Home Business and Economy Buhari’s New Cabinet : In Dire Need of Engineers by Christian Okwori

Buhari’s New Cabinet : In Dire Need of Engineers by Christian Okwori

“Put your money where your mouth is”, is a 19th century American adage that has and will continue to haunt Nigeria until we start matching our voices with our choices. Before one could say Jack Robinson, 4years has gone with the wind, and we are still complaining of poor electricity with just about 3000MW(around 1999 figures) from the system operator as I write with over 4 grid collapses (meaning zero megawatt total power generation) in the first trimester of 2019 alone, diminishing manufacturing sector with more industry giants set to leave while the surviving ones are turning their Nigerian plants to warehouses, horrifying housing deficits of about 20million, inadequate telecommunication infrastructure to drive an e-economy with prospects thinning out daily, disregard for STEM and Technical education and professionals, and many more issues begging for attentions but whose solutions are before our nose, requiring no effort of extra terrestrial prodigies. For how long must George Santayana’s words that “those who forget to remember the past are bound to repeat them” continue to apply to our national affairs?

After the triumph of his communist party and Irked by the widespread poverty of the land and backwardness of their country, Chairman Mao Tse Tung, the father of modern China decided it was time to replace most of the professional politicians in government with technocrats, particularly engineers and scientists, whose expertise are at the core of technology and national development, in order to laser focus the nation towards industrial, economic and technological revolutions badly needed for their global competitiveness. His successors from Deng Xiaoping till date all kept to that policy and in just three decades china has emerged the second largest economy in the world with almost 1million megawatt of electricity generation and gross domestic product of over $12Trillion aside being a world power among many triumphs.

We need development, job creation, active construction sectors, infrastructures, technological advancement, security, stable and adequate electricity supply, and tangible results at this time in the nation’s life.- Engr Okwori

If anyone thinks China is alone in this, far from it. The Asian Tigers like Singapore led by Lee Kwan Yew, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and the rest escaped poverty and third world backwardness by respecting and bringing in the engineers and other technocrats to run the leadership especially at ministerial level. Before we forget, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and most of the fastest developing countries in the world all started out in the 1970’s and 80’s with similar developmental agenda but today we are left behind simply because our leadership have not being respecting technocrats and thinking a nation can be built on words and endless seminars without deeds, hence we have fine policies while poverty still reigns.

Qian Xuesan, a famous MIT scholar in corroborative fashion postulated that governments of developing countries with the intent to truly transform their nation’s technological and economic fortunes should be run like engineering departments due to the pragmatic solution minded approach of engineers towards social, economic and political challenges. This is evident in the best run sectors in Nigeria such as oil and gas, telecom and the top places everyone wants to work and do business. The methods of engineers must not be sacrificedon the altar of political aggrandizement and ego massaging. There are many ways of generously rewarding party leaders and loyalists like Mao did without having to have them hold critical sectors in hostage. Like a foreign journalist once pointed out mediocre not corruption as Nigeria’s greatest problem. There we have it.

These observations are not in any way intent at disparaging, casting aspersion or lack of competence on the nation’s leadership or heads of concerned ministries, department and agencies (MDA), rather it’s a call for us as a people to start auditing our actions, troubleshooting our failures and most importantly righting our wrongs by putting round pegs in round holes for once and allowing the systems to firm up as a matter of overriding national interests irrespective of political differentials and standoff cases. It’s hard for people to give what they don’t have. Even in project management, where people are trained on versatile or globalized management skills, trainees are still advised to focus on management in their areas of technical training and experience, hence there is no point justifying things that should not be in the first place. It’s not right to make a medical doctor or mechanical engineer Minister of Justice. In the same reasoning, it’s not right to make a lawyer Minister of Power, Works, Housing or of some technically based sector. It’s not right to make a non-medical professional the Minister of Health. We must stop mixing politics with public interests.

