A few days back, a friend in a WhatsApp group shared the link to an article highlighting an outstanding Nigerian.
Wendy Okolo held a doctorate degree in Aerospace Engineering (earned at age 26), works at NASA and had just been crowned the winner of the Black Engineer of the Year.
Our initial deliberations were on how the reference to her being “black’ “woman” and even “Nigerian” may have somehow taken away from her accomplishments.
Indeed, her achievements are fantastic on every level – whether born or not born of Nigerian parents, black or white skinned.
However, we later learnt that the award was presented by Black Engineer Magazine, hence the attachment of the word “black” to the award.
Also, one of the aims of the award is to remind the United States that people of African origin possess unimaginable depth of knowledge in their DNA.
While we celebrated this Nigerian in our chat room, I found myself thinking out loud.
It was more of a rhetorical question really, but others in the chat room shared their fears for Nigeria’s future, especially with the brain drain being experienced by the nation.
And it is not just the scenario where young and intelligent Nigerians opt to leave the country due to the pervasive corruption and unemployment and in search of better pay, better education or living conditions!
It is also youths studying courses, choosing professions or going into fields based on what is trendy, keeping the country starved of other important professionals.
For instance, almost every young Nigerian now believes that they can make quick success in music, comedy or film even when they clearly have no talent for it.
Sure, Nigeria – a nation of about 200 million people from diverse backgrounds with a fast-growing population index – has immensely benefitted from her huge population.
However, there is no denying that the greatest resource of every nation is its human resource.
It is the major indicator of the future of the country.
It is the citizen’s participation in the wellbeing of the country that drives the country forward.
People develop nations not just resources that lie beneath the surface of the country.
It is the concepts and the ingenuities of the people that create a viable society and advances all aspects of human society.
Obviously, the Nigerian economy has not started feeling the effects yet and so no one is noticing, ergo Minister of Labour insisting that doctors leaving the country should not be a cause of concern.
Even more, his claim that these Nigerians in the Diaspora send money home to build the nation or come back to apply their skills, later on, is far from the truth.
Majority of them do not come back to help in the rebuilding of Nigeria.
Not at all.
There is no incentive to do that.
They are rather accustomed to their new-found society and feel more confident in identifying with the new society.
And because they find comfort in these foreign countries, they tend to lose their patriotism and sometimes work as proxy for some neo-colonialist tendencies, which in most cases, work against their home country.
They are, in some ways, disconnected from their roots and their allegiance sometimes becomes compromised.
An instance is the case of boxing champion, Anthony Joshua, one of Nigeria’s amazing young talents who largely represents England.
If he has been representing Nigeria so far, perhaps his accolades could have opened a new page in the Nigerian boxing arena today.
Besides the dearth of professionals and poor economic development, the brain drain is indeed leading to huge decrease in innovative ideas and technological advancements.
It is the major reason we lack the technological nous and scientific discoveries which could challenge the global giants.
Our prodigies are helping in uplifting the health standards of other countries, while ours are in ruins.
We have amazing talents working for major tech corporations who can come home and build a Silicon Valley for startups and acceleration centers across Nigeria.
In my opinion, the brain drain needs to be addressed.
While there is the assumed benefit of remittances from the Diaspora and the new skills which returning migrants bring home, the damage of young talents leaving in the first place far outweighs the benefits.