Mr. Andrew I. Utomi.
Story by Dili Utomi.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates made the time tested statement that says “A life not examined is not worth living”, in the traditional African society, there is a common social advice that also goes like this ” Ask yourself questions”. It is in this light that we have considered the various economic, political and social downturns in the country to seek the opinion of a man whose experience straddles many decades and different countries in order to put the recent reality of the country under the spotlight and do an analyses of her present position.
Mr. Andrew Ikechiunor Utomi is an American trained electrical engineer who over time has carved a niche for himself having worked for several notable institutions both in Nigeria and America and who since his return to the country has not been pleased with what he has been experiencing in terms of the followership as well as the leadership of the country.
We asked him pointed questions about his nativity, educational background, work experience, his thought and his principles and he gave some very interesting answers as published below.
Good afternoon sir, could you tell us a bit about your childhood in Nigeria?
My name is Andrew Ikechiunor Utomi, I was born to the family of Chief Eke Utomi in Isah, Ogwashi-Uku in the present Delta State of Nigeria and my father had three wives. My father was a chief who inculcated the spirit of hard work, discipline, honesty and forthrightness into us as he encouraged us to be studious and to seek high educational standards as he always paid our school fees then. My father though died just when I finished my modern school education and I was forced to move to Lagos to seek greener pasture where I suffered a lot and eventually had to serve with one Mr. Tunji Lardner in those days between 1969 and 1971 before returning to the then Midwestern state to attend the Uromi college, the school fees then were paid by my late older brother, Chief MO Utomi. I later trained with the Shell BP Training School Warri, worked with Shell BP for a brief period and saved some money as I was very frugal with funds. It was then that I gainined admission to study electrical engineering in America. I later obtained my associate engineering degree from the Miami Dade Community College”.
What was your experience in America as a young African?
I actually had a torrid time in America as a young black African with very few people to relate with, but only through dints of hard work and determination able to see myself through my academic career in those days. The first few years of life in America was especially tough with funds fast depleting and needing replenishment. I had to look for paying jobs in order to aid my educational pursuits which I eventually achieved, but I can tell you my friend that it was extremely difficult as you had to study very well in order to get good grades and of course your grades then were true testaments of your performance, what you got was what you deserved.
What was your work experience in America like?
The work experience was even more difficult as a young black man from a different background and nationality, you also needed to work hard too. I said earlier that my late father imparted the value of hard work and discipline in us and those were my saving graces in America as I could neither afford to be lavish in spending nor take things for granted in any way.
Question: Sir, could you draw a comparison between your experience in America and what goes on here in Nigeria since you have been back for the past ten years.
Answer: Thank you, to start with, let’s look at the leadership of the two societies-America and Nigeria. In America, even though theirs is not a perfect society, people make conscious efforts to give good leadership and also try to honestly improve on things already on ground. An American politician is usually a graduate of a reputable school with good working experience and one who has become financially independent. He is also usually supported by the public to contest the sought position, but does not need to give you money as a public servant, he always looks to put up programmes and policies that will outlive his tenure, but a politician in Nigeria is in a lot of cases a thug and one who is expected to steel from the public till and then give part of it to the people. Nigerians make the position of their leaders rather untenable. In Nigeria, money is usually appropriated for certain use and the law says that the money should be accounted for, but that only exists on paper and there is a very deep gulf between what is on paper and what happens in reality here. In Nigeria, a public servant could have two billion naira in his bank account, but the larger society has nothing and the public establishment that the person serves is left comatose out of mismanagement, fund misapplication, fraud and outright corruption.
Question: Sir, what advice do you have for the Nigerian people first and her government?
Answer: First and foremost, the Nigerian youths are not courageous, they seem not to know that the government funds are for everybody in the country and so should take their destiny in their hands and hold their leaders accountable in all their actions and inactions as well. Nigerians should stop seeking the crumbs from the table of the politicians, but should start asking them to formulate the right policies and execute the right programmes. I was in Warri sometimes ago and saw a road project that was abandoned after the excavation of the gutters with some of the equipment left there and the contractor absconding, this is because the contractor had been said to have ‘settled’ some people and this should not be so. Freedom is not free in any society, but you just must work to attain it. If we want the political, social and the economic freedom that we cherish, then we must be ready and willing to work for them all, again freedom comes with responsibilities. We should be responsible for all our actions and inactions and think the right thoughts, speak the right words and then take the right actions every single time so that our country can be better for it
On the part of the government, they must always know that they are there to serve the people and should make the just laws, formulate the right policies and execute the right projects so that we can realise our potentials as a nation.
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