Patriotism and Nigerian professionals abroad; neglected avenues for national development. by Jide A

However defined and no matter the context there is some consensus that patriotism is love of one's country, devotion to its welfare and willingness to sacrifice for it. Thus a patriot has the virtues, passions and actions which inspire one to serve his country. It is against this background that I want to discuss the plight of Nigeria as a nation.

No nation is free of problems especially those related to good governance and improved socio-economic conditions. The difference is usually in their nature and what the leadership is doing to tackle those problems. Perhaps more importantly, in the developing countries, these socio-economic problems are those that are very basic to human development.

I believe Nigerians are tired of listening to the woes of Nigeria as a nation in the sense that there is nothing new to be said. What is perhaps worth mentioning is the changing focus of the possibility of redemption. Unfortunately and up till now-44 years after independence - our politics have been dominated by the desire for light and water, food and housing, road and safety , basic rights and freedoms, and provision of primary healthcare. Nowadays the landscape is dominated exclusively by politics of corruption and unfortunately this makes the other basic politics impossible. Life in Nigeria needs not to be as it is. Actually Nigeria could be classified as a regressing nation. The amenities we had when we were growing up are now stories we tell our children. Infrastructures have vanished and the villages nothing but monuments of national disgrace. People have been forced to accept their life of misery and poverty as the norm. The poison of religion has infested our psyche to the extent that we leave everything to God and blame everything on him. Government inadequacies and officials' misbehaviours are excused on the premise of religion. The government in spite of its secularity is palpably religious and unashamedly prayerful instead of being active. Nigerians need governments that can govern, a police force that can protect life and property, an army that can defend, government ministries and departments that can deliver their mandates and above all leadership that can lead.

I will focus this discourse, from my vantage position, on the simple fact that only Nigerians can improve the present decadent situation of things in the country. Come to think of it who will? Additionally, I believe that Nigerian professionals abroad have a lot to contribute and indeed can change the situation in a very significant way. So in a manner of speaking, can they do it? Yes, they can. Will they do it? No, they will not. This piece will attempt to give some insight into why they are not willing to do it hoping that some concrete steps could be taken to encourage them.

As a preamble and though we can not boast of any accurate statistics we know that the number of Nigerian professionals abroad will cause shivers down the spine of our ‘mother Nigeria '. She would feel like a raped woman having the mixed emotions of sadness, guilt, self blame, self-pity, anger, helplessness, shame, hatred and hopelessness. In her youth and in the prime of her life she had made available to her offspring her natural endowment and resources, giving them free hand to utilize them as they liked.

However, what did she get other than reckless lack of vision from the leadership? At present Nigeria needs all her children, she needs them at her bedside hopefully not to inform them of her will but to remind them that her death is near if they refuse to look after her. No doubt Nigeria has tried for most Nigerian professionals abroad. They have benefited in the most advantageous ways from her generosity. In developed nations professional graduates are still paying off student loans decades after graduation. This is not the lot of earlier Nigerian graduates. Contributions from this sector of our population are invaluable to national development. Now that the situation is not so good with Nigeria attempts should be made consider all avenues for support and help.

I always look behind the eyes of Nigerian professionals abroad when characteristically they moan and whine about the situation at home and how hopeless it is. The next thing I do is to imagine their ages, usually they are between the ages of 25 and 50. I always consciously refrain myself from saying to them ‘shut up ‘ and reminding them of what some people have done for their countries at a relatively young age. Even our own Gowon was about 30 ditto the eccentric Gaddafi of Libya when they assumed some national responsibilities. When Nigerians put their comfort before the nation's comfort the result is that neither the nation nor her citizens would experience comfort and piece. However if we put the nation first there is strong hope that both the nation and her citizens will experience prosperity and comfort.

It is high time the present administration did something that will actively encourage Nigerian professionals abroad to come home. No crystal balls are needed to inform us of that this would be a great positive thing for the nation. For example, look at the medical profession and see how many Nigeria-trained doctors are working abroad. I know of a province in Canada, which is less than 1 million in population that has more Nigeria-trained psychiatrists working for it than five states in Nigeria put together. What is it that make a young Nigerian feel unashamed and exuberantly happy about giving his youth to the service of another mother-land indefinitely without any hope of ending it now or in the near future? This is more concerning given the pathetic situation of things in Nigeria. What is it other than what is naturally ours that we have perfected to make life easy for Nigerians? What systems have we developed that we can be proud of? These and similar questions are for our policy makers and governments to ask and Nigerian professionals abroad could provide answers. Areas deserving of meaningful national attention are basic infrastructures, healthcare, police and our dear national profession -Corruption with a capital C.

There are personal and selfish reasons why it is preferable for Nigeria professionals abroad to stay away. Some are related to consideration for their children, safety, liberty and lack of harassment etc. On a less serious note, actually the only time most Nigerians have contact with policemen is when they come to their motherland. It is such times they hear;' where is your particular, where is the receipt for your camera, ‘open your boot', ‘empty your pocket' etc'. Continued abandonment of Nigeria by Nigerian professionals abroad is nothing but palpable lack of patriotism. This may be a harsh judgement but that is the truth. However they can not be condemned for that because nobody in his right senses would want to leave the future of his children in the hands of Nigerian politicians. As long as politics in Nigeria is the vocation of people with little minds and poor understanding of life we would remain at the rudimentary level of development. This is a clarion call for people of substance to participate in politics. In the last ten years Nigeria politicians are nothing but a constituent assembly of opportunists with varying fake pretensions, visible lack of vision and mission.

