BY Ebele Orakpo
Experts are agreed on the fact that education, research and innovation are the three major factors that will help place Nigeria among the world’s top 20 economies by year 2020.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Ish’aq Oloyede, at a workshop in Ilorin in 2010 defined research as “the process of proffering solutions to human problems through well-defined methods; a systematic way of learning to re-learn and unlearn based on new insights deriving from knowledge.”
Delivering a lecture titled: Education, Research and National Development: Bridging the Gap between Town and Gown, at the 8th Annual UNILAG School of Postgraduate Studies Lecture, University of Lagos, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola attributed the slow pace of the nation’s development to the inadequate attention paid to education and research in the country.
“By all accounts, education, research and national development are intertwined. They are the reasons behind modern civilisation, and history shows us that they have never failed those countries that truly embraced them. Our universities especially owe us the debt of a functional template for sustainable national development and, whatever it takes, we must collect that debt as soon as possible.
“Since the dawn of civilisation, intellectuals were sponsored and courted by kings for their ability to analyse human beings and their habitat, foretell events and provide solutions to societal problems,” he said, adding that as a nation, Nigerians are yet to absorb the whole truth about these crucial factors.”
While speaking with Vanguard Learning in his office recently, the former Director of Research and International Co-operation, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, Prof. Kayode Ogunwemimo said that in the Webometrics’ rating of universities, Nigeria did not appear in the first 100 – 200. “It was the University of Benin that came among the first 500 in research and development.
“Our universities are good but funding is an issue. Do we have research funding in the front burner in Nigeria? Is it going directly to those who should use it for research? Go and look at the level of research funding in the BRICS countries. We want to be among the top 20 economies by 2020, it starts with research and development. If you don’t fund research and engage in development, we are not going to be there. Nigeria has all the research institutes, very great universities, but are they well positioned to be doing the research and development efforts they ought to?”
Speaking on the way forward, Director-General, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), Dr. Umar Buba Bindir called on the Federal Governmet to establish a research fund. “In Nigeria today, there are problems in every sector – Agriculture, Housing, Road, Water, Energy, Health, Education, etc. What the researchers need to do is to look at these problems and proffer solutions that will be beneficial to the common man.
“NOTAP believes that the Federal Government MUST establish a research fund, budgeting about N5 billion -N6 billion yearly for research purposes irrespective of where it is happening and we must do it very quickly.”
On his part, Governor Fashola said researchers should be presented with “a clear cut statement of the philosophy which spells out the direction in which Nigeria wants to channel her development efforts.
Underscoring the importance of research and development to a nation’s development, Fashola said: “As a result of concerted efforts in education, research and innovation, some countries that have little or nothing by way of natural resources, have thrived very well on the knowledge and creativity of their people, both for local benefit and for sale to other countries of the world.
It is imperative for universities to take their cue from society and the business world, even in deciding on areas of research, and to develop parameters for measuring the utility of such research results and academic publications.”
He said Japan became one of the leading nations in the fields of scientific research, technology, machinery, electronics, robotics and medical research, because she deployed the world’s third largest budget for research and development valued at $130 billion, and over 677,731 researchers.
“Researchers must find a way to get into the industry and find out what they need and channel their research to suit the needs of the industries,” said Dr Henry Boyo, Head of Hardware Development Laboratory, University of Lagos.
Dr Efe Ikponmwosa of the Dept. of Civil/Environmental Engineering, University of Lagos stressed the need for industry to fund researches as government cannot do it alone.
“There is no much relationship between industry and the academia; otherwise one would expect industry to fund some researches. If the government does not put some kind of legislation which makes it mandatory for industries to challenge the academia with their problems, then we will not move forward. When they challenge with their problems, they should also try to fund the researches.” Ikponmwosa regretted that most companies will rather fund beauty pageants than invest in researches that will benefit them.
Prof. Ogunwemimo stated that in Brazil, they have the CNPQ, the National Scientific Research and Development Agency which funds almost 85 per cent of doctoral candidates produced in Brazil yearly and Brazil produces over 25,000 PhD candidates per year.
“Nigeria needs to engage in that not only for local benefit or for indigenous scientists, we also need to attract scientists from other places to come and do their research here and that will be for the development of Nigeria. India and China are massively supporting research and they are giving funding even to Nigerians to come and work in their country but we don’t have that robust funding in Nigeria. So it is something that the government has to look into,” he said.
The US has the National Science Foundation, USAID Foundation, CDC, all these are huge research funding and they derive the benefit from them. There are also some funding that are available that are not known to the public.