Last weekend we had an introduction into the Igbo apprentice system commonly known as Igba Boi. Today we are looking at an angle that should also be considered in discussing the past, present and future of the boi-boi system.
Though the Igbo apprentice system has gained international headlines today, both in the business and academic sectors, it will surprise you to know that this increased focus is coming at a time when the momentum that propelled the system into a way of life among the Igbos has reduced.
Today the boi-boi is not as common as it used to be, he is going away, but not completely, or rather, he has transmuted into society as a different person with overlapping roles. This process began slowly somewhere around the late 90s up to this moment.
He has become a sales boy who collects his salary monthly and pays his own rent or squats with friends. He is now a painter, tiler, mason, an engineer – software and hardware. He has a car with which he does commercial transport. He has joined the armed forces as a recruit or if he is fortunate enough an officer. He now loves education and will go to any length to get a degree. He is travelling out of the country to neighboring African states and other continents to make it in life.
How and why did this happen?
With the advancement of globalization and its effect on every aspect of human life; on the media where news filters in much faster, the reduction in the cost of connecting television to the outside world, internet on mobile phones, the urbanization of the world and so many other factors, time seemed to move faster than ever. With this increase in the movement of time came a perceived lull in the fulfillment of dreams. The rat race experienced a quantum leap.
It becomes increasingly difficult for young men to wait for seven years when they can rather take their future in their own hands and make it happen much faster anyway. Seven years now look like fourteen.
- Faster communication and transportation – Back then, there were no mobile phones as we have them today, few businesses owned their own landline or table phones (through NITEL). There were no online adverts to showcase products and services. So a trader in Kaduna who wants to buy goods from an importer or wholesaler in Lagos will at best speak through a telephone booth, and even at that, he needs to see what’s on ground to decide what to buy or not to buy.
But with the ease of cargo transportation by land and air, mobile phones, internet services and the accompanying video calls and meetings, in short, with the coming of e-commerce in full swing, the apprentice is not needed by his master as much as he was in the past.
The boss can now handle everything from his smartphone, tablet or whatever gadget. Today, owners of businesses do hire people that simply work as sale persons who receive monthly wages.
- Heightened presence of education and the Reward of Skill – the proliferation of education-propaganda and the imagined reward young boys and their families felt was to be gained from education meant that they began to shy away from going to cities to learn trade when they could go into academics and have success like those they see on local and foreign TV. Some might agree to go to the city to serve, but with the condition that they will be trained in formal education simultaneously.
Also, seeing young men make it big in sports and the entertainment industry made the potential apprentice search himself for whatever skill, inborn or not, which he could leverage on while hoping that fortune shines on him one day like his brothers who have made it.