Mathematics was invented when language was found to be too imprecise for storing and conveying ideas. Mother A’Endu.
Sometimes, one read some very high sounding, if serious, missives. Lately, with the “deconstruction of APC and PMB myths,” the fable that Nigeria’s problem is leadership has returned with a vengeance. Yet, despite the solemnity of their submissions, nothing is more laughable. Nigeria has no leadership problem. Nigeria has an all-pervasive and corrosive knowledge gap problem.
It is just that those who know seem not to talk and those who don’t are full of sound and bleeding hearts to match. Anyway, somebody has just to let the cat out of the bag. Somebody has to speak that which nobody has been able to speak.
And what we have kept from telling ourselves is a simple fact. It is that the quality of the Nigerian human capital is low, very low. The corollary is that, if Nigerian human capital was tip-top, the expressive results of the fact would have shown in our lives and country. All that people require to be great people is in their minds, not in their voting styles or pattern. In fact, it is their minds that will nudge and guide their thumbs on where to print and whom to vote.
But one has to show empathy. First of all, it is impolitic to speak of oneself or one’s group being afflicted with low quality “beingness.” The usual thing is to spin oneself or group as the hero of the age. It is a social skill, one found most in use among the Yoruba. If you lived alongside the Yoruba, you would notice salutations like iya beji (mother of twins), etc. The point is that, most times, iya beji is used as honorific praise name, an oriki. It is given out freely to any lady who is carrying a pregnancy or chaperoning a child. The point is that the Yoruba have a genius for social and inter-group amenability and amiability.
But that is social intercourse. If one wanted to inquire into how the rain started to beat him and his community, methinks he need not be self-promotional. Here, another Yoruba wise way will save us much. The Yoruba have a proverb, as recounted by the irrepressible MKO Abiola, “if a body of relatives emerges from a private consultation laughing, then nobody told the other the truth.”
Today, there is perhaps no greater private conversation platform than newspaper pages and social media, among others. So, we are game. If we get about this game, then we will have to confess ourselves and to ourselves that, despite our pretences, we have failed and are failing. And the reason is simple. It is because the quality of our human capital is poor and cannot bear the cost of national development.
We sometimes miss coming to this “self-evident” revelation because of the selfsame problem of poor human capital. It is because we don’t know what human capital is that we measure it with the amount of cash balance one commands or, sometimes, the high office one holds. Ironically, those who have contributed most to European supremacy did so in the so-called non-rivalrous areas. Their contributions are so fundamental, they can’t be paid for. And many of them died penniless. One can immediately think of Nikolai Lobachevsky, the Russian mathematician.
The next noise we mistake for signal is that folks point at the fact of some Nigerian professionals who are doing mighty things abroad. Yet, under “diagnostic,” not just eye-level analysis, these men and their profiles tell us nothing. In fact, to suggest that these men’s performance are signs of mighty things is to say we have not woken up.
The details are as follows: as we speak, there are no Nigerian minds at work or play at any of the primary sciences, mathematics, history, philology, zoology, philosophy. What we mean by ‘at work and at play,’ is not to have learnt the subjects or disciplines, perhaps in the most prestigious faculties at Harvard and Yale. What it means to be at work and at play, is to have broken the mould and made fundamental contributions to these sciences. And the matter of this is particular in the “hard” sciences of physics, mathematics, etc.
To illustrate, we did tell an anecdote. A young Igbo-American with a freshly minted PhD was about a conference, Professor T. Afejuku tells. Like the others, the young scholar was streaming into the event centre when someone tapped his shoulder. And he looked back to see what the matter was. A white man spoke to him thus: I hope you are not missing your way. This is a physics, not black culture conference.
Of course the message is in the body language. The white guy was telling him that it was strange to see black kids come around places like that, where the matter was not Jay-Z or Davido, if you don’t mind. And that much must be true. If one judged by the number and depth of advances, if any, contributed by black peoples, including black Nigerians, one may go blind trying to spot one, just one. And, if physics is this bad, imagine how good it would be with mathematics. And mathematics is the queen mother of the sciences.
