Imagine Stephen Keshi calling Mikel Obi after he just graduates from his youth soccer academy in London …
“Mikel, I think you should play for Nigeria. I mean the way you move with and without the ball is something that other players foreign and local could learn from. I know you already have a multi-million job offer with Chelsea, and we don’t want to disrupt that agreement, we just require that during the African cup of Nations you leave your club for about 2 months to represent your country and that you are available to train when called upon. Plus the government will pay you if you win…it might not be on time but they will pay up.”
“Ah Keshi…I would love to play for Nigeria. No need to ask me even. I love my country die! When and where do I sign” Mikel replies.
Then Keshi lowers his tone and says “There is one problem Mikel o…have you done your NYSC?” and Mikel is like “NYSC? No now I have been in the London youth academy training for the past 4 years. You recommended I come here to Europe to hone my skills.”
Keshi then replies “Ah…you know you cannot really play for Nigeria unless you have done your NYSC.” long silence…
Then Keshi is like “But it is not a problem…all you have to do is attend a 3 week orientation camp in Nigeria. I mean the camp is not the greatest, soldiers will scream at you almost everyday. And the toilets might not work all the time. In fact you might have to sling shit over the fence on some days. But you will survive”
Still silence…but Keshi continues “And then after you leave camp you have to play soccer for a rural football club in the village for 9 months…they really don’t have electricity or running water except for the occasional rain that brings falling water and electric thunder…but the government will pay you 30K a month.”
“30K dollars a month? I might be able to manage that.” Mikel finally replies, breaking the preceding silence.
“Actually Mikel its 30K Naira” Keshi replies. Silence…
“Hello…hello…Mikel are you there? Mikel. Mikel….” dial tone…CALL ENDS.
All jokes aside, imagine if Super Eagle foreign based players were required to complete 1 year mandatory youth service before they could play for Nigeria. Like they had to go for a 3 week orientation camp, then play for a local football club for another 10 months, while earning 30,000 naira every month!
I’ll tell you what will happen, they will end up playing for other countries, other countries like Danny Welbeck of Ghana did for England, like Zinedine Zidane of Algeria did for France, like Obinze Ogbonna did for Italy and even USA…yes USA as Oguchi Onyewu of Nigeria opted to play for them…although we are not really complaining about that last one.
Ironically that is exactly what is happening today. Our foreign graduates, most chased away from Nigeria by perpetual strikes, disruption, poor educational quality and high unemployment rates…end up in Foreign Universities. They excel despite some struggling to make ends meet while fighting language/cultural barriers.
They eventually graduate top of their class…best in their craft and are offered lucrative jobs, which they accept. They live in that system…the foreign system where everything works, until they get that phone call from
Stephen Keshi their parents telling them to come home…your country needs you.
Like the Mikel example above, very few will come back, not just because of the NYSC barrier, but because those other countries need and want them to stay. So they poach our best foreign talents, entice them with greencards, scholarships and a better standard of life just so they remain and make that other country better…But our government’s only offer is NYSC…take it or leave it.
What the Nigerian government fails to realize is that we are in a human resources war. The war has being going on since the early 1900′s. America and most of the other developed countries are aware of this war so they set up strategies to get the best talent from all over the world including Nigeria while simultaneously fighting to retain their own best talent.
But the Nigerian government does none of that…instead we chase our best students out of the country in the millions and then set up barriers upon barriers to make their return difficult.
A country that does not know its fighting a war, will always lose that war!
A country that does not know its fighting a war, will always lose that war! We lost the war on our natural resources in the colonial era largely because we did not even realize there was a war going on and till today we are still recovering from that unknown war! But we are yet to learn anything from that experience as we are currently losing another war…the war on human resources! Trained and valuable human resources.
Over one billion dollars (not Naira) is spent by Nigerian students in Ghana. I don’t even want to put the amount that is spend in the UK or USA in this article … because you might break your laptop or phone in shock. People are paying to escape Nigeria.
All I am begging is that our government officials realize that a war on Human Resources is going on and if nothing is done to reform obstacles like NYSC and others, we would see even more of our citizens playing for and improving other countries.
I leave with this last thought….Imagine an African Cup of Nations match…. Victor Moses cuts to the byline and floats a long cross over to Mikel Obi, who finishes with a stunning header scoring against Nigeria while wearing a Ghanaian jersey…its already happening!
Okechukwu Ofili is an author, speaker, and blogger and a The Trent Elite Voice. Follow him on twitter, Facebook or subscribe to his blog for more honest talk and as @ofilispeaks on instagram for more sketches! To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here. His third book How Intelligence Kills will be coming out in December of 2013 pre-order here http://bit.ly/intelligencekills
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.