On the 31st of December, 2014, the Head of State, President Paul Biya addressed the
nation and touched on pertinent key issues that affect the life
of the nation. His elocutions were viewed by many in diverse opinions. Dr. Nick
Ngwanyam, CEO of ST Louis University Institute of Health also listened to the
Head of State with keen interest and in the following interview makes a
dissection of some key aspects of the speech and proposes concrete remedies to
some of the problems.
|Dr. Nick Ngwanyam|
Dr. you are one of the elite of the North West Region and an entrepreneur. The head of State just addressed the nation. Can we have your immediate reaction?
Thank you very much. As you understand, everybody has been waiting for the Head of State’s speech and it came just in time. Despite the difficulties that we have, he looked quite relaxed and his body language was positive. Of course, we know that he as Head of State and the father of the nation has been going through a lot of stress especially with what has been happening in the North of Cameroon. He tells us that he was expecting that in 2014, we will all be embarking on correcting our economic problems and getting some growth but he sees himself and the nation taken off track to fight this insurgency. He looked quite relaxed and I guess so probably because his military tactics have paid off.
He spoke and touched a number of sectors. Which of them have been of interest to you?
The head of state dealt with two key areas. First the security issue which is mostly in the north of Cameroon as we speak and then the economics. He stated very clearly that there is no way we can have that economic growth without having peace and security. So peace and security are necessary for us to have the planned economic growth. You know, he has put in place this contingency plan to help us develop very rapidly in three years. A program for which a thousand billion has been laid aside and therefore, we are looking forward to have that growth. Even as he wishes and he makes available these facilities, I still have my fears.
You have the fears like some people who are in the opposition; they see this contingency plan as another white elephant in Cameroon.
No it is not a white elephant project. The president is just selling us some difficult to comprehend goods. The issue here is that Cameroon is not developing as far as I am concerned not because we lack the means or the people but there is something that is inherently wrong in Cameroon and it does not matter how the president feels about it or his good intentions.
It does not matter what he says, it is not about a speech. It is about the Cameroonian. To be able to develop in every setting, it does not matter how much capital you have. The human capital is the most important thing that you have to deal with. In fact, managing human beings is one of the most difficult things. If you want to grow, you must pay attention to the human person and I would want to think that in Cameroon, we have not paid attention to the human person and that is why we are failing. Countries that do not have the same potentials like us do better than us because they pay attention to the human person. Let me put it another way, if you most succeed, there are a couple of things that you ought to know. It does not matter whether you are succeeding as an individual, as a company, as an enterprise or a nation. It is the same thing. The human person is behind that success.
Therefore, attitude, behavior and character are very important. In Cameroon as a whole, the way we appoint people in the civil service or “parastatal” and so on is that we do not respect merits in this country. That is where the first problem begins.
You can have the best programs and whatever, but if you do not make sure that your personnel is well catered for and you respect merit in the way you apportion work and responsibility it will not work. If we take zombies and put them ahead and you put people who are worth their salt behind, it will never work. That is what I have been observing in our country. People who do not have capacities are put in leadership positions or are put in charge of the budget and things like that and the people who have the capacity to do it are left in the cold. Therefore, when you get people who do not have capacity sitting in there, they only play around with politics and more politics to protect themselves and do not do the technical work.
It has come to a point where we have to forget a little bit about politics and pay more attention to technical work. We are not giving merit its due and you would see this kind of lapses with the “concour” system. To get into a medical school, you see the wrong student gets there and the brightest students are left out. Polytechnic is the same and having scholarships to go abroad, you see the wrong people going. The children of villagers and paupers who are very sharp but have no backing are kept behind. This is the kind of thing I am talking about. We need to be able to make sure that we give merit its due and make sure that be it the child of a farmer or a tapper should be able to rise as long as he or she has the capacity. We must create that enabling environment.
Know that for any person to grow, 25% of your success depends on your education and 75% on your attitude. In our schools and families, we are not paying much attention to the attitude of our children, the attitude of our fathers and mothers, the attitude of our workers. We just think that because people go to school and get certificates; that is enough. It is not. It you want people with the best attitudes, look at Japanese, South Koreans they have got the best attitude to work, and all Asians have a better attitude to work more than us Africans. We spend more of our time wrongly and that is another thing. How do we use our time? Do we use our time effectively? That is a problem. We do not know how to use time in Cameroon so much so that you see responsible people who are supposed to be at work first; they come to work at ten AM, and at eleven o’clock AM; they are the first to leave. You will see people who are supposed to be a work who on the streets drinking beer. We do not have a culture of work in our system.
These are some of the basic things that we need to correct before we start talking about any growth. If we do not correct all these things, it does not matter how much the President wishes, it would not work.
What about the youths?
When we are talking about economic growth and all what not, it is not about the elderly. It is about the youths. We as a nation, we have to pay attention to the youths. What do we teach them? What are they studying? Are we really giving them the opportunities? That is it.
When we are talking about opportunities to the youths, it is not about giving them 350,000 jobs in the civil service. That is not what is going to create us that growth. It is about building the capacities of the youths so that they can strengthen the private sector by creating jobs. All the companies and industries that we want are not going to be created by old people. The old people might supply the land but it is the youths that are going to make that work.
Therefore, it is time for us to lay a red carpet for all our youths in the Diasporas who are into technology to come back. We should give them the incentive and the leeway to come back and do the best for our country. It is about paying attention to the youths, changing what our students are studying in the universities today as I have said severally, our curricular are the wrong ones.
We are studying things that were laid down for us in 1960 so that we could just be able to read and communicate with the White man. The curricular for 1960 was for communication and nobody is using it today. If you go and ask the South Koreans and all the countries that have emerged, they have a curricular that has to do more with professional education, technological advancement and proper management etc. If you go to America today and find out how they are studying, you will see that when a doctor goes into a medical school, he is not only studying medicine, that is boxed mentality. He studies medicine but studies for an MBA so that he comes out as a doctor and knows how to manage.
Management is not something that we should go to ENAM to learn. ENAM has outlived its usefulness. You do not set a school apart for people to go and learn how to manage and throw their weight around. Everybody should become a technician then those technicians take courses in management. If they want to know how government runs, they are given a six months course so that they can manage state enterprises.
If you go to South Korea that has made it, to Germany and other Asian countries, they do not have schools like ENAM where you go to learn management but they have managers, real managers
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)