Now, a key definition. The professions – whether medicine, engineering, accounting – in themselves are not self-standing. They are bits and pieces of the primary sciences bonded together. So you (as a group) cannot really be any good at the professions – that is the secondary or wet-nursed sciences – save you are better at the primary sciences, their source or Ile-Ife, if you cared.
So, a Nigerian engineer is not worth much, if he has no mathematicians, physicists, etc. advancing, servicing and backing his careers. This fact must be understood. It is true it plays out in the group but national engineering service can be only as excellent as it is wet-nursed by the primary sciences.
The implication of this is that even the best professionals we have operate wet-nursed by the oyinbo primary scientists. At the group counterparty match, the grade “A” oyinbo professional is superior to the same grade “A” Nigerian professional. Let us illustrate this thus. Paddy Adenuga is an heir of one of Africa’s big fortune makers, Mike Adenuga. Let us say Paddy is worth $10 million on his own. The odd fact is that an ASPAMDA market counterpart worth $10 million is not Paddy’s financial mate or equal. What Paddy Adenuga is worth is something like this: his $10 million plus the (monetized) amount of moral hazard, that is, financial write-off, from his father, he can play by. If we put it at $100 million, then Paddy is worth $110 million in real, even if not book, terms. So it will be wrong-headed for my cousin, say, who is worth $11 million to bewitch himself he is the cash balance equal of Paddy Adenuga.
Paddy as an heir, is in a similar position that European professionals are over their Nigerian counterparts, if any. Those European professionals are working in systems designed and built up by their own primary scientists, not their professionals. Let’s give a live-wire example. The most famous ICT names among consumers is Bill Gates or Mark Elliot Zuckerberg. Yet, compared to the masterminds who constructed the ICT world, say a Claude Shannon, all these Gates boys and girls are completely inconsequential. Any other characters would have played their roles. So, no matter the amount of rust iron or golden Gates you generate, if you don’t have capacity to manufacture the Shannons, then you are not playing the league.
In accounting terms, their futures are pricier options. And yours has only a spot market value. Outside that spot, you values are dud. Nothing at all for Lagbaja, for your futures.
So, immediately it is clear that the examples the leadership kids point to are flawed, then other questions may be indicated. First, why have they not been able to come to the simple and rather self-evident fact that we have no human capital worth banking on? The countries that have apt human capital and little else are doing about well – Japan, Taiwan, etc. Our guess is that Nigerian men canvassing the leadership elixir are self-interested brokers. They want to be the leaders that they are looking for. So all these “leaders is the problem” spinners, are just it – job applicants. They have no appropriate brains, so they blame leadership. Ironically, it is this same leadership that they want to replace – without new thinking.
So, what is to be done? Are we doomed? Much can be done. But a newspaper page is not a big enough forum. But we shall give hints. Take this: The miracle of German football? They are the first untalented, even blockheaded geniuses in the game. Ahiazuwa.
Look, dear reader, I was out at Berlin the other day. And I can tell that Germans are not aware of this fact, that they are blockheaded geniuses, at least in the game of soccer. And yet the evidence is there, strikes you in the face. Our studies have now revealed what could be done to save Nigeria. It is a combination of Germanized ofo na ogu or, better, ofo-driven soccer Germanism and a certain trademarked formula.
Okay, this. The Germans did not invent mathematics. But fact is that the Germans are the most mathematical of modern peoples. Mathematics, by the way, is not about numbers. Mathematics is about crushing stones and pressing for milk. Mathematics is about magical logic. That is, doing that which is impossible, but logically. But the first duty for us all is to come to knowledge that we have no leadership beef. Next, we shall roll out the plans to out-navigate leadership deficits into developmental surpluses. That is the gift of the primary sciences. And mathematics has a primacy over these things. Ahiazuwa.