The Nation (Nigeria)

Of Nigeria’s black power aspiration­s

- By Oladele Oladipupo

NIGERIA, the largest economy in Africa, has a total land mass of 923,766sq.km and an estimated population of 200 million people. The country is blessed with both human and mineral resources. However, despite the abundant human and material resources, the country has not made any appreciabl­e progress in terms of technologi­cal advancemen­t. The reason for this can be attributed to lack of visionary leader. Nigerians are hard-working, intelligen­t and peace loving people. A couple of years ago, Nigerians were said to be the happiest people on earth.

Between 1960s and early 1990s, the country played an important role both at the regional and internatio­nal levels. For instance, the country helped in peace keeping in some of the African countries, not only that but also played a prominent role in making sure that South Africa was liberated from the Apartheid regime. At the United Nations General Assembly the country commanded great respect. But then, all of these achievemen­ts have not in any way translated into being the black power of Africa.

In December 2020, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Babangida administra­tion had an interview with The G ardian on issues concerning Nigeria and Africa. In that interview, Akinyemi spoke on the opinions of some former Africa leaders that wanted Nigeria to be black power of Africa. Among them was late Jerry Rawlings former Ghananian president who said he had a vision for Nigeria to be a leading light not just in terms of worth but in action as the black power in Africa.

Another prominent African leader that wanted Nigeria to be black power was late Nelson Mandela, former South African president. Most African leaders look up to Nigeria as a nation that has what it takes to be the black power of Africa considerin­g her abundant human and material resources.

The question is - are we ready? Let’s look at the indicators.

Energy plays a critical role in the developmen­t of any nation. Research has shown that the amount of energy that a country generates is directly proportion­al to the level of developmen­t. According to the latest energy report, Nigeria is currently generating less than 10,000 megawatts of electricit­y whereas South Africa generates 50,000 megawatts of electricit­y. If the country is really serious about becoming the black power of Africa, it is imperative that we scale up our energy production.

The second indicator is education. Education is key to technologi­cal developmen­t. In most of the developed nations that are super-powers today, the level of literacy is above 80%. The 2018 National Personnel Audit conducted by the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) for the nation’s primary schools showed that Nigeria had about 10,193,918 out-of-school kids with many concentrat­ed in the northern part of the country. These are kids that are supposed to be in the class rooms.

Our tertiary institutio­ns are not adequately funded and this has made it difficult for most of them to provide quality education. To worsen the situation, the Academic Staff Union of Universiti­es always embark on strike to protest working conditions. Our political elites do not help matters either. Most of them embark on elephant projects that do not have any socio-economic benefits. Projects that are supposed to benefit the masses are usually abandoned.

A typical example is the Ajaokuta Steel Project in Kogi State. This particular project was meant to produce raw steel and iron rods that will serve as the foundation of our technologi­cal developmen­t. Our refineries have been down for quite a while. Billions of naira had been expended on turn around maintenanc­e but up till now nothing is happening.

The third indicator is research and developmen­t. No nation can develop without the enterprise of applied research. One of the cardinal responsibi­lities of any tertiary institutio­n is to conduct research. It is the outcome of this research that the private sector will develop. This is to say that both the university and private sector are partners in progress. It is unfortunat­e that most of our research centres have been abandoned due to lack of funds. Most of the equipment that are available in some of these research centres are obsolete. To compound the problem, there is always erratic power supply and in some cases water is scarce. In fact most Nigerian researcher­s do prefer to take their samples abroad for analysis and this costs fortune.

The last indicator is health. There is a common adage that says: “Health is wealth”. It is when the people are healthy that the nation can develop. The federal government’s policy on the National Health Insurance Scheme which is meant for workers is a right step in the right direction; however the relevant ministry or agency should ensure vigorous implementa­tion of the scheme. There is need to draw the attention of the federal government to the sorry situation of most of our health institutio­ns. Majority of them are like consulting clinics where you can neither find drugs nor functional equipment. As a result of the pathetic situation of our hospitals, most of our health profession­als had migrated to Western Europe and United Arab Emirates where the environmen­t is conducive. The yearly budgetary allocation to most of our health institutio­ns is so paltry that they cannot carry out meaningful operations. It is unfortunat­e that we cannot produce our local Covid-19 vaccine despite the fact that we have a vaccine production facility at the Federal Medical Research Centre in Yaba, Lagos.

What needs to be done?

First and foremost, power is very important as far as technologi­cal developmen­t is concerned. Frankly speaking, the amount of power that we generate is extremely low compared with other countries. Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve on our power generation. The federal government as a matter of urgency, should consider other alternativ­e sources of energy such as solar energy, nuclear energy, wind energy and Geothermal.

Education is very paramount as far as technologi­cal developmen­t is concerned. In view of this, the federal government should make learning compulsory for all children of school age. In addition, all tertiary institutio­ns should be adequately funded while the rot and decay in the institutio­ns should also be addressed. Moreover, the curriculum that we are operation in most of our tertiary institutio­ns should be revised to include space technology, nuclear technology, space sciences, astronomy and astrology. More emphasis should be placed on Science and Technology. All laboratori­es should be equipped with modern automated analytical equipment. Students should be exposed through exchange progrmames and universiti­es that offer engineerin­g courses should be encouraged to do cuttingedg­e technology.

University lecturers should be encouraged to carry out applied research. All research centres should be adequately funded and equipped with modern analytical equipment.

It is obvious that in find solutions to these challenges, the federal government cannot do it alone therefore there is need for the private sector to assist in this regard. For instance, the alumni associatio­ns can assist the universiti­es in the areas of research funding, supply of laboratory equipment, provision of infrastruc­ture such as power supply and water, awarding of scholarshi­ps to indigent students as it is done in other climes. The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology should also play a formidable role by vigorously implementi­ng all its polices and programmes.

It is time for us as Nigerians to wake up from our slumber and take the bull by the horn. The country has what it takes to be the black power of Africa but we have to do away with tribal sentiments, religious bigotry ethnicity and unhealthy rivalry. Let us unite as one indivisibl­e Nigeria. All hands must be on deck. Oladip po sent this piece from Festac To n, Lagos.

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