X-Raying Oragwu’s Suggestions on Nigeria’s Science and Technology Dilemma (11)

By Jerome-Mario Utomi     
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Jerome-Mario Utomi
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There are not only political but several technological obstacles that we collectively as a nation will determine how to overcome.

The origin of those technological challenges was in fact highlighted in the first part of this piece, And, as a natural reaction, it is possible for readers that have gone through the first part, looking at what was presented, form opinions about possible reason(s)/explanations fueling the science and Technology challenge in Nigeria. Essentially, while some may conclude that such challenge is rooted in the so called “Mutual Agreement” which existed between “Britain and the Colonized Nigeria”. The rest may however, heap the blame on the colonial masters’ heinous choice of giving Nigerians educations type that laid asymmetrical emphasis on certificates without substance.

Whichever way, to think that the above is the only possible explanation why Nigeria’s science and technology sector continues to have its head stock in the mud will amount to a false impression. In fact, the challenge confronting the sector, as subsequent paragraphs will reveal goes beyond the above considerations to include effect of failures and obnoxious policies designed by successive administrations in the post independent Nigeria.

Such groundwork/ ‘atrocities’ according to a keynote address Titled: The Challenges of Science and Technology in Nigeria’s Economy: The Way Forward, delivered by FN Oragwu, in March 2018, at Eagle Square, Abuja,during an event organized by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), that exacerbated the situation includes but not limited to; Nigeria’s Failure to learn from the highly successful Technological Innovations Experience that took place in the defunct State of Biafra,1967-1970: Nigeria’s Inexplicable Failure to appreciate the Role of Science and Technology in safeguarding her Political Independence since 1960: Nigeria’s Faulty Economic Development Planning Strategy since 1962: And the Failure to develop the pivotal Electrical Power supporting Infrastructure for Economic Growth and Development in Nigeria among others.

Adding context to the discourse,, “Mutual Agreement”, as explained by the aforementioned address and used in the first part of this piece, is that arrangement or policy document which allowed Nigeria to export or supply Britain with primary Agricultural Commodities which Britain required for her once famous Textile Industry and her Leather and Leather products industry, and to supply Britain with unprocessed Natural Minerals (solid, liquid and gaseous), which Nigeria has in abundance and which are of interest to Britain for the production and manufacture of Technologies and Industrial goods in British Economy.

Britain on her part is to “provide or export at costs to Nigeria, all the modern technologies and industrial goods that Nigeria needs to sustain her own economic growth and development”. (Readers are equally encouraged to read, “The Dual Mandate of Europe in Tropical Africa,” 4thEdition, London, 1929,by Lord Fredrick Lugard, the first Nigeria’s Governor General, 1914-1918).

With this highlighted, let’s focus on the aforementioned/outlined challenges.

The most serious and most surprising of such post independent failures, going by the above address, is Nigeria’s failure to learn from the highly successful Technological Innovations Experience that took place in the defunct State of Biafra,1967-1970,it was noted that the Nigerian Scientists and Engineers who found themselves in the defunct State of Biafra faced the daunting challenge of no domestic capacity for technology and industrial goods production which left the defunct State of Biafra scampering to import technologies and industrial goods but could not do so because of lack of foreign currency and blockade of superior Federal Military Government.

The address further said in part; It is this situation of no external support or assistance whatsoever during the Civil War that forced the Scientist / Engineers / Technicians to learn the hard way to produce technologies in Biafra. The Scientists and Engineers had no choice but to adopt the Strategy of Technology Innovation as earlier defined and through Copy engineering Design, copy components fabrication and copy technologies production and manufacturing creativity. It is this Strategy that enabled the Scientists, Engineers, Technologists and Technicians in Biafra, 1967-1970, to leapfrog within six months into domestic modern technology production / manufacturing capacity without any assistance and support whatsoever from the outside World.

The Scientists / Engineers, it was observed, were incredibly able to design and fabricate Refineries for the production of Petrol, Diesel and Kerosene, to produce effective weapon technologies, to construct Airports among others which enabled the defunct State of Biafra to resist for 30 long months the awesome superior Technology power of the Federal Military Government. This is the Strategy which Japan used at the turn of 20thCentury AD to leapfrog into competition with awesome Industrial Europe and North America. This is the same Strategy which is now being used by countries such as China, India, South Korea and Brazil, to leapfrog into technology and industrial goods competition with the top Industrial Europe, North America and Japan.

It is therefore inappropriate and hopeless task for Nigeria to continue to try to re-invent the Wheel which Europe invented for us during the 18th and 19th Century AD Industrial Revolutions.

From the failure to learn from the highly successful Technological Innovations Experience that took place in the defunct State of Biafra, flows something new and different.

It was emphasized that at Ghana’s Independence Day Address, Dr. Kwame Nkruma, the President of Ghana reminded the Ghanaians that for economic reasons, Britain did not give Ghana the domestic endogenous capacity to produce and manufacture modern technologies and industrial goods in Ghana’s economy and that Ghana must acquire this Capacity the hard way.

Without the domestic endogenous capacity for technologies and industrial goods production, Dr.Nkruma stated in his Independence Day Address, that “Ghana’s Independence would be meaningless”. With this Policy Statement, Dr. Kwame Nkruma directed that a Ghana Council for Scientific Research and Industrial Development be established to build andestablish the domestic endogenous capacity forthe production of modern technologies and globally competitive industrial goods in Ghana’s economy for domestic use and for export. This is exactly what President Nehru of India was reported to do at India’s Independence in 1947and India is now one of the 20 top World Industrial Economies.

In contrast, it was underlined that no Nigerian Political Leader at whatever level, at our Independence Day Address on October 1, 1960 said anything about the Role of Science and Technology in safeguarding the Independence of Nigeria and there was no mention of any relationship between Science and Technology and Nigeria’s Economy.

All the Energies of Nigeria’s Political Leaders since Independence were seen to be consumed in fighting battles of ethnic Nationality and Religious differences. What Nigeria did in 1961was to enter into Military Technology Assistance Agreement with the same departing British Colonial Power for protection, an action that led to protests by young Nigerians

Nigeria’s poor Economic Development Planning which started from 1962- till date is another contributing factor to the sector’s challenge identified by the keynote address.

They were based on Foreign Capital Intensive Technologies and on what funds were available to import these technologies and related industrial goods inputs and when the funds were not available as most times the case to import these foreign Inputs, then the Implementation of the Plans failed. There were no provisions in the Plans for inputs from domestic produced Technologies and Industrial goods. Consequently, the domestic R&D / Technology production Agencies were left to do what they pleased and of course they simply revert to Scientific Research for knowledge acquisition which they know best and contributed nothing to the Plans. This is why Nigeria, with highly qualified and talented Scientists and Engineers equal to any in the World, cannot contribute any modern Technologies nor globally competitive Industrial goods to the Nigeria’s National Economic Development Plans.

Away from Economic Development Plan, one more problem area necessary to the present discourse is the inability of successive administrations in the country to develop the pivotal Electrical Power supporting Infrastructure for Economic Growth and Development in Nigeria or learn from a country like Republic of South Africa with a Population of about 50 Million as at 2011 but was generating 45,000 MW of Electricity and is now the only Member from Africa in the top 20 leading World Economies.

Solutions proffered to this teaming challenge are the objective of the 3rd/ final part.

To be continued.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;j[email protected]/08032725374.

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