Yesterday, I was about a television programme. And the hostess said that Nigerians are terrific professionals, especially abroad. Out there in America and Britain, Nigerian professionals, especially doctors, are shining like a million stars. According to the anchor, all we need is to have these great Nigerian professionals tumble down home and make every Nigerian feel high. All that was lacking, in her words, was just the enabling environment.
Now, enabling environment is one of Nigeria’s hottest stock phrases. It apparently competes with “value chain” and “security architecture” for the most pop status and thus for most meaninglessness. If you doubt, ask, what is enabling environment? Nobody says.
Anyway, whatever that means, we are interested in one small detail. It is the claim that, if you trolley home the best Nigerian medics from America, etc, pay them well, give them the enabling environment, then our medical services delivery, say, will be tip-top. That is balderdash.
In this matter of flying in expat Nigerian doctors back to Nigeria, the following is indicated. Nigerian doctors in New York and Birmingham are world-class in the context of their total, not just enabling environment.
The details are as follows. If Dr. Bola Isa Chukwu is a superstar medic in Britain, he is so for the following reasons: Yes, he’s got the Ivy League diplomas. But equally importantly, he is and works under a total society jurisdiction. That total society jurisdiction is just as star bright as he is. By this we mean the following. If Dr. Chukwu has issues of plumbing in his house, if he has issues of education for his wards, if he has issues of municipal services, aka NEPA, potable water, etc, all these will be handled by professionals who are as good in their briefs as he is doing surgery. That is, while consulting on patients, Dr. Chukwu will have his mind focused on the job at hand. He will not suffer the “split personality” of having his mind leap off to his home, wondering if the ukazi soup his wife made has gone sour, as municipal electricity fails. It will never cross his mind that the policeman who may flag him down will ever ask for a bribe, etc. That is to be world-class, Dr. Chukwu is working in a world where world-classism, as it were, is routine. And the fact of it pervades every or at least the coordinates of life and living.
This leads us to the failure of transplanted Nigerian technocrats. Sometimes a dude who is reputed to be first-class professional asset in London, say, is flown down to Abuja. He is given a mandate to run one big-ticket federal institution or the other. Just give him six months and he is lost, a wreck. So also will be the institution he has been seconded to.
The truth of the matter is that there is no single mystery in this. That a Nigerian, say Dr. Chukwu again, is a specialist in a sub-system, say health. But his health sub-system by logic is only a sub-system among other sub-systems, like engineering, education, municipal service, etc. And these sub-systems, including his health sub-system, are tied and bound up in one whole (composite) system. And these other sub-systems as well as the whole, that is, composited whole system, are all run at world-class efficiencies and levels.
Now, the said Nigerian, Dr. Chukwu, has never in his whole life initiated and or constructed a whole sub-system, not to speak of composited whole systems. He has only been an operative, yes an excellent operator, perhaps even rising to be head, of a sub-system. And he only takes it as given, as it truly is, that the other sub-systems and thus the whole composited system will work at world-class levels. And these are complementary to his own works. So, Dr. Chukwu is just one of many sharpies working at those high levels of total system service delivery. And he is not a founder of any of the sub-systems or system.
So, immediately he is taken to Abuja or Lagos, he is assaulted by culture shocks. Nothing else works, except his small universe, and that putatively or even prospectively. To give a bewildering example, he finds himself assigned a battery of mobile police officers. The reason? Insecurity and the fact that he could be kidnapped. And Nigeria is not Iraq he wonders. This is a man who works as freely as air in London. And he gets home and discovers that municipal water is odorous and coloured. And he attempts to fly his wife into the country and the immigration officers, etc, fleece her. And so on and so forth.
So, how can a man as this who in coming to Nigeria is “born against” function optimally as he once did in London? And even more, it is hypocritical of “home-stretch” Nigerians who are into anti-efficiency habits to complain of sub-provincial inefficiencies. Take the typical serving police commissioner and a coup gang alumnus, for instance. Ok, police and armed robbers are already notorious as vampires of society. It may all be false, even forged. But, fact is, that is what the impressions say. So, they come in handy for illustration. And there is the retired coup-made general, a man sinless in image, but completely guilty if not rotten in substance.
Now, the police commissioner goes “insane” that despite high dollarised fees his wards are being given counterfeited education at their elite private schools. And he says that, innocently?
And the retired coup alumnus complains that Nigerians are too undisciplined for national development. Now, is coup-making, which amounts to no other than armed political robbery, a disciplined procedure? Is coup-making not an ambush? What could be as barbaric and disorderly in a civil society as an ambush?
To generalise, can a man corner bribe-eating and or coup-making turfs and be demanding that other sub-turfs of society be run on legal and civilised norms? Can one roguish lout upend his society, by ambush, by bribery, and come back to ask for world-class services, including the medical? Is insanity any harder to define than that?
That is why when a former head of state dictator criticised a journalist for taking bribes or being prone to, I called the journalist a fool. A fool? For not shading the dictator as the biggest thief in the trade. And the fact that every successful big thievery suggests and encourages a smaller kind. That is an iron lore. All else is in humour.
This is not a splitting-hair matter. What I have noticed is that just as Nigerians think their problem is enabling environment or value chains, or security architectures, we are incapable of whole and composited systems thinking. We are not able to think out the world in evolutionary or ecological terms. We don’t ever see the web. We don’t get to know it is, it has always been, a world-wide web. And the fact of a world-wide web has been, even in things as pre-digital as the founding of family, some 10,000 years ago.
The point remains, no man should be deluded he can game and upend one sub-system and the fact of it won’t harm the whole system. It never happened so, not even in the pre-digital, pre-world-wide web age. We are all involved. That is how ecology or evolution works. Evolution and ecology are in web like tie-ups with themselves and the world around them.
What happens may be said to be like this. If you ever had to change a burst tyre, just watch your motor services man. If he is good at it, the following will happen. Immediately he has inflated the replacement tyre, he did fit it by the axle hub. And he begins to put in the bolts. He puts the bolts by the cardinal or coordinate points first, jumping some holes. And he begins to screw or tighten the coordinate bolts lightly, one after the other. That is, he doesn’t tighten bolt A completely and goes to so do bolt B. No, he tightens bolt A lightly, and tightens bolt B lightly, unto D, and repeats, the procedure. At a point at which he believes the tyre is set or properly guided, he begins the operations of introducing the other bolts.
At the point at which the bolts are all fairly secured and all lightly tightened, he begins the penultimate rite of tightening. And it is only when he removes the jack and the tyre rests on the earth, does he begin the rites of final tightening. The moral, the ecological and evolutional moral in the story is this. You don’t screw in or tighten bolt A to its final positions and then go on to B, C, D, etc. No, at all points the tightening must be at a fair or related state, at all the joints or bolt holes, at any given time. No one joint or bolt hole should be too tightened for the coordinate rest. If as an amateur you did it that way, you would have alignment or even road accident issues. This is an iron lore.
That is to say, at no one time can one sub-system be far advanced of the other sub-systems or whole system. Such a state of affairs cannot hold together. If you insist on so doing, you may be about authoring a worse tragedy, a real-life tragedy than Professor Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
Takeaways? The world class happens, but only in a universe of coordinate excellences, not in an island of singularity. Mother A’Endu. There is no escape route for the smart. There is only if we are wise. Nigeria ronu. Ahiazuwa.