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Politics and Policy

Educate Yourself, Carry It on Your Head | The Key Takeaways From Investing In The People Of Nigeria

Investing in the People of Nigeria, a Conversation of a Generation, was organized by civic-tech group, BudgIT on Wednesday at its Civic Hive in Yaba, Lagos.

Beginning with a refresher on Bill Gates’ speech to the expanded National Economic Council last week, the thrust of the conversation was on the need for human capital development to become prioritized by governments at all levels in the country. From the feedback to Gate’s speech to the presentations and discussions by panelists Demola Williams, Dr Ify Aniebo, Cheta Nwanze, Bisi Ongunwale, Fati Abubakar and moderator Tolulope Adeleru-Balogun, it was a refreshing hour-long exercise in intellectual stimulation and civic responsibility awakening.

Here are five of the many salient lessons from the #ImagineNigeria event:

Healthcare investment entails training and research

Nigeria’s healthcare deficiencies have not always been as bad as they currently are if you cast your mind back to (or read about) the days when foreign professionals would come to Nigerian hospitals for check-ups and treatments. As Dr Aniebo said, some of those hospitals are now shells of their old selves. But investing in healthcare is not restricted to replacing and refurbishing scanners and machines; it is more about investing in health professionals’ training to facilitate the application of updates in technologies and disease control mechanisms. The vast differences between Rwanda and Nigeria in terms of health insurance coverage are puzzling, considering the East African nation only recovered from a genocide two decades ago.

The Western Model of Education is Not Compulsory

Photographer and storyteller Fati Abubakar was of the view that radicalization in the North-East was a direct consequence of the government’s negligence to invest in the people through education. The neglect of the occupants on the lowest end of the socio-economic ladder has created inequalities which continue to fuel extremism. However, in investing in education, attention should be paid to the already existing value placed by the people of that part of the country on informal education, as well as empowerment through education, according to Ms Abubakar.

Honesty and Equity are foundations for Trust

In response to my question on the procedure to follow in building trust amongst Nigerians as a necessary platform for human capital investment, Cheta Nwanze observed that trust and security are dependent on honesty, equity and the use of credible information. There was skepticism in his tone as to whether trust is currently being built by the government, citing the double-standards in dealing with groups like IPOB and the Miyetti Allah Kautal Kore when it comes to terrorism. Trust and security can only ensue within an environment where everyone knows they are treated with the same measure as others.

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From Left; Debola WIlliams, Fati Abubakar, Dr Ify Aniebo, Bisi Ogunwale and Cheta Nwanze, discussing at the Investing in the People of Nigeria event (Alexander O. Onukwue for inquizimedia.com)

Is anything actually happening in Education?

Not many persons in the audience could name the Minister of Education (Adamu Adamu) and the Minister for state (Prof Anthony Onwuka) when Bisi Ogunwale enquired. It was, for him, an indication of the absence of any interesting developments from the Ministry. Mr Ogunwale’s list of statistics comparing Nigeria’s education budgets in the last two years (all below 8%) in comparison with West African neighbours like Benin Republic (lowest in same period is 19%) was as depressing as the annual ‘scamming’ of 1.5 million tertiary education hopefuls for whom there is only space for 30% in the nation’s institutions.

Carry it on Your Head

Debola Williams’ keynote at the event was, true to character, a mixture of the challenging facts and figures of Nigeria’s third-world human capital status and the affirmation of the ability of young Nigerians to overcome existing roadblocks placed before them to soar.

Beyond the clamor for the elite to give Nigerians better, Debola’s urging was that the drive to development must be motivated and sustained by regular personal development, participation in politics at the grassroots, and being front and center in the conversation demanding good governance.

It was an enlightening conversation, and it is to be hoped that it continues beyond the event.

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By Alexander O. Onukwue | Follow @inquizimedia on Facebook and Twitter

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