I am not an Economist and I do not intend to sound like one, but I have always believed that culture plays a very important role as far as economics is concerned.
Discussions and deliberations about economics should not be left to only the Economists, it is expedient for even the common man to be a part of it. The reason I decided to write this isn’t far-fetched, it is the same reason I wrote the ones I have on my blog, the ones on my social media accounts, and the ones on my iPad; that will never experience the beauty of the internet (because they are too dark or the internet is simply too beautiful for them)—the urge to share my thoughts. The things that keep me awake at night.
As Thomas Sowell mentioned in his brilliant book Wealth, Poverty and Politics; Geography, Demography, Social conditions, Politics and Culture all play important roles in shaping the economy of a nation. These are factors that are conveniently swept aside when discussing policies and Economy; especially in Nigeria. Why is it that when we try out proven policies, they still fail in Nigeria? We keep running around in circles, trying this and that and nothing seems to work, yet when Nigerians travel abroad, they soar, why? This proves that the best policy could be counterproductive in a place or nation if the aforementioned factors are not carefully considered. This is why context is important.
In 2013, virtually 25% of the 120 blacks in Harvard business schools were Nigerians. As early as 1999, Nigerians were overrepresented among black students in elite American colleges and universities by a factor of about ten. Nearly one fourth of Nigerian households in the USA have incomes of more than $100000 [Source: Wealth Poverty and Politics]. Someone should have shown Mr. President these stats before he decided to slander us on an international stage.
This tells us that our political structures or the lack of it, coupled with culture are the major factors that keep us from reaching our potential as a people and a nation. Culture especially is the banana peel on our road to prosperity. I am by no means blanketing our culture as a whole and shaming it, but there are some aspects of our collective culture that need to be brushed aside if we really want to fulfil the potential we’ve been talking about since 1914.
A nation that creates social obstacles to the use of the talents and potentials of its own people, whether those obstacles be ethnicity, sex, or what have you is not going to fulfil its potentials.
Are we saying that, if a time comes in the future and the best person we have for the presidential job is an Igbo man or a Nigerian woman, we would reject him or her? Chew on this, Barack Obama is a Luo man from Kenya and the chances of a Luo man being the president of Kenya are as good as having a female or Igbo president in Nigeria.
Just read this article about one of our leaders (here) as he gingerly opposes a bill that speaks on “Equal Rights and Opportunities for Men and Women”. The problem is we don’t want to learn; we don’t want to evolve. We are too quick to oppose certain motions by tagging them “western culture” when it should be basic human rights. On women’s day, our senators were busy discussing how they should take more wives. They turned plenary to an upgraded beer parlor. Why do we keep thinking in this manner? The bigger problem here is that education cannot even save us from this. I have observed that the thickest form of misogyny and bigotry is found among the learned in Nigeria.
What I see is that, our culture dilutes our level of education thereby making it next to useless. See my article on Cultural ethics and education. Our leaders send their children to schools abroad but are now trying to discourage others from schooling abroad. Imagine my amusement when the president said at his Al Jazeera interview that “those who can afford the tuition can still afford it”. That statement means CBN will not allocate forex for education again. We really want to joke with that? We really want to reduce the numbers of students who school abroad even though we know the abysmal state of our tertiary institutions? Our nation has nothing to attract the best brains in the world, so how exactly do we intend to burgeon economically? Governor Ambode, the other day was begging the Nigerians abroad to come back home and make a difference in Nigeria. Our leaders know better, it’s the reason most of them send their kids abroad anyway.
Nations that are not immigrants attractive understand why they have to send their best brains to the U.S. Or UK for education. Take China for example, the Chinese are not ready to change their ways (politically or culturally), there is language barrier so it’s the last place any immigrant wants to go to school. They send their best brains outside for upgrading the nous of their science and technology, economics and so on so as to return with new ideas that can be applied in their own context.
