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Bringing home Nigerian professionals abroad

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Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu

Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu

Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu’s invitation to Nigerian scientists, researchers, and experts in various fields to come home as their country needs them desperately is most appropriate. That call issued at his meeting with delegations from the National Mathematical Centre, African Mathematical Union, and African Academy of Sciences should, indeed, be seen as a cry from the heart.

No one can fault the patriotic concern that motivates it. Besides he, as a high official of this federal republic, is duty bound to say and do all within his powers to raise his portfolio higher than he meets it and his call is in order. He even promises to ‘look for Nigerians and bring them back [because] all nations of the world are built by their own people and not by foreigners’.

The minister is right on this justification, but he knows too well, that it is absolute wishful thinking that government can force any successful Nigerian to come home unless the incentive is tangible and real.

First, the question must be asked: how well are the researchers, scientists and experts who stay back in the country treated by the system? What facilities and resources are available to them to work with in order to compete at global level? There is too little available to these men and women to enable them excel in their respective fields. It is regrettable Nigeria is at this time unattractive to anyone who seeks excellence in his field of endeavour with necessities as basic as regular electricity and water supply not available.

It is trite even to say that if the operating environment is conducive, Nigerians would return to this country in droves. Professionals need key requirements to function optimally. Top on the list is a steady supply of electricity to do just about any business they are engaged in, be they doctors to perform surgical operation, researchers to conduct experiments, academics to read and write books, information technology engineers to design new products. If Nigeria wants academics to return, where are the modern tools to work with? Where are the laboratories? And where are the libraries well equipped with up-to-date publications?

Dr. Onu was quoted saying ‘ …science, technology, and mathematics have very important roles to play in nation building [and] it is the absence of science and technology that has kept us where we are’. He is not saying anything new. Section (2) of the extant constitution says that government shall promote Science and Technology. Microsoft founder, Bill Gates posited recently that America’s large federal budget for research and development (R&D) has been the country’s ‘secret weapon’ to achieve the domination of the world in innovation and the production of goods and services. President Muhammadu Buhari promised N3b to a research foundation. Pray, what can such a paltry sum do? Such gesture, combined with the fact that a paltry N25.85b is allocated to the Ministry of Science and Technology in the proposed 2016 federal budget, and a meagre N369.55b to Education speak for a lack of seriousness to create the environment that can attract talents into the country. But education is central to advances in science technology and indeed every field of human activity. Alas, education is not, as it should be, the highest priority in Nigeria.

It is axiomatic that home is where the heart is. Nigerians abroad would be too happy to make to their fatherland the kind of unquantifiable contributions they are forced by a hostile home environment to give to other nations. Even now, they remit into the Nigerian economy billions of dollars each year. Much of this, of course, goes into the hands of relatives. This is a huge amount of money that a focused government could access to execute productive development projects with multiplying effects. But it is private money that people will only put at the disposal of a government they can trust not to misapply or misappropriate.

There are many examples of Nigerians who by choice returned with the patriotic zeal to do their bit for Nigeria; there are many others who were headhunted to come work in government. Too many have been badly burnt by the experience of working in Nigeria. The level of intrigues, corrupt practices, of hostile attitude, of meanness, of bootlicking, that pervade there operating environments are simply unbearable. Some go back in frustration while some come off badly burnt in career or financial terms.

Other reasons keep Nigerians in the Diaspora away. They are used to an environment where life and property are reasonably safe, where terms of contract are respected and the rule of law of adhered to, where government policies are largely consistent. They are used to a stable polity not dominated by political and financial corruption and where politicians play their game with maturity and with the best interest of the nation at heart. Not in Nigeria yet. Which Nigerian would return to a home country where salaries are not paid for months, the federal budget is so fraught with fraud and so long delayed?

No one, regardless of any sense of patriotism, will leave a society where things work for one where things don’t; where corruption in high places is a way of life. Certainly, most Nigerians would be too happy to return and build their country but the powers that be must be seen, without a shred of doubt, to create the right conditions for it. This is what Onu and the government he serves in should not only speak about, but act upon.



10 Comments
  • Amukoko

    We have heard this call before. It will amount to nothing, just like the ones before this! We know how to talk, maybe, just to be heard or seen to be doing something. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • BENBELLA

    Well noted , BUT do you have space for them , Security , Electricity , Water , good road, good Paid Salaries , good health care system, NO Kidnapping ,NO Hire Killers Sir, Everywhere is home, as long as you are taking good care of your family , and with good pension , so why would I drop all that I return to Nigeria for what ?

  • bongabiz

    In order to encourage Nigerian professionals in the diaspora to return, a reasonable approach would be to relax/remove the NYSC requirement. Otherwise, this ‘small’ barrier will continue to keep our foreign-trained citizens from contributing to their maximum to our national development.

  • vincentumenyiora

    If only they can let your Ministry do this otherwise all the talks about DIASPORA contribution should be regarded as farcical indeed! We even tried your co-called Industrial promotion Agencies under Mr. Elumelu, No way; they don’t even send replies to inquiries yet there are lots of things the returnees can do to help you people out in your difficulties without cost in fact, am thinking about the fact regarding ‘brain gain for Nigeria! Log onto; http://www.virgo-enterprised.com you’ll see section marked ENIGMA on the Icon’s Contents and you can see Chinese idea on it ever before the trip to that country by both Jonathan and Buhari! Just log on to the website and tell me who has that kind of contribution for Nigeria!

