Nigerians on Twitter set the micro-blogging platform alight Monday after a London-based woman magnified the significance of ‘international exposure’ as a requisite feature for those seeking to help end Nigeria’s social and economic crisis and steer her towards a sustainable development.
Tola Sarumi, a Lagos-born lawyer and music reviewer who lived in the United Kingdom for years, came under immediate backlash after suggesting that Nigerians who have lived abroad are better positioned to proffer solutions to the country’s multifaceted dilemma.
“Nigerians, you people need to let us who’ve lived in a working system take charge of that country. International exposure is a prerequisite,” Ms. Sarumi (@AfroVII) tweeted Monday afternoon.
Nigerians, you people need to let us who’ve lived in a working system take charge of that country. International exposure is a prerequisite.
— T. Rankïn’ (@AfroVII) September 19, 2016
Although she didn’t define what it takes —number of years, countries visited or assignments— to be considered an internationally exposed person, Ms. Sarumi, nonetheless, said she was convinced that the future of Nigeria lies in the content of her repatriates.
It was not immediately clear what informed Ms. Sarumi’s assertion, but some of her critics said it was not unconnected with growing concerns about the state of the nation under a government she supports.
Nigeria’s economy plunged into recession last month, after months of negative economic growth.
Several persons have raised concerns about the dangers of leaving the country’s expanding youth population without means of livelihood for too long.
But for critics who unleashed their fury against her, the premise of Ms. Sarumi’s tweet and her support for the Buhari administration trumped all else.
The respondents slammed Ms. Sarumi for allegedly proposing an idea at odds with reality.
One of the early replies came from Ayobami Agboola (@dondekojo) who said Ms. Sarumi appeared lost on the irony in her proposal that it would be difficult to proffer solutions to problems one did not actually experience.
The Irony in the statement ‘You can’t change Nigeria if you don’t live abroad’ is that…
— Ayobami (@dondekojo) September 19, 2016
“The Irony in the statement: ‘You can’t change Nigeria if you don’t live abroad’ is that it can also be said that you cannot understand the problems if you don’t live in rural Nigeria,” Mr. Agboola said. “The conundrum.”
It can also be said that you cannot understand the Problems if you don’t live in Rural Nigeria. The conundrum.
— Ayobami (@dondekojo) September 19, 2016
Abang Mercy (@AbangMercy), a social media enthusiast and blogger, said Ms. Sarumi should take a cue from other African countries where leaders are said to be making progress without prior international exposure.
“This makes no sense. (People like) Paul Kagame (are) fixing their country, they stayed in Rwanda and Uganda all their lives.”
Although social and economic living conditions of people in Rwanda witnessed improvement under Mr. Kagame, human rights standards are said to have fallen.
This makes no sense. The Paul Kagame’s fixing their country stayed in Rwanda and Uganda all their lives https://t.co/SJ4OldpPsA
— Khaleesi!!! (@AbangMercy) September 19, 2016
But in the middle of the attacks were some individuals who validated Ms. Sarumi’s position, and she was quick to retweet them.
“I still don’t see anything wrong with what @AfroVII said today. People just became emotional and totally went off in a different direction,” a respondent said.
Another user who came in support of Ms. Sarumi said: “70% of Nigerians who have made a global impact in their fields have some form of international exposure.”
The dispassionate feedbacks suggest that international exposure is a contentious issue, but how critical is it in the age of Internet?
Chris Ngwodo, a foreign policy analyst and capacity development expert, said exposure is a disposition of the mind, not geographical location.
“I don’t believe exposure is synonymous with going abroad,” Mr. Ngwodo said. “It’s like saying going to school is synonymous with education, but we all know that’s not the case.”
“An individual learning and reading is exposing himself. Reading and broadening your knowledge base will give you a powerful edge in understanding issues no matter where you may live.”
Mr. Ngwodo told PREMIUM TIMES there was a better chance for learning in developing countries where facilities for knowledge production were readily available, but even this has been eliminated by the Internet.
“You can be here and take a course in Canada and you might even do better than those in Canada if you study well.”
Mr. Ngwodo said the idea that one only needs to travel to the West—or other advanced parts of the world —without empirical knowledge is a dangerous mindset.
“What those arguing for someone to travel first before taking leadership role don’t understand is that they are setting themselves up for failure by rendering their minds immune to necessary exposure,” Mr. Ngwodo said. “If you think you need to be in the UK or Canada before you can have exposure then you’ll travel there and close your mind rather than exposing yourself to a new way of seeing things by reading and exploring history.”
The debate continued on Twitter Tuesday morning, where many were still tweeting about Nigerians who have made significant impact in their respective professions without schooling of living abroad.
But Ms. Sarumi said she remained convinced that residing overseas offers the best experience needed to move Nigeria forward; while acknowledging that she was offering her view from a privileged position.
“I’m convinced that there’s no way a Nigerian who hasn’t lived and worked in the first world can change that country,” Ms. Sarumi said. “I’m very elitist (when) it comes to change in Naija! In fact, I’d hire from Loyala and other schools (even) if almost exclusively.”