One of the reasons why America is great is because of its ability to attract the best brains in the world. The arrivals of Jews from Europe to America helped in the creation of the first nuclear bomb on which America’s international position as a superpower rested.
Between 1638 to 1868, the government of Japan cut the country from outside the world, emigration from Japan was forbidden and those abroad were forbidden to return and that was the beginning of the end for Japan. They started to diminish drastically until they lifted those ridiculous policies. China did the same sometime in the 18th century and they paid a heavy price. There was a vast increase in the technological gap between them and Europe.
Most of the countries that rose from obscurity to prosperity e.g. Singapore, South Korea in the 20th century, Japan in the 19th century didn’t do so by saying no to foreign investors or by putting policies that are not attractive to foreign investors. Nigeria is doing the exact opposite. Springing up policies that are not attractive to foreign investors, making statements like “Nigeria for Nigeria”, “dollar is not our business”.
Culture isolation keeps us from keeping up with the advances of others. Cultural evolution is by no means a change that can happen overnight but when we have the chance to do so, we must embrace it. Again, I read the equality bill, and this could have at least breached the gap between men and women in the Nigerian society but our leaders shunned the bill with petty excuses.
A lot of honest and blunt Nigerians would agree that corruption is a culture in Nigeria, it is our way of life. Here is an excerpt about Nigeria from “Thieves of States” by Sarah Chayes “if there is a project, every minister checks the money on the project first and not its usefulness. If it is 10 million, the director tells them to make it 12 million and the permanent secretary further tells them to inflate to 25 million. Then they award the contract to themselves”. We must talk about these things and face them head on before we fade into obscurity.
And our amnesic tendencies, where we totally ignore history as though it never happened, Pitiable!
I was on twitter the other day and I came across a tweet. “If you are a billionaire, why then do you have to join politics?”. This exactly is the mentality most of us grew up with, that public office is supposed to be another means for amassing wealth, rather than, at best, an addendum to the desire to serve our nation. While this is not a negative thought, it must not be what drives our political ambition.
Thomas Sowell puts this brilliantly “Third world countries are not being asked to create their own societies, after some calamity, they are being asked to create a western economy without the centuries of a particular cultural evolution that led up to those economies in the west”
We want to flourish like the west but we don’t want to go through the processes. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but culture is another Jonah in the boat that needs to be tossed into the river if Nigeria wants to fulfill its potentials.
Credit to Thomas Sowell (Wealth, Poverty and Politics)
Kudos to the gutsy Sally Jacobs for her incredible biographical research on Barack Obama Snr. The book titled “The other Barack” is about the life of the father of the POTUS (Barack Obama Snr.). After I read “Dreams of a Father” written by POTUS himself, I knew that was just a sneak peek and a beast of curiosity awakened inside me, and the only thing that could put the beast back to slumber was to lay my hands on this book. The book was engaging, prepossessing and unputdownable.
Obama Snr. was brilliant, reckless, impatient, and jocular. He was many things, one cannot run out of adjectives trying to describe the man. He was vociferous, facile, and eccentric. In some chapters, his decorum was admirable, in others, I was chagrined for him.
In chapter 2, the first paragraph says “The tribal prophet Kimnyole arap Turukat foretold it’s coming long before the white man knew of it. It would rear from the vast lake to the east, a lethal iron snake belching smoke and fire and uncoil across tribal lands before at last quenching its thirst in the waters of the west. The beast would bear with it a kind of foreigner never seen before, a stranger who would one day rule the land”.
Sally had me there, I was thrilled reading that paragraph, I thought there had been a prophecy about the coming of POTUS, only for the second paragraph to imply something completely different—the Uganda railway built by the British colonies. I was so upset and disappointed but I garnered strength and character and managed to carry on with the book.
