RECENTLY, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja, Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na’ Allah, called on the Federal Government to establish a mechanism for assessing Nigerian university professors to determine their contributions to the industry and national development.
Professor Na’Allah compared being a university professor with being conferred with a chieftaincy title whereby the professor may not do anything anymore afterwards.
At a different forum, while delivering a lecture at the second and third combined convocation ceremony of Mountain Top University, Ibafo, Ogun State, Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, was point-blank, raising the same issue Professor Na’Allah addressed at the University of Abuja.
Governor Abiodun challenged Nigerian researchers in tertiary institutions in the country to find lasting solutions to the myriad of challenges, such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, facing humanity.
Abiodun said the country is lagging behind when it comes to introducing disruptive technology.
But are Nigerians, whether in academia or outside the ivory towers, lacking in inventions and inventors? Does government encourage Nigerian inventors? Does government invest in, utilise, commercialise or expand on the inventions made, both by Nigerian professors and the not-too-educated? In the past year alone, a number of young Nigerians, including 17-year-old David Opateyibo, have built drones in which no government in Nigeria showed interest.
Some of those youths have since been snatched up by foreign countries. David Opateyibo is said to have been taken by a Finland-based company. We can also remember Jeremiah Abalaka, a surgeon-turned-immunologist, who insisted he developed a vaccine for HIV. Abalaka’s invention was so badly politicised that the man became frustrated and his invention died.
Why has a government, for instance, not turned the Ariaria Market and its ingenious artisans into an industrial hub? Because the government refused to make the local environment conducive for the commercialisation of the inventions by Nigerians, the inventors have continued to take their talents to Europe, America, and other foreign countries where they are valued. Today, in the USA, hundreds of patents for technological inventions are held by Nigerians.
Mr Cyprian Emeka Uzoh, the United States-based Nigerian from Anambra State, is listed among the world’s prominent inventors in the U.S. Uzoh is in the US’ records of “Prolific Inventors” with 328 patents to his credit! Another US-based Nigerian from Akwa Ibom, Patrick Usoro, has 203 issued patents.
Other Nigerian inventors who were forced by the unfriendly environment in Nigeria to take their inventive talents to the United States include Ndubuisi Ekekwe, who developed microchips used in minimally invasive surgical robots; Sebastine Chinonye Omeh, best known for his research into the use of wind-propelled turbines to generate electricity; Yemi Adesokan, who made the exceptional discovery on drug-resistant infections.
Other Nigerian-US based inventors are Professor Ume Ifeanyi Charles, Aloysius Anaebonam, Brino Gilbert; Emeka Nchekwube, a Nigerian-born neurosurgeon and many others. No doubt, the problem is not with Nigerian professors and inventors. Government should create an enabling environment for them here.
The Nigerian government must show sincerity in its quest for technological development of the country by investing in research and functional education.
It must put in place those same social, political and economic conditions that lure our inventors to other countries, especially steady power supply, employment opportunities and security of lives and property. It is quite unfair to continue to blame university professors and other Nigerians for the failure of government.