How can men who read soft courses have the skills to solve the hard problems?

Opinion

About 7 pm, 18th June 2019, Channels Television as usual, happened. And Channels was hosting three big ticket guests one did say. Their agendum was to discuss the matter of poor electricity supplies. So far, so good. And the three of the guest were, Etomi who was characterized an energy lawyer. The other was Dr. Amadi who was listed as a former electricity regulator. He too is a lawyer and professor. The third is another who was tagged an energy expert, that is an economist. And he talked as one. Incidentally I couldn’t register any of his names.

For the undiscerning there is no gap as the three made a complete faculty for the task at hand. However, despite all the credentials these men have purchased by hard work and brilliance, a point has to be stated. It is that the anchor man and his guests missed a critical line.

The details are as follows. Electricity provision is not primarily a legal or administrative or trade procedure. Electricity provision is first and above all an engineering problem. If you failed at the engineering, you have failed in all and nothing in Jupiter can rescue the situation for you. 

So, if there are problems of electricity supply and generation, the first persons to reach out to are the engineers. The first persons to reach out to are not the managerial or other support staff. Also there are no needs at that point to call in analysts or so called energy experts.

The larger point however is that this ”electricity faculty” of Channels, typifies a key part of what is wrong with Nigeria. In other words there is no sense of ”weights and measures,” that is of philology, of perspective.

Now, if there were the sense of weights and measures in Nigeria, we won’t be behaving like the foolish Americans of the Nixon age. For Nixon, a former American President and crook, whatever is the problem you ”send in the marines.”

Today, for Nigerian policy makers, the Nixon solution is to send in the trio of lawyers, economists, fools and every once in a while, the coup-makers. Expectedly, just as the marines failed Americans and themselves in the jungles of Vietnam, Nigerian lawyers and economists, coup makers, humorists, fools, etc. are misleading themselves and the nation into further underdevelopment.

This brings us back to the question of philology. And what the shit  would philology do? Now, philology is the science of the, often imperceptible, changes, in the meaning, nuances of words, over time, history and geography.

Take the example of management. What is management and what have been the changes in meaning and procedures over the years? Perhaps this is best illustrated by the work of Alfred Sloan. Sloan, a former General Motors, GM, big boy, wrote a management manual: My Years with General Motors. And that was one of the first formal management books. The key point is that Sloan was an engineer looking back at the evolution of managerial science amongst other things. The unstated point of his opus is that managerial science is a subsidiary service to industry, in his case, of making cars.

In fact, such managerial services were called staff duties, in contradistinction to engineering work which was [main] line. That is engineering of motor cars was the main business of GM. All others were as supports, including being General Manager.

In contrast, one of today’s top managerial books is Outliers, written by Malcolm Gladwell. Now Gladwell never worked in hell or owned a business in any havens. He is just been a library rat or tiger, if you liked. But he has written a well received managerial and business book.

Between Sloan and Gladwell is a silent chasm of histories and philology. And this chasm and its memories constitute a reality bundle that Americans and Europeans have lived. But we are strangers to that reality and memories.

To make things come nearer home, the difference is like that between a self-made billionaire, say Ms Linda Ikeji and her heir/s. While Ikeji knows and is tied up in the memories of her struggles storms and stumbles, her heir/s are denied such formative memories. Being heir/s to a billionaire Ms. Ikeji, they may be deluded, Sunday comes seven times a week. But Ikeji knows otherwise reflexively.

The point is as follows. In the West, industry and industrialization grew – organically it is meet to report, like making money is with Ms Ikeji, from ground up, not up down. And this is where our tragedy as a nation in development begins.

The matter is that in the West, managerial science was a spinoff from industrialism and engineering. In the West, managerial science did not begin as a standalone. But now it has reached that level. It is so much in Europe that you sometimes find lawyers, economists, courtiers, humorists leading purely technical enterprises. But there is a sense of weights and measures, some perspective, to their managing technical systems of which they have no technical knowhow. The point to note is that before that, 100% of those who rose to top management in the West were technical peoples, not courtiers, fools, lawyers, coup-makers and sundry peoples. The fact of this is technically, philological and historically decisive.

But Europe brought colonialism upon us. When they left they left us with their latest fads and attitudes. And this included the concept of managers who can manage anything including things they have no technical knowledge of. And we copied and consolidated on a technique we are ill equipped for.

To summarize, it happened that the sub-empire, including railway, electricity etc. systems, that colonialization bequeathed us, could not be run or maintained by us. Why? It is because we possessed an abundance of lawyers, economists, courtiers, coup-makers, fools and no engineers and no mathematicians. And above no philologists, if only to help us understand these things. And in a blood cuddling error, our local ”best and brightest” were quick to delude themselves they were the equals of the departed British. Are they? By verifiable data and results it is a capital, if shameful, no.

To repeat, at the point of colonialism European industrialism was so advanced it had spurned off management as its own standalone science. And when the white Europeans left they handed over this state of affairs to the black heirs. And these heirs came in as standalone and spurned off managers. The fact of this is our tragedy. And it is this living tragedy that explains the theatre of lawyers, economists, coup makers, humorists fools and such kinds coming in to seize the day. That is how these persons and types became expert managers and television pundits over matters they are not technically conversant. Yet all we lack here and now are line or engineering competences, not staff or lawyerly or economists’ showmanship.

That is to say that for a managerial class to be a standalone and effective cadre it must be spurned off technical virtuosity. It must be a branch-off, a canalization off the ocean of ”techne” and not its own mainstream. This how it happened in Japan, China, etc. as they were developing.

The larger point is that there can be no shortcut to development. You don’t develop a poor nation by starting with standalone managerialisms. If Nigeria has to work out to be rich, she must be humble enough to sweat out the Ms. Ikeji model, if we can so say. You start with techne and blossom out into managerialisms.

Also there is need for our self-satisfied technocrats to come to knowledge over little things. Like? That, their European counterparts are their evolutionary and ecological superiors. Europe parades today top-drawer standalone managers as she does game changing designers, engineers, philologists and mathematicians. Nigeria only has lawyers, courtiers, fools, undocked coup-makers, economists, etc. in their game.

In other words Nigerians are frozen in a black hole, of historical and philological ignorance. And alas, there are no lawyerly and economical maneuvers that can make-up for ecological or organic gaps. That is you can’t caulk up a failing ecology by legalisms or economicus or by coups or being courtiers.

Perhaps a group of patriots will unsheathe their knives to stab me in the back. But the fact remains, you can’t go on acquiring degrees in soft courses or skills, in legalisms, in economics, or coup-making etc. and pretend you are about solving the hard problems of engineering, of philology and flying your way out of problems. Anyway, a concerned European captures it all.:

They take over the colonial state in an unaltered from. They even take great care not to alter anything, because such a state offers fantastic privileges, which its new administrators [the lawyers, economists, coup makers humorists etc.] naturally do not wish to renounce. The colonial origins of the African state – a state wherein the civil servant received remuneration beyond all measure and reason…. All at once, in the blink of an eye, a new ruling class arises – a bureaucratic bourgeoisie that creates nothing, produces nothing, but merely governs society and reaps the benefits.Kapuscinski Ryszard, The Shadow of the Sun: My African Life)

To end the discussion: Nigerian economy is too start-up to be run by professional managers, coup makers, courtiers etc. Hand it over to the engineers. Or perish. All else is in humor.

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