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Knowledge: The Greatest Form of Wealth
By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu
2006

 

 

Growing up as a child in Nigeria in the early 80s, education was celebrated above all things.  In fact, parents would not let their children talk about money until they had finished their grade school education, and for some even college.  Education to them was both a guarantee of success, and in the worst case, a guarantee of survival.  It was very cool to be tops in academics.  You were not only recognized by the school and teachers, but even your peers wanted to be your friend.  If fact, you were hot cake for marriage.  Families wanted to associate themselves with a family that valued education because it did not only signify a good living; it also meant that their next generation would be educated. 

By the late 80s to early 90s, just before I left for the United States, education became a cough out.  They was so much corruption, bad governance, and devaluation of the Nigerian currency that money itself because the symbol of wealth.  This mentality, which was perfected by the administration of General Babangida, destroyed the moral, cultural, and social fabric that once held Nigeria in awe in the International community.  A cultural that once supported and emphasized discipline, honesty, hard work, and creativity was popularly rejected by the masses for the worship of ill gotten money and the celebration of political thieves.  It did not matter anymore how you acquired your wealth, as long as you were going to share it around freely to buy some sycophants.  In fact, many women in agreement with their parents are not prepared to marry a man from a family that does not have that money.  Many college girls have been reported to have told their boyfriends, who are courting them for marriage lately, that education is not what they and their future children will eat.  The Africans have always said that a woman is the home, and that they help dictate the pace of societal culture.  Money has now become the prerequisite for procreation and not education like it used to be.

 

Can we blame these women?  Will you help me drag them to the world court?  It is obviously not their fault, but that of the respective Nigerian governments.  The purpose of formal and informal education was never an issue of degree and employment, but an issue of independence and sustenance.  The purpose of education was to equip their children (informal) or citizens (formal) with the adequate knowledge of their laws, their rights, and how to ultimately utilize their resources through their field to study to better themselves and their communities.  But the colonial education the colonizers left for Nigerians and their puppet leaders, which has not been changed after over 40 years of independence, is that which emphasizes degree and dependence on government.  The Nigerians are trained to read to have degrees for status, but not to reason out how they can use it to provide services to their community on their own.  The educational system does not teach the Nigerian to create his job or his business, but to rely on a government that still gets its economic instructions from Europe directly or indirectly.  Majority of the jobs available for their citizens are not locally created jobs, but from international companies, who come in to exploit our resources and labor force at very low returns on investment.   Knowledge will forever be the highest form of wealth for any nation, but must be applied with understood laws and rights for the betterment of self and society.  The second form of wealth is networking or people, which is where you use your knowledge to assist and encourage others to reach their goals. This gives birth to the third form of wealth, which is money. This is the stage where people are interested in compensating you for the services of your knowledge.   It is because of the unmodified colonial education that has failed woefully in Nigeria that have encouraged the people to first acquire illegal wealth that is used to attract people, who end up becoming sycophants.   Nigerian people are going backwards instead of forward, because they begin from the third level of wealth to get the mirage of the second level, while they claim the most important level, which is knowledge, is no longer necessary. 

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They was once a rich Nigerian who invested $1 million into stocks, but did not have the knowledge to know that he had to watch his stocks, so that when he had made enough money, he can remove his profits and reinvest the capital elsewhere in order to avoid loss.  Instead he left his money in the stocks for years believing its growth was guaranteed, until he got a letter one day stating that he now owed a quarter of a million.  There was another rich Nigerian, who was going to Oliver de Coque’s concert.  He and his mistress where going in the latest Mercedes in the rain.  A student, who was going to the same event, saw that they were stranded on the highway and he identified with them based on the man’s cultural attire.  When he got there, he found out that the problem was that the man who bought a $60,000 car did not know that his car had a front and rear defroster.  The student had to stand partially in the rain to educate the “millionaire” in front of his disgusted mistress what each button in his car was meant for.  Do you still want to buy a Mercedes or a bicycle?

For education to be valuable again in Nigeria, the people and their truly elected government should redefine their educational systems to be the knowledge that provides services to generate an income.  All high school students in the summer must work for any small local business which should receive a summer stipend from the government to expose their student employees to the nature of their business.  All College students must be given a stipend from the government to start small business in their field of study and try to make it successful before their graduations.  Any citizen who also has money should contribute to these programs, because the more experience and success our students get in transforming their knowledge to income, the quicker our country will be transformed from a consumer to a producer.