The Luos and the Kikuyus are amongst the major tribes in Kenya; Barack belonged to the former and Jomo Kenyatta who was the first Kenyan President belonged to the latter. After getting help from an American woman called Miss Mooney, Barack got an admission to the University of Hawaii in the United States. It was an amazing feat, as he was the first of his clan to go to college and also the first African to attend Hawaii University. He met Obama Jnr’s mother at the University of Hawaii and he later graduated with a B.A in Economics. They got married after he graduated; beating the odds by defying the popular racial barrier. He was black and she was white.
He proceeded to Harvard for PhD Economics. His dream of getting a PhD in economics came to an abrupt end when the Oyinbos got tired of his womanizing attitude and misdemeanor and sent him back to Kenya even though he had completed all his coursework, but he was yet to defend his thesis.
His love for women was unparalleled as he betrayed a lot of them in his wake. He left no skirt unopened, as long as the skirt waved past him. His oratory prowess was enough to bewitch any woman. Just 3 months after he left the United States, his girlfriend in Boston bought a one way ticket to Kenya to visit Obama Snr., and of course, she did not return.
He was a living ghost to most of his children, he was consumed by his own ambitions and patriotism that he had little or no time for his children.
He got back to Kenya with big expectations for his country that had just gained independence and he certainly wanted to take part in the government, but he never got satisfied with any position he got and he seemed disappointed with the Kenyatta led government. He found solace in alcohol and started drinking heavily. His drinking habit got worse when his longtime mentor, Tom Mboya got assassinated right in front of him. He lost his job the same year due to his lack of discipline and recklessness.
He was an iconoclast, and he spared no word against the Kenyatta led government in the wake of Kenyan independence. He was fearless, and he gingerly challenged the corruption and nepotism openly practiced by the Kenyan government with his voice and his pen. He was later blacklisted by the Kenyatta led government and he couldn’t get any job.
The man was a paradox, it was difficult for me to comprehend why a man of his grandeur, well principled with integrity and bag of talents could lack dignity and humility. He was deluded by his precocity of going to Harvard.
I concluded that his life was cut short by his own hubris and his frustration with the churning state of Kenya. If anyone told him, his own seed would end up being the President of the United States of America, maybe he would have done some things differently.
In June 2015, President Obama visited Kenya and met with its present President—Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the son of Jomo Kenyatta. I remembered this event the night I finished reading the book, and I thought to myself-no one knows tomorrow. I felt inspired, challenged, and disappointed. I felt ambivalent. I turned the book around, placed the book in front of me, and stared at it until I slept off.
I also found out that while Obama Snr. was at Harvard, he had lots of Nigerians as friends and classmates. The only familiar name being Chukwuma Azikiwe, the son of the first Nigerian president. I breezed through lots of Nigerian names in the book and I couldn’t help but wonder where these men are or why I’ve never heard of them. Like our people say, they must have been swallowed by the west.
One of my New Year’s resolution at the beginning of the year 2015 was to read 5 books before the end but I ended up reading more than 20 books. I would like to share the list of all the books I read in 2015 with you guys, with the hope of inspiring someone.
- I was able to read 13 out of 16 books written by James Allen. In retrospect, I think James Allen’s books taught me out to think; they opened up my mind and they were all very inspiring. I couldn’t have read this books without the help of Gbenga Onaderu. Somehow, Gbenga is one of those who inspired me to read more. Here is the list of all 13 books.
As a man thinketh
From poverty to power
All these things added
Out from the heart
Through the gates of good
By ways to blessedness
The life triumphant
Above life’s turmoil
The mastery of destiny
From passion to peace
8 pillars of prosperity
The way of peace
The heavenly life
- Books written by the Father of African literature himself- Chinua Achebe. Generations to come will still thank Achebe for his books. Our children’s children will read his books and thank him for telling our stories. In years to come, these stories will only exist in our minds as our cultures continue to evolve. Here are the ones I’ve read so far.
