Monday, August 14, 2006

On the replication of values

One of the most serious problems a developing country like Nigeria faces is how to welcome talented people with a change agenda into positions of power and authority.
At present, the vast majority of Nigerians returning home do so under economic motives: they think they can make more money back home than they do overseas. Once landed, they either proceed to do exactly that, or they leave,
sooner or later. If one takes a glance around the Nigerian elite, one finds that it is populated solely by corporate types who work in banking or have senior
management roles within large corporate organisations.

There aren't any other types of elite at work (for instance, there isn't an intelligensia elite or a bourgoise chattering class). The more difficult trick therefore is how to lure back Nigerians who actually might improve the society with a
different set of values - interested in ideas, culture, research and challenging social norms with more contemporary attitudes. I suspect this is a general problem in developing countries - how to create ideological development and inject fresh thinking into conservative societies. The trouble is, those who are in power tend to select as advisors and thinkers those who share their values. So, in Nigeria, we have 'gender experts' appointed senior advisory roles who believe firmly in the evangelically motivated doctrine that women should be subservient to their husbands; or we have economists who hold that the way forward for Nigeria is to create sweat shops across the country. In other words, conservative, purely economically-motivated values attract their own. In societies such as this, people with fresh ideas will always be treated as outcasts and alienated, while mediocre talents with outdated views get rewarded.

People criticise Pat Utomi's candidature for the 2007 elections as a bit of a joke; as an outsider looking in, I only read interesting and innovative ideas in his interviews (for instance, the first thing he would do is kickstart two major rail projects - attacking infrastructure and job creation issues in one fell swoop). Which other candidate talks in such direct common-sense and practical terms?

At present, the Nigerian diaspora and its enormous reservoirs of creative capacity remains 99% untapped. The most valuable Nigerians out there are those who precisely would never dream of returning home. I'm not sure anyone anywhere has come up with a strategy to break this difficult logic (certainly, turning the Lagos Federal Secretariat into lodgings for returnees will do little to solve the problem).


Imnakoya 6:33 pm  

About a quarter way reading through your writeup Jeremy, I said to myself Pat Utomi is the person that can do just what you are talking about--"create ideological development and inject fresh thinking into conservative societies."

You didn't disappoint me; you can see a gem among the garbage that has accumulated on the Nigerian political landscape.

Akin 12:30 am  

Maybe Pat Utomi does have some seriously good ideas for developing Nigerian infrastructure, but you only a few months ago offered a link to an interview with him on the quest for presidency.

After reading that article, I was concerned about presidential aspirants who express their desires through martyrdom and in the case of Utomi, he had the view that contesting the presidency would diminish his stature.

Anyone who wants to rule Nigeria should have their heart in it whilst they bring their good brains to bear on issues.

As for returning to Nigeria, the episode with Okonjo-Iweala regardless of the underlying issues does not encourage many of us in Diaspora.

Imnakoya 1:10 am  

I must admit that that interview came across wrongly even for me- who believes in Utomi. I had since made a transition and now see a different person with great and well-conceived ideas!

Personally, I won't let events in Nigeria continue to mount unnecessary obstructions to seeing a better Nigeria. In fact, it invigorates me that there must be a change.

Opium,  1:25 pm  


How about starting a call to all Nigerians away from home to go home and vote in the 2007 elections. E.g. give "us" updates of the election registration process, haphazard as it may be, etc. Challenge people to use their vote back home where it will, in the long/short term, count for them.

"us" because though I am Nigerian I do not hold a Nigerian passport but that's another debate.

Akin 6:58 pm  


I suppose that presents an interesting situation, my Nigerian passport expired in 1995 and I never renewed having suffered enough from the suspicion that entertains a non-European passport when travelling round Europe.

The idea of Nigerians in Diaspora voting is a nice one, especially if consulates and embassies can manage the logistics of registering Nigerians and handling their votes.

It might be that there should be a proviso that those who have not visited Nigeria in the last 5 years cannot vote.

I was concerned when I visited the Nigerian ambassador to Germany and found that I could be co-opted into sorting out some IT related problems.

Is there anything about legally British citizens with Nigerian ancestry working for the Nigerian diplomatic service?

Imnakoya 2:43 am  

@ Akin:
Your question is very valid, and I strongly urge you to put it to the Nigerian consulate at your base.

Opium: To vote in NIgeria and elsewhere in the world, one has to be registered- have you name listed in a voters' register.

The issue Opium brings up- the 'absentee ballot' is unfortunately not an option yet in Nigeria. But it will be resolved in the nearest future- on one condition though. Progressives with practical ideas like Utomi must assume power in Nigeria, It is that simple!

As long as one is a Nigerian, and has NIgerian blood running through one's vein, it is imperative to look beyond the obvious and distractions and make some adjustments and allignment that makes this a reality.

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