Distinguished colleagues, I heaved a sigh of relief when the ideas that birthed the evolution of this noble body, Nigerian Union of Engineering Professionals (NUEP) and some other proposed bodies like it started ringing more loudly late last year in view of the distasteful treatments and unjust discriminations being meted out against Nigerian engineers both in private and public sectors from utter disregard for their expertise to being ignored in favour of less qualified expatriates resulting in social disdain in leadership and non inclusion in relevant political appointments and critical policy formulation.
In August 2014 COREN Assembly, I spoke up at a plenary session which also had about three ministers and top government functionaries in attendance about the need for a more effective engineering regulatory body by replacing COREN with or upgrading them to *Office of Engineer General of The Federation (EGF) * that answers directly to the President or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(SGF)* , because COREN by its very architecture is too weak to help engineers effectively and potently carry out extant engineering regulatory activities since the COREN President only reports to a Director under the Ministry of Works not even to the Minister who by the way is most often not an engineer just like the Nigerian doctors are also trying to push for *Office of Surgeon General of the Federation* as one of their conditions to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
I also suggested that certain engineering based ministries, departments, and agencies(MDA) such as Ministries of Power, Telecommunication, Petroleum, Works, Steel, Transport, Housing and related parastatals be reserved for engineers so we can be putting round pegs in round holes knowing that we having been crying of power problems for long but more than 80% of Nigerian power ministers appointed since independence are non engineers just like no non lawyer has been appointed Minister of Justice and the likes…… …
Before I could finish, they shouted me down in the most embarrassing manner and ask that I hand over the microphone. This angered many engineers present as the entire hall became a big dome of emotional frenzy and provocative arguments from different perspectives. Eventually, some engineers urged me on in chorus to continue while a few appealed and requested I hand over the microphone as ordered, which I did.
Some supported the President, some supported me. Many senior Engineers met me at the sideline during the tea break and commended my courage while expressing their disappointment at the entire development. Even one of my undergraduate lecturers promised to ensure our engineers do something about that. Looking at the face of most engineers shortly after that session, one could clearly see frustration and exasperation from years of neglect and disregard by both the country’s leadership and forces within the profession whose breads are buttered by the status quo.
I remember the day some Nigerian Air Force engineers and pilots complained angrily to me during one of my visit to the Air Craft Maintenance Deport (ACMD) about the unfair treatment of engineers in the military just like Naval officers cloistered round me to express their various grievances against NSE/COREN and most especially the pay disparities against engineers compared to other double hour professionals when I visited a Naval Officers Mess and was introduced by a Commander Friend. The complain of a Naval captain(Colonel in Army) who expressed dismay at the worthlessness of engineering profession to their people compared to their law and medical counterparts made me feel bad about us. A young Naval Officer and engineer of about 25years of age at the dockyard even showed me a paper that showed how engineers were grouped under single honour courses like history, philosophy, and the likes while lawyers, doctors, accountants, pharmacists, and others were given pride of place despite the fact that it takes 9years to qualify as an engineer and 4, 5,6,7 years to qualify as an accountant, geologist, lawyer, and doctor respectively. The injustice is too disheartening as more and more children in primary and secondary schools are no longer fancying engineering among their prospective choice of career. Who wants to be associated with poverty, disregarded, or seen as beggarly among other noble profession?
One fact is that, in the fight to dignify our dear profession along side other nobles like doctors, lawyers, architects, and the likes, we must understand that outside force are going to be minimal compared to the internal resistances to be encountered within the profession, most of whom will not understand the big picture that you are fighting even for their own interests inclusive. To free a man from bondage, he must first be made to understand he is in bondage. To help an engineer escape from the fetters of eating from the crumbs and live up to his full economic potentials, his eyes must first be opened to the billions due to him which he is missing than the miserly benefits he may be making from the status quo which he doesn’t want to let go. Dirty petty politicking must give way for justice to reign.
After President Muhammadu Buhari’s attorneys studded ministerial appointments in 2015 that shortchanged engineers even in engineering based ministries, departments, and agencies, I wrote and published an article on some national newspapers titled, ” *_Buhari’s Cabinet and Infrastructure Drive : Where Are the Engineers?_* . Guess what? I got some negative feedbacks from our engineers and seniors who are even the likely people to be appointed even if President Buhari was to heed my call to appoint engineers. Some argued that at the level of a minister, one doesn’t need to be an expert but an administrator which engineers aren’t well suited for by virtue of their training among other nauseating excuses in defense of the government’s actions against their own profession but failed to answer me when I turned the analogy of an engineer being Minister of Justice like a Lawyer being Minister of Works, Power, and Housing or a non doctor being made a Minister of Health.
I will urge the leadership and promoters of NUEP and Co who are passionately out to restore the battered image and rubbished dignity of the once noble profession to keep up the good fight but don’t expect convenience or comfort. In fact the biggest fight they will encounter will come from among the engineering ranks as outsiders generally fear engineers but are just joining us to rubbish ourselves.
Once we can overcome the internal resistance forces and drags within the NSE/COREN labyrinth and manoeuvre successfully through the political conundrums, then dealing with the Feds , states, and private sector will be a stroll in the park. Don’t expect a bread and butter. Just resolve to stand firm and in unwavered any how the waive spills. I leave us with this quote.
.. _Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the world_ …..
Christian Okwori is the Chief Operating/Technical Officer of Technozilla Limited, Ikoyi, Lagos as well as Technical Secretary of the Nigeria Society of Engineers Victoria Island Branch and