The Presidency continues to insist that provision of foreign exchange for health and education should be discontinued by the Central Bank of Nigeria; advising that those who cannot afford it should come back home. My first reaction was: Haba Baba, come back home to what? For me it was a disappointing response to such a sensitive issue. It was a response that was brought about by a skewed perspective of solving the foreign exchange issue; failing to take into consideration other underlying and equally pertinent issues and consequences.
For as long as I can remember, there have been issues with the education and health care systems in this country. What we make for in quantity with the proliferation of schools and hospitals, we lose greatly in the quality of services and care these organizations provide. We record numerous cases of unnecessary deaths, misdiagnosis, and shabby treatments in our hospitals; churn out half-baked students ill equipped with the necessary education and skill-sets to be relevant in these times. This is in addition to a lack of accountability and responsibility exhibited in the lack of prosecution for the misdeeds in these sectors. These and many more are the reasons why most that can afford and those that cannot desire to go abroad.
Majority of Nigerians that go abroad to seek these services have been compelled by the lack of quality at home. I know for a fact that had things been okay majority of those abroad will be back at home. No parent will want to send their children beyond the reach of accessible parental supervision, exposing their kids to the socio-cultural “advances” of the western world and risk them imbibing attitudes and cultures that are “un-african” to say the least. No one can be happy to have to spend all that money.
The government needs to urgently put the necessary structures in place, and revamp existing ones in these sectors. The judiciary and all supervisory bodies of these sectors need to step to the plate and demand accountability and responsibility of the actors in these sectors. It is not uncommon to hear of individuals dying from negligence in a hospital, what is rare is that a doctor or a hospital has been held responsible and accountable for that negligence.
I once sat on an interview panel where the interviewee (a graduate) did not know the name of the company he had come to interview in; in addition to other goofs. We have a lot of graduates that cannot string correct sentences together, let alone defend their qualifications because of the quality of education and life skills they have received. Yet their schools continue to swell their kind in the labour market yearly. So we have a large number of premature graduates roaming the streets; an economic disaster waiting to happen.
Many of us are told things are not that bad, that we are not too far behind. The truth is things are worse than we are being made to believe and we are really far behind where we should be and where others that we seek to emulate are. We are only coping with our situation; life was not designed to be lived in a perpetual state of coping. There is a lot of work yet to be done. The leaders cannot do it by themselves as such all of us must come together to make it happen. We cannot afford to be divided in purpose or action. If not for today, then for the future we intend to handover to our children.
We also have to understand that what we may “lose” now in foreign exchange, we make up for later in having a set of people that are better educated, and healthier (albeit a very small percentage) who usually come back home to make contributions to the economy. Sort of paying back for what they have enjoyed from the country.
The government cannot afford to deprive Nigerians an opportunity to better their educational lot, or a chance for better health care abroad when it cannot guarantee these at home. More so when some of its officials still make use of these foreign services. The days of “do as I say” are over, it must now be “do as I do”.
We are all in this together, and until we begin to think and act with this truth in mind, our change will only remain in the air.
God bless Nigeria.