Kingsley Moghalu: Rants and Digressions
A professor of Business and doctor of International Relations, Moghalu, among other executive competencies, is also a lawyer. There is the irony that, being this learned — more so in the relevant fields — he is all the more to be resisted. The problem, however, is that his audience are equally educated. They are educated in the Nigerian sense of the word, forming the middle-class intelligentsia that, added to the political elite, are the curse of Nigeria.
Learned enough to recognize knowledge, but not enough to apply it, that audience. Industrial revolutions, together with their enabling technologies, are driven by the middle-class of all developed or developing nations. Except Nigeria. Nearly 60 years after independence, the nation can’t produce a bicycle pedal, never mind a large army of graduates among them engineers and scientists. As you read this article, you can take a look around you — from the phone you’re holding to the threads running through the clothe on your back — and determine how much of you is NOT produced by the white man. We still import Keke Marwa, random work of metal and motor, 20 years after its entry into our market — it now sells apiece for a fraction less than a million Naira! Where are our dons and STEM eggheads all these years? The nation’s seminal products of technology are mostly the creations of the working underclass with neither university education nor middle-class pretensions. Moghalu’s audience represent mostly the eloquent bourgeoisie who, besides being incapable of the industry that builds nations, also do not vote.
But they can argue, that sweat-less part of intellectual over-analysis. Already they are picking Moghalu apart foraging even for the approximations of error. Some are uttering fatalisms like “He’s good but he can’t win because this is Nigeria”. Serves him right! Visiting four PVC centers in Lagos recently ahead of the planned closure of the voter registration exercise in weeks, I asked a few applicants about Kingsley Moghalu. For them he doesn’t exist. The prospective voters, mostly lower-class Nigerians, were waiting in the sun in their numbers, in sacrifice for country and for the politicians they support. The Facebooking, Twittering lot with whom Moghalu is spending his time in posh settings may hardly make that kind of sacrifice for him.
The Nigerian bourgeois is pathetic. Yet he struts around like a crab with delusions of grandeur, with nothing but contempt for the Owode-Onirin or Aba technologist who mans the nation’s technical ecosystem, from industrial fabrications to auto-engineering. The working underclass are the ones who run the factories when the Chinese and Indians are not at work — and the foreigners succeed amid general systemic hitches. They are the traders who populate the informal sector and create the most jobs, in course reaping social mobility. They are the ones who run our transportation systems and agricultural ventures, who execute the hard physical parts of urban contemporary construction. And finally, the ones who vote.
But Moghalu would rather not find his way to them.
From Singapore to Dubai, South-Africa to parts of Europe, it is the one-percent fraction of the educated middle-class that steers innovation, sometimes in spite of government. Except for a budding software segment of the IT market and sections of the arts, the Nigerian intelligentsia have been remarkably unproductive. They are in air-conditioned offices flipping PowerPoint slides of fancy ideas as hoodlums run for elections and get the masses to vote them in. They wield powerful arguments written in good English about why government’s failure to fund research is stunting efforts in science and technology, never mind their private obscenities of designers and luxury cars that cost more — invented by their kind in other nations. Some in the political system are employed merely to vandalize truth on social media on behalf of power.
Of course there is the hard and smart work, the capacity for hustle ingrained in the Nigerian youth — poor, middle-class, educated, sub-literate. But that is survival more than it is enterprise. Survival is importing or trading in finished goods or selling basic acquired skills and services. Real enterprise is jobs creation, innovation, problem-solving. Original thinking that creates original products in a way that expands the value chain. It is a response to an internal calling to solve problems for society above a material inspiration to make money and slay. This is the philosophy gap in our enterprise that needs to be closed for us to move our nation forward as young people.
Then again the point is not to excuse the failure of leadership in inspiring nation-building. The point is that we should take these thoughts to the mirror. To accept the bulk rather than pass it. To indict self and rise, emulating the grit of those below us whose contributions can benefit from the alchemy of our learning. To realize that, even with our little successes and seeming insulation from the Nigerian affliction, we are yet at the mercy of the electoral outcomes in part rigged into being by our collective apathy. That in all our personal achievements, we cannot outgrow the disability that is Nigeria.
But this is about Kingsley Moghalu, Nigeria’s most convincing attempt at the moment towards rebirth from 2019. This is about the inability of highly educated political aspirants in Nigeria to find a niche to connect to the lower classes, a balance. This is about the nation squandering yet another Remi Sonaiya due to the curse of education. About the perennial politics of the babaringa yet again outstripping the cerebral variant. About how brilliant parties erupt every four years as political paramedics responding to elections like emergency, without base and structure hoping to diagnose and cure a sick nation. About you, about me, and the fact of our prodigal occupation of society. Our collective incapacity for the scientific and technological thought that can enhance the prestige and fortunes of our race, without which the black race will never find the dignity that eludes it among peoples of the world. About our perennial electoral apathy. About so many engineers but little engineering, so many science graduates but little technology. About social media bursting with entrepreneurs and CEO profiles but no jobs. So many educated people but illiterate and empty governance. About how education has failed a nation, indeed a continent: it was once the hope of the poor, whose children now graduate and remain impoverished; once the hope of a nation, whose middle class citizens are consumers rather than creators, eloquent in excuses. About education as liability, a jinx that, for its choice of pompous argument over truth, cannot be broken.