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Fareed Zachariah and the reasons Nigeria and Nigerians should worry rather than gloat

Perhaps in continuation of the rather strident campaign against the style of President Donald Trump by the CNN, Fareed Zachariah, host of the intellectually stimulating eponymous programme, Fareed Zachariah GPS, recently generously used Nigeria as a case study in proving that the US President may have got his facts wrong in the recently announced restrictions placed against people from Nigeria and some other countries attempting to immigrate to that country.

Clips of the “What in the World” segment of this programme enjoyed massive Social Media traction in Nigeria, shared as it was, by thousands of people who, hitherto, may ordinarily not be regular fans of the programme. While those in desperate search for positive PR material to prop up the floundering administration of President Muhammadu Buhari found in it a strong testament of how great Nigeria must really be, even when most of the people have been reluctant to admit, others, inspired by a compelling spirit of nationalism, latched unto it, in the main to shore up flagging national pride.

Fareed, in that programme highlighted a few things we already knew, albeit not captured in precise statistics. And I summarise below:

  • Nigerians are the most educated immigrant community in the United States
  • 59 percent of Nigerians in the US have college degrees, almost twice those of Americans living in their home country, which stand at 33%
  • 54% of Nigerians in the US are in while collar jobs
  • Nigerians in America contribute a huge $4 billion in taxes to the US economy
  • Nigerians in this country a so brilliant they work in such relevant professions such as medical, sciences, IT and so on.

It is important to note that Fareed’s stats only captured those carrying Nigerian passports or at least only the first-generation immigrants. Children of Nigeria parents born in the US are not in this distribution.

These points I presented above formed a very compelling argument for Fareed (as it should be for many) in attacking President Trump’s unjustifiable inclusion of Nigeria in his list of countries that should not be allowed to emigrate to the US. Fareed went into history to remind us how Trump had referred to our country as “sh*t hole countries whose citizens refuse to return to their “huts” after visiting America.

While the facts presented in the CNN report are in no doubt reflective of the typical Nigerian characteristic, I would rather suggest that rather than isolate the PR value inherent there in, our citizens should also leverage this opportunity to ask certain critical questions of themselves and the government.

I say this because as far as I am concerned (and I am deeply concerned), Fareed’s report clearly mirrored out missed opportunities at greatness. If you ask 100 Nigerians living in the United States, Europe or any other country the reasons they left our dear country, the ready answer would be failure of government and the consequent limited opportunities for skilled and unskilled workforce. It is a known fact that the biggest industry in Nigeria is politics, a strange industry that employ tonnes of people most of whom have no identifiable skills beyond praise singing and hero-worship, the opportunity cost of which is the application of economic resources to factors with no direct relevance to productivity and opportunities enhancement for the larger majority.

The brightest and best Nigerians are not in Nigeria. Statistics show that there are over 5,000 Nigerian doctors working in the United States. The numbers for the UK is estimated at more than 4,000. A BBC report on April 25, 2019 stated that the country has a doctor-patient ratio of 4:10,000. Compared to the US with a ratio of 26:10,000 and the UK’s 28:10,000, the Nigerian case is a worrying emergency.

What this means is that, once you are not in the “politics” captive market, you either make-do with the meagre fortunes that industry has to offer or you seek better opportunities abroad.

And those who leave this country are usually our country’s first 11. The brightest and best Nigerians are not in Nigeria. Statistics show that there are over 5,000 Nigerian doctors working in the United States. The numbers for the UK is estimated at more than 4,000. A BBC report on April 25, 2019 stated that the country has a doctor-patient ratio of 4:10,000. Compared to the US with a ratio of 26:10,000 and the UK’s 28:10,000, the Nigerian case is a worrying emergency.

A 2016 report by audit firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers stated that Nigeria loses more than $1,2 bilion (N432 billion) to medical tourism. This is nearly the total annual budget of the 5 states in south eastern Nigeria. Still in the area of healthcare, the World Health Organisation placed Nigeria at number 187 out of 191 countries in the order of countries with the best healthcare systems. Countries like Ghana, Togo, Niger, Mali and Chad fared better than our country in this ranking.

Decaying and decadent infrastructure is at another end of the problem. Only recently, the Federal Government closes the countries borders because of smuggling and the fact that importers would rather clear their goods in the ports of neighbouring countries than Nigeria. Nebulous freight management systems are chiefly responsible for this.

Even when these goods are either legitimately trucked in or smuggled into the country, millions of naira worth of goods are lost to accidents. Littering the country’s major highways are upended articulated vehicles that could not snake through the country’s cavernously dangerous highways and arterial roads.

The manufacturing sector in Nigeria is in dire need of fixing. At a time the world is almost at the threshold of a new era of artificial intelligence and robotics, the rhetoric in my country is how to “revamp” industries that we allowed to fail eons ago. And as that talk is on, the world is speedily moving ahead while the hydra-headed monsters of kidnapping, violent crimes and terrorism are conspiring to rag us further backwards.

We should be worried. The statistics revealed by Fareed should worry us. It is as much a PR material for us as it is also (if not more of) a wake-up call. Nigeria is a beautiful place. More than 70 percent of those leaving our country would not be doing so if we have a nation that works and a system that accommodates and rewards talent.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Chibueze Onah KSC

    This is a well crafted piece that represents the true picture of the Nigerian state.
    Thank you so much for taking up the responsibility of educating us through this medium.
    God bless you

    February 19, 2020 at 1:20 pm Reply
  • Chidieber

    Thank you Ikem for saying it as it is. It might surprise you that more than 75 % of Nigerians abroad long to return back home. But that given the state of our health care system, poor infrastructure and security system. They are forced to declare “ala bu otu”.

    While federal character and quota system keeps psycophancy and backwardness.

    The worst is that second generation Nigerians abroad may require divine intervention to bring them back.

    February 19, 2020 at 1:59 pm Reply
  • Chigozie Victor Ezema

    Very emprical article that speaks truth to power. Honestly, why people like me is still here is because I don’t have the means to travel out.

    Nothing works in this country. No reward for hardwork and intelligence.

    If you’re not in Politics, nothing for you.
    Nigeria is a disaster, but should we give up?
    I don’t think so.

    Thank you Mr. Ikem for this well-written article.

    February 19, 2020 at 2:34 pm Reply
  • Sire ICON

    I couldnt have said better. Thank you so much for this insightful post!!!

    February 20, 2020 at 3:43 pm Reply

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