Thursday, June 02, 2005

Email from Dr Todd D. Stong- a retired engineer and international volunteer

I'm amazed how some ordinary people would go out of their way to help others. Is it a therapy against boredom or just a genuine altruism nature that transcends human reasoning, race, language or religion? A good example is of such a personality is Dr Todd D Stong, a US citizen, a grand father, and a retired engineer. He recently left a comment on one of my posts on nigeriablog. He mentioned that he is a volunteer on a project in Eastern Nigeria and that got me hooked! So I shot him an email and he replied. Hooah!

In his words:
“For the past 10 years I have been a volunteer engineer for civil engineering related projects in the developing world. I have 6 engineer sons and 21 grandchildren, do not need or want any more money. Thus, I am free to work about the world as a volunteer. This winter I have been asked to build a 200 ft long timber bridge over the Eze River near the village of Ozubulu (perhaps 20 miles south of Onitsha, in Anambra State. In the past I have been in Nigeria to assist in rural water development in Abia State.”

How many retired engineers in Nigeria would do volunteer work in other parts of Nigeria? Many Nigerians of the caliber of Dr Stong reside in streets that are not motorable or are regularly flooded during the rainy season. They know the solution to this problem (I hope), but they lack the will power and the altruistic nature. They will rather play “big man” in their worthless babaringa. Yet this set of people, people in the same age group as Dr Stong got the best of Nigeria as youngsters, and now have given us the worst of Nigeria as adults. They got the best of the nation because majority of them studied on government scholarships overseas, and we they returned in the 60s and early 70s they had plum jobs waiting! Majority retired in stupendous wealth because they colluded with the military in bankrupting the nation. Imagine what Nigeria will be without people like Todd and other NGOs personnel?

Dr Stong on corruption in Nigeria:
“My view is that the enticement of corruption is so strong and has existed so long that is very unlikely that those that can make this choice, the powerful, will give that up. Indeed there will be one from time to time, who will say I relinquish this opportunity to take all the money I can get. Thus, I believe that the move to honesty must begin at the local level, the village (the emphasis is mine). Once that is set it will then be possible to exert bit-by-bit influence to bring honesty to the townships and then the counties and finally the states. Key to this move is education to at least the 6th year, and even more important- a free press that let the people know immediately when funds are misspent.”

I agree, and also the move to reorganize and revitalize Nigeria must begin at the local level. I find it pitiful that many capable and resourceful Nigerians would rather want to govern or participate at state or federal level, when they could have been more productive at local scene. It is imperative to have competent hands managing the Local Government Areas (LGAs). But few individuals of good moral and ethical standing are willing to take up the challenge, why? Many are not interested in politics and secondly many LGAs are not economically viable. But if one of these governors or president wannabes contested and won the local election, and were able to demonstrate some resourcefulness, and significantly reverse the plight of the citizenry at the local scene, then that person has the key to any office in the land. Yet there are calls from some quarters recently to squash the LGAs…I am withered!

I wish Nigeria had many leaders in the likes of Dr Todd Stong and other eminent persons genuinely devoted to salvaging mankind from the throes of poverty and hopelessness. I doff my hat to these resourceful, altruistic and cool personalities!