Nigeria, Opinion

The NIS Recruitment Nightmare: A Portrait of Nigeria and Nigerians

a cross-section of candidates for the NIS recruitment exercise

The Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment exercise incident is a tragedy. Asides from the lives of 13 young promising Nigerians lost (as at the time of writing), our nation should mourn for many reasons: unemployment, corruption, gross mismanagement, and the list is endless.

It is very unfortunate that a minister has come out to say that the innocent people who died were impatient. I’m not surprised, the average Nigerian politician thinks through the anus not the brain (please don’t ask how that works).

I’m not waiting to hear from the presidency. Mr Abati and President Jonathan live outside the reality of the terrible state Nigeria has become, so their statements are very ‘formal’. When was the last time you found comfort, inspiration, hope and encouragement from a presidential statement, address, or media chat? Thank you, we can move on now.

A great man once said “we have found the enemy, and [alas], it is us!” I can’t agree more. The surface tension of insecurity, corruption and needless deaths in Nigeria are results of a fundamental problem: we lack compassion in Nigeria. A compassion-less system that places no value on human life is why we are where we are.

This doesn’t explain all our problems, however it does point out many other misgivings on which the Nigerian state runs.

Before we gathered thousands of youth in stadiums and other venues across the country, did somebody not think about crowd control and a work flow to avoid a stampede? No! In a compassionate country, the Fire Service will have determined if a fire code permits such gatherings, the police would understand that crowd control requires a large personnel on ground and it may be too difficult a crowd to manage, therefore tell the organizers to call it off. Even the irresponsible Nigerian Immigration Service would have known that since the number of applicants is huge, the test can be conducted in a very different way, instead of causing a chaos.

The Nigerian people aren’t left out. There is a lesson for us here.

We are so used to disorder and frustration that we would rather struggle for something than form a queue. And when there is a queue, there will always be one ‘idiot’ who thinks he or she is smarter than everyone, trying to jump the queue. In fact if only this attitude is corrected, life will be very different. Imagine if with a sizable crowd, there was order yesterday, we won’t have a tragedy today.

And the large number of unemployed people? Finally the truth is out. We continue to chide ourselves on a ‘growing economy’ with a very nice media campaign about how Nigeria is thriving economically courtesy the transformation agenda yet our unemployed youth are an enormous number. Unfortunately, we would rather go to the World Economic Forum in Davos, dash all the delegates a green-white-green scarf and take our finest musicians to entertain our prospective ‘foreign investors’ (who won’t come anyway because they know the truth), than take care of our mess at home. But then isn’t that what a lot of Nigerians are about, a public display of affluence even when some of the show-offs are genuinely broke?

Some have hinted that our youth should dream and create businesses. Well we are! And yes quite honestly the government supports through heroics like Youwin and Bank of Industry (BOI) SME loans, but come on, much more can be done! The essentials for doing businesses must be in place: Electricity, for example. Besides not everyone will be entrepreneurs. A good number will be part-time business owners, others full-time employees. No nation in the world has an economy where everyone is an entrepreneur. A good economy must cater for all, regardless.

Finally let APC and PDP, just shut up. This is not the time to throw political missiles. So the statement from the All Progressive Congress saying that PDP’s irresponsible rule caused this incident, is needless. May I point out that a good number of APC Members were once in the People’s Democratic Party? Changing political parties doesn’t redeem you from your previous wrongs. Therefore we don’t blame a party, we blame elected people who have not led well, both in PDP and APC! Besides for all APC’s noise, I still don’t know what their manifesto is.

At the end of the day, 13 young promising Nigerians (or more) have died and their families have been thrown into mourning, we must not forget them like we have forgotten the Aluu four or the 25 young women abducted by insurgents a few weeks ago. By the way, will the families of these departed ones be compensated?

 

Advertisements
Standard
Inspiration, Leadership, Nigeria

November 2012: Let Americans Decide, Nigerians Just Observe

My first encounter with a US election was very early in my teenage years. With a blue Walkman player (in the days before ipods and mp3s) I had discovered the Voice of America on short wave, and it was thoroughly fascinating that issues and happenings from faraway were now in my ears as real as someone standing next to me speaking to me.

That was election 2000, George W. Bush vs Al Gore. Eight years later, I was an intern in arguably one of Nigeria’s finest multinational Accounting & Business Advisory firms. It was my first real exposure to the corporate world, the corner office and office bureaucracies. It was spiced by meeting lovely ambitious people, young and old, intellectual discussions over lunch over sumptuous meals and appetizing deserts.

