Nigerian Engineers have significant roles to play in nation building. This is true if high unemployment and inflation that are wrecking Nigerian economy are to be reduced. While developed nations are industrializing even in the outer space, Nigeria is de-industrializing. As industrialized nations are neck deep into recycling technology, Nigeria finds it challenging to recycle wastes, and process basic raw materials needed for production.
As I write, all engineers under the banner of the Nigerian Society of Engineers have converged in Uyo, the capital city of Akwa Ibom for the African Engineering Conference on Energy. The objective of this year’s conference is “to draw attention to the current diverse challenges facing energy sector in Africa and to consider the prospects for adequate, reliable, and sustainable development of this critical and central sector of human existence and well-being.”
Let me salute the courage of all Nigerian professionals in economic recession. I say with a deep sense of responsibility that all professions are noble. But the noblest of them all is engineering. Engineering is the noblest of all professions because of its creative potential. Engineers usually have eyes for details and that is why they have been able to manufacture assorted types of aircraft, submarines. Spacecraft, and aircraft carriers amongst other sophisticated equipment. Indeed, one philosopher once remarked that “God must be an engineer because the world is so beautiful.” That is why those who value engineers in their society say boldly that “engineers are second only to God.”
I want to draw inspiration from a respected Nigerian soldier and scholar who says that “in Nigeria, we should henceforth define engineering as development of the people, for the people, and by the people.” As an engineer, I am aware that engineers globally have critical minds and that is what is required in all nations where efforts are made to sustain development. The engineer is among the most versatile, inventive, progressive, precise, logical, rational and result-oriented professionals. These positive attributes are brought to bear alongside unique ability in leadership and skillful management of resources. That is why I pity any society that doesn’t appreciate the importance of its engineers in nation building. At the government level, engineering practice and decisions are often subjected to political manipulations in Nigeria. A pity!
Let’s digress a bit. It is very doubtful if the Nigerian government appreciates the role of engineers in nation building. I say this without apologies because the minister for power, works and housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, was alleged to have said that “Nigerian engineers are not good enough,” when addressing the Presidium of the Nigerian Society of Engineers led by Engr Otis Anyaeji sometime in the year.
According to the honorable minister, “if homegrown engineers were any good, the federal government won’t be running after their foreign peers.”Fashola may be correct. But the question I asked is: who are the engineers Raji Fashola or any of his colleagues awarded engineering contracts to either as a minister or state governor that didn’t perform? Politicians in governments- federal, state, and local, most times give contractual jobs to professionally incompetent political associates who are the weakest in any of the known professions including engineering.
I came across a carpenter from one of the countries in Asia at an engineering conference in Lagos barely 2 years ago. The foreign carpenter who probably came to Nigeria as an “engineer” got an engineering contract from the federal government. The foreign carpenter was looking for a Nigerian Engineer who could execute the job on his behalf. I asked him: “why did you apply for the job when you haven’t the capacity to execute the contract? You know what the foreign “engineer” told me? “I was told in my country that once you come to Nigeria, you would get contract, then I came only” he replied. A foreign carpenter came only to Nigeria and got engineering contract.
Back to the main issue. The prime movers of any sustainable economy are engineers. Unfortunately, in a technology-driven age, Nigerian engineers are not sufficiently encouraged to be part of the process of nation building. The government gets foreign loan, then gives it back to foreign companies to build roads and airports. Thereafter, these foreign companies repatriate the loan back to their countries with Nigeria paying the principal borrowed plus interests for years. That is why Nigeria is in motion without any movement. You can imagine the wealth that would have been created if Nigerian Engineers designed and developed Abuja.
To worsen the already bad situation, most government officials either elected or appointed, have bastardized engineering by patronizing quacks who violate engineers’ ethical codes which are inviolable with impunity. For more than 30 years of professional engineering practice, I observed regrettably though, that in Nigeria the debasement of engineers and the engineering profession has gone to a ridiculous level, where housewives become contractors, girlfriends’ emerge as consultants and domestics are often paraded as artisans.
If Japan, India, China and South Korea including other Asian Tigers had ministers who didn’t see any good in their local engineers and other professionals, they wouldn’t be industrialized nations today. Unless we have elected and appointed public officers who truly recognize the worth of their professionals, it may be difficult for Nigeria to catch up with the rest of the world. If care is not taken, Ghanaian judges may be hired to adjudicate over electoral offences in Nigeria. Why? Someone may emerge in the government very soon who will say Nigerian judges are not good enough to handle election petition matters.
I wish to congratulate all Nigerian engineers for their contributions to nation building so far. As engineers, we must continue to respect our noble profession by having regards for professional ethics, while ensuring that the code of practice is sacrosanct. Nigerian Engineers must not be passive in nation building. We must be less materialistic, and at all times seek job satisfaction. Engineers mustn’t allow politicians to pollute our professional decisions with politics.
First Published BusinessDay