Dr. Boris Emeka Oji, MD, is a Board-certified Physician by profession and the Chief of Medicine at Banner DelWebb Medical Center in Phoenix Arizona, United States of America (USA).
He is also the founding international President of ZESPRONET, an association of Alumni of the Abia State University (ABSU), Uturu, Abia State, who are based abroad as well as in Nigeria.
A multiple award-winning Doctor of Optometry from ABSU before he got to the US and studied to become a regular Medical Doctor, Orji responded to an online questionnaire from GPNews on what his group has been doing to lift their Alma Mater, including the completion and presentation of an N80 million ultra-modern Post Graduate hostel that was recently commissioned.
He also spoke on other issues of national and international importance. Read on.
Q: We understand that you have been mobilizing resources for some projects for your alma mater? What are these projects? What is the motivation for what you are doing? What level of cooperation are you enjoying from your school mates, especially members of your group? And what strategies are you putting in place to ensure proper maintenance of the facilities?
A: Our Alma mater is Abia State University (ABSU) Uturu in Abia State, Nigeria and our organization is made up of mainly Alumni of the institution. Yes, we recently donated a 44 bedroom hostel with each room en-suite, with TV room and a game room which cost us about N80 million Naira. The project was commissioned by the governor of Abia state, Dr Victor Okezie Ikpeazu on November 12, 2021. The Hostel was donated to the school with no strings attached and our research showed that no organization in any Nigerian university has done such a thing.
We have also been sponsoring medical journals from various organizations to the tune of $5000 yearly since 2010 to the ABSU medical library.
Our motivation is that we want to make the school better than we met and left it! We want the current students to have better and more conducive learning environment than we did and where possible, we want to be positive role models to current students, so that they can know that hard work and persistence pays off in life.
Members of our group, ZESPRONET, have given my leadership 120 per cent support and other members of our alumni who are not members of ZESPRONET have also supported us both financially and morally in all the programs that we have embarked on.
The hostel was given to the school with no strings attached but we did request to give us access to inspect the hostel every three years. We will repair any structural defects for the next 10 years while the school will do the usual building maintenance yearly and as need be.
Q: What is your assessment of the standard of education in the South East zone of Nigeria particularly, and in the country generally, and what should be done to remedy any identified shortcomings?
A: The standard of education in Nigeria is difficult to assess. In the South East zone of Nigeria, things seem as good as it has always been if we take the yearly WAEC and UME results into consideration but overall the quality of education in Nigeria is not keeping pace with what employers require in the 21st century and what the country needs as most theories are not being transitioned to practical terms and also government does not have a common or universal standard that the private institutions will have to meet, making it a sort of Wild Wild West and anything goes situation.
Q: Why are there no Nigerian universities ranked anywhere near the best in the world and how can this situation be reversed?
A: The educational system is like computers, it is “garbage in, garbage out!” Nigeria spends six per cent to seven per cent of GDP on education while a country like Norway spends 32 per cent of GDP on education.
This gives you the idea, in a nutshell, as to why we are not among the best schools in the world! Research also costs money. You don’t pay lip service to these things and expect different results.
The trend is easy to reverse.
While the spirit of liberalization of education may have been right, government should not abdicate their responsibility towards public education! Public education should be the bedrock of every country while individuals now use private schools as a “choice.”
Payment of teachers’ salaries should not be listed as an “achievement” since it is in the recurrent list. It should be given that those that work should be paid at the end of the month.
Also ministers and senior government officials should be encouraged to have their children and wards in government schools! These will be a good place to start reversing the trend.
Q: What advise do you have for alumni associations in Nigeria generally?
A: Government cannot do it alone! All schools need their alumni to step up big time and take up projects, sponsor research, award scholarships and set up endowment funds! That is how it’s down worldwide.
Q: What is your rating of the political leadership in the South East of Nigeria particularly and in the country generally?
A: Non-existent in the South East! In Nigeria, the country appears rudderless.
Q: The economy of Nigeria is generally believed to be in distress. Why is this so and what should be done to revive and boost it?
A: This is a complex topic that requires a complex answer so I will defer it to another time.
Q: How can Diaspora Nigerians contribute, especially, to the political, economic, social, educational development of the country?
A: Diaspora Nigerians are already contributing economically and socially to Nigeria by way of remittances and also lots of cultural exchanges and experiences interface with those at home.
Politics is another kettle of fish. While we have few people like Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and a few others that have been able to successfully go to Nigeria and participate in politics, it’s usually not an easy decision for most people to take due to the insane amount of cost involved in politics in Nigeria! While in the USA you can organise fundraising, in Nigeria, you cannot fundraise yourself to election and that opens you up to The Godfather effects! We will keep educating our people not to mortgage their future by requesting for money before they cast votes for a candidate! It’s still a work in progress.
Q: What is wrong with Nigeria and Africa as a whole and how can the problems be redressed?
A: Nothing is wrong with Nigeria or Africa. It’s just that the population has been so emasculated that most people only think of “surviving today,” and that drives their short-term goals rather than the long-term goals that determine development.
The people’s attitudes are a direct response to the leadership! A leader should be able to dream big dreams and take bold actions and see 25 years down the road what they think their actions and intentions today should translate to. If you don’t have such leadership, you will be fiddling with “today’s survival mode” only.
Q: Nigerians are getting ready for another round of general elections (for federal and state positions). What advise do you have for the political parties and for the electorate?
A: For political parties: think of the survival and unity of the nation in every calculation you make. Without a safe and peaceful country, you will not accomplish any of your goals. For the electorate: if your vote indeed is your power, then use it effectively and don’t sale it to the highest bidder! Use it and cast a vote that will make a difference.