we go from here?