By Polycarp Egodi
Globally, only a few men and women have stood out as examples on how to take on the realities of human society. The other day, Bill Gates of the Microsoft fame himself commended Aliko Dangote for his donations to charity around the world.
One of the few men that must be held out at all times for his approach to life is Bill Gates. Until recently, he was the richest man of all times. What is touching about his wealth is that it has helped him discover his humanity. He channels most of his wealth to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has impacted tremendously on humanity.
Exasperated by the Nigerian condition, he advised the Nigerian government to focus more on human resource development as a key to unbundling the nation’s latent greatness. He expressed himself in all sincerity because Nigerian authorities have not demonstrated decent attention to developing the human person.
Current statistics reveal that Nigeria has the highest out-of-school children in Africa and yet some people criticized Bill Gates for his statement. All the concerned philanthropist did was calling on Nigeria to look inwards by focusing on the right values centred on the people to enable its ascent to greatness.
Bill Gates’ statement regarding the importance of developing our human resources is most profound. It is not that he said something new, but coming from him has made it wear a new toga. Having observed trends in Nigeria, I know and can talk about a Nigerian who has not only constantly advocated the grooming of human resources, but has lived it out as a state governor and in his private life thereafter. Indeed, the case study of my master’s degree thesis is focused on his leadership style of responsible and responsive public service.
Whenever he is asked of his greatest achievements as governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi would not talk about the roads he built [acknowledged by the Federal Ministry of Works as the best road network in Nigeria] nor the over N100 billion he saved for the successor (being the only governor that did not leave a debt or borrow from any financial institution). He would not boast of the number of industries he attracted to Anambra State [including two “Fortune 500” companies] nor refer to the several national organizations he persuaded through deft diplomacy to partner with the State. He would not talk about the numerous erosion sites he worked on or many institutional structures he variously set up and attracted to the State.
With a justified sense of fulfilment, Peter Obi has always said that what was uppermost in his mind was how to change the value-frame of the people of Anambra State.
Peter Obi’s massive investments in education was in realization that education is the easiest way to change the mind-set of the people and to develop the human resources of the state. It was not lip service or a mere slogan for him as he took a commendable stride to return schools to their original owners – backing it up with over N10 billion in grants, structures and equipment. His administration provided N5 billion to the State University for capital development; while each of the State’s secondary schools got 2 buses, computers, power-generators, Internet facilities, bore-holes, sporting equipment, rehabilitated laboratories, among others.
The benefits soon began to manifest as the State came first in national/external examinations. Across the country and internationally, many people and institutions started looking upon Anambra with admiration and respect.
Against this back-drop, when Bill Gates made comments about developing our human resources, many felt he was responding to the gospel that Mr. Peter Obi has been propagating over the years. Even many years since he left Government House, he has continued to support education in all the parts of Nigeria: Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kogi, Sokoto, Ogun States, among other places.
We therefore agree that the smoothest means to develop a country is through its human resources. As Nigeria is at cross-roads today, we shall look for those who have done well at the local and state levels of governance to take on the onerous task of rescuing Nigeria from the brink.
*Egodi is of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka