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Friday, 6 September 2013

Are Nigerian elite the curse of development?

Are Nigerian elite the curse of development?
Life for all it is worth could be fun. This is especially as folks come upon you to tell their stories, in part, confirming yours. I had not quite run a piece on Nigerian elites; Lord I was at Jazzhole, Daily Sun 03 / 03 / 11, when some man about town confronted me. In a small group of evening revelers, we had to talk things over, and it came to be about the same front burner topic: Nigerian elite as the curse on our development.
Here is a summary of the main points. Prince John, (a self styled prince or a prince by inheritance, I wouldn’t know but that is what everybody called him) started off with a story – anecdote he swore he witnessed in Onitsha main market just about the end of the Biafran Nigerian war.
According to him, the principal of one of the famous secondary schools in Onitsha (names withheld), visited the equally famous Onitsha main market to do some shopping.
As he finished and was getting home, making his way through the people and stalls, he saw his brightest student, selling wares. He was stunned and he stopped. ‘‘Umeora,’’ he called out, ‘what are you doing here?’’
Umeora, not his real name, stuttered and was not quite able to explain things to his principal, who, though adored him for his brilliance, was a no – nonsense disciplinarian.
The principal started slapping Umeora, muttering abuses of all types and concluding, ‘‘Umeora, you must be mad, who told you to waste yourself here?’’
Meanwhile a small crowd of curious traders and apprentices had gathered, ready to pounce on the stranger if only Umeora could show displeasure or even fight back.
Umeora, of course, was the first son of one of one the Lords and richest men of the Onitsha main market. If there was a Prince Merchant, it was he. So, people were disposed to fight his fight, if only for the expected return on favours from his father or himself. But Umeora bore it all with the humility of the sacrificial ram. And there were thoughts that Umeora might, in spite of himself and his heritage, have been something, may be a crook in an earlier past. A stranger cannot just come and be slapping you, a young and able man, and you keep quiet. Perhaps, you must be guilty. So, onlookers, who would have been volunteer pugilists for Umeora, kept their peace and only watched. And the principal now went for the kill. He grabbed Umeora by his belt, levitated him a little and dragged him to his father whose king-size stall was a hollering distance away.
‘‘Chief Okonkwo, what is Umeora doing here?’ the principal asked with some anger and visible disdain. ‘‘Is it why you sent him to school? What more money can he (Umeora) make that you have not already made?”
Chief Okonkwo, Umeora’s father, was even more supplicating than he. He asked in total humility,  “Nnanyi John,” as he called the principal, “what shall we do? Please, we will do whatever it is you say.”
Anyway, the principal ordered Umeora’s father, “see me at home this evening by 7:30p.m. As for Umeora, I am taking him home now.” Nobody asked any further questions, as Umeora left his own stall unlocked and followed the principal.
When latter they met in the evening, the principal gave the following instruction. Umeora will not leave my house till a passport, visa, school is arranged for him in Europe or America. And he must not return until he has earned his PhD. “Why do I say so? It is because his brain, such a sharp brain, is always bigger and finer than profit…. than Naira and Kobo.”
“Umeora was my best student. It is true the war disrupted and damaged things…. But every great brain that survives the war must fulfill its destiny – and not trade for profit. And here, Okonkwo, you have made all the money, can’t Ume, (as he now begins to call his favourite pupil), rest on some of it to buy the leisure to be great, in great things, and not as is common here in Nigeria to be great only in small things. That is the tragedy of our nation, our people – to count a brain only as good as the profit it earns. But it will not be with my beloved Ume.”
It so happened that many years later, Umeora came back from America, where he dutifully earned his PhD, worked in white room firms and earned some money. When he came back, the first gratitude he showed was to his now very aged principal. In a reunion full of tears, tears of joy, Umeora cried and blessed the old man with a voice as quivering as it is moving. He built him an American style bungalow in appreciation. It stands in the greater Ekwulobia area of Anambra State to this day.
The real message of this, Prince told us is that, that era is gone. Today a new spirit of the age has taken over. Even universities, alas, are in the gold rush to teach how to make a kobo here and a Naira there. Somehow, principals, educators and men like Nnanyi John are gone.
What happened is that these men and educators are the products of the British. The British we all remember are a small Island people who ran and conquered the world by the might of their brains, not arms or profit. So the British kept things in perspective. Yes it may be true money may seduce and give men erections, almost like a naked virgin, but she in herself is not the real thing. Only civilization is. Without which a people however rich will remain fools. And as the Bible correctly predicts a fool and his money are soon parted.
Today the most famous, most glamorous, most rated adventure for the children of Nigerian elites is to trade or perhaps to entertain? It is a form of block headedness, however popular.
But as we can guess, if these kids had stars in their eyes, they will set about life as heirs to men who have the means to purchase the solitude, the privacy one needs to thing great thoughts, one needs to be primary creators, almost like the gods rather than be mere administrators, traders, fools, humorists and columnists. Boy I too I am guilty. My grace is that I acknowledge my sin and my shame.
So if the question is to be answered, why are the children of the rich or the elites so block-headed, the answer will be as follows. It is not in their stars. It is in their father’s DNAs…. Who teach them it is profitable to betray genius to earn a kobo, even the least kobo.
In conclusion the Prince said this generation of Nigerian elites and their sons should be kidnapped, perhaps hanged – at least if not in the physical then in and ultimately out of history. They ruin us by their sickening example. And my tape recorder alas ran out of battery power. Ahiazuwa!
Minorities as Competitive Overlords?
By 10am today, Thursday, 5th September 2013 at NICON luxury hotel Abuja, Senator Osita Izunaso, alongside other distinguished names will be making history. Making history? And the answer is yes. He will be presiding over a ceremony as chairman to unveil one of the most important works ever done in Nigeria. The work is by yours truly. However I can assure doubters that we are on firm ground. The assessment of the work is by a battery of our finest scholars across disciplines. I am not expressing my opinions on, I only did the work.
That is the opinion of the work as one of the most important, perhaps the single most important work by a Nigerian in the social science especially economics is certified by other intellectual powers. In fact we are humbled by the critical reception of the work. A reader straight away characterized it as economics at the level of Things Fall Apart.
In the words of another, it is a wonderful piece of work. It proposed and established a thesis that is startlingly new. It is ground breaking stuff that extends the frontiers of knowledge. The brace factor is unassailable.
And have you ever heard of the brace factor? The answer is of course no, you just wouldn’t have. The brace factor is one of the farm fresh discoveries, category tools, made by the work, and this for the first time in history. There are a few more others. That is to say scholars in Harvard or Sorbonne will be reading and encountering these truths and revelations for the first time in their lives. It is something of a world record for a Nigerian in the discovery, not delivery sciences.
And the book is titled Minorities as Competitive Overlords. It is a cross between history, economics, sociology and philology. And it succeeds in proving that there are still new laws of life, of nature, of completion, to be discovered.
In fact our publisher, The Stone Press, has wagered on our behalf a full and final payment of US$2500.00, or its equivalent each, will go to the first two intellectual antagonists who can flaw or contradict the brace factor thesis. There is however a caveat. It is that the respondent antagonist must wager his own US$1000.00 or its equivalent. That is if he wins, he keeps his own US$1000.00 and we lose US$2500.00 to him. If he falters, his US$1000.00 is gone to our favorite charities or other expense heads. Ahiazuwa!
Of course this is a new intellectual game in town. We are putting our dollars where our brains are and enriching the world thereby. If you have the balls then this is this is The Turf Game to play.
To help berth the historic occasion are representatives of the presidency, governors, senators, besides Chief F. O. Offiah who is our father of the day and chief host, Professor Chidi Odinkalu Guest Speaker, Professor Umelo Ojinmah official presenter, Tony Onyima Group MD Sun Special Guest, Peter Ishaka, Editorial Board ThisDay, reviewer, Professor Emeka Enejere, Honoree of the day, Barrister Chijioke Nzekwe, political stalwart, amongst others. Frontline public intellectual and scholar, distinguished Senator Osita Izunaso will be the Chairman of the occasion.
This is an invitation to join us as history is being made. The first edition of this book will almost certainly be a treasure. That is it will in itself be an investment instrument and keepsake. The Minorities as Competitive Overlords is not just the writing of a new book; it is the invention a new idea. And it is breaking forth from the Nigerian shores. Be one with this history. You are invited to witness not just a book launch but the making of history, intellectual history, if you are in Abuja. Otherwise you may fly in. Ahiazuwa.


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