    I have heard your officials claim that reasons why you will not take on DIASPORANS is due to the fact that you have counterparts in Nigeria therefore no need to bring ‘diasporans’ back but that is a layman’s excuse otherwise, after you have browsed my website and they have copy of my book – the Icon, you tell me if some of the policies and or solutions being applied in Nigeria are not lifted from the book – typical is the Option A-4 INEC is using and the latest (TSA) pronounced by the President are all in the book! My prayer is this: Whatever or whenever you are ready, please tell us where or how to access whatever plan of action your Ministry has for Nigerian ‘DIASPORA’ because we are sick and tired about/ with all the talks and promises in the air about progress for Nigeria none fulfilled!

  • Ify Onabu

    Pipe dream. Keep dreaming Mr Minister.

  • vincentumenyiora

    THIS COMMENT IS MEANT TO REMAIN POSTED FOR A WHILE HOPEFULLY IT CAN HELP THE THINKING RATIONALLY IN NIGERIAN LEADERS – they have gone to get Obama’s aides involved in our politicking, according to Mr. Fani Kayode’s expose PAYING UP TO $10 MILLION TO THE AIDE we are to be told where the fund came from and why it is necessary to engage such a personnel if not due to that irrational thinking going on in Nigeria about personal benefits about the politics of Nigeria! President B. Obama doesn’t know much about Nigeria and you people are not thinking about the eventual outcome of the involvement just because you want to be the government of the Day! Parliamentary system with the ‘Shadow Cabinet’ provision, which gave scope for contentment that given time you can form the government at any level in Nigeria was jettisoned under OBJ and you accepted the American system, which to you implies wrongly ‘winner takes all’ therefore makes aspiration to form governments in Nigeria a do or die matter hence the motivation or ambition to now go as far as creep into Obama’s political set-up obliviously – we may yet hear more about the ‘infractions!

    Here is part of the ironies about cry of Nigeria’s DIASPORA coming home: Read the comment on Fashola’s tasks on Nigeria highways in Tribune News paper and the allied housing programmes. You’ll think that somebody who provided the kind of useful observations or criticism with solutions for a major sector of the economy would be invited to call at the Ministry’s doors for such incisive observations and solutions about highways construction problems and the maintenance thereof, to render his own part of the solutions as depicted on the website! Besides that, what about the other valid and effective social and political contributions by way of solutions, which the governments have been using all these years like the Option A-4 by INEC and incidentally the (TSA)! An observer familiar with my website said to me that what is happening in Nigeria is that they ask for solutions and you are led to surrender what you have only to discover that you are not contacted again rather they look for their friends and pass your solutions or ideas on to these (friends) with promise of pay backs – i.e. ‘dosh money – that sharecropping I talked about’; they then treat your submissions and contributions as repository! It is not surprising that it takes longer time to arrest any bad situation in the country because those of the concepts are not invited to partake in the applications of the solutions submitted – those engaged often end up fishing about because they are not privy to such ideas in the first place!

  • emmanuel kalu

    first you want Nigerian’s aboard to come home. why hasn’t the government given the Nigeria aboard the ability to vote. Right now the country lack all the basic necessity for any reasonable person to function properly. Nigeria productivity level is closer to zero. you spend hours trying to purchase fuel, you spend hours in traffic, you spend days with no electricity, you spend hours trying to get food, no clean water etc. The amount of work that a Nigeria aboard can do in one hour at home, would take a Nigeria one month to do in Nigeria.

  • Boski

    A quote ” Think of what you can do for your country not what your country can do for you”. We can all contribute to move the country forward by being a little bit more generous with our ideas, exposure, experience, resources etc. Yes, the environment is very tough however that is the challenge, to find solutions. The next generation will ask us “what was our contribution to improving the country”. The Chinese, Indians etc are benefiting from the diapora as well. God bless Nigeria and Nigerians.

  • moses monday solomon

    On our way home but make the environment research friendly!

  • Dave U

    Onu’s comment is yet another indication of the ignorance of those running Nigeria and reflective of the tired old thread of “brain drain” philosophy. He insults hard working Nigerians in Nigeria by suggesting that Nigerians abroad are better equipped to run the country than the dedicated men and women working back home under various forms of indignities and disrespect. You are not smarter than the Nigerian laboring in government offices just because you ply the streets of New York; the main difference is that those working abroad are respected by their employers, get paid every month, and are accountable to their jobs. Nigerians abroad are no smarter or more intelligent and inventive than those abroad. There are thousands of Nigerian graduates doing menial jobs or nothing at all because the offices would rather be staffed by relatives of politicians than by those trained and qualified in Nigeria to contribute their excellence. The difference, I admit, is that many of those working abroad got admissions into universities abroad by actually taking and passing the qualifying exams for their academic interests, not by being admitted into various institutions with the help of corrupt relatives and friends; then many graduate absolutely clueless about their field. Many of the Nigerians Onu is inviting back were denied admission into Nigerian universities because of an inherently corrupt system that he seems to ignore.