The topic most often up for discussion was Barack Obama vs Hillary Clinton. Clearly CNN on the plasma TV in the dining room fuelled the debate. It was exciting, educative and strange at the same time watching staff argue over the black candidate or the female candidate. Their knowledge of issues in the United States were deeply rooted in either an educational background in the States or Canada, a living experience of some sort in the US, a passport stamped over and over with a United States Visa, or hours spent watching CNN and reading Time Magazine.

It felt strange though as I couldn’t understand how an election in another country could resonate in many ways in Lagos, Nigeria even almost leading to factions existing in the firm. For some reason, I don’t remember Nigerian issues debated over lunch. I do remember vividly however, Nigeria being a butt joke for not winning a Gold medal at the Beijing Olympics despite carrying a plane load of athletes, however ONE man, an American, Michael Phelps had won eight gold medals, or so the joke went.

Looking back now, I do understand. I am now older, and I have seen enough to realise that Nigeria’s urban culture thrives on a sort of escapism. We are too ashamed to confront the realities before us, so we escape with our minds to ‘foreign issues’ and every four years when the US elections come around, we become Republican or Democrat. We hold our own small debates with our ‘elite’ friends over a drink, in office hallways, and even in church.

Anand Giridharadas wrote about this in his The New York Times article of October 08, 2011 titled: ‘In Lagos, Putting The Frills Before The Basics’, saying: “The prosperous have their ways around these burdens. Today they are as much a part of a global conversation as a Nigerian one, thanks to their technologies. The pockmarked, flooded roads beneath their feet toss them up and down inside their cars, but on their phones and iPads they can be somewhere else. The Lagos elite, I found, have more interest in, and knowledge about, the latest twists and turns of the U.S. presidential race than many Americans. One way to escape the afflictions of your own place is to preoccupy yourself with another’s.”

We all agree that US Election 08 was historical, with a worldwide effect. A Black man, Senator Barack Obama became President Barack Obama. I still remember being roused from sleep by boys screaming: ‘Obama! Obama!! Obama!!!’ around the University hall of residence, as they made a mad rush to the common room to watch the highlights on CNN. I was too tired to join as I had stayed up following the numbers on the Internet until I finally gave up and retired to bed.

This time in 2012, I have begun to follow the elections again but this time, my mind switches back to Nigeria with each thought. Last week as I watched a bit of the Republican Conventions, I wondered if the politicians in Nigeria watched this sort of thing. The organization was superb, keynote speakers were lined up to endorse Governor Mitt Romney. The speakers addressed ISSUES not PERSONALITIES. No foul words were used, intellectual arguments were put forward in an orderly manner and even the Obama campaign team know that they have to address certain issues, reassure Americans or get voted out.

Have we all noticed that no one is talking about rigging? That every address by everyone who has spoken at the Republican or Democratic Convention primarily addressed ISSUES?

I am especially impressed at the number of debates that go on before the election itself. Governor Romney debated severally with other candidates before he was nominated on issues around the economy, Defence Budgets, Tax matters, the Stock Markets, Job Creation, Health Care Issues and more. Nigerians do candidates within PDP or ACN have debates before their primaries?

Now you would also observe that both national conventions were attended by everyday people and not only rich politicians. The average American has a political allegiance rooted many times in family values, and upbringing. A huge percentage of Americans are Republican or Democrats, and take these loyalties seriously. How many ordinary Nigerians are devoted PDP, ACN or ANPP members? Aren’t our party meetings dominated by money sharing schemes, and dirty talk? Party meetings have few intellectuals and more touts and so what do we expect?

Nigeria needs to observe and learn from the US in this context. The average Nigerian is illiterate on issues surrounding governance in this nation and so it is easy for politicians to manipulate the populace. The common assumption that a government is bad, and only in power to steal, has made us as a people unwilling to hold leadership at any level accountable. If you disagree with me, I challenge you to tell me the name of your Local Government chairman, your State and Federal constituency ward of the place you reside in and your representatives at both levels. Many of us don’t know and this is where it begins.

The US is certainly not perfect, neither is the on-going Election perfect, however Nigeria has a lot to learn. Let Nigerians leave the debates to the Americans, let us only observe, learn the lessons and then we can debate Nigerian issues and hold our government accountable.

Standard