The call of a good and lovely friend of mine residing in Germany filtered in just in the early hours of last Wednesday, immediately after my usual morning devotion. In his usual style of asking about Nigeria, after exchange of pleasantries, the dude said “Comrade Fred, why is Nigeria still lagging behind in the area of technology despite the alarming need for it?” I didn’t know what actually informed his question.
In my normal way of making my response succinct and apt, I told him: “The country will remain where she is until she truly understands the prime essence of research and innovation.” I nevertheless further notified him that some of the individual capacities in the country were currently making waves as regards technology, but apparently discouraged by the lingering lack of enabling environment.
Lest I digress; a few months back, a serious melodrama ensued on the floor of the National Assembly when the Director General (DG) of the Nigeria’s Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussain Ibrahim, appeared before the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.
When asked by the Committee Chairman, Senator Uche Ekwunife to inform Nigerians how the agency had thus far fared since its 33 years of existence, the DG graciously stated that the Council had developed a technology for mass production of ‘kilishi’. According to the professor, the development regarding manufacturing of Kilishi remained a major breakthrough since the creation of the research-oriented council. It’s noteworthy that kilishi is a locally-spiced roasted meat made of beef.
It’s very popular mainly in the Northern part of Nigeria. The produce is similar to ‘Suya’, though tastes better and more palatable, according to the consumers. Prior to this response, the DG was actually asked by the Senate panel to tell Nigerians the specific raw material the agency had successfully produced in the country in partnership with other research institutes. Prof. Ibrahim opined that in spite of the Council’s “lack of laboratory, we have reached milestone”. One might be wondering if it was development of tech-driven measures for optimization of kilishi production that took the agency to ‘milestone’.
In a further quest of the committee, the DG was asked: “Can you tell us the local raw materials you have developed in the area of health, brewery, construction, science and technology, or agriculture?” He responded thus: “We have developed two varieties of sorghum. We collaborated with agricultural research institutes, pharmaceutical industries because we produce ethanol from it and that is the basic raw material for the production of sanitizers.
“From the sorghum, we developed other products like glucose syrup, livestock feeds, materials for breweries and starch.” The last sentence triggered more reactions towards clarifications, hence the committee further enquired if the Council had developed the Glucose Syrup to the stage where Nigeria would no longer import it. Ibrahim said: “We have not reached that stage. It goes through processes. We have tested it, but the stage we are now is the pilot stage.”
At this juncture, if your thoughts are as good as mine, you would then wonder if the pilot stage lasts more than three decades before the research process gets to the next level. As if that wasn’t enough, the Prof. stated: “In our 30 years of research activities, we are still the largest research institute. But to be candid with you, we are making progress.”
But was the boss trying to assert that the Council was the largest in Nigeria, Africa or where precisely? Sometimes, one cannot help but remain astonished and puzzled over the manner of speech we invariably receive from some of these so-called professors or Nigerians in position of authority. Funnily enough, Prof. Ibrahim then landed with alacrity by enthusing: “For now, we have developed technology to optimize kilishi production. Research activities take time.
To be candid, we have reached milestone.” Can you imagine? After about three decades of existence, someone was still asking for more time. What kind of time was he really referring to? One question, too many.
It’s worth noting that the professor’s submission led to a prolonged laughter from the audience, but rather drew the anger of the lawmakers (panelists). A member of the panel, Senator Clifford Ordia then furiously uttered: “Is this the success story you are going to tell us after 33 years?” At this 21st Century, we were being told by a professor that a technology had been deduced for kilishi production. Away from that, we were still boggled with the information concerning sorghum, a commodity that can now be comfortably produced by even our secondary schools students. Personally, I wasn’t really dumbfounded over the professor’s outrageous comments, because he was coming from an institution where research works have over the years been relegated to the background.
Aside classroom teaching, research was the major reason that informed the establishment of universities across the globe. But it’s quite appalling that in this part of the world, particularly Nigeria, they are rather seen as places meant for only lecture rooms or auditoriums, thereby leaving our laboratories to suffer.
That annoying melodrama that occurred in the NASS, precisely on 8th June 2020, between the DG of RMRDC and the Senate Committee had revealed that we are the reason Nigeria is where she is today in regard to technology and allied matters. Had it been the appointment for the headship of the Council (RMRDC) was not granted to a professor, we would have perhaps been bitter over the gesture of the President.
Please, don’t get it twisted; I’m not trying to ridicule our eminent professors who are widely regarded and addressed as the most learned persons in the world. After all, I’m aspiring to become one someday. But that doesn’t override the fact that some of these ‘professors’ are just a shadow of themselves. The sound ones among them can boldly attest to this unequivocal assertion. Read my lips.
Lest I forget; away from competence and diligence to duty, we can’t possibly forget in haste that Nigeria as a country is still lagging behind as regards funding of research works and commercialization of patents, let alone creation of enabling environment.
Over five years ago, Nigerians were promised by a minister that the country would soonest be producing mere pencil, yet till date, we are still living in anticipation. How did we get here? Think about it!