I know you might be surprised by the title of this discourse. I am referring to the same golden boy who is currently being celebrated all over the world as the undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing, the Anthony Joshua of our time. His unification fight with Joseph Parker was publicized globally. Most Nigerians supported him out of brotherly love because he was of a Nigerian descent; he has some Yoruba names, Oluwafemi Olaseni. As the fight drew near, doubts filled the minds of most sport-loving Nigerians. Worries of him losing the fight thereby losing his hard earned titles just like the former Nigerian heavyweight boxer, Samuel Okon Peter who lost his WBC title to Vitali Klitschko in 2008. Others were more concerned about the implication of his loss on their diverse stakes in various betting platforms throughout the country. I observed the pulses and feelings of the nation via the social media most especially the Nairaland.
As I waited patiently for the outcome of the fight, a disturbing question erupted from the depths of my mind. This question summarises the aspirations and dreams of the Nigerian youths. This same question also captures the frustrations and challenges facing the Nigerian youth in this geopolitical boundary called Nigeria. This question continuously nagged my sceptical mind and it goes thus: “if Mr Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua did not travel to a foreign land at an early stage, would he have fulfilled his dream as a professional heavyweight champion? Deep within me, I have some answers. It is either Mr Joshua turns out to be a thug or a bully if he discovered his boxing talent in Nigeria or he would have joined the thousands of Nigerian youths whose talents and destinies have been manipulated by the Nigerian society. He might still be attending some various motivational seminars and talks on how to discover and maximise his talents just like numerous Nigerian youths. Funnily, Mr Joshua might not have turned out well. The limitations of logistics and inadequate nutrition pillaging and frustrating the ambitions of various youths might hinder his progress in Nigeria. You might think I am painting a gloomy situation about the conditions needed for the talent discovery and development in Nigeria. Kindly look at other boxers that represent the country in the commonwealth games and other international competitions, most times, they sadly have to beg for financial and logistical support from the government before going for competitions. Would Mr Joshua have been a heavyweight champion under this oppressive and frustrating environment? Personally, I doubt it! In this country, it is mostly the rich that benefit maximally from government allocations at the expense of the poor that actually need them. The rich benefit from improved nutrition and other expensive trainings that are out of the reach of the poor but talented boxers.
Unlike Nigeria, the United Kingdom provided a suitable environment for young Joshua to discover and hone his talents which made him to be a professional boxer. Mr Joshua does not need to know the “right” person just to be discovered. He does not need to contend with nepotism that plagues the Nigerian state. He does not need to battle with the ethnicism and corruption that haunts those representing Nigeria in international competitions. He just needed to develop himself with the available resources that were useful to his professional development. It is a heart- wrenching moment of truth when the reality hits you like a moving truck. The reality goes thus: this British citizen of Nigerian descent would not be a star if he had remained in Nigeria. So why should we think he is ours when we even rejected him when he wanted to represent Nigeria in Olympics. That is the saddening reality of our time. Nigerians leave the country as raw diamonds only to be polished into stars. Paradoxically, the country that refused to develop them claims them when they are accomplished. Still the same old mentality of importation that besieged our manufacturing sector has clandestinely crept to our human capital sector. We export raw materials and import processed products. This is not sustainable in the long run. Mr Bill Gates emphasized on this point when he visited Nigeria some weeks ago. He said that Nigeria needs to develop her human capital along with her physical infrastructural developments.
There are numerous ‘demons’ that militate against human capital development in Nigeria. The situation where a Nigerian has to leave his country to be a better person beyond the shores of the country is a saddening realisation of a failed Nigerian state. We all know these ‘demons’ – corruption, nepotism, poor leadership, etc. Among these challenges, I believe that the major solution that will exorcise these evil spirits is good leadership. The Nigerian government has to show quality leadership that will harness the immense potentials of her citizens. Good leadership will bring hope to the depressed and frustrated Nigerian youths.
Addressing these ‘demons’ frustrating the actualisation of the Nigerian dream coupled with good leadership skills exemplified by people in positions of power will make the Nigerian citizens especially the youths to believe in the dream of a glorious and prosperous Nigeria. If these challenges are not quickly addressed, the Arab Spring revolution will be a child’s play when the frustrations of the Nigerian youths break their dams.