By Sunny Ikhioya
THERE is a video presently making the rounds about some youths attacking banks somewhere in Enugu State. On further probing, the video was discovered to be one of several recorded during the EndSARS protest, but now being recycled as current.
Watching the video is enough to put any right thinking Nigerian on red alert. The question is: Are our leaders watching this? A country that cannot educate and feed its youth is a time bomb. What are we doing about it? It is the shame of our country, of a society, whose people have become thoroughly debased to the extent of losing their essence.
It is two days to our 61st independence anniversary; how have we fared? The simple truth is that we have fared very badly; it is for us to collectively think out solutions. So far, we have taken recourse to the easy way out, and this is plunging us further into the abyss. People who can afford it are busy sending their children abroad for further education and greener pastures.
We are adding to the human capital wealth of other nations, while ours remain depleted. What will happen to this country if we all decide to remain and face the challenges together?
What happens if the president, ministers, National Assembly members, state governors, legislators and others decide to make their children to compulsorily school in Nigeria? What will happen if all of us collectively decide that we will only go on public power supply, irrespective of positions in society?
What will happen if we all decide that we must only use petrol refined from crude oil here in Nigeria and impose ban on imported petroleum products? What will happen if we abstain from avoidable imported ostentatious consumables that add no value to our collective well-being?
What will happen if our beverage production depend on the cocoa and tea plants harvested in Nigeria? What will happen if our textile products have to depend on local raw materials? Is anyone thinking about this?
What will happen if our engineers and researchers in every discipline are challenged to produce results? Some will argue that all of these are in the impossible realm. Initially, we may experience strong resistance, especially from people already benefitting from the old ways of doing things.
It might be tough and hard but not tougher than what we will face if we do not rethink our strategies. In the long run, if we stay focused the whole country stands to benefit. The pain will come before the benefit and our future; in fact, that of the upcoming generations will be guaranteed.
We will not be the first to try this method as we have seen the examples of India and China, both countries that are now very advanced in technology, competing favourably with first world countries. The issue, however, will be on how we can overcome the obstacles of saboteurs?
A wise man once said that “examples are the best teachers”; people follow the examples of their leaders, as you cannot be preaching prudence in spending and at the same time be engaged in conspicuous consumption.
You cannot be preaching unity and be seen to be dishing out very parochial management nuggets. You must get it right with your examples and the followers must see clearly that they are right. Our educational institutions are not operating rightly because children of our leaders are no longer patronising public schools.
I was with one of our top professors a few days ago and was surprised to learn that his child is attending a private university; it was very difficult to fathom this. If we all agree to send children of all public servants to public schools, something will be done to change the deplorable state of public schools very fast.
The same thing is happening in the power sector. Even at the presidency, money is budgeted for diesel and generator maintenance. If we have a functioning public power generation in place, there will be no need for that.
A government secretariat had to stop attending to the public for a whole week because there was power outage. Imagine, a whole week: no work done. If the same experience is felt at the presidential and ministerial levels, officials will find a way to make it work.
People perform wonders when they are compelled to do so. Let us challenge our engineers, technicians and skilled men. It has been proven that the intellectual capacity of man is not related to race, ethnicity and religion but, given the perfect environment and challenge, anything can be done by man.
What we need government to do now is to create an enabling environment that will enable these things to become manifest. Moreover, it is also well known that Nigerians in diaspora are performing as good as their counterparts in the developed nations.
The COVID-19 vaccines: Astrazeneca, Morderna, Pfizer- have the input of not less than two Nigerians. When we say enabling environment, we mean the entrenchment of merit into the system and the funding of researches.
Our universities must be made to perform like their counterparts abroad and should be the bedrock for developmental researches. It is going to take a good chunk of our budget, but the end result will be beneficial for everyone. We are in the age of technology and only a good education system will guarantee our effective participation in it.
University unions must be wooed into the whole scheme of things; both government and unions must work together to achieve results. When researchers achieve breakthroughs, there is avenue for job creation; so government must begin to open up training centres, more of vocational training; everyone cannot be in the university; people can pursue other endeavours and still achieve the same life goals.
We must reopen closed workshops and training centres in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering works. We must open centres for laboratories for lab technicians and artisan training; people who will later become useful in society.
We must open up agric training centres that will enable us maximise the value chain in the agric sector and not the least. We must re-inculcate the spirit of true federalism and healthy competition amongst the people and independent states in the the country.
I have always stood on the belief that these things are possible, but the leadership must be right. It is not too late for government to begin the process of building a viable future for our youths and generations yet unborn. They say “in diversity lies our strength”, but this must be done in a free and fair manner, with the required political will.
Ikhioya wrote via www.southsouthecho.com