Nigeria, Soyinka, liquid and illiquid brains

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Just the other day, Professor Wole Soyinka had issues explaining his encounter with the emperor of all maladies – cancer. The details of his now cured affliction is not of any special interest to us. We are laity, we are not medics. However, Soyinka made a throwaway comment that might serve well if we engaged it. We quote:

Indeed, I called it a shame that a nation as resource endowed as Nigeria has failed in that fundamental aspect, since it privileges just a few as against the totality.

What we find implied in Soyinka’s, is a universal Nigerian sentiment. It is that Nigeria is immeasurably resource endowed. All pervasively, Nigerians believe that they are so blessed, so resource endowed, even the angels are in envy.

The more specific fact is that the illusion of resource over-endowment, is taken to be even more so in the area of human capital. For many a Nigerian public intellectual or figure, the well received wisdom is that Nigeria is particularly over-weight with the finest of the world’s top brains.

However, built on facts, is the assertion true?

Our answer, built on facts again, is no, is mbam. First of all, the following. There is a truism in logic and logistics. It states as follows. That if you have an asset, allegedly, and you can’t access or deploy it, then for all practical purposes you don’t have any such assets.

The fact of this is perhaps best illustrated by the business concept of liquidity. Liquidity is just a fancy name for your ability to sell or convert your non-monetary assets to cash. In other words, liquidity is cash as available in real terms.

To illustrate, let’s indulge in this ”controlled” thought experiment. Let’s assume that 2 heirs, Taiwo and Kehinde Eke, inherited each asset/s worth a million dollars from a late patriarch, Dangote Eke. Mr. Taiwo inherits an Ikoyi luxury home worth a million dollars. His twin, Kehinde, inherits a million dollars in the bank balances. Apparently the two are worth a million dollar apiece. But not quite.

The fact of the disparity in their net worth will be revealed at any spot market. For example, if both Taiwo and Kehinde suffer similar health emergencies, Taiwo will then discover that his one million dollar worth is only on paper. His real, market or cash realizable value comes to some less than a million dollars.

First, to sell his house, there are the costs of transaction. And this includes time – time is money – used to prospect buyers. And immediately the market smells, as it is wont to, that Taiwo is about a fire-sale, the deal price for his Ikoyi inheritance will be depressed, perhaps even collapse. Let’s for purposes of ease of numbers say he gets to close a sell deal at 900000 dollars.

That is to say that Taiwo’s real net worth is 900 K not 1, million dollars. It is for such facts as this that management accountants, sometimes hold two values for one asset, book values and [expected] market/cash values. The two often vary.

In other words, if Taiwo had a cash call for 1 million to play in a market, he is out of the league and has lost the game. If the matter is a health emergency, he did probably be in greater danger than his twin Kehinde.

This Taiwo conundrum is the situation Nigeria is in, in resource terms. By book values, Nigeria can boast of the most brilliant minds in the world. But in the market place – in the fire-sale convertibility of knowledge for development etc. – what is revealed is most shocking. It is that Nigeria despite her over abundance of PhDs. and professors, has the most illiquid brains. Theirs are brains that are not convertible to cash or anything of needed values. Just big brains and no matching great use. Therefore in logical and logistical terms, Nigeria has no great brains at all. Or at least, the advertised profundity of the Nigerian genus of brains is otherworldly exaggerated. Nothing like it exists in Abuja, Lagos or Nkwerre.

The logic is simple. What you have, allegedly, but can’t access or deploy, you don’t have in reality. In fact the science of logistics, a critical if not supreme science, was developed to resolve this dichotomy of apparently having, but never really having, of owning and never possessing, assets. The more interesting thing is the supremacy of logistics as a living science spans thinking and praxis. More on this later. 

Perhaps, nobody grabs the essence of logistics as firmly as Napoleon. Napoleon, a French army thug and self-crowned emperor declared rightly, that an army marches on its stomach. A careful reading of this Napoleonic insight reveals the following. An army marches on its [mobile] stomach, not on its storehouse of food. That is an army marches as supplied on the move. Here I can recall my Biafra commander, ”Jimanze all generalship is in logistics, logistics and more logistics. Jimanze, all else is humor.”

So [in non-logistical terms] Nigeria has Ikoyi luxury end brains, but logistically, Ajamgbadi style craniums. In other words, during existential emergencies or fire-sales, during developmental needs or commoditization, Nigerian Ikoyi brainy assets collapse in values, so much it is not worth more than slums, say Ajamgbadi level hovels.

But trust Nigerians, they are quick to invent smart excuses for the illiquidity of their Ikoyi priced brains. For instance one reads in a face book post by a university don and popular television guest:

”It takes at least 30% of your brain power to survive governmental chaos in Nigeria- police, utilities etc. this is why, apart from literature that thrives on the morbid no great work may come out of NGR. In fact no great work has been produced in NGR in the last 50yrs except for literature and the arts.”

For others, it is that Nigeria has no laboratories and thus Nigerians can’t do great science. First of all, not all sciences need laboratory equipments. There are theoretical physics, mathematics, lately theoretical biology, etc. Even at that, it appears that those who canvass such fancy laboratory deficits are yet to be seized of the story of Ivan Pavlov.

Second of all, as to the inconvenient nature of the Nigerian environment we have treated the matter in our two books: Economists as Assassins and The University Media Complex. For instance, Mencius authored his eponymous masterpiece during the so called Warring Years of Chinese history. In our own time, the Russian Fields Medal winner, Grigori Perelman, made his seminal contributions in highly challenged environment. His unheated Moscow flat, shared with his mother, for instance, is infested with cockroaches. Yet, he is one of the greatest living mathematicians.

So what is the problem? First of all it is to recognize that Nigeria and Nigerians can’t become great writing poetry and dancing shaku-shaku, while whining their problem is leadership. Like developed peoples, Nigerians must be condemned to do, not learn, science. To do is to contribute new knowledge, to learn is to consume, extant knowledge.

The adjunct of this is in Nigerians coming to knowledge that Nigeria’s problem is their poor mathematical and highly illiquid grey matter. In other words, the touted Nigerian human capital is so illiquid that no flea market would  even stock it. Please see:

Finally, if you asked, we did tell it is all in logistics. In fact, for genius, logistics is the supreme science. Logistics, not acquisition and or possession. Anybody can learn or possess ideas. Genius however is the agility to move and bind ideas like electrons, where they are needed, or to withdraw and substitute same from where they clog operations, that is where they clog thinking. Genius is in the dynamical, not inertial possessions of ideas and data. If you miss out on this dynamism, this ”peripateticness” of ideas, no amount of inertial possessions of ideas can make a lizard turn up a croc. It is not for nothing that Aristotle, the master of those who know, founded the Peripatetic School. The undeclared game for Aristotle is to jam and un-jam ideas. And since Aristotle, scientists have never looked back on this revelation. 

So, if Nigerians are to be geniuses on paper and in deeds, that is if Nigeria is to develop, Nigerians must buy into the science of logistics, whole and entire. And doing that is the only way Nigerians can evade the embarrassing situation where on census they have more PhDs and professors than that developed Europe and America. Meanwhile Nigeria is self-combusting with underdevelopment.

One last word. Coming to grasp with the illiquidity concept is very crucial, life saving. Immediately one grasps it, it explains the paradox of Nigeria endowed with geniuses as alleged, but discounted to junk values during developmental countertrades. Boy, all else is truly in humor.

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