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« The Month our Hope Lived | Main | Waiting for the Messiah »

June 16, 2006

The Most Intelligent People on Earth cannot Elect a Skillful Manager?

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- We may prove many people right or wrong by Election 2007. Others are the ones saying that Nigerians are smart, intelligent and arrogant, not us. This is not self aggrandizement or chest beating, though I have heard Nigerians talk about Hausa humility, Igbo creativity and Yoruba civility.

Where, where are all these wonderful qualities in the polity? A rich man once asked an intelligent man – if you are so smart, why are you not rich? He fired back, if you are so rich, why are you so stupid? Anyway, common sense and education is not necessarily the same thing. But whoever has common sense would get an education.

In the early seventies, as advised, I did take a bus from Montreal to Toronto since I was not fluent in French. Weeks later, I was introduced to a church that welcomed immigrants because they gave appetizing hot breakfast on Sunday mornings. A visiting Reverend to the church was told I came from Nigeria. He assured them not to worry too much about me, that I would survive because Nigerians are very smart people. Boy, I was so mad!
On the first Sunday morning, I got to church early before the first service, only to be told breakfast was after all the services. My stomach growled and grumbled. Funny! Not then.

A good manager is the one that knows the strong and the weak points of each member of his team. Some of us have been in situations where some professionals we inherited were labeled as totally useless only to be reinvigorated by a skillful leader. If we need to drive a point home, we may need a familiar example. Once upon a time, there was this Country called Nigeria with a State called Lagos. A Governor was elected called Jakande. The same rotten eggs he met in the Civil Service were awakened by change of attitude. The bourgeoisie did not like him. But, performed, he did. Every contract was calculated for profit, materials and labor. Even hardened crooks, have to think twice to steal a little. But some of us, who managed grants, had to monitor them before evaluation of the projects.

We used to ask our principal in high school when Southern Rhodesia and South Africa would be free. He used to tell us time would solve the problem there. We could not wait for time; we wanted the whole of Southern Africa free in our lifetime. It became even more unbearable when Ian Smith and Hendrik Verwoerd would say change would come but not in their life time. Change came, and it was in their lifetime and that of their constituencies. We want change in Nigeria, now, in our lifetime. Relief!

If you have been through Austerity measures, Structural Adjustment, lay offs and Paris Club payments while we starve at home, hoping against hope, let me see your bellies. We want succor in 100 days after election 2007 and pragmatic projects before we die! Please do not tell us about sacrifices, young and old people have died making sacrifices at the demand of leaders after leaders, promises after promises and one rosy projection after another. If nobody owes us a living, why can’t we have encouraging environment?
Government can not create jobs and meet the needs of all the masses but decisions made at the top affect our businesses and our families.

Before the 2007 election, tell us why we should not risk our life to cross the desert to Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and as far places as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan we hardly know, with all our skill and training or lack of. Is there anything in Nigeria to live for apart from bogus contract, armed robbery and family support? Many of us are not member of the Corporate Bums who sell their government contract two or three times before they get to those who have little left to execute the projects.

Nigeria is one place where politicians brag in billions how much they spend on Power Holding Corporation (NEPA), Public Works (Roads) and Water, yet we see little evidence of them. Are we blind or taken for granted? If reasonable amount of power, roads and water are provided, think about how many small businesses will employ people and the amount of families that will not ask for Government handouts or allocations. There will be smooth transportation of buses, cars, people, good and services.

Food prices have hardly gone down in Nigeria. I once wrote about the price of food going down in some States, hoping that it will sail across to other States. Before that happened, prices went up again. Leaders after leaders have come to realize that we have bad storage facilities in Nigeria and some people hoard commodities for higher prices. Skillful managers anticipate this problem before they become reality, especially in our Country where it happens every year. Without regular supply of electricity, we have some parts of the Country where we can keep some commodity dry and other parts where we can keep commodities humid, apart from small scale farmers we never implement it on a grand scale to provide for the masses. Cooperative projects elude some private enterprises.

