Let us ask ourselves some tough questions regarding our history, orientation and commitment in the pursuit of our respective professions simultaneously with nation building. Many would no doubt be tempted to postulate that to survive (or prosper/succeed) as a professional is a sufficiently daunting task not to mention the additional burden of nation building.
I plead with you not to pursue the easy option by dodging our moral obligation and profound duty with regard to the worthy endeavour of building our nation not just for ourselves but far more importantly for future generations.
The irony of it all is that Nigerian professionals have by default permitted themselves to be relegated to the second division … in medicine, architecture, law, engineering, surveying, journalism, banking, chartered accountancy etc. If the truth must be told, an objective reality check would provide confirmation that if you can succeed in Nigeria as a professional, you can prosper anywhere in the world !!
Nevertheless, our nation is in dire straits. Unfortunately, much of the blame for the chaos and impunity is being heaped on professionals instead on those who control the levers of power, namely:
• The Executive
• The Legislature
• The Judiciary
• and The Press
We all live in fear as victims of an overpowering culture of mutual suspicion and subversion. It may well be that as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of our nation, our detractors will confront us with damning evidence that we as professionals have squandered our goodwill further compounded by the mortgaging of our relevance in the construction of the edifice which we call Nigeria, our beloved nation.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the common thread among all professions is tutelage and knowledge combined with practical training with varying nomenclatures ….. apprenticeship; pupilage; trainee; articled clerk etc lasting several years before membership/professional status is conferred. However, that is only the beginning of the journey. To make a success of one’s profession, the first lesson is to be utterly convinced that being a professional is not about gambling or dabbling. It is a lifetime commitment. To put matters bluntly, you have to see your profession as a calling. Otherwise, you are much better off looking for something else to do.
By the very nature of market realities, every profession is a crowded field. Nevertheless, it is the duty of every one of us to strive for excellence. Obviously, it becomes even more crowded at the top. However, that is no excuse for backsliding. Indeed, it is the track record of excellence we are able to establish in our various professions that would procure the visa that would facilitate our entrance into the larger arena of nation building. Logic demands that we should recognize that if you fail woefully in your own chosen profession you are an unlikely candidate for meaningful contribution in the far more perplexing task of nation building.
By the same token, we are compelled to recognize that whoever, is not contributing meaningfully and vigorously to nation building by adding value, is almost certainly subverting it; destroying it; or deliberately retarding the progress of our nation.
In order to make it abundantly clear that it is not only professionals who are in anguish over the state of affairs in our nation, permit me to quote octogenarian Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, who was Minister of Aviation in the First Republic. This is what he said on CNN:
“I can only express disappointment; disappointment in the sense that what we are seeing today is not what we bargained for. It is not what we envisaged. It is not what we laid the foundation for. We laid a foundation for a big nation, united, peaceful, and prosperous and in a position to give leadership to Africa. We laid the foundation for a nation that would grow economically and politically. We the laid foundation for a state where no one is oppressed; a state that would be at peace. But today, I feel a sense of frustration and disappointment when, as one of the very few surviving nationalists or freedom fighters that fought for the independence of this country, I see what is going on.
The foundations we laid have been destroyed. The economic stability we set our tracks upon has been destroyed. The sense of nationalism and patriotism which informed our struggle for independence and the founding of the nation have all been betrayed. It started with the military, until the military handed over to their successors; most of the successors, being pure surrogates of the military.
There are a few nationalists or people who have nationalist thinking among the present government, but they appear to be in the minority. They are overwhelmed.
The level of corruption, the level of stealing, and the level of betrayal we see is not anything that we could have imagined at all. I feel very sad.”
The military destroyed every foundation we laid for the country. They introduced small and medium scale stealing, which have now been perfected, codified and legalized by the civilians who have taken over from them.”
What better evidence do we need to persuade us that the task of nation building is not for the faint-hearted or starry-eyed professionals?
Regardless, we must not despair or surrender to hopelessness. What qualifies us, as professionals, to sit at the top table are not just our knowledge, skills and experience. Rather, it is our sense of history. Our predecessors were unrelenting in their selfless efforts to build a worthy nation.
In medicine, we had the likes of Sir Samuel Manuwa (Chief Medical Adviser); in the judiciary, we witnessed Sir Adetokunbo Ademola in his full glory as our first Chief Justice; etc, the list is long and formidable. They have since departed for higher glory. Thankfully, in Engineering we still have Eng (Chief) SO Fadahunsi; Eng Victor A Haffner, and Eng Akin Adegboye who are still with us.
However, it bears repetition that the fulcrum between professionals and nation building is anchored on public interest which is in turn a derivative of trust and respect. Whenever, there is a deficiency of trust and respect between the professionals and the nation which has been entrusted into our care and custody, the journey of redemption is doomed even before it has commenced.
What we are witnessing is the paralysis of power (or the paralysis of fear) which has crystallized into death, fear and despair. Clearly, reckless impunity is on a collision course with contrived optimism and false hope. For reasons that are yet to be properly explained, those who are in power in our nation are being accused of treating our best doctors, engineers, architects, surveyors, chartered accountants etc as castaways who are relevant only when they subsume their credentials to “international” firms!! Perhaps the fault lines are on both sides.
Whatever may be the case, perhaps now is the time to plead for a pause or cease fire in the pursuit of vital breathing space. What is beyond dispute is that any nation that disparages or is contemptuous of its own home grown talents does so at its own peril.
By: J.K Randle