Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Nigeria of Our Making (I)

“All organisms, including humans, are greatly influenced by the consequences produced by their own behaviour.” - B. F. Skinner (1904 - 1990)

The reality of what we as Nigerians have turned our country into is unfathomable and gruesome. Owing to our (in)action we have subtly and (in)deliberately defiled all principles of nation building, corporate sanity and existence. The inevitable result is a nation without conscience - a people with no moral compass and of diminutive or no character; a modern day jungle where humans who are a little higher than animals, dwell. In the words of Chinua Achebe, a house that has fallen!

I made a gradual halt as I approached the junction seeing the traffic light change from the green-go to a red-stop sign. The driver behind me blared his car horn with careless abandon.

“Mumu, kuro l’oju ona. Kosi LASTMA nbe.” he shouted, sticking his neck out of the car window. “Mumu” in very genteel translation means “simpleton”. The driver simply wanted me to beat the traffic lights since LASTMA officials (the Lagos State traffic law enforcement agents) were not in sight. I wondered if I stopped because of them in the first place. He was obviously angry at me for obstructing his way. Whilst he was demonstrating his rage, a danfo (commercial transport) driver zoomed past cursing me with all manners of hands and face gesticulations and not without abusive words. My offence? I did not disobey the traffic light. With all these occurrences around me, I had to stare at the lights for the umpteenth time to see if I was not being a nuisance, unduly. Nonetheless, the red light stayed the same.

The other day, I once corrected a lady who threw her trash out of the window of the commercial transport vehicle we boarded together. The look of disdain on her face and the accompanying response cease not to amaze me. “It doesn’t matter.” she said, “It won’t make Lagos dirtier than it is.” I wonder if avoiding throwing garbage indiscriminately is just a matter of making the environment less filthy or about doing the right thing!

These two seemingly mere experiences capture what the characteristic Nigerian attitude has degenerated to. A diametric contradiction of this is termed anomalous. In simple terms, doing what is right in the present day Nigeria is viewed to be odd. I have asked myself rhetorically and severally: How did we get here? In the following, I tried as much as possible to sum up the current Nigerian muddle, no matter how cynical and derogatory it reads, with an objective to pose a most pertinent question: Where do we go from here?

The moral and ethic collapse siege on our nation has permeated all facets of the Nigerian system – education, public service, polity, healthcare, governance, religion, corporation, etc.

The quality of our education at all levels has been adulterated both in content and delivery. Almost every house car garage has been converted to a “Montessori” and/or “international” primary/secondary school. Our residential streets and cul-de-sacs are blocked incessantly by these faux schools to facilitate preparation for inter-house sports and sundry purposes since all the school surroundings have been built up to maximise profits from the business called schooling. Unwittingly, the innocent pupils tend to imbibe in their subconscious that they can barricade streets at will for no just cause and at anytime, no matter whose ox is gored.

Admission into our tertiary institutions is characterised by inexplicable nepotism. This might unarguably explain the proliferation of universities by every religious sect, state and local government, against the backdrop of the urgent need to increase the students-intake capacity and number of our institutions of higher learning. Majority of the resulting mushroom ivory towers (if they are to be addressed as that) are void of the most essential facilities and touchstones. By most standards and infrastructure-wise, they are extolled high schools.

What more can be said of the quality of graduates that are being churned out in their tens of thousand, annually? Appalling: To say the least. I would not want to undertake the laborious exercise of listing the repulsive characteristics of our contemporary graduates. However, one that will not fail mentioning is the lack of good written and spoken English skills. Most of these individuals can hardly complete a sentence in English (either written or spoken) without wanton grammatical errors. This is made worse by the advent of GSM text and online chat messages (with their accompanied inept abbreviations) which make some graduates write official correspondences like love letters. Office executives can bear witness. Conversely, their fluency in pidgin English (which they deem chic and fashionable) is impeccable.

The Nigerian graduate is not left alone in this pickle. Several times with disdain I have watched and listened to Nigerians butcher the English language (with no absolute respect for its lexis and structure) during interviews on television and radio. Should they be blamed, if we once had a Speaker of the House of Assembly that could hardly communicate correctly in English? It leaves one to muse if this same language remains our lingua franca.

Our institutions parade a charade of disciplines and courses with archaic syllabi on their curricula that provide little or no job opportunities for their respective graduates in the real Nigerian labour market. One would wonder why such disciplines should continue to be listed. Even the so-called prestigious disciplines like Medicine are not as celebrated as before. Our medical personnel are the most poorly paid when compared with their counterparts in the developing regions. This has informed an unimaginable flight of these much-needed human resources. Although it is obvious the quality of our education is pitiable, however if only we know how much resources go into training medical pupils, we will not want to lose them easily despite their ill-training. A few unlucky ones who have still not been able to ply their trade abroad are either grudgingly working at our poorly equipped abattoir hospitals while others are into something completely different. I know a doctor-friend who is now a full time interior decorator as a matter of necessity! The consequence of this unfortunate morass will be played out in the near future as we have succeeded in creating a generational gap of these special-skill individuals. Only time will tell.

Most of our graduates are not just unemployed but majority are unemployable. Apart from the fact that they lack the requisite skills to perform on a job (which is no absolute fault of theirs), they have failed to imbibe the proper work ethics. The typical believes a certain certificate should earn much income irrespective of his/her productivity level. Hence, they scramble to get all sorts of certifications with little or no consideration for self-application, personal re-orientation and self-development.
Kudos goes to the Nigerian banks which are doing a great deal to salvage a number of these unskilled individuals out of the overcrowded unemployment camp. Albeit, one must not be hasty to commend our financial institutions most of which were adjudged to be finance kiosks pre-consolidation. The post-consolidation of these banks did not but come with the Nigerian definition of banking. Our banks today are still witlessly deposit-driven while they are ever-reluctant to take even the minimum of risks to empower the smallest scales of business, not to mention the lack of professionalism, etiquettes, and work ethics a lot of them still portray. They have mopped the public of funds in all possible ways (IPOs, POs, mutual, integrated and hybrid funds, etc). However, these benefactors (the customers) find it extremely difficult to be beneficiaries of the same funds. In addition, coquettish young girls labelled as marketers are unleashed in an aggressive manner onto the corporate world to source for funds to meet the insatiable quest of these banks for deposits. Our banks CEOs have proved without doubt that these accumulated funds are just mere show-off armaments in their egocentric corporate armoury. Nothing more!

Please read the concluding part - The Nigeria of Our Making (II) - here.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

aaah..it has indeed been a long but sure road to perdition...we had it coming..ah..we did!