THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED BY EBONY HERALD INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE IN THE YEAR 2012.
DUE TO POPULAR REQUEST WE BRING YOU THE ONLINE VERSION. Happy reading.
Our guest on Nigerians in diaspora was born some decades ago in the city of Ado – Ekiti, Ekiti State. A structural Engineer, a former Programme Adviser to the Texas State Office of Technological Transfer for Research programs, a former President and Chairman, Board of Directors Union of Nigeria Friends in North Texas, President of Ekiti Progressive Union (E.P.U) in North America (EKAINA), Manager of many major construction engineering firm in the United States, A holder of BSC in Civil Engineering and MSC in Structural Engineering.
EH: can we meet you sir?
Ans – Engineer Matthew Oluwadare Asalou
EH- Sir, can you tell us about your humble beginning?
Ans: I was born in Ado Ekiti, which is now the capital of Ekiti State in Nigeria. My parents are indigenes of Ado- Ekiti where I lived until I was about 15years old. I attended Local Authority Elementary (LA) Okeyinmi and Baptist Day Elementary Irona where I graduated in 1965. I moved to Lagos in 1966 to live with an elder brother where I started my secondary school education and also got enrolled at some local institutes to learn typing and shorthand after school. While in Lagos, I attended Premier College at Yaba and Nigeria people’s high school Ebute- Meta. I completed my secondary school education at Ife Anglican Grammar School, Ile-Ife in 1973.
EH- As a young man in Nigeria those days, what was life like?
ANS: After graduating from secondary school, I worked for Bank of America at their Broad Street head office in Lagos as a foreign exchange control clerk from 1974 until I left for the United States of America in 1976. My memory of life in Nigeria in the 70s, more especially in Lagos, as a student and as a young adult was that of Nostalgia.
EH: When did you move out of Nigeria to settle in United States of America and what were your reasons?
ANS: I left Nigeria for United States of America mainly to further my education. On my arrival to the USA, I attended Mankato State University of Texas in 1977 and the University of Taxes at Arlington where I completed a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Master of Engineering in Structures.
EH- As an Engineer, in what way have you been contributing to the Growth of USA economy?
ANS: I started working for the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) as a design engineer in 1981 at their Fort Worth District’s bridge design section. I obtained my Texas State Professional Engineering License in 1986.
In early 1990s, I moved from managing multiple major structural design projects at section to managing multiple major construction projects at the district’s construction section. In 2000, I moved to the district’s Transportation Development and Advanced Planning section to manage multiple major transportation corridors’ “Major investment study” projects. In 1996 I served as program Adviser to the Taxes States Office of Technological Transfer for research Programs (SPR) 0-1431 Specifications for Backfill of Reinforced Earth Retaining Walls.
In recognition of the various contributions of design and construction of highways and highways’ structures in the State Of Texas, I was the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT’s) nominee for the year 2002, Black Engineering of the year award in the Professional category. I moved to newly formed Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT’s) North Region in 2009 as a Director to manage the region’s Consultant Contract Administration and Design Resources Section. I retired from Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) in 2010. I am currently trying to establish an Engineering and Construction company while at the same time enjoying retirement.
EH- As a Nigerian doing Business in another man’s land, what do you think we need to do to encourage Nigerians in Diaspora to invest in Nigeria?
ANS: As far as I can tell, most of us Nigerians in Diaspora are already investing in Nigeria directly or indirectly by sending funds home for projects or as aid to relatives and friends. No matter how long we live in another country, most of us have emotional and cultural ties to our home country and if the situation allows, will prefer returning back home to work; establish businesses or just live there as retirees. Unfortunately, the current environment in Nigeria is not conducive to do so because of lack of security. It is not so much about availability of basic amenities like electricity and portable water supply but about safety of life and property. That is a major problem that urgently needs to be addressed.
EH- Today in Nigeria, more than 80% of our school leavers are without job, what suggestions have you for our young graduates back home in Nigeria?
ANS: High unemployment is currently a global problem due to the recession, the situation in Nigeria is very acute and far worse than it is an most other places because of corruption and mismanagement at every level. It is unfortunate that Nigeria, a major oil producing country, is saddled with high unemployment problem and nothing is being done by the political leadership to address the problem. Up till now, successive neither planed nor developed the economy so that it can assimilate the available manpower and new graduates being churned out of the various institutions of higher learning .urgent action by the general populace is needed.
EH- Can we know about your family, your wife and children?
ANS: I have been married to a very beautiful lady for about 35 years now. My wife’s parents are also indigenes of Ado – Ekiti. I can truly say that she completes me as a friend and soul mate. She obtained her bachelor Degree in social Work from same University as myself and also trained as licensed nurse. We give glory to God that he has blessed us with three wonderful children who are all now in their 20s.
EH- Have you any message for the government on the way forward?
ANS: Yes, I am very sad for the current state of affairs at home. The future does not bade well for my country Nigeria because there is no advance planning whatever. Those in charge of affairs continue to ignore the myriads of problems that are currently facing the nation. The first step is to admit there are problems and then start searching and providing solutions. Those problems are basic and inter- related, and in my opinion, so are the solutions.