Things fall apart
There was a country
Man of the people
The trouble with Nigeria
No longer at ease
Arrow of God
- I read Half of a yellow sun and Americanah written by Adichie Chimamanda and I thoroughly enjoyed them. You can find my brief review (here)
- Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. This book was given to me as a graduation gift by a friend. It is a good book for anyone who lives in America.
- Dreams of a Father by Barack Obama. I despised myself for not having read this one all these years. From the first day i picked it up, i just couldn’t stop. It piqued my interest in the life the father of POTUS lived and that took me to the next book I read.
- The other Barack by Sally Jacobs. An extensive research on Barack Snr. Well done to the gutsy sally Jacobs. I would post a brief review soon.
- No excuses by Brian Tracy. I struggled with this book but I still completed it. Nothing much about the book after all the fuss. It was recommended by 2 of my friends and I thought I had to read it.
- Ghana must go by Taiye Selasi. I couldn’t finish it, the book was just too subtle for me. I will try again in 2016.
- Here is the last one, and I’m not done reading it yet. The Grand master’s insight on China, United States and the world by Lee Yuan Kuan. Lee was the first prime minister of Singapore and he ruled them for 31 years. He marshaled Singapore from a third world country to a first world country so trust me, his opinion is gold.
I also read a lot of articles and I read a lot of people on daily basis. Here are some links;
That’s it folks. These books and people have added inestimable values to my life and I certainly paid some prices. The ride was wonky but we go again.
Happy New Year
In case you missed Part 1, (see here).
One of the factors that has contributed to the backwardness of Nigeria is our failure to learn from history. A nation known for her amnesic syndrome. It took Radio Biafra to remind us that the corpse we buried has a leg stuck outside.
Let’s take a stroll into the past of Nigeria. The tribal sentiments exploited by some of our past leaders for their selfish gains has brought us to this point as a nation. The present is the synthesis of the past, most of the things we experience now is the net result of the deeds of our past leaders. Some of our parents have passed on these grudges by telling us Nigeria is a “forced marriage” amongst her tribes, and we should avoid people from different tribes. It’s like telling your daughter to act like an idiot when she gets to her husband’s house or to develop a negative attitude towards her in-laws even though divorce is not an option.
Before I get shredded into pieces by historians, e-warriors et al; I also believe I probably don’t know enough just like most of us, to start pointing fingers or dishing out blames at the perpetrators of the Nigerian civil war. After all, history has been wiped off from our educational curriculum and all we have are half-truths and fragments of the event. With the little knowledge I have, the civil war which was an epoch in our history could have been avoided. Our leaders from various tribes were busy fighting each other for superiority instead of focusing on unity after independence. It was a war amongst egos and we are yet to recover from it. How do we move on or burgeon as a nation when most of us don’t understand the events and processes that formed our present society? Since the past and present governments have failed us in this regard, we can educate ourselves so we don’t fail the coming generations like they did us. We must educate ourselves about the historical happenings, and we must make sure the errors in the past are not repeated when nature presents us the chance to make a difference. Of course, it is a popular belief that the prosperity of a nation or individual solely depends on political and social reconstruction but what about the individual responsibilities of the inhabitants of the nation?
Dear readers, leaders, and parents; It’s high time we started repairing Nigeria from our abode. We need to stop passing hates and grudges down to subsequent generations by adding to the misery of this nation. The only thing that should matter is we are all Nigerians. We need to get rid of prejudice and dogmatism. Love, kindness, true judgement, and sympathy cannot exist with prejudice, all they bring is cruelty which is lucid in our nation today.
We cannot continue to ignore history or allow it fade into obscurity, and make the same mistakes our national folklores have made.
For anyone who is interested, (here) are some of the books written on the Biafra war. Also, I would recommend “There was a country by Chinua Achebe” and “Half of a yellow sun by Adichie Chimamanda”.