It’s not right to make a medical doctor or mechanical engineer Minister of Justice. In the same reasoning, it’s not right to make a lawyer Minister of Power, Works, Housing or of some technically based sector.-Engr Okwori

The situation looks bleaker if one recalls the event of Tuesday, 1st of November, 2016, when Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing told the leaders of Nigerian Society of Engineers to their face that they are laid back, not good enough and would work even without them. Such unfair, unguarded and incendiary statement coming from the mouth of a priest in the inner temple of justice is a very distasteful and a serious matter which may as well be like telling young university entrants to look for another career outside engineering because any jack with commonsense can replace them. He went on to mention how no local engineering firm submitted a bid when Lagos State Government under him as governor threw up the state’s railway project for prequalification.

It’s not hard to know why no local engineering firm may have submitted bid even though railway project is in no way technically challenging (Even my IT students can handle it with minimal supervison) compared to more complex jobs being carried out by local engineers in geotechniques, structures, subsea, space technology, complex engineering simulations and many more. How can you ask local engineers trying to find their foots in business to sign bonds to the tune of 5billion Naira? How many local engineering firms can afford that? Which bank will sign for them without them having such liquid cash or asset to lien by the banks? Don’t we know the attendant risks of doing business with government? Such attitudes by governments invariably means the contracts are open only to the foreign companies who they respect and can also easily afford the amount. Checkout most of the failed project they accuse local engineers of and you will know straight out that they were awarded to politicians in actual fact. Why are there collapsed structures all the time? Because engineers are not being regarded and everyone (even masons) call themselves engineers without being arrested, neither are engineering bodies empowered to arrest and prosecute such quackery.

It’s not hard to know why no local engineering firm may have submitted bid even though railway project is in no way technically challenging…

Nigerian engineers as top professionals are not insulated from the foibles and ills that have affected virtually every sectors and fields in the country. The judiciary and the legal profession as I write is down and in desperate need of revival, having had the Chief Justice of the land sacked few months ago with victories going more to lawyers who know judges than lawyers who truly know the law. But still, no one condemns the entire legal profession and they are able to still maintain total control of the local legal market because in 1985, the Federal Government barred foreign law firms from practicing in Nigeria. The medical profession is not left out, as there has being lots of brain drains and cases of patient deaths due to negligence and other ills by medical professionals, but still that is not enough to write off a whole profession noble calling. The military has its own. Not even the clergy are free from isolated cases of misconducts. We must respect our doctors, engineers, architects, accountants, lawyers, military officers and all the professionals by not displacing them from their jobs due to sentiments and or whatever. Enough is enough. If we truly want to advance as a nation and develop, we must put professionals where they fit. We must stop giving the jobs of engineers to other professionals.

I will hereby appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, who has in all good intention being working for the best of Nigeria to consider unbundling the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing

Nigeria as a country is not structured with institutions strong enough to give professionals the security and autonomy to do their job irrespective of whoever is the Minister of Whatever. We don’t need ward heelers and paper shufflers to be running real sectors and complicating progress with endless adjudications. We need development, job creation, active construction sectors, infrastructures, technological advancement, security, stable and adequate electricity supply, and tangible results at this time in the nation’s life.

I will hereby appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, who has in all good intention being working for the best of Nigeria to consider unbundling the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. Also, ministries of petroleum, transport, mines and steel, and water resources among others should be looked into critically for expert attention, as necessary and bring in qualified engineers who have distinguished themselves in the relevant sectors to come help use their experiences and expertise in putting the nation in the true path of development and technological advancement. We must put our money where our mouth is if we truly believe in the Nigerian project.

Christian Okwori is a seasoned consultant, engineers and patriot who believes in genuine national progress. He writes in from Victoria Island, Lagos. He can be reached at owoichoengine@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @owoichoengine.

1 COMMENT

  1. Having gone through your writing, it can be seen that the problem stems both from within and without.
    From your opening adage, it is clear that development is never of priority to the government of Nigeria.
    We, Ingeniers, have both reduced our standard and reputation. We shouldnt expect anyone to prize us more than we prize ourselves. Functional Contractors, masquerading as Engineers, have used their politics of contracts negotiation to find themselves at strategic levels in Engineering. These have negatively impacted the profession – with slow but sustained denigration – and recovery is not soonest.
    Medicine and Law are looking for how their professionals should earn international standard salaries but Engineering is looking for how to make HND equal with Degrees. For this reason, the profession was left to suffer to the extent that Fashola can boldly tell us that they can do without Nigerian Ingeniers. I can see the blame more on our side than anyone else.

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