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What is the way forward for Nigeria, post-COVID-19 (II)?

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PHOTO: AFP

The need to invest in knowledge and human capital in Nigeria
COVID-19 is an invisible enemy, a non-respecter of persons and nations. It has shown us the reality of life that investing in data and science is important in today’s global knowledge economy. A major challenge is that what we know about the pandemic now is evolving and the need to invest in more research to better manage it is an urgent imperative. For Nigeria going forward, the need to invest in ‘knowledge infrastructure’ is urgent to reinvent the nation post-COVID-19. This is the core to managing the economics of post-COVID-19 and for our economy to be sustainable beyond our reliance on oil and gas. In the ‘new world, post-COVID-19, knowledge is the new currency. It is through knowledge and a strong human capital base in Nigeria that our nation will be able to thrive, beyond just talking about economic growth.

Since our independence, we have relied on oil and gas as our predominant resource base. It is from this that we have been generating income for Nigeria. While we acknowledge this, we argue that Nigeria’s greatest untapped resource base in the post-COVID-19 era is her human resource. We are sitting on an asset-base of youthful Nigerians who have the potential to reinvent the nation. We all have to understand that building this resource base is the responsibility of every one of us, not just the government. It is by building this resource-base and investing in knowledge generation and ultimately the nation’s human capital that we can thrive in the ‘new world, post-COVID-19. From all that is happening around us globally, old, traditional ways of thinking must give way to a new thinking about the economy. Knowledge linked to a virile human capital is going to be the new currency. The way we think, live and act will have to change from the traditional ways we have engaged with our economy post-COVID-19. We all have a role to play. We are all leaders even if we do not have a seemingly prominent portfolio to go with that. We might not seem to be seen or know, but what we do in relation to knowledge production is our responsibility.

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Knowledge is about facts, information, and skills. This includes how we engage with our daily lives even through social media. One of the issues during the current COVID-19 pandemic is the outrage of information shared through social media. Due to the sensationalism of the piece which many times could be aligned with our biases, we are very quick to share information which many times are unverifiable. As patriotic citizens, we argue that it is important to desist from doing this during this lockdown and beyond. Sharing unverifiable information through social media is not going to build a virile nation that we want to see. Doing this constitute a terrible, unpatriotic act of misinformation and disinformation. While this might sound seemingly unnecessary and petty, we all have to keep in mind that it is unpatriotic to do this. Only share information you are able to verify even if it seems an adrenalin rush to quickly share it. Leave news reporting to professional journalists who have been trained to share such knowing the commitment they have make to their profession. Share that which empowers and will enable other people. Let us all abstain from sharing news that could be termed as ‘fake news’, irrespective of the social media platform you are using, including WhatsApp.

Formally, our school system has a role to play in the knowledge production and building the human capital we would draw on to build a post-COVID-19 Nigeria. Our post-school system has the same responsibility as well. In other words, both the school and post-school system, private and public, have a role to play in the post-COVID-19 Nigeria. Again, we are all stakeholders including the parents who enroll the children at these schools. Education is a lifelong experience and goes beyond the race to get your children as quickly as possible through the school system to show their aptitude. We must have all hands-on deck to build a generation of youth that are truly passionate about learning and knowledge. Let each parent and guardian encourage their wards to truly want to acquire knowledge to solve society challenges. Nations that will thrive will be those who have the right understanding that the gamechanger in the next phase is about building a capacity for the present and the future.

Again, we are all stakeholders: people in government and people outside government, including all voters. Yes, the post-school system in Nigeria has to be revisited and realigned with the post-COVID-19 era, which will be aggressively knowledge-driven than before even as we enter a new phase of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The national institutional structures saddled with education in Nigeria must rethink the curriculum in school and post-school system. We live in a world that is very dynamic with different challenges requiring different solutions. Most of the current challenges we are facing are too complex and cannot be solved within the context of past knowledge, though yesterday’s understanding could be foundational to understanding today and the future. This is the time to revisit our school’s curricula across our school systems. Knowledge is the new currency. How we generate it must be revisited especially in our tertiary education system in Nigeria. Seriously, it would not be business as usual post-COVID-19. We must educate for life, investing in knowledge production and build a nation that can compete within the region, at the continental and global level.

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Beyond our initial clarion call for us to re-engage our personal self and the soul of our nation, this is the time to place premium value on knowledge generation and production. This is the time we have to all be critical thinkers as we engage the post-COVID-19 era. If in the present we all have to seek help from within since globally we are in a lockdown, it is only through data, science and expertise that we would be able to find solutions. These solutions are rooted in knowledge and world-class expertise. The Lagos State Government has shown the way through the world-class response they have shown during this COVID-19 global pandemic. This has been commended by the global community. The persons at the forefront are people leading by knowledge and expertise, not sentiments. We can see that while entertainment has its place in the nation, its limitations are very clear. Knowledge leads always and we have to build this going forward.

Everyone of us reading this has an agency to make the difference in our nation. Let us ALL decide to be the solution, starting from our immediate families and communities. We have honestly gone beyond complaining about all that is wrong. We know all these already. We have to be the solution and part of the solutions to a ‘new Nigeria’, post-COVID-19. Again, this is the time we must have a rethink of who we are as an individual and who we are as a nation. Nigeria can be great again if we individually choose to make our positive contributions.

*Emmanuel Ojo (@Emmanuel_Ojo)
Gbenga Falana (@Gbenga_Falana)

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