Only recently Nigerian economist Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala is now a member of the South Africa Presidential Economic Advisory Council. I am sure her appointment had more to do with past results and value delivered than her gender; after all, there are female economists in South Africa. Complicated as Nigeria is and even more so the world, doors will always open to those who have value to give more than just being specific on gender, a particular colour or whatever else polarising factors humans like to argue over.
In Nigeria, we cry over affirmative action and federal character. Even in private organisations, this fight happens either subtly or glaringly. We want equality for all or each for equal, the theme that will ring through until the next celebration of the international women’s day. The spirit behind affirmative action is the spirit of equity or some good representative share that allows everyone to get an opportunity. What happens when these equality becomes corrupted or manipulated? Funny, that manipulation or corruption can be in diverse ways.
For example, in the American Ivy League system, the affirmative action is that schools admit a small percentage of minorities which consist of blacks, Hispanics and Asians, to make sure the minorities keep getting opportunities before they consider other Americans. What has happened today is that in the name of merit, the Asians who qualify for non-American admission are scoring very high in entrance examinations and dwarfing the opportunities of others, including the Americans. The joke is now on them as the white Americans are now becoming the minority in American education – a case of a potential storm.
Has the affirmative action spirit in the American education system been corrupted? Is it representing what they want? Just like Nigeria’s federal character, it says to try and employ people from different states. The federal role strives to foster unity, to give everyone a chance to be represented. Now some states can become very brilliant excelling in all the federal character opportunities, thereby frustrating and limiting other groups. Some other states can become very populated and begin to arrogate the federal character to themselves through disproportionate tribal claims, which can then become an opportunity to form a stable threatening block.
The point here is that affirmative actions will always be corrupted and manipulated. The solution will be, therefore, to bring value and justice to the table. You can’t because of affirmative action, endorse bringing a person of elementary understanding and falsetto voice to run a department or execute a contract. There will always be different barriers to overcome. Still, in the end, we must proceed with caution and allow things to rest on the value system, justice and especially the value you bring as an individual, be it public or private sector.
While the fight for equity, equality goes on, remember to master your craft. Invest in yourself—Hone your skills. No one will invite you to any table of relevance if you have nothing to offer or your offering quality is poor. The size of your dream matters but the commitment to it and the daily fight to keep it going matters even more. In this post are two different pencil drawings. Which artist will sketch you better?