Though without any proven data the most important impediment to the Nigeria professional returning home en- mass is the lack of concrete efforts and incentives to do so. A proactive drive to bring them home should be undertaken including safeguards to prevent the process from being abused.

As a framework the basic requirement should be that the professional intending to come home has been offered a job or committed to working in Nigeria for a period not less than three years. That it would be considered a criminal offence if the process were abused.

Contacted Nigerians have indicated their interest and willingness to come home. None had said "No" to a proposal that reads like this; " What if with a 3-year bond, the government is responsible for the cost of your transport {family personal effects) and payment of half of your current salary for 2 years in a currency of your choice'. This may sound excessive and callous but if one takes a hard look at the sacrifice they are making by agreeing to such a proposal, an undertaking of this nature on their part is a highly patriotic act. The national assemblies should seriously look into what could be done to attract professionals abroad. This drift is to our disadvantage as a nation.

I do not believe that local resources should be used for a project like this rather some United Nations funding should be sought. Again, a study could be conducted by one of our missions abroad to see what could be done to bring Nigerian professionals home. A clearly patriotic idea like this may not receive the blessing of the UN given the implications for the developed nations. Imagine the same thing being successful for a country like India, Pakistan, South Africa, Ghana and others. The developed nations are significantly dependent on the developing nations for the provision of some of their highly specialized services especially in the healthcare system.

Nigeria is crying and dying and her children abroad have neglected her for too long. With due respect to Nigerian politicians, I believe their attitude is the greatest impediment to national development. It is only in Nigeria that laws have no meaning. Obedience to law is a question of how low you are in the scheme of things .I do not think that the behaviour of most of our politicians is governed by its legality or morality. The spoilt category of the military and retired military men has been so privileged to the annoyance of all Nigerians. Their incursion into government have left the nation poor and without shame they brandish their wealth with no consequences to their acts of looting. Yet they are supposed to be the most patriotic elements of the society.Tax Policy as a means of economic and national development:

Firstly, I must say that what is contained in this piece may not meet the expectation of students of economics especially at graduate levels. However, I can say that it contains practical methods of taxation that have proved successful both in theory and practice in societies where taxation, as an instrument of governance, had played pivotal roles and continue to do so to date.

The myriad of problems faced by Nigeria demands a multi-faceted approach. Many well meaning Nigerians continue to offer solutions. Only those close to the seat of power could describe Nigeria as a nice society to live in. We have also come to realize over the years that the corruption we talk about so often emanates from the simple fact that our governments have too much money on their hands.

This is an irony because a very simplistic way to explain our lack of development is lack of funds. Given the reality of failed governments as we know them in Nigeria one of the alternatives is devolving more money and responsibilities to individuals and organization in a way that would promote national and economic development. I suggest and advocate a very comprehensive and efficient tax relief mechanisms for organizations and individuals. This can take various forms and may include a variety of considerations as highlighted below. A lot of tax deductibles could be part of our tax policy. Family- friendly tax initiatives could make certain family expenses tax deductible .For example, school fees whether nursery, primary, secondary or post secondary. Expenses spent of providing infrastructure such as water electricity, water, and expenses on our elderly relatives and etceteras. Medical expenses especially on children under eighteen and full-time students and elderly relatives should be tax- deductible. Positive community-related expenses including road maintenance, membership of charitable organizations, any money spent in an effort to make life more comfortable for our neighbours. Prudent economic spending for example payments on life insurance, property insurance, children educational plan interest on loans should all attract tax incentives. The above tax incentives are also for corporate bodies.

Our governments have so far failed to deliver in terms of the basic necessity of life. It is untenable that given the resources we have and the amount of money that passed through our governments each fiscal year, we remain at this rudimentary stage of development. It is no more up for debates whether our governments could manage our resources on our behalf. It is a reality that they have demonstrably been unable to do so.

Governments as we have them in Nigeria are too expensive to maintain .One of them –the state government, is necessarily unnecessary and irrelevant. There is no single function it performs that can not be more efficiently undertaken by either the local government or federal government. We all know the evolution and genesis of state governments. It was a creation of the military possibly with good intentions initially however in the hands of successive military regimes it became a platform for playing all sorts of music with distinct tones of favouritism, tribalism and reckless considerations. In their hands it became a potent vehicle of government presence and siphoning government resources with the attendant abandoning of socio-economic development.

There is definitely no hope for Nigeria as long as things remain the way they are at present. A need to deliberate on the way forward is no more open to debates. Granted, there is no better alternative to staying together and remaining united, as a nation but the arrangements between the constituent nations need to be reviewed. This is usually the case with any unnatural alliances and relationships. In the United Kingdom Wales, Scotland and England still have issues to discuss. Anybody asking that issues be tabled for discussion is not branded as unpatriotic, in fact that is the best way to peaceful co-existence. The minorities and especially the oil producing ones can not be wrong all along. Their cries must be listened to and concerns addressed to their satisfaction. The majority must not harass and oppress the minority and the power of number and overriding force can not be used to suppress legitimate aspirations. It is more peaceful for the minorities to claim ownership of Nigeria, its converse would always portend danger as it connotes arrogance and affront to the dignity of the minorities.

Our potential to be great is not doubtful but I am afraid it is taking too long. The generation of those who fought for our independence could not make us great, the present generation is incapable and decidedly unwilling but we must fight not to incapacitate our future generations.


Dr. Jide Adelugba

adelugba@shaw.ca

Consultant Psychiatrist

regional psychiatric center

Saskatoon, SK

Canada



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