Corruption and mismanagement of resources at every level are the cancer that has eaten into the Nigeria social fabric and physique for a while now. it seems as if nobody inside or outside of the government is willing or has internal fortitude and discipline to face and tackle this diseases that is now ravaging our country – maiming the future of our children and that of those yet unborn. Most of our so- called leaders had ignored the disease while looting the treasury, burying their heads in the sand, and paying lip service to providing solutions. Corruption and mismanagement of resources has led to an undeveloped/underdevelopment. High unemployment has led to criminal activities that have resulted in an unsafe environment for lived and properties. Right now, most citizens seem to be in a quandary and feel powerless about the situation in the country because no tangible effort is being made by either the governments at every level or society at large to alleviate the situation. Out of frustration and desperation, some of our citizens have turned to criminals activities like armed robbery and / or kidnapping as their only means of survival. This is a sad situation and clearly an indictment of the successive corrupt and vision less leadership the country has produced.
Things will only begin to change for the better when government officials at all levels come to the realization that their job is to serve the people. That they must manage the resources entrusted to them efficiently and effectively to the best of their abilities and desist from the temptation and the urge to steal. That they must work for and with the general populace in tackling myriad of problems that are confronting the citizens within domain. While it is true that governments it is obvious that only the government is capable of taking the lead and providing an enabling environment for the general populace. Any tangible effort made to curb corruption and mismanagement will be a step in the right direction.
I must say here that we, the general citizenry, also share part of the blame for the current situation in our country. There is some truth to the axiom that; people deserve the kind of government and leadership they get.
We ended up where we are today because, by our silence and inaction, we’ve condoned and allowed bad behaviors by the corrupted and unpatriotic few who control and monopolize the situation. It seems like we’ve all folded our hands and stood by while those few bad apples among us looted and continue to loot governments’ treasuries’ and enrich themselves at our expense. We cannot afford to continue to do that and expect things to exchange for the better. We need to be aware that the country and her resources belong to all citizens and not just to those corrupt few. We should stop singing their praises while giving those underserved accolades and recognition and start chastising them for their bad behaviors.
We as citizen need to be vigilant, demand accountability from and be committed to work with those within the government that are striving to make situation better. General awareness, active participant, and oversight by all citizens are paramount. While I am not by any means advocating use of violence, I seriously believe that those in power will pay attention and begin to address pressing problems only when the general populace jointly and collectively pressure and demand that they do so. That is the only way forward, in my opinion, if we want our country to survive and proper as a nation?
EH- Sir any plan to do business in Nigeria? And what advice have you for other Nigerians in Diaspora?
ANS: I will not rule out the possibility of doing business in Nigeria in the future because opportunities abound. As I mentioned above, the lack of security issue is huge that needs to be addressed. Safety of life and property, in conjunction with a stable government are necessary ingredients for a successful business environment. We need to be honest with ourselves by admitting the obvious nobody would want to invest or run business in an unsafe and unstable environment, more especially when there are better alternatives. We need put our house in order first before we start conversing for so called foreign investors, will come if and when an enabling environment is provided. Whenever I have the opportunity, I usually tell other Nigeria ns in Diaspora not to give up on our country. I usually implore them to try and provide whatever assistance within their power and to realize that all hands are needed on deck.
EH- Any political interest in future?
ANS: One way or another, I believe we all concerning all activities that affect our daily lives wherever we live. In that respect, yes I am politically involved now and hope to continue to be so in the future. I was a pioneer in the establishment of the first Nigerian Student Union at my alma mater here in Texas. I was one of the founding members and still very active in a social Organization for all Nigerians residing in North Texas called Union of Nigerian Friends, Inc. (UNF) that was formed in 1987. Over the years, I have served UNF in various capacity including presidency (twice), Publicity Secretary and Chairman of Board of Directors. I was one of the founding members of a social organization for all Ekiti indigenes residing in North Texas called Ekiti progressive Union (EPU) that was formed in 1999. I was the first EPU president. I am the first, and the only president of Ekiti Association in North America (EKAINA).
EKAINA was founded in 2002 as the only umbrella organization for various Ekiti Associations in North America. In my capacity as EKAINA president, in 2004, I founded a yahoo groups forum called the EKITI PEOPLES VOICE (EPV). EPV is a place for information exchange among group members, with emphasis on how to help in the economic growth and general development of Ekiti State. I am currently an EPV’s co-moderator.
Now if the question is whether l am interested in being in partisan politics, the answer is also ‘Yes’. In my current place of residence, I have voted and shall continue to vote, if I can, in all elections whenever I am qualified. Apart from making a choice, I consider voting a civic duty that ought to be performed by every citizen of a democracy. On the other hand, if the question is whether I will be interested in running for an office in a democratic setting, I don’t have a clear answer to that at the moment. Here in my home away from home, I am fascinated by the act of politicking as practiced and have been an active observer and participant in the democratic process. In most election, there are usually clear choices to be made between parties and all participants play by the rules even they don’t agree with those rules. Here, for vast majority of people running for office, the overriding motive is usually to serve the public for the common good and not for personal gain. I am a “play by the rule” person and seriously believe in public service. I will not rule out the possibility of me running for an elected office in the future.
In Nigeria, it seems to me that the choices are not so clear because parties do not have distinctively clear ideologies. It elected to offices in Nigeria, they usually buy their way in and don’t have any clue of what public services is all about. Most of them seem to think they are in office to lord over the populace and therefore don’t feel responsible for anything. They don’t seem to believe in playing by the rules, hence they consider rigging and cheating as acceptable in their do-or-die game since nobody is usually held accountable and get punished for any wrong doing committed while in office. Right now, I don’t see myself being a participant in such an environment that condones those kinds of misdeeds.