Nigerian Diasporian under Buhari

Nigeria’s Fourth Republic will witness an unprecedented twist to its more than a decade existence on May 29, 2015.

For the first time since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999 and indeed in the fifty five years history of the country as an independent nation, Nigeria will historically witness the legitimate and peaceful change of power from one government led by another political party to another government led by another political party.

The world has continued to clap at the raucous drumming and the rhythm that has accompanied this feat. As conversant with many African societies, the temptation of losing the grip of consciousness or even, indeed rationality, at times in the heat of our gripping drumming, songs, dance and celebrations are as regular as bush fire in harmattan. But while we sit and enjoy the praises that comes along now, let us also for this once celebrate with some thoughts running through our minds: how we can become a better nation, how we can get the right people to work in the incoming administration to develop our nation the more and consolidate this significant gain that we have made.

As usual, and this I’m very sure is already going on now with the incoming Muhammadu Buhari administration, many Nigerians in the diaspora would be invited to come home and serve in various capacities. As ministers, as heads of public parastatals, as consultants, as thinkers, as strategists etc. This has been the tradition over the years. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, men and women constituting the bulk of the Nigerian diasporian population have been invited back home to work with the government both at the states and the center. The yardsticks for this selection and invitation have been too often based on the quintessentially African characteristics of what we term “qualifications”. So that the moment you have a degree from Oxford or Harvard, a PhD from any school overseas, you were automatically, almost with an authoritative finality, a candidate for government appointment, ignoring very salient elements such as proper background checks on the individual or work experience.

This system has over the years created a scenario whereby in trying to surf abroad for the supposed best brains to help with our domestic development we have rather substituted substance with form. In as much as we agree that the Nigerian diasporian population constitutes some of the best brains available in any part of the world, it is important to note that in trying to recruit them home to participate in nation building we do so with a lot of rationalisation. The Nigerian diasporian population too must also be made to understand that merely having overseas degrees cannot be an automatic yardstick for being recruited to be part of a home government. Fine, academic qualifications are important to kick start careers all over the world; but measures such as how long the person has stayed overseas, the qualifications gotten, the roles occupied at various strategic levels in the resident overseas country should be serious consideration pointers.

In talking to Antonia Garner, a senior strategic manager in health and social service in Britain,  she argues that What equips people with relevant tools to change or develop another system when they cross the existing jurisdiction are the experiences acquired over the years through direct and strategic involvement with systems, policies and procedures— how it works over there. These systems are not measured by qualifications, they are measured by participation over time which then grows to constitute experience. This is what Nigeria needs now.

Let me emphasise here, that in prioritising these values over academic qualification, I am not by any means undermining the importance of post graduate degrees. My position here is rather influenced by the fact that the Nigerian situation as it stands now is a very desperate one. We are citizens of a country where the population and demands of the people are not in any way matching up with the responses and interventions being provided by the government. And so it requires a far more dynamic and fierce urgency to enable Nigeria avoid the possibility of an idealistic stampede.

  • Diasporians should be appointed to take part in governments at home as obtainable in the UK or America, where for example, one can have a first degree yet considered to have more experience, earning more than a person with a PhD even with less experience. The task of nation building is a onerous one. And African governments, not just Nigeria should understand how important it is that in carrying out this task, those who are appointed and agree to serve their nations are being honoured and so promoted. This promotion should however, be done on the ability to apply theory to practice, not just based on qualifications.

There are millions of Nigerians, constituting the over fifteen million diasporian population of the country scattered all over the world who are qualified based on these values emphasised here. They have over the years in different nations where they are resident formed the bedrock of established systems, strong policies and strategy formulations of very thriving and highly developed societies cutting across all spheres of human endeavor. These Nigerians are those who should be recruited this time to serve at home.

As the world continues to cheer us on with this stride of a rare kind of transition in our history, let us also get it right with how we retain the rhythm of the drum.

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