Nigeria is an irony. We want good things but never see any sense in working to have them. We dream and it ends there. We never see the need to progress from dream level into the very productive stage of seeing vision, and by so doing retrogression has become our symbol. A society of nearly 200 million people is today referred all over the world as “capital of world poverty “. What a shame. A population of that magnitude anywhere is an asset on its own. Mineral resources or not, human capital well harnessed, sensibly deployed and then creatively nurtured would transform the physical environment and raise a population swimming in abundance.
In our instance the reverse is the case. High population that should be a blessing is now a big curse. We have succeeded in creating a monstrous gang that would eat up its kind and perhaps add destruction of the society as part of the unintended bargain. All because we can’t see. Perhaps it is time we emphasize this truth and tell it to ourselves again and again that “what you can’t see, you can’t achieve.” Until those who desire to lead are men and women of vision, making progress would remain what it has been – a mirage.
Last week something happened or better put, good news dropped from a far country: United States of America. What was it about? Our son until last week known to just a handful, Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, who read medicine in Nigeria few years ago and left for America to practice, emerged a leading researcher in the first drug manufactured by a company in that country for the treatment of COVID-19 also known as SARS-Cov-2 (Coronavirus disease 2019.) The news came by way of American mainstream media celebrating feats of a “foreigner”. Don’t mind me I know we have lost this emerging star to the Yankees who we all know have an eye for excellent men and women irrespective of where they come from.
In earlier paragraphs I had observed that our ways and patterns border on the ironic, knowing what is good but not knowing the way to it and of course celebrating products over process. No evidence can serve better than our reactions to the news of the new star in the firmament. From the abyss of suffocating despair nearly everyone of us rose up to cheer a genius from “Nazareth.” The cheers are high because none of us until this good news believed anyone with our blood could achieve such a feat. Suddenly, a gentleman we didn’t contribute anything to raise has become our star, a son in whom we are very pleased. Symbol of our hidden strength, I heard many say Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu is a perfect example of what we are capable of doing.R
Radio television, newspapers and the social media, all are up in cheers, our man has become the poster boy, face of the new generation. I reviewed all the reactions and I remembered what a radical lecturer once told us in class: ” failure has no friend” but on the other hand success has many fathers. It is possible Ogbuagu had no scholarship, he suffered alone but today he turned a child of all.
I share in the joy of this excellence especially from the standpoint that I know the chap’s father and mother very closely. I succeeded his father as Secretary to Abia State Government, but much more importantly, the feat validates my anger over the inability of the Black world to stand to be counted in world affairs. We can do spectacular things but the question is why is it we haven’t done them? Then the other side, it is a sad reminder that we are architects of our sordid situation. Collective guilt!
As we celebrate Dr Onyema Ogbuagu and rightly so there are truths we must take from the development and tell ourselves again and again until it sinks and even becomes part of development culture. It is true Dr Ogbuagu was home trained, but if he were to remain with us, where do we think he would have been by now? Employed medical personnel or certificate wielding graduate, speaking grammar, moving from one health institution to another trying to appeal for attention he may never get? He as well could be languishing somewhere while his less gifted but well “connected” colleagues get lifted and planted in positions, many of them far higher than their level of competence.
Let’s say by grace of equally highly placed parents this chap managed to circumvent the many obstacles we place on the path of excellence, at best he would have been a staff of one hospital, coming in the manner of imperial Lord to see patients at his own time and closing when he wants. He runs back to do private practice, just routine and life ends, but in America even as medical doctor, he was into research too. Different world. At a time I asked Professor(Mrs) Ifeoma Ijeh, “we have too many professors, where are the research outcomes?” She gave brilliant answers, all to justify failure. Deep down I laughed because I already knew that in life issues one of the most difficult matters to do is to explain why you failed.
We have failed in virtually every facet of life. Education, keep aside facilities as important as it is, we train, no outlet for graduands to ventilate knowledge acquired. You ask yourself what is the difficulty in establishing world class institutions, staff them, take statistics and provide opportunities for graduates to find actualization. In the 60s companies were everywhere: big shops like Kingsway Stores, Chellarams, motor assembly plants, tyre making, foundries, rubber plantations, farm settlements, huge industrial concerns. How come in place of growth and increase they vanished? Why don’t our leaders talk science, development and production? Common administrative structure for the country, we are still talking and quarrelling over it. Many have devoted time and resources struggling for unity that than they have done to economic development.
We are now clapping for our son for finding cure for coronavirus. He studied in our society, if he were here and announced he found one, I bet no one would talk to him, not one tier of government would look his way, not one publicly exposed person would acknowledge it is a worthwhile effort, we would be paralyzed by analysis, asking how many levels of scrutiny his findings went through before he made the claim. That is the kind of society and leadership we have created. We have become experts at selective imitation, because if we took all we find elsewhere, our circumstances won’t be what it is today. Our response to COVID-19 has been to watch, then copy and paste. Reactionary instead of being proactive.
Use nose mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance, order lockdown, impose curfew, sing no cure, stop sporting events and we did. But while the white world led the world to do so, each country commissioned a search for cure. Why would each embark on the journey? Simple answer: citizens’ health and money. Last week our health officials constituted a committee for vaccine administration, none is concerned if such foreign vaccines contain sterilization components or not or whether those imported vaccines could constitute health hazards in other ways. Ours is spend money, buy and steal a bigger chunk. Any wonder a society blessed with natural resources is borrowing even from countries it should be better than. Squandering of riches perhaps, I hope we don’t become like the prodigal son.
We must return our society to merit lane. We must draw up a vision and pursue. Political stability can be achieved in six months if those holding undue advantage would agree to sit with others to discuss new Nigeria to be run on sound ideology. Economic development should receive attention, the approach should be different from what neo-colonialist economists trained in western model insist we do. We can definitely lift our game, that is the biggest message Dr Onyema Ogbuagu is sending across to us by his feat in a foreign land. Congratulations our hero!