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Wanted! A Thinking People

If creation is based on thought, we can become co-creators by employing thought also to solve our biggest problems. Oil won’t do it. Solid minerals wont either. Sorry!

By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu

It is difficult to take a critical look at Nigeria without getting angry. Before I proceed, let me say this is not about President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. No. It is about the progressive decline in development thought, foresight, research and planning. It is a constant of leadership in Nigeria which has blighted progress and pushed everyone down to the creeks in search of the goodness that comes from oil.

Several commentators, local and foreign, had argued that Nigeria’s oil may be a curse after all. They have not been proved wrong. This is because leadership in Nigeria stands on just one thing -oil. And I get really angry when I read our leaders lecture us on the blessedness of Nigeria but with special focus on oil and natural resources.

Agreed, Nigeria has oil. It has even been said that solid minerals domiciled under the soils of North central alone, are much more than what is found in the entire Asian continent. Sadly, those in that continent have never fallen back on the little natural resources that they have like we had done, and are still doing.

Every government in Nigeria, elected, selected or imposed, have always built its focus and hopes on oil. It has always been about how much crude oil sells in the international market. And we have taken that to such a ridiculous level as to suggest that nations need not survive because they do not have oil. Somehow, nations that do not have the sort of natural resources that we have in Nigeria, sit back and laugh at our lack of focus, thought and planning. In development planning, focus, thought and planning are critical.

Get me right, the whole story of creation is based on thought. If we explore from that alone, we would come to the painful realization that we have failed to use our brains; and are still failing to use them. Somehow, we suggest that our heads are ornamentals meant to sit pretty on fallen shoulders.

Thinking is critical in development. But are we thinking? Now, look at it this way. What exactly are we doing with our youth population? Are we thinking with them? Have Nigeria’s youth not shown us enough flashes to understand that our future does not lie in oil and solid minerals? Relax a little and think about the Nigerian entertainment industry.  I do not know exactly how much it is worth but my instincts tell me that we already have been shown, by developments in the sector, that our youths hold the keys to our future. The youth of the future will not think much about oil. They will focus on IT, sports, entertainment and allied sectors. That is where wealth lies.

In Nollywood and the entertainment sectors, growing from a few movies anchored on anachronistic technology, to the adoption of systems that had transformed film and music, Nigeria’s youths have proven that technology has a way of lifting Nigeria away from the lower rungs of the development ladder. Are we thinking? No!

Each time I visit the computer or GSM village either in Lagos, Abuja, Aba etc., I see the immense treasure of talent, skill and IT knowledge that can propel Nigeria, wasting. It pains to see those resources wasting. Look, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is a 1984 born who has no oil well anywhere in the world. He only has Facebook, a product of his brain. His worth, as compiled this month of May, is $51.8 billion. Jack Ma owns only Alibaba and his brains. His worth, as at this May, is $23.3 billion. Does that say anything to us? Yes, it says we are too relaxed on oil to use our heads.

Now, I imagine what would happen if we begin to make conscious effort to develop IT infrastructure and provide access that would enable our youth to develop their talents and skill in IT. In case we do not know, Nigeria’s population is youthful. And the unemployed ratio is youthful too. That signals a danger that calls us to think deeply. I bet that oil will not feed Nigerians. Oil will not guarantee jobs for Nigeria’s youth. Politics will not either. So, our best bet would be to begin to think of how to tap into wasted energies of our youth and empower them through creation of access for IT development.

As a developing country, Nigeria still has a lot to do with IT. And we certainly cannot go on importing our IT needs. It is not helpful to our development. Is it impossible therefore, for Nigeria to design and develop IT development hubs in the six zones of our country and encourage Nigerians who are engaged in every aspect of IT development to pool talent and skill and know-how to develop software and programmes that could help solve peculiar regional or continental problems? All it takes is thought, planning, research and development. But ask, how much has both state and federal governments deployed to research and development since 1980? Calculate that against how much federal government alone had spent on oil prospecting and you see where our mistakes are.

If we take a walk away from IT and visit sports, we’ll see another failure of leadership in our country. Sports development in our country, is sadly seen as waste of resources. Sports have the capacity to keep Nigeria’s youth gainfully employed. The sad commentary is that we focus so much on football which we even refuse to develop. Let us take cue from the United States. A proportion of its youth population is engaged in income yielding sporting activities. I think our leaders should see a way of borrowing, or copying, the template used to develop sports in the US which has turned it into such a huge employer of labour.

If you imagine the number of persons a single football club employs; or how many are employed by a basketball club, baseball, cricket, rugby, swimming, rowing, athletic club etc., you will readily understand why we are still battling with unemployment. If we are a people that think, we would have come to the realization that there is no state of Nigeria which does not have an area of comparable advantage in sports. Have we made any efforts to develop those? Kenyans are best in long distance races and this is attributed to their climate and altitude. Is the altitude there distinct from that in Plateau and surrounding states?  Sports is a huge employer and there is no argument about that. All we need is to develop the template that would re-create sports development and move the National Sports Festival away from the jamboree is has remained, to a talent hunt and development avenue.

Even our love for football has not encouraged the sort of interest and development that would make it an employer of labour. If you look at the list of earnings in the English Premiership, released recently, you will see what I mean. Yet, we love football. What I am driving at here is that sports can employ young people from high school till retirement. But we don’t look that way neither do we seriously look the way of IT and entertainment as massive employers of labour because we still believe oil will do it. A single IT patent can eliminate poverty from the homes of several Nigerians. But are we thinking?

A young man from Sokoto state, Jelani Aliyu, is celebrated by General Motors in the US for his designs. Dr. Patrick B. Usoro, an indigene of Akwa Ibom state and an engineer with General motors in the US holds over 50 patents having invented a family of transmission for GM. Several other Nigerians have grown from high school kids to become appreciable members of US and European societies because of what they had achieved in sports and entertainment (music and movies). These speak volumes about what the Nigerian mind can achieve in the areas of IT, sports and entertainment if our thoughts are focused on developing those sectors and making them play the roles they ought to play in driving job creation and economy diversification.

If creation is based on thought, we can become co-creators by employing thought also to solve our biggest problems. Oil won’t do it. Solid minerals wont either. Sorry!


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