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Time to take our destiny in our hands is today, tomorrow may be too late

WITH the end of the slave trade, the missionaries came to Nigeria from Sierra Leone and landed in Badagry in 1842, from Badagry they came to Abeokuta in 1843 through Ogun river. Today this river has dried up through siltation as it was never dredged.

The progress Nigeria has made is through the use of education that came along with the religion. We can see the difference between parts of the country where education was accepted and where it has not been accepted fully.

Were it possible for Nigeria to copy what Japan did in 1872, when it introduced compulsory elementary education building a total of 54,000 elementary schools, one such school for every population of 600 people! And Japan became the most literate in the whole of Asia; Nigeria will be different in a very short time.

My interaction with my fellow students and the environment provided by the school made me to be inquisitive, particularly about the absence of industries in Nigeria. I became interested in visiting second-hand bookshops in London and Liverpool, where I studied.

Industrial growth

I bought books on industrial growth and paper making. Some of these include: Landmarks in English Industrial History, by Townsend Warner; The Manufacture of Paper by R. W. Sindall; Japanese Paper Making by Timothy Barrett; and Small-scale Paper Making, by A.M. Western, amongst others.

I have looked around, we do not manufacture anything, the only thing we see around is “pure water.” In institution of learning a workshop is provided at the beginning; once the equipment stops functioning, there is no replacement, sometimes the site of workshop becomes that of the library for the college and the workshop is never replaced.

I have given what I have seen some thought, I came to ask myself whether some policies initiated many years ago by Britain could have affected the African thinking generally. These include the Navigation Act of 1651 and 1660 which forbade the importation and exportation of goods between Asia, America and England, save in the ships built and owned by England and with English crews. The other was the Mercantile System established under four main heads:

1. To encourage native shipping by Navigation Acts;

2. To protect and help native corn-growers in order that England should be independent of food from outside;

3. The policy of protecting home industries and planting new ones to give employment to native artisans and finally; and

4. Policy of amassing and keeping in the country a large amount of money.

India, a British colony, was not much affected but mostly African countries. Most of the education we give remain theoretical without the possibility of application. Whatever may be responsible for this, it is my idea we borrow a leaf from India, Japan and others and transform Nigeria.

It is that despite the fact that India had been producing paper by hand since 7th Century, an Institute of Paper Technology, Saharanpur (U.P.) India, founded in 1968 and affiliated to the University of Roorkee, was to be awarding degrees in Chemical Engineering with major courses in Pulp and Paper Technology.

Approach was made to the Swedish government for assistance. Sweden sent most of the equipment required to set up the institute, made available six Swedish experts for five years plus training facilities in Sweden for ten Indian teachers. That was 21 years after independence to India in 1947.

I believe and hold it possible that we can approach other foreign countries including Sweden for similar assistance. We need such repositioning in our various faculties offering courses in technology and industrial design. This is the time to change, the future is bright and well assured.

Our petroleum is waiting for refinement, from the crude form, bitumen is also waiting, fabrication of agricultural machinery, three-wheeled vehicles and solar power are possible if we have confidence in ourselves and if our steel industry would produce sheet metal.

With these ideas we can celebrate fifty years of independence with confidence. All that is known about Africa today have been recorded by visitors to Africa from Europe. An ambassador, Dr. Nachtical, a German from Prussia to Kukawa, capital of Borno Kingdom in 1870, saw the Lake Chad full of water, walked round it and made a record of it including all the rivers that flowed into and out of it.

Today, the lake has dried up as a result of siltation. We do not need to divert the water of another river into it, all we need to do is to dredge it as well as all the rivers that flow into it, plant trees around them all to protect them from sand being blown from across the Sahara Desert.

Forestry was introduced into Nigeria in 1916, today the trees in had been cut down without new ones to replace those that were cut down. Mature wood for making furniture are not readily available. Care of our forestry must be maintained with considerable responsibility.

Rivers in Nigeria before colonization provided communication routes linking villages and other settlements, today they have ceased to function as they have all silted up and need urgent dredging to bring life back to the settlements they linked before. Absence of dredging is causing flooding in different parts of the country today.

Agriculture formed the cornerstone of our economy, we planted groundnut, cotton, cocoa, palm trees, others which we exported. As soon as we discovered oil, we abandoned them rather than add value to them and use them ourselves. We have today become “La moo lo” and not “la moo se”. Many children come out of school with no job to absorb them.

Mineral deposits abound everywhere in Nigeria, empower every state to mine and add value to one or the other mineral in each state and make a considerable difference.

Every effort should be made to produce locally most of the things we use today in order to provide jobs for our children. If the ideas being put forward here can be effected at least a quarter of people coming to Lagos will stay away thus reducing over-population in Lagos metropolis.

The presence of institutions of higher learning and concentration of highly motivated teachers will in a short time bring about the desirable changes that will transform the various societies in the country. By ensuring that the knowledge we impact can lead to practical application and changes desirable in societies will take place.

•Prof. Omotayo Adeolu was the founding Dean, Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Lagos. He is an outstanding Architect & Town Planner.


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