The Nigerian labour market is an interesting place teeming with an abundance of certificate-clutching job seekers chasing after the few, sometimes illusory jobs that occasionally pop out in some places. A job search is an intensive activity involving a wide dispersal of CVs to as many organizations as possible, with the hope that maybe one would attract luck somewhere. There is a lot of waiting involved, for a phone call, an email, and a text message bringing good news or unfortunate information on the applicant’s unmatched skills. Although for some, it is a speedy process where the dream-job arrives with little effort. For many others, it is a painful unending chase of mirage after mirage.
That is why on securing a job, the worker holds on to it tenaciously, knowing what it cost him/her. The value of the job is measured by the monthly salary and other benefits (if any), which makes it possible for the worker to afford a certain standard of living and seeks to maintain or improve on it. The motivation for keeping or leaving the job therefore stems mainly from economic and social reasons rather than career interests. Within a few years, it becomes a regular activity which the worker may or may not enjoy; an income provider, sometimes the only one for that person.
Of course, not everyone can be described by this situation, there are many exceptions to this vocational position but for majority of hardworking Nigerian workers, their job is a mere occupation and not a profession. In a country where survival is the predominant interest of most of its citizens, where job security is an obscure concept, career development is an unnecessary waste of time unless it is required for promotion. And so there many workers whose course of study in school bears little relevance to their present jobs, and even many more who labour daily at their 8-hour jobs waiting for the weekend or their annual leave to escape from the necessary monotony of their work. Nigerian banks are filled with graduates from a diversity of disciplines – engineering, microbiology, agriculture, education, arts and so on because the caring banks are among the few organizations that are kind enough to offer jobs to the increasing graduates in the country. Also, sales persons for various organizations come from a variety of professions, which may not play a major function in the achievement of their regular “targets”.
But such multidisciplinary recruitment has its benefits for the organizations as the staffs bring in an interesting mix of skills, talents, abilities and ideas to bear in their work translating into a more attractive balance sheet for the company. Some even discover a latent aptitude or flair for the job and adapt it as their new career consequently rising to top managerial or executive positions in the same organization or industry. Again, these workers constitute another exception to the prevalent situation where professionalism is scarce. And even sometimes workers in their chosen profession perform their jobs mechanically without adding innovation or improvement, as long as the monthly salary flows in. In all these situations, the worker cannot be blamed since he must fend for himself and his family so the money naturally comes first. However, while the worker goes home with his pay, the country suffers on.
The country suffers from underdeveloped industries that among other endemic problems lack sufficient skilled workers. An economy that seems slow in growing, because it seems to lack the capacity for production, because the people and skills to produce are seemingly unavailable. The agricultural industry for example, is moving at snail pace, functioning below the potential of the nation’s resources because agricultural practice has been reduced to farming. And agriculture is not just farming; it is one of the components of agriculture which can be engaged in by anyone with a little interest and who can acquire the skill by practice. There is so much science in agriculture with fundamental principles upon which farming practices are based; the economics of agriculture ensures that farm products are sold at their right value and improvements in farm product quality; nutritional content of food, soil fertility, crop and livestock breed development are made possible by evolving technology birthed through consistent research. This is the job of professionals who have committed years to acquiring knowledge by practice and study of their specific fields of interest.
The professionals – not just workers – are important in every field, because eventually, they are the ones who will develop their field and make it relevant to improvement of human life and economic development. For example again, Nigerian literary artists are becoming well known and respected around the world today, because of the quality of their work and the impression it has made globally. Gradually, they are retelling “the Nigerian story” in the burgeoning Nigerian literature field. But while Nigeria has witnessed an upsurge in the development of the arts, what is more needed now is the production of indigenous technologies for our domestic use and exportation. Tolu Ogunlesi expressed this opinion in an article on 234next.com titled A nation’s technophobic vision: “For while culture and the arts certainly have a role to play in positioning a country in an increasingly contested global economic space, depending solely on them without making any effort to exploit our technological capacity will be akin to seeking to win a soccer game without leaving your own goal area.”
A country touted as “the giant of Africa” must prove its position not only by size, but by its economic influence within the continent, which will be greatly felt if its products are spread abroad. But now, virtually every technology being used in Nigeria is imported and several businesses thrive on this importation industry. Is the nation so intellectually bankrupt that it cannot produce even the most used utilities like light-bulbs and kitchen appliances? The data-capture machines for the 2011 elections had to be imported, and some were even stolen at the port on arrival. An important question to ask is this: is it impossible to request one of the Universities/selected professionals to design and build data-capture machines for the elections within a reasonable time-frame? Such a project will enhance the development of IT and engineering professionals who will not only deliver a finished product but open avenues for the building of other relevant technologies. And then, more experts will be born through their experience on the project. That is one way the government can show its commitment to technological development. The modern computer being used today is based on the technologies developed during the race to explore space between the US and the Soviet Union. A whole new field-bioinformatics was birthed as a result of the Human Genome sequencing project in the 90s. All these examples show that if there is no active commitment by government and relevant organizations towards the development of little basic technologies, development will remain stunted. Evans Wadongo, a Kenyan, was given a CNN Hero award because of the solar lamps he designed and built for villages in Kenya lacking electricity. As an individual, if he was able to make so much impact, then how much more is possible in a nation like Nigeria if government and/or independent organizations approach solving problems through technology? Yet the government cheerfully propagates the gospel of vision 20/2020 as though countries like India, China, Korea and Brazil suddenly arrived at their recognized positions of technological and economic prominence by talking alone. If nothing different is done, and the Nigerian environment remains stifling for the development of professionals, then industrialization will only remain a good dream.
In these days of globalization, the worth of every expert is measured on a universal scale. A graduate of mechanical engineering from a Nigerian university would be regarded as a Mechanical engineer in Africa, Europe, Asia, America and everywhere and not as a Nigerian-Mechanical engineer. All the skills an engineer from China has will be expected from the Nigerian as well. In the light of this, Nigerian workers, professional organizations, Universities, companies and business organizations and of course, the government must be committed to professional and technological development which will lead to sustained economic growth and development.
The Nigerian professional is the hope of indigenous technology to provide a cleaner environment, to exploit more of the country’s natural resources, to produce that long-talked-about “Made in Nigeria” car, even an aeroplane! The Nigerian professional is the hope of converting abundant natural and agricultural resources into food, textiles, fuels and other products that Nigeria can share with the world for profit. The Nigerian professional is the hope of vision 20/2020, the hope of the desired industrialized Nigeria.