• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

This house has fallen

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Nigeria, like most African countries, remains a conundrum to global onlookers. Our enslaved past and colonial excuse has been dispelled by the precipitous rise of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) nations. We have become, as I once saw in painting, like labourers with tools, sitting with arms folded around a collapsed building, while entire household go about their chores as though the building were still standing.

Nigeria has severally been described as a failed state, both directly and indirectly. Every new government while spewing bitter diatribes at the last has attempted to dole out hope-a drift toward progress, as though we had even begun the journey. A visit to our local civil service establishments who are the implementation machine of every government policy will demonstrate the clear signs of a comatose system. While the ivory towers produce endless documents and plans to develop the country, the docile foot soldiers squint their eyes for the next pecuniary reward at the very cost of the endless volumes of papers on their desks awaiting implementation.

We simply cannot grow because we cannot produce. Our raw materials never did much good in the past nor will they in the present. Nevertheless, our journey must begin by acquiring the in-expendable skill of transforming raw materials into tangibly useful finished goods, which will find eager buyers on global stalls from London to New York, and Dubai to Beijing.

I have a difficult task of working in a government establishment within the health sector. I remember while on a round after resuming a new medical unit I encountered a lonely and abandoned patient on the ward. What attracted me to his bed side was the gentle abandonment he was receiving from the ward staff. Unable to pay his bills, with no relatives around, refusing albeit passively to be discharged and worst of all trapped within a government system with a non-existent social welfare, he lay there wasting! His lower limb decayed from bedsores, he had gone septic and was muttering things no mind could interpret. Flies attracted by the stench, perched on the dark emaciated flesh and buzzed. He was within a hospital, an abode of treatment, yet he died, slowly, with no treatment. As I left his bedside, weighed down by a sense of helplessness, I realized this was Nigeria. A slow death, yet we dance, celebrate, harbour hope but demonstrate no faith, unable to envision change.

However, we must exempt a few who have swum against the tides. They have warned us of the way we mustn’t go if we are to change the tides. Despite their warnings, the generation arising, born in the mid-eighties and nineties are bound to the same fate if the tide is not stemmed. The youth cannot give what they do not have, with incomplete stories dotting our history books, an unreconciled past, tribal distrust and tribal identities holding sway before national concerns, a culture of ‘self-first’ bred systematically in dictatorial school systems. We have learned how to take by force and not by diplomacy; become accustomed to justice being meted on tabloids not on evidence based charges. Where lies our salvation as a generation and an emerging Nation?

Sound education is a potent weapon which can break this mental stronghold, may be not in all, but in most. If fostered, it can engender a class of detribalized, skilled and productive citizens which can create multiple value chains and increase the worth of our devalued nation.

A robust evaluation of the educational sector is what this new dispensation may offer to stem this tide, not necessarily by increasing budget, but ensuring first, a transparent allocation and implementation of the already existing budgetary allocation. Furthermore, a critical look into the curriculum, placing quality output before quantity. In addition, the systematic development of manpower within the sector must be preceded by a calculated review of the manpower needs, not in numbers but in skill sets, after all a teacher cannot give what he/she does not have, coupled with an increased welfare support for educators.

Like a body is made of cells, a nation comprises people. They are the life force and determine the trajectory of the future. Build the cells, the body will be stronger. Build the people, enrich their minds with sound education from youth and the nation will be richer and stronger for it.

No country has developed without investing first in human capital. And the outside world cannot be of help to us here except we start it for ourselves. Let us focus and diligently invest in this demographic – the youth. Once this tide is omitted in this generation, all the voyage of our nation is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. We must seize the moment. Nigeria! We must set forth at dawn.

Tope Albert