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Published On: Wed, Mar 5th, 2014

Way to success: Which way up?

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By Mutti Yovbi

Nigeria is a country where you can truly live a dream as many have done. Of the 30 richest people in Africa, at least nine are Nigerians; none of them are second generation of originally super rich families. The richest black woman in the world is in fact Nigerian, with a net worth touted in some circles as being in excess of 7 billion US dollars. It would be good that young Nigerians, for the sake of posterity, should be shown how to simply make a good living. We understand and accept that we cannot all join the billionaire club but we also know that a job with the Nigerian Customs Service should not ordinarily provide you with the sort of income that enables you to become the owner of a fully built up and equipped university nor should a stint as a general in the armed forces assure you ownership of oil wells upon retirement. People like Bill Carson, Oprah, Obama and our own Chinwetel Ejiofor can tell how and what they did to arrive at the top of their professions. Everybody knows the Bill Gates story but the foundation and sustenance of wealth in Nigeria is murky at best.

It has become quite clear to our girls that their bodies will take them further than their brains, at least to start with. They have been shown time and again, that relationships especially marriage to powerful men is what helps to catapult a number of women into powerful positions and acquire assets worth hundreds of millions in US dollars. There are of course those who are simply daughters or nieces of powerful men but to those good looks and the need to be circumspect have not mattered so much. It is telling that there are few stories about the modern Nigeria woman who has risen to prominence by dint of hard work out there. Just like their male counterparts, their stories of success leave questions unanswered about when and how they made the transition from Jane Average to superwoman. In other cultures this is usually easy to trace.

Little wonder that there are few, if any, Nigerian dynasties. Upon the demise of the one who happened upon the enterprise turned conglomerate, it is usually balkanised, chopped up as inheritance for overindulged poorly trained offspring. Or perhaps the money simply disappears back to the pockets for which it was being fronted. Meanwhile as a nation our natural talents remain latent, most are beaten down on the altar of mediocrity, forced to take jobs way below their capacity and turning otherwise brilliant minds to criminality. And no wonder, all young people see is the gleaming outcome of abracadabra that serves as meteoric rise to wealth of a minuscule handful in Nigeria. Few of them know or understand why they have effectively been locked out of opportunities that should otherwise be theirs if merit had remained the preferred currency for progress. Merit and access to the right information.

Nearly two decades ago, I asked a friend and colleague how she had come by the very elusive appointment as a UN Volunteer and her answer that Baba God gave her the opportunity left me perplexed. I was also a Christian, did it mean that Baba God loved me less or did not want me volunteering for the UN? A platform that I believed would put me on easy streets if I could get on it? I later found out that she made friends with a German who invited her to Germany and introduced her to the right people at the UNV headquarters. Explaining this would have been better, even if she would not have introduced me to her German friend. Her dissembling typifies our approach to disseminating information about jobs and opportunities in Nigeria and contributes to a lack of competition and dearth of innovation in our systems. How many people for instance know how to apply for the commonwealth scholarship or that it even exists, to join the Technical Aid Corps, how to work in a constituency office or as a member of a minister’s technical team, how recruitment into the public service works?

Most young people simply want information that points them in the right direction and they will do the rest. Instead of feeding them with religious platitudes we will do better to provide useful information and training to level the playing field. We can never say it too many times that we should hold every single one of us to account, including those ones who suddenly appeared on the world stage as among the wealthiest even if our current president does not give a damn.

Mutti Yovbi is on


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