From the United States to Africa: OF RACISM, TRIBALISM AND MERITOCRACY written by Japheth J Omojuwa

Apart from humans, all the countries of the world have what seems to go with every man in their confines and that’s the challenge of having challenges. No single book no matter how big or how well written can deal well enough with the challenges of men. You can only deal with the ones that are big enough to be social problems, or those that have refused to go despite our common pretense to think they are no more or those that hit close to home.

The United States has been lead by a black man by name Barak Obama, for almost two years now since January 2009. One would have thought issues of racism and minority civil rights abuses would have ended with the election of a president from one of the minority groups, but that is far from the case. Racism remains and some would even argue the president has suffered racist abuses himself. That is the reality not just of the old times, but a modern truth.

Racism remains even amongst seemingly liberal members of the society. Corporate America is as perilous as main street America. There’s prejudice, though sometimes hidden and racial friction still rules in the most advanced of social and economic settings in the world’s freest country. You would think a country that prides itself on its values of democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope would have no place for such unwholesome realities like racism.

Racism you would think should be in the archives of history and displayed as a relic of a lost age. Sadly, this is not so. This simply means that members of the minority are still angry with the establishment. A lot of them remain the subjects of poverty and shackled by illiteracy, in a country that prides itself in the American dream. This is one seam the American establishment would do almost everything to hide from the world. That the members of the minority feel they have to do more than necessary to get what those of the majority class would get on a platter of gold, is one reason cases of drug addiction, imprisonments, gang rapes, shootings and eventually death would reign supreme amongst this class.

Social planners would suggest the need for more recreation centers, economic planners would seek for the creation of more jobs, while those who just want a quick fix would suggest more police men and more arsenals for the police armory to curb the menace arising from the hurt of the deprived class. Truth be told, like tribalism and nepotism in Africa, problems caused by racism cannot and will never be curbed by a direct affront on their effects, without an intention to deal with the cause. The cause being the need to entrench meritocracy in the American socio-economic system

There would be little need for the police in housing projects, if children do not grow into angry young men seeking revenge on the society that took their fathers away from home without or with little pay. Recreation centers would serve a useful purpose if minority groups can fairly compete at the work place, without the hidden challenge of proving themselves over and again at jobs for which they’d be over qualified for had they been from the majority. This is an American reality but it finds itself – albeit in a different hue – in Africa.

Africa remains the world’s biggest common liability. It is Africa the used cars of the west and even the east are coming. Africa remains the dumping ground for the unneeded and the used that needed to be dumped. The best of Africa are either out of Africa or about to be off the continent, while wanna-be experts who have found no place in their countries, try out Africa and discover they are expatriates after all. Think the many technical advisers and sports coaches that have managed national teams all over Africa, yet are not successful enough to be called back home to manage club sides let alone their home national teams. This is a digression that will be dealt with at the appropriate time.

Tribalism and in some cases nepotism – a situation where people are favoured by reason of their tribe or family background over those who merit the positions- rules in Africa. This has a lot of policy translations in Nigeria. When you hear or read the phrase ‘’catchment area’‘or ‘‘federal character’’ or ‘’educationally less developed areas’‘, the action that would be taken in the justification of these policies are an official position on tribalism.
Take the policy of Educationally Less Developed (E.D.A) area for instance. A child who passes an entrance examination to a federal university may yield his place to another student who practically even failed the examination, if he is not from an E.D.A. The purpose of the E.D.A is to make all the regions grow together educationally. It sounds absurd but it is the practice. This is the height of injustice. You have the ability to go to school, you have proven your ability via the examinations but you have to lose your place to someone else who is probably reluctant to go to school. Besides the nepotism and tribalism we all frown at, this is one that happens with the backing of the law and many students have either given up on trying again or had their education delayed because of this. One of the absurdities of the Nigerian system is the belief and effort at ensuring that all the regions grow together. How is that possible you ask? See the result? Frustration, anger, ethnic unease and violence, kidnappings, poverty, rubbled ivory towers, militancy and even war.
We must deal with the fundamentals and forget about the effects. More guns and the creation of more states or local governments will not solve these maze-like problems. The solution lies in merit. Let those who can, those who have the intellectual and physical ability get the jobs without having to use the back door. The examination unification board is a moratorium on brains and on national development. It should be disbanded if it can not serve a better purpose. Merit should be the first and the last arbiter at every level of governance and business. Until this is so, the war against crime will never end because it can never be won. Until this is so, mediocrity will rule and charlatans will continue to mess up the nation’s human and material resources. Why do you think almost all the roads in Nigeria are not constructed by Nigerians except they get German or Chinese supervisors? Why do we have 25,000 Nigerian doctors in Nigeria and more than that number of Nigerian doctors in the United States and United Kingdom alone? The answer is simple enough, there’s no merit in our system, so the best amongst us may never go to school. When they do go, they will offer their services to the highest bidders like America, England and even China.
America, because of its seeming prosperity may not realize the opportunity cost of racism in its system, but for Africa and Nigeria, need we show the pains and penury brought along by tribalism and nepotism? It is a long tale but it is a tale short enough. The justice of meritocracy must reign supreme.

A society that devalues this, devalues the essence of growth and development…

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In the beginning...Let there be Light

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