The Shame in your fears and failures will try to muzzle you into silence, but you must not allow it, you must tell those you love about them ~ Segun Tinubu
The secret to a promising future lies in unlocking the wisdom and insight the portals of the past hold. In essence, an adequate understanding of where you’re coming from is key to having a proper perspective of where you’re going.
Lately, I’ve come to a realization of the fact that a lot of us are totally ignorant of our background, culture and general history. We have turned our backs on the past. A sizable number of us having little or no idea about how we gained independence, the idiosyncrasies of the good and bad past leaders we’ve had, the events that shaped the leadership of our nation from inception till now, the names of those who fought for our independence, and a couple of other interesting bits of information. We have become spectacularly naive, shamefully ignorant of many of the things that shaped the country to what it is today.
The easy way out is to blame our parents and guardians for their failure to consciously hand these tales down to us, but who are we kidding? In the end, we owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves deliberately on our foundational stories, historical happenings along the corridors of time, as well as the standout ‘actors’ in the screenplay that our country’s formation can be regarded as. Some of our parents have told us about these histories, others have failed to, and that’s why some of us lack identity. Whether we like it or not, at some point in our lives, nature will give us a chance to effect a change; in our neighborhood or even the nation at large. Our decisions and choices in those moments would have an effect on the nation— minute or massive. The best decisions can only be made when one knows what worked or failed in the past and puts such knowledge into consideration when faced with decisions. Records are kept so that they can be referred to and learnt from, thus, it becomes imperative to calculatively pass necessary bits of our history to the forthcoming generations in order to prepare them for challenges ahead. Parents need to tell their children about their pasts; the good and bad decisions they made and the consequences. Sadly, we see today that all some parents tell their kids is how they blazed the trail in all places they found themselves, conveniently failing to cite instances of their inadequacies and failures. That approach to educating people is counterproductive as it has the tendency of making them fail to take risks, see mistakes as a necessary part of their making, and positions them to live too cautiously which reduces their chances of being truly productive and efficient at the things they do.
I am going to use the POTUS~ Barack Obama as a case study in this article. I read his book titled “Dreams from my Father” last week.
In my humble opinion, what Barack had to do – his purpose, became clearer after his first trip to Kenya to visit his known and unknown relatives.
When he was running about in Chicago as an activist, trying to “organize” the black community, his sister had visited him and brought news about their father, she was the first person who told him all he didn’t know about his father and after that visit, his perception of his father changed. He wrote: I wasn’t satisfied (with what had been achieved in Chicago), maybe it was connected to Auma’s (his sister) visit and the news she had brought of the old man (his father). Where once, I had felt the need to live up to his expectations, I now felt as if I had to make up for his mistakes. Only the nature of these mistakes still wasn’t clear in my mind; I still couldn’t read the signpost that might warn me away from the wrong turns he’d taken. That was one of the moments that fueled his desire to visit Kenya before leaving for law school. The conundrum of a curious man yearning to know about his roots, a man who knew he had to understand and make peace with a past he is willingly or unwillingly connected to, a past he had no control over, a past that was lived by his ancestors. He understood the importance of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of his harbingers, and the mistakes that must not be repeated. He knew he had to ferret this past to have a clearer vision of who he is and where he is going to.
Shortly before Barack left Kenya, having listened to every bit of history about his root, here is what he wrote: I felt a calmness wash over me, I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago—all of it was connected to this small plot of earth on ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brothers’ questions. Their struggle, my birthright.
He must have figured he wasn’t alone in the struggle; his identity became as clear as day.
I would take a few steps into the past of Nigeria in the second part of this article which would be posted in the next few days.
My first few days as a graduate student in America were torrid ones. I found that it was expected of me a graduate student to have knowledge of quite a number of things that’ll enable me join in chorusing responses with my colleagues in class. However, to my dismay, I was soon to discover that I hardly knew well enough of the things I needed to have known, so I’d just sit there clueless, feeling sorry for myself as the minutes trickled by and tangible learning went on.
