Nigerians: Big Fishes In A Small Pond, By Usha Anenga
While working as a doctor in a remote part of the country, in addition to seeing patients, I was given the responsibility of teaching students at an institute for basic medical attendants owned and run by the hospital. Most of the students had secondary school certificates with good results and having being frustrated by not having enough funds to go to the university or being outrightly denied admission, they settled for this one year course.
While their human anatomy and physiology curriculum was designed to give them an idea of how the human body worked, they wanted to know the deep stuff. I understood and liked their interest but it was causing problems for me. For instance, I would end up teaching just one topic in a lecture I planned to take two or three. Most times, I’ll spend more time answering questions on a topic than the time I spent teaching it, even encroaching into the lecture time of other lecturers. It was apparent that their enthusiasm, desire for knowledge was beyond the scope of the institution. Of course not all of them but a sizable proportion. I therefore encouraged them to endure this level of education but not relent in seeking opportunities for additional education at levels that match their effort and potential.
I want to liken Nigeria to this institution. Nigerians have become big fishes in a small pond. Small not in the sense of geographical mass but in terms of development and availability of opportunities. Many Nigerians are ready but the country is not ready. Last week I was eavesdropping on a conversation between two nurses; an older one and a much younger one. The older said she had 3 job offers even before she finished her final exams in nursing school while the younger lamented spending 5 years seeking for a tangible job.
The people are ready but the opportunities are very few and far between. This has led to many Nigerians seeking greener pastures abroad because of the fear that they might not reach their full potential in this environment and this assertion is further strengthen by thousands of Nigerians who struggled here but have gone on to tremendous excellence abroad. Professionals are leaving the country, doctors leaving the country in droves for greener pastures. The affluent sponsoring their children to study abroad, those who can afford flying out of the country for primary medical care available here, celebrities taking their wives to deliver babies abroad so they can acquire foreign citizenship, and thousands littering and loitering around embassies of our pairs in search of visas to leave. Those staying back like the students at village institute, are just there because they have not had the opportunity to leave to another country with all due justification.
Come to think of it, how can a product that is abundant in a country; a product that has a ready market at home and abroad be scarce? We can even build and run refineries for our crude oil, doesn’t the country want to make money? How difficult is it to harness the economic potential of 200 million endowed people? I don’t understand. These and many more common-sense defying issues like epileptic power supply and lack of adequate and relevant infrastructure are reasons why many will leave and even those who have left and excelled elsewhere can’t return. We are clearly getting less than we deserve and it doesn’t seem like there is an end to this in the nearest future. On the other hand, there is a limit to which all of us can take this before a revolution erupts.
Usha Anenga is a medical doctor, writer and socio- political commentator. He writes from Makurdi.