’Tunji Ajibade (firstname.lastname@example.org; 08036683657)
One of our weaknesses in this country is that we always lack a plan of action. When we have the presence of mind to draw up one, we don’t follow it. The result is purposeless movement. There is a lot of movement, but little progress. I thought that, with the calibre of people occupying the various Government Houses across the country, we should have progressed beyond this kind of situation. Sometimes, I see glimpses of a turnaround. Most of the time, however, I see the same old practices. When Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State recently spoke to journalists I thought I heard that he was making an effort to engage in old practices.
On May 23, 2018, the African International Television broadcast a report on illegal migration. The report said that about 4,000 illegal immigrants from Nigeria were repatriated from North Africa this year. This report also shed some light on what was being done in Nigeria to stem the tide of illegal migration. At 8:11pm, Governor Obaseki was interviewed and he explained what his government was doing about illegal migrants.
Obviously, Obaseki was interviewed at the end of a public event. The governor’s mien and the hasty manner with which he responded indicated that and much more. He expressed his concern over illegal migration. He said his government had started a programme to empower those who wished to migrate to other countries. They would be given opportunities to acquire skills. All that such people need to do is to come forward so that his government can train them.
Obaseki also said that as soon as such people acquire skills, the government would assist them to migrate by officially exploiting the opportunities presented in Nigeria’s bilateral agreement with some developed countries. He promised that his government would properly harness such opportunities and utilise them for its citizens. That sounds good. But it does so only to the point where one begins to clinically dissect the different dimensions to what the governor said.
First, what Obaseki plans to do doesn’t sound like a well thought out measure emanating from some comprehensive strategic plan. Is this measure an item in a larger economic or labour development blueprint?
I don’t think so. It is one of those quick-fix approaches to a perennial raging bull problem afflicting this country and I don’t see how it can take us to where we wish to go. Obaseki’s approach is common in many of our states and the Federal Government that eagerly come up with intervention programmes. We know how quickly such programmes fizzle out. A new administration comes and starts another. One reason is that such programmes are not mainstreamed. They are never part of a larger vision that should make them stand a chance to outlive administrations.
At the time I left secondary school and immediately enrolled for a Higher School Certificate programme (commonly called H.S.C or ‘A’ Level), I recall how state governments came up with skill acquisition programmes. Many secondary school leavers of that generation took advantage of it and got trained. I don’t think that intervention effort was pursued with a systematic, data-propelled, sustainable,
value-chain focus. Even the 6-3-3-4 education policy that was meant to provide technical education and skill to secondary school students was jettisoned. A lot of money was pumped into it (I saw fine structures and equipment for technical training in schools), but it collapsed.
If these efforts had succeeded and they were properly integrated in the nation’s plan of action for developing our young people, many who left school without skills and who have now become illegal migrants would not have been pushed to move in that direction. Now Obaseki is proposing another ad-hoc approach. How sustainable will it be after public funds must have been injected into it? Does he mean that what he wants to do now is to divert our resources to make skilled labour available to other countries? It’s the direct implication of his proposal, isn’t it? I don’t know any serious nation that does this. Yes, some countries take advantage of legal migration in the international labour market to bring funds back into their economies. But they have structured the system through a comprehensive plan that makes repatriated fund contribute to the development and diversification of their economies, as well as technical education, in a way that sustains the process.
I’m not aware of any such detailed arrangement in the Nigerian context. It means that the idea of expending public resources in Edo State to train migrant labour isn’t rooted in a sustainable plan. Even if this is the direction that Edo State wants to go, has it properly aligned its education policy, public expenditure, local economy and the people’s orientation?
Obaseki’s proposal still raises another question. He talked about sending skilled labour abroad. Does his intervention include a plan to train skilled labour for our local industries? Our companies and specialised industries say that they don’t recruit most of our young people because they don’t have the right skills. One would think the first thing for a state governor to consider is how to train our people to the point that they become useful to the production and service sector of our economy. If they are, putting their lives at risk on the Mediterranean Sea wouldn’t be their last option. If the grand plan of a government is to train labour for the purpose of assisting them to migrate, what message is it sending to young people? This kind of proposal shouldn’t fly from the desk of any governor who has a blueprint and clear vision of where he wants to take his state to.
Does this state government have a vision of a great Edo State, one that is industrialised, has skilled labour and which industries are intricately woven into a value chain that’s equally linked to the state’s agriculture, mining, education, and cultural values? Does the governor have a blueprint of where he wants every segment of the state to be by the time he is leaving office? Is training labourers for other nations a part of the blueprint? Is he only interested in quick-fixes that do not move his state forward in that true sense of the word? After 19 years of democratic rule, should we still have governors who grab any populist but unsustainable proposal and expect the informed to be impressed as those who only want food for their stomachs obviously are?
The foregoing brings me to the point that if a nation gives its people skills, other nations will come looking for them without any fuss. I don’t think we rank high among nations whose skilled labour the western nations desire. Our medical doctors and nurses migrate with relative ease. Our academics and other professionals are next. What that means is that we should equally train our lower level manpower and make them to contribute to our economy. When they are of the right standard, they naturally become targets of nations that want them.
Migration becomes easier for those who are interested. That way, Nigeria benefits from the funds that her citizens bring home.
I’ve turned to this matter because I think we should have travelled farther than this practice of quick-fix approach in governance. It shouldn’t be happening in any part of our country. Not after almost two decades of democratic rule, about four generations of state governors, plenty of mistakes of past governors to learn from and enough time for a would-be governor to formulate an action plan. If the caliber of governors that we have at the moment can’t get it right for our people, when shall we get it right? Some of us expect much more from Obaseki than what I heard from him at that time. We shouldn’t have a person of his quality as governor and yet, expect mediocrity in governance. I want to hear news of remarkable transformation in Edo State that we can all be proud of the state under his watch. Nothing more.
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