You see, I like to believe that the educational background I had prior to my arrival in the states was largely inadequate. I mean, it ensured that I really couldn’t stand toe to toe with my classmates as I didn’t know a fraction of what they knew. I was really enslaved by my limitations as many things were taught theoretically.
I came across a full blown rant about Nigeria’s flawed educational system by a guy on twitter a couple of days ago. The fellow shared a personal experience on how he went to obtain his certificate 10 years after leaving school only to find that there was hardly any upgrade in the learning standards of the said institution – one of the best universities in Nigeria. He went further to state his displeasure at an incident that happened during his short return to his alma matter; it involved a lecturer who jumped a queue well populated with students in order to get ahead in the line.
Before the allure of my own rant about jumping queues and cutting corners gets too strong, I’d like to at this time state that my major reason for this article is to give my two cents about the role our cultural ethics have played in the backwardness of our educational sector, as seen in the lack of equipment, poor educational standards, exploitation, overcrowding in classrooms, inadequate funding, poor parenting, examination malpractices and so on.
Cultural ethics refers to the moral principles guiding our culture. In layman language, it refers to our ideas about the rightness and wrongness of certain things in our culture. Cultural ethics is one of the banana peels in our educational sector, as it has consistently dragged us back as far as quality education is concerned. For example, quite a number of educators/instructors have slowly robbed their students of confidence all in the name of cultural respect; challenging a professor or a lecturer in Nigeria would mean an automatic F in most cases. An educational system that discourages boldness, confidence and a questioning spirit in a student just because the teacher’s ego feels threatened cannot be good in any way. Students cannot get to build a decent relationship with their teachers because of the fear of being knocked down. Some of us bury our ideas and can’t speak up in an innovative environment because we have been robbed of our confidence.
A university is supposed to be a universal environment where teachers and students converse with no barriers between them. It should be an environment where students are free to express their thoughts without the fear of being trampled upon. The job of the teacher is to create an atmosphere where students with diverse backgrounds and personalities can express themselves freely and learn from each other, including the teachers. Teachers are not supposed to be unapproachable and hubris laden all in the name of cultural ethics. Most of our teachers have failed in this area, they have treated the school like a one way street, where students are supposed to just listen and not contribute, disagree or challenge them. Some of our teachers have used the same notes for 30years or more without updating them; thereby passing down obsolete knowledge to subsequent generations. How many governments’ schools in Nigeria can boast of ICT/ computer centers with adequate teachers anyway. Governments will prefer to employ teachers of music without training in education rather than those with degrees in computer, maths, sciences all in the name of politics.
I’m someone who is big on cultural ethics but I believe it shouldn’t have such negative effects on our educational standard. Our teachers should not mix their profession with cultural ethics. They should give students the freedom to express themselves, and also show them love. Sometimes, when a Nobel Prize winner is being honored with an accolade of a job well done, there’s always a student beside him or her who has also contributed to the job. That is the kind of relationship a student and a teacher should have.
Anytime I think about our educational system, I feel it would be okay if it were even stagnant, but we’re faced with the harsh reality that it has taken a nosedive due to the aforementioned factors. Sometimes we wonder why some people send their kids abroad to study. It’s not just because of bragging rights, it’s because they know how backward our educational system is, and of course why not send your kids abroad if you can afford it? For someone like me, community loan had to be acquired to study abroad too (:D), and it’s because we want the best in contrary to what others might think. I’ve seen people throw tantrums at politicians who send their kids abroad to study. How dare you question a parent for wanting the best for their kids? However, some of these politicians know they have destroyed the standard well enough for their kids to be in it. They go into politics to make money, not to better the lot of anyone
Education is supposed to be the major force that drives societal reform or upgrade but that’s not the case in Nigeria, it has caused more harm than good. I can’t help but arrive at a conclusion that the stagnancy or even backwardness in our country can be traced to our failure to improve our educational sector.
Edited by Ademola Aboluwarin