There are certain projects Government can provide leadership for private enterprises: turning garbage into methane gas, solar power as is now done in some of our States and training of our police by our College of Education as once offered by Professor Babs Fafunwa. Each of these can be done through tripartite cooperation. How else can we describe a Country where all leaders and the head of State know that police can not do without 20 niara bribe from motorist?

We know that if we are dying, the doctor and nurses would not treat us if their fees for survival are not paid. The lawyers do not represent a poor man who has no money to pay for their services, nor will an accountant prepare or cook books for the sign of the cross. Which profession would work for free?

Each time I think about Dora, my dear Dora Akinyuli, I pray for her life because of threats. I do not know the woman from Eve. We all agree that she does a wonderful job. There is another side that I explored before which is the creation, encouragement and stabilization of an environment for authentic drugs, soft drinks and herbal medicines that are made in Nigeria. Each of these industries can be retooled to produce more jobs, cause fewer threats by working with the owners for alternatives. We need careful deliberations since the last thing you want to do is reward criminals. Call it carrot or stick approach.

There is a conspiracy somewhere. I may be a little paranoid. The professors of pharmacy produce most of these herbal medicines sold on the streets, buses and flyovers because many of them work very well. Some are children of or herbalists. It’s hard to differentiate those from fake, and that is why my sister is not willing to play with people’s life. How can we force the professors out in the open - by patent, regulations or loans? We have managers in Nigeria who can figure this out. If that is being done already, why not in a grand scale so that Nigerians can live up to our reputation of being intelligent? Please do not ask for foreign exchange or material, we want local production.

In the eighties, we had Volkswagens and Peugeot assembly plants that were run out of business. Soldiers had Mercedes V class (and obokun) painted green as official cars before and after hand over. What were our decision makers thinking? Foreign cars ran local assembly of cars out of business! There is no freedom to paralyze local economy by any individual. America or Japan will not stand for that. We are not asking Government for handouts, we are asking for skillful manager who will think about Nigeria first.

All my life I have heard about Ijebu and Igbo made products. What is wrong with them? We need Onitsha made, Jos made, Calabar made Idanre made and Sokoto made to hotly compete with them so that they can reach perfection. Who in Government is providing the environment or the encouragement? Again, I am not talking about handout. What is the role of the local Government since everyone wants a piece of the Federal niara.

If the Government decides to ban spare parts, is there a local Bornu or Aba made that is being encouraged? Sometimes, by devouring uncooked advice, the Government gives itself diarrhea by the unripe decisions they make. These decisions affect business and families. Can anybody really convince the world that Nigerians can not reproduce spare parts to perfection if the necessary quality control is there or ask one of the foreign producers to establish a factory in Nigeria? The assembly line can come with spare parts production as part of the initial contract. Redirect people’s way of making a living.

If we need to export paki for foreign exchange, do we make provision for greater production so that we do not starve people at home of gari? Malaysia now produces more palm oil than we do but they are not more intelligent than us, they plan for the future better than we did. There is no agricultural technology that is imported from Zimbabwe that we do not know in Nigeria. Knowing it is different from practicing it. After all, we used to feed the whole of West Africa. Used to? Get real, about today!

It is not how intelligent you are that really matters. It is how persevering that determines success. As for our children, I always tell them I was not the smartest kid in primary school, yet some of the most intelligent ones never made it to high school. In colleges, some of the most brilliant students dropped out because of other interest. Only very few and very rare lucky ones, made it as Bill Gate. The same in graduate schools, some intelligent ones drop out because they can not persevere. It is not how intelligent we are, it is what we do with it. It is the same with football or soccer. Use athletic scholarships to learn in school as something to fall back on. Every one can not be a basketball player. Who knows, you may be called upon for an opportunity of a lifetime. Be prepared.

Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa

Posted by Administrator at June 16, 2006 10:36 AM


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