As Nigeria gradually slides into an economic recession, the effects of her industrial and technological backwardness can vividly be seen as almost nothing works at the moment. There has never been a more required time than now for a technological and industrial revolution.
Universities were established basically for two reasons. First and primarily for research and second, for knowledge dissemination. It is indisputable that Nigerians are one of the smartest people in the world. We go and do exploits wherever they are found but unfortunately, most research done by universities, never get to see the light of implementation. Perhaps it is apposite to share a personal experience: briefly after my undergraduate studies, while interning as an algorithm designer and program debugger at the Centre of Excellence in software engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, I met a couple of students at the software lab seeking some assistance. They were developing a robot that uses sensors to learn about the environment and then make decisions based on information gathered overtime. At the end, the robot was able to navigate the entire laboratory and perform some other tasks. Those students put in for an international robotics competition but didn’t go far since they were competing with people with more sophisticated robots and they had done theirs with the little and insufficient resources at their disposal.
My point is; in a laboratory somewhere in Ile-Ife, a group of students developed a robot with the same principle that drives Google’s new brand of self-driving cars and no one cared. For my undergraduate thesis, I worked on fraud detection in debit cards using the Hidden Markov model. I had spent a year and a half working on this project and I had spent a lot of money and energy too. I came out with a very good grade and also with an award as the best final year project in the department; but guess where this wonderful research of mine ended up? Probably somewhere under the staircase of my department or in some cabinet where it must be gathering dust. That project was gone and never to be heard of anymore. This was a work that came up with a solution to detect fraudulent debit card transactions on the internet. I could go on and on about research works that were heavily funded but end up never being considered for implementation. Our universities are being underutilized and researches are being wasted. If the government cared about as much as half of the researches carried out in the universities, Nigeria will drastically shoot up the ladder.
Nigeria’s major problem is not corruption. Her basic and primary problem is the absence of a structure in all her sectors. In short, there is no nation in the world that is free of corruption. The best that can be done is to block loopholes and create a structure. When there is an independent judicial system and there is a structure in all of the sectors, to steal little will be so difficult and frustrating that public office holders will lose interest. If change is really going to come into Nigeria, we need just three things; Innovative minds, electricity and the internet. These three things are key in the change process. Computerizing most of these things and allowing public access to some government agencies’ transactions will increase accountability as more than one person will have access to records and transactions.
Nigeria’s greatest asset is her population and the incredible number of intelligent people she has. Inventions should be encouraged in Nigeria. There is no reason why Nigeria shouldn’t be growing at a rate of at least 10% per year. I would suggest the ministry of Science and Technology be overhauled to ensure that Nigerian inventions don’t just go into a waste or a ministry of innovation be set up. Nigeria spends a lot of money every year on pilgrimages leaving one in wonder as to why a person’s individual faith should be the business of a country. Instead of pumping so much money into pilgrimages, that money can be pumped into the ministry of science and technology where researches carried out by universities, students and maybe even private individuals can actually be put to use and inventions can be disseminated tactically to the public. By doing such, innovation will be encouraged and things will begin to change.
Nigeria’s electricity problem is a combination of multiple issues with bureaucracy, investment and management. The government of Nigeria is still interfering in the business of the companies even though they have been privatized. A lot of investment is still required in the that sector. Most of the electricity companies were sold to politicians who had no experience in energy. Power generation is generally not a very profitable business and it requires a lot of investments. In short, let me suggest a way to solve Nigeria’s electricity problem though it might sound crude but I know it would work. Throw an open competition to Nigerian universities. Let the competition span for over two years the results will be shocking. They would be able to identify a cheaper way of generating electricity, come up with better transmission designs and low cost materials. Also, I would suggest that states should be allowed to generate their power by themselves.
Instead of leaving the entire county to thrive on less than 3000MW of electricity, states should be allowed to produce their own power with the resources they have. China generates 91,000MW from wind power only. Now that is a whole lot! According to the National Meteorological map, everywhere in Nigeria is windy but some areas are windier than others. The north has 6m/s of wind potential while the south ranges between 4m/s to 2.5m/s. All that potential should not be wasted. If states are allowed to produce their own forms of electricity, we would be able to generate excess and forget all about generating power.
As we speak, the future of the coming generation is at risk in Nigeria as almost nothing works at the moment. The time for the much needed change and transformation is now. If we want change, we have to go through the intentional and painful process of sacrifices. Nigeria urgently needs a technological and industrial revolution if anything will change at all. If it has worked somewhere else in the world, it will work in Nigeria.