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Only science and tech will save Nigeria

By Ogbonnaya Onu   |   13 October 2016   |   3:30 am
Ogbonnaya Onu

Ogbonnaya Onu

In 2011, South Korean exports had transformed to industrial products and already processed commodities comprising refined petroleