The World Bank ranking of 157 countries in 2018 on human capital indicated Nigeria’s position at the bottom with a score of 0.34 human capital indexes. At the top of the rankings were East Asian countries/territories, including Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, which scored 0.88, 0.84, 0.84 and 0.82 respectively. Low-income African countries made up the bottom of the rankings. The countries with rakings lower than Nigeria includes Chad (0.29) and South Sudan (0.30), as well as Niger, Mali and Liberia – the three scored 0.32 each.
As Scary and gloomy as the Nigerian position shows, the worst on human capital was said by Mr. Bill Gate, the multi-billionaire business tycoon and co-owner of Microsoft when he visited Nigeria in 2018. Before the gathering of Nigerian leaders: President, ministers, governors and other high raking personalities on 22nd March 2018, Mr. Gate was quoted telling his audience “In upper middle income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68. In low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still: just 53 years. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad. One out of three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished”. The World Bank’s result and Mr. Gate’s statement on human capital perfectly tallied and indicated Nigerian low “investment in health and education”.
While the result of the World Bank ranking of Nigeria human capital index among the 157 countries looks discouraging and dispiriting, the reality shows that several Nigerians are creating waves and excelling in several human endeavors globally. This may not be unconnected with the large human resources that keep growing in the country. The relative few Nigerians with high human capital index are large enough to make the name of Nigeria rings bell in every continent. Perhaps, this may be the positive aspect of population explosion. These few Nigerians are endowed with creative capacities and innovative thinking and thus, impacting positively on the nation image home and abroad. What is the creativity in these few Nigerians?
Before then, it is important to point out that despite teething challenges to Nigerian development, these few Nigerians were among the several other Nigerians who have resilience and are determined to succeed. As confessed by Mr. Gate during his visit, “Nigerians are known around the world for their big dreams and big ambitions”. This is the stock that made these few Nigerians. They are very creative not only to survive the storms and turbulent waves to succeed but stand tall for others to watch with envy. Their success stories span all spheres of human endeavors; education, industries, academia, health, ICT and politics.
Let me start with politics, outside the shore of Nigeria, there are several Nigerians elected in USA, Europe, Canada, Asia etc as political office holders and being excellent ambassadors in Diaspora. Who are these creative Nigerians in this category? Leadership Friday edition of June 7th, 2019 catalogued the profiles of these distinguished Nigerians and described them as Worthy Ambassadors that make the country proud.
In this category of elected Nigerians in the Diaspora, United Kingdom has the largest number of Nigerians. The newspaper mentioned nine names of prominent Nigerians who are currently serving their various tenures, duly elected by people (Britons) as political office holders.
The first name was that of Ernest Ezeajughi. He is the first Black Mayor of Brent, United Kingdom. Ezeajughi was elected Mayor on April 16, 2019 by the College of Councilors on Brent, London and was sworn into office on May 1st, 2019. Another name was that of Chinyelu Susan Onwurah. Like Ezeajughi, she is also the first Black MP in Newcastle. She is a card-carrying member of a British Labour Party. She is holding two ministerial appointments; a Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, as well as Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. She has been holding the two positions since September 2015.
Other Nigerians as British Members of Parliament are Chuka Umunna, Helen Grant, Abimbola Afolami, Kate Osamor and Kemi Badenoch. Another British MP is Olugbenga Babatola who made history as the first elected African mayor of the Royal Borough of Greenwich; South-East London. Babatola was inaugurated into office as the first African Mayor of Greenwich on May 25, 2016. Earlier, in 2015, he was the first African elected as deputy Mayor and served alongside the then Mayor, Norman Adam.
Again, another name worth mentioning is Kemi Badenoch, a London MP. She has been a member of the London Assembly since September 2015. She is the GLA Conservative’s spokesman for the Economy and also sits on the Transport Committee and Policing and Crime Committee. Kemi was a director at the Spectator Magazine. She was also an associate director at Coutts & Co. She won Saffron Walden with near 25,000 majority votes.
These Nigerians distinguished themselves excellently in their chosen careers as community leaders, problem solvers and reliable citizens that made their new societies to handsomely reward them with position of leadership. For instance, Helen Grant distinguished herself in sports that made her represent her schools and county in different sporting activities over several years. She was captain of her school/county’s tennis, hockey teams, athletics and Cross-country. After her series of elections she was eventually made a Minister for Sport and Tourism in 2013.
The large concentration of elected Nigerians in United Kingdom is not surprising. Apart from the historical perspective of the two countries, Nigeria and UK, several Nigerians are annually being granted British citizenship and the right of abode in thousands. Records from archive of Home Office London shows significant annual increase from 3,550 Nigerians in 1998 to 6,955 in 2009 totaling over 50,000 Nigerians granted citizenship over a period of eleven years. In addition to the United Kingdom, there are other prominent countries where Nigerians were equally elected to serve as political office holders.
In Italy, Tony Iwobi is so far the first Senator of African origin elected in a white-man dominated country in 2018. Mr. Iwobi, a bona fide Italian citizen of Nigerian origin is the chief immigration spokesman for the far-right League Party. Iwobi joined a right-wing political party, Lega Nord. The party is accused of stirring up xenophobia against immigrants. He was elected in the industrial city of Brescia in northern Italy, a major immigration hub under the platform of his party. Earlier, he represented the Party as a municipal councilor in Spirano far back in the 1990s and was also elected a municipal councilor for the party in Spirano until 2014. Again, from 2010 to 2014 he also served as an assessor, an Italian term refering to a member of executive body in a region under a mayor. He participated in the drafting of Lega Nord’s new immigration policy, which has a hard stance against illegal immigration.
Although Iwobi is an African, he is persistently against illegal immigration, his campaign slogan is #StopInvasion — a reference to the more than 690,000 migrants who have landed on Italian shores from North Africa since 2013. His belief, illegal immigration increases racism in Italy and thus he was quoted saying “There are two types of immigration, regular immigration, which is welcome and illegal immigration which is a crime everywhere except in Italy, why import new poor people without guaranteeing them a future?”.
Iwobi, an Italian politician in his early 60s, was born in Nigeria. He came to Italy on a student visa over 40 years ago and is married to an Italian lady. He was educated in Europe and USA and became a successful business mogul in IT.
Another spectacular example of a politically elected Nigerian outside Europe and US is that of Kelechi Maduwho who became a Canadian Member of Parliament. Mr. Madu made history in Canada as he emerged to be the first Nigerian immigrant elected as a member of parliament in May 2019. Mr. Madu, in his mid 40s is a graduate of law from University of Lagos and sojourned to Canada 14 years ago. In addition to his legislative election representing Edmonton Southwest district, he was also sworn in as the Minister of Municipal Affairs of the Province of Alberta.
Madu won his election in a keenly contested race, garnered 7,742 votes to beat other rivals: John Archer with 6,974 votes; Mo Elsalhy with 2,111 votes; Marilyn Burns with 178 votes and Rigel Vincent with 108. The list of Nigerians successfully holding political leadership abroad is inexhaustible.
Few other areas need mentioning to present the creativity in Nigerians are academia, inventions and business sector.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.