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To repair Nigeria, all hands needed

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At no other time than now does Nigeria need all her citizens to put their hands on the plough and work to save the country. The economy is in tatters and poverty ravages the land. Yet, Nigerians, including many in the Diaspora, have been found exceptional as solution providers. The utmost must therefore be done to engage the best hands in the work of repairing Nigeria.

No government, of course, can compel any Nigerian with knowledge or skills to come home and work for the nation except the atmosphere is made conducive and the incentive is encouraging. Indeed, many are often discouraged by what they see of how researchers, scientists and experts who stay back or work in the country are treated by the system. Facilities and resources must therefore be made available for people in order for Nigeria to be truly re-built. The country, regrettably, is currently hardly attractive to anyone who seeks excellence in his field of endeavour especially with such 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 their country in droves. Professionals need certain things 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. But for Nigerians 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?

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Section (2) of the country’s constitution says that government shall promote Science and Technology. And it is a well known fact that the United States of America’s large federal budget for research and development (R&D) has been that country’s ‘secret weapon which enabled it to achieve the domination of the world in innovation and the production of many game-changing goods and services. President Muhammadu Buhari was once reported to have promised N3 billion to a research foundation, a puny sum that can only do little: Such a gesture, combined with the fact that a very poor amount of money is allocated to the ministries of Science and Technology as well as Education illustrates the lack of seriousness in the quest for creating the environment that can attract talents into the country. Education is central to advances in science, technology and indeed every field of human activity. Sadly, education is not, as it should be, in the first order of priority in Nigeria.

As this newspaper once reported, 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. This is a huge amount of money which a focused government could access to execute productive development projects to tangible, multiplying effect.

Also there are many examples of Nigerians who by choice returned with the patriotic zeal to do their bit for the country. There are many others who were headhunted to come home and work in government. Too many have, however, badly scarred by the experience of working for their fatherland. The intrigues, corrupt practices, stifling hostile attitude and meanness that pervade the operating environment have been simply unbearable for many. Some go back in frustration while some remain but badly burnt in career or financial terms.

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Many Nigerians in the Diaspora also stay away from home because they are used to an environment where life and property are reasonably safe, where terms of contract are respected and the rule of law is 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. Almost all of these are still alien to Nigeria. What patriotic zeal would, for instance, drive a citizen to return to a home country where salaries are not paid for months?

No one will readily 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 help build their country but those in positions of power and authority must create the right conditions for it.

Nigeria needs all of her best or skilled hands on the deck. The government of the day must, in words and in deeds, invite, receive those hands and put them to good use.

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