Last Saturday, a friend forwarded to me this headline: “Nigerians are receiving expired education, says US Varsity VC.” The story was published in a mainstream national newspaper. He and I have studied and worked in countries that supposedly do not offer “expired education” to their citizens and foreigners that study in them. Without wasting precious time, I sent him this reply: “Education does not ‘expire’. Besides, let the ‘US varsity VC’ provide the curricula for the programs the US universities offer, and compare with Nigerian universities’. We Nigerian scholars must not fall for cheap propaganda obviously aimed at sucking money off gullible Nigerians that would then be running to America for ‘unexpired education’.” He then called me, and opined that in Nigeria, academic curricula are not regularly reviewed. I disagreed with him over such unverified generalization, and reminded him that at our university, where we both teach, we have regularly reviewed our curricula. He surrendered.
Also, this week, a Nigerian patriot posted on our WhatsApp group an inspiring story about Nigeria being “the greatest country in the world”. Among other reasons, he mentioned the achievements of some foreign-based Nigerians. Quite expectedly, being in the character of many Nigerians, a Nigerian in the Diaspora responded thus: “I am always amazed as to how Nigerians define themselves in terms of the achievements of those Nigerians that ran away from that country. As one of these individuals, I am shocked as to how much I had to unlearn Nigeria to stay out of jail and achieve the little I have done! The Jilani Aliyu mentioned here initially was protected by the USA Secret Service any time he was in Nigeria. It is now that the Federal Government has taken over his protection as a Fulani man! Can he now design and build a car in Nigeria as the Head of the Automotive Agency? There is a big difference between feeling good and the facts of existence! I forced my friend to return to Nigeria with his fantastic reengineering societal skills, and was assassinated in Makurdi just because he had better ideas of how to pay salaries owed workers! Romanticizing our situation will not help matters!” I guess you have not missed his suggestive drift. You can infer from the number of exclamation marks in his just 158-character response that my friend is angry with Nigeria. There is a profound error in taking a sad experience, and making it into a big mountain of fact, which you climb upon to proclaim a message of hopelessness.
When I got a job offer in Nigeria (I had before then received another job offer from a different country than the one in which I was based—Japan, and was considering leaving my family in Japan, at least for a while and traveling out to that second country) and decided to return to Nigeria because of this, a friend of mine, who was based in Germany at the time, severely rebuked me for this decision. We spent more than one hour on skype discussing the subject. “Why do you want to go back to Nigeria?” he asked. “I give you six months; you will regret your decision.” I am sad to report that since then we have not been close; we drifted apart. The good news is that I have not regretted returning to Nigeria. About three years after returning to Nigeria, I had a misunderstanding with the president of my university (an American), and decided to leave Nigeria. Again, I got two job offers from two different countries. I had returned to Japan for a postdoctoral fellowship. After consideration, I was convinced to remain in Nigeria and help build my nation. I returned to Nigeria, and I have found out that in life, you cannot keep running away from problems, because there is nowhere that you will not find problems. You must learn to stay back and figure out ways of dealing with your problems. Foreign is not always better. Nigerians, in fact, all blacks, must learn to love their natural habitations.
When someone, just like my Diaspora friend I have quoted above, speaks as though accomplished people always have opportunities thrust at them to succeed, rather than creating or seizing those opportunities, I am also “amazed”.
Some years ago, I sat down in my house in Japan, looked at the colour of my skin, pondered the sorry state of my black race, and with tears in my eyes, I penned down my article, “The Black race: Myths, Realities, and Complexes”, which has been turned into a more than 500-page book. A white South African posted a response to my essay. I reproduce excerpts of it below in order to make you think:
“This piece was written by a black African – a Nigerian. This is a long piece. Parts of it are especially good and hit the nail on the head and reflect truths which I have observed and commented on myself…. I have a small book called ‘The Biology of the Race Problem’, written decades ago by an American professor. It is obviously the sort of thing everyone wants to forget. In it, he made comments very similar to what Jefferson said. He said that blacks are unable to come up with creative new ideas. There is something about them; when it comes to imagination (and I'm not talking art here; I’m talking about imagination as applied in solving physical real-world problems), that, they lack…. I could easily argue, and show you the history of Africa to prove it, that Africa progressed under white rule because we have more imagination than them. They look and see nothing. We look and see a Garden of Eden just waiting to be tapped. They only see what we see, once we have created it; and then they become jealous and covet it and want to kill us to get it. The minute blacks take control of a nation, it loses its vision/imagination and goes NOWHERE. You only have to look, all over Africa, even South Africa itself, once the black man arrives at the helm all the forward thinking dies…. Why do blacks flee to white countries in the West? Because they don't have the imagination, will, determination, vision, honesty, etc., to develop their countries; so they flee to where the White man rules so they can live under his guidance once more. This is a truth about black people, but NONE of them are prepared to face the truth; even though every one of them does it they won’t acknowledge this truth.”
Of what value is our education when we don’t value our own, take pleasure in foreign and despise “local”? We boast about “living abroad for many years”; “studying abroad”; “being married to white spouses or to ‘abroad’ spouses,”etc. Some Nigerians even would boast of “attending schools where all our teachers are white.” And so what? This inferiority complex is legendry! Let us strive to unlearn this complex rather than “unlearn” Nigeria. Some of our folks, sadly, have lost their families to “abroad”. Their children don’t desire Nigeria or anything Nigeria. We are living in an age of voluntary slavery when we easily sell ourselves to foreigners so cheaply.
And in spite of our “expired education” those smart foreigners come to Nigeria to advertise their universities and colleges that live off our gullibility, taking away our “expired education”-filled graduates away with their hard-earned naira, which they convert to their “God-endowed” dollars, pounds, and euro. We cannot see that they discredit everything that is dear to us so that they will sell to us their own at exorbitant prices. And how we bask in our stupidity and foolery! Our craving for everything foreign has for long been a metaphor for our stunted growth as a nation, and a burden on leadership. This partly accounts for our failure in our unending search for “good leaders”, whom we will never find until we have found our lost self.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba
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