The need for government to introduce interventionist strategies aimed at developing human capital in Nigeria was the high point of discussions at the 2008 Oceanic Bank Global Leaders Forum held on Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at the Muson Centre, Lagos.
Speakers at the forum which included Dr. (Mrs.) Cecilia Ibru, MD/CEO, Oceanic Bank, Professors Wole Soyinka, Henry Louis Gates Jnr, Eric Maskin and Rita Dove all concluded that quality education provision was the sure way of producing a productive human capital needed by the country in its quest to achieve both the Financial System Strategy (FSS 2020) and Vision 2020 agenda.
The forum was chaired by Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while Senator Mohammed Daggash, the Minister of National Planning, Professor Ndidi Okereke-Onyiuke, (DG, Nigeria Stock Exchange) and Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, the publisher of This day Newspaper were discussants.
This year’s event themed: Human Capital development in an Emerging Economy, Harnessing, Engaging and Wealth Creation” attracted guests from all walks of life including Captains of industry, traditional rulers, Chief Executives of Banks and other eminent personalities including the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Head of the Interim National Government (ING), Mr. Fola Adeola, Senator David Dafinone, Dr. Reuben Abati (Chairman, Editorial Board, Guardian Newspaper), Mr. Francis Atuche, CEO of Bank PHB and many more.
In her welcome address, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of Oceanic Bank International Plc, Dr. (Mrs.) Cecilia Ibru said that the event was part of the bank’s contribution to the efforts aimed at harnessing Nigeria’s vast human resources.
She gave credits to government’s reform efforts particularly the Obasanjo administration, efforts which she said has triggered participatory actions and opportunities for huge economic growth.
“The financial sector is grateful as they are benefiting from the reforms, which has taken finance to the grassroots due to efforts of the Obasanjo government and his reform team”.
She added that the FSS 2020 laid a huge demand on Nigeria to begin to think about strategies aimed at improving her human capital in order to meet the coming challenges.
Professor Soyinka attributed the growing brain drain which has robbed the nation of her most brilliant minds to the absence of a conducive environment, as a result of which Nigerian professionals find the developed countries more attractive.
“Brain drain is real in Nigeria; it takes many shapes and could be observed through the lack of recognition and prevalence of the philosophy of exclusion. We must move from statistics to recognition of those who have taken it as their job to educate people”, Soyinka stated.
He recalled how he was so bordered about brain drain and the unnecessary death through structural elimination of the good brains, some of whom were his students who were dying from accidents at the Lagos -Ibadan expressway when he was a teacher at the University of Ife.
He explained that he got tired from scooping the brains of his students from the tarmac and resolved to do something hence his motivation to set up the Road Safety Corps which later metamorphosed into what is today known as The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). Professor Soyinka concluded that the nation’s best brains were being sacrificed at the altar of ignorance and exclusion.
The Nobel Laureate evoked emotions when he narrated the story of the almost forgotten female teacher Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin who he said was butchered by her own students in Bauchi for attempting to stop them from cheating during an examination. He almost had the audience in tears when he pulled out a t-shirt bearing the face of the late Mrs. Oluwasesin pointing out that so many brains have been sacrificed in that manner.
He advised that the nation’s human resources could be harnessed by reaching out to the Nigerians in the Diaspora stating that there must be job satisfaction by way of providing an enabling environment so as to motivate them to come back home.
In his own remarks as the Chairman of the event, the CBN governor, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo said that Nigeria is still a natural resource dependent economy, a development that is against the trend of events in the global economy. According to him, the 21st century belongs to economies with requisite pool of human capital (knowledge economy), noting that the nation suffers a paradox of scarcity in the midst of plenty, arising mainly from the shortage of human capital.
The CBN governor while commending Oceanic Bank for organizing the event stated that the challenge still is in finding answers to the questions: “How can a natural resource dependent economy like Nigeria re-focus its strategy to developing its human capital?, How do we covert the rent from oil towards building our human capital? Are there lessons we could learn from other economies?”
The Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Prof. Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke called on all to join in the collective efforts to bring back home Nigerian professionals scattered all over the world who could contribute to the development of the country. “We have to provide them with jobs as an incentive to attract them to come home”.
She noted that the NSE has led in that regard as it had been offering jobs to financial professionals abroad such as stockbrokers to “bring our services in line with global standards.”
Other speakers like Professors Rita Dove, Eric Maskin and Henry Louis Gates Jnr. all spoke of the exploits of the blacks in the Diaspora who continue to display their ingenuity to develop other countries and that with proper planning and deliberate efforts at wooing them, they will come home to help in the development of their own countries.