Ordinarily, the current recession is seen as a setback on our national economic diversification and transformation efforts, but it also provides an opportunity for pioneering a revolution in our economic development and sustainable growth. It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, therefore, the current situation rather than become a source of despair should serve as the needed “shot in the arm” to unleash your pioneering instincts to confront the current challenges we face as a nation. For instance, Professor Njoku Obi, a pioneer in the development of cholera vaccine in our country was motivated by the cholera- induced death of thousands of our country men and women to become a pioneer in Nigeria in the development of the World Health Organization (WHO) approved Cholera Vaccine in 1971.
A few years ago, Jelani Aliyu a Nigerian inventor and innovator was challenged by the dependence of Nigerians on foreign automobile imports and tasked his pioneering instincts to effectively utilizing his creativity and ingenuity in automobile design and production. He succeeded by changing the fortune of the American automobile industry. Also, it is important to mention a leading entrepreneur an investor, Innocent Chukwuma, the Nigerian born, auto maker who was not intimidated by the lack of basic infrastructure such as electricity and relevant raw materials but has blazed the trail in automobile manufacturing in our land. Recently, another Nigerian, Chinedu Echeruo, challenged his pioneering scientific instincts and outcompeted Americans to develop an App called Hotspot and sold it to Apple. Ufot Ekong, a Nigerian student in Japan solved a 50-year-old mathematical puzzle in 2015 and became a mathematical genius in an industrialized country, another rare demonstration of a pioneering mind-set borne out of the need to challenge our pioneering instincts to become a trail blazer in any chosen field of human endeavor. Therefore, the basic ingredient of a pioneer starts with the understanding that a challenging environment is a motivation to boost innovative instincts that produce pioneering ideas to change society.
However, not everyone with a university degree easily develops those rare pioneering instincts. Some will fall by the way side like the parable of the mustard seed and bear no fruits. At this juncture, permit me to share an anecdote from the Late Sir Akanu Ibiam, a foremost nationalist, patriot and seasoned Administrator, in a speech he delivered at a send forth- party for the graduating final year school certificate class of St John Bosco College, Ishiagu in 1981. In the speech, he admonished the students with the following words: “Among you will be the President of Nigeria someday, senators, governors, scientists whose work will change the world, foremost businessmen and community leaders. From you also we shall have armed robbers and hoodlums, trouble makers and those who will work day and night to pull down our dear country and rubbish our society. Today, as you move into the society, the choice of where you belong in this great divide is yours to make”.
It is absolutely important to mention that all through history, whether in families, communities or the larger society, problems always arise. These problems may occur in politics, in the military, the economy, in the professions or may even involve products and services. In very seldom and historic moments, the society may be moving in a given direction that urgently requires a sharp turn to follow, in order to promote efficiency and improved productivity. All these will require pioneering efforts to accomplish a set of goals and thereby achieve desired results. Those who champion and lead the pioneering efforts are pioneers. Hence for pioneers to successfully lead the pioneering effort to achieve self-sufficiency, their efforts must be encompassing so as to provide quite often new and suitable solutions to existing problems.
We can now see and understand why all through history, both in ancient and modern times, no nation has ever been truly great without science and technology. A nation can be rich and wealthy through the possession of abundance of natural resources but can only be truly great through the application of science, technology and innovation. Any nation that aspires to rule the world, dominate affairs in the globe and move towards achieving self-sufficiency must accomplish it through the effective application of science, technology and innovation.
The pioneering effort in science, technology and innovation has been behind the rise of every civilization ever known to humanity. The pioneers have benefitted tremendously, and in some cases such benefits resulted in their dominance of world affairs. By the United Kingdom pioneering the industrial revolution, she accumulated a massive military and economic power that helped her to control and exercise influence in virtually all time zones in the world. Today, the English Language is the most spoken second language in the world.
Nearly two centuries later, the computer made its debut in the United States of America (USA). It drastically assisted numerical calculations. As computing technology matured, silicon chips replaced analog technologies and helped the emergence of a massive global market for productivity software. This helped change business practices in many different industrial sectors as well as helping reshape how people lived and worked.
The United States of America which pioneered this change had under 170 years, between 1776 when she became independent and 1945 when the Second World War ended, had become a super power. All through her history, she attached a lot or importance to scientific and technological knowledge. The USA not only had and still remains the largest economy in the world, but also dominated the globe militarily and culturally. Most of the scientific and technological inventions that shaped the 20th century was discovered in the United States. This trend has continued so far up till now right into the 21st century.
As the developed countries of the world spend enormous resources on research and innovation in order to fully exploit the huge contributions of science and technology in nation building, Nigeria did not do so in the past. We are working to ensure that this changes. In the years to come, we can no longer afford to pay lip-service to the development of science and technology. We must see it as our future and hence work very hard to utilize it as an important tool for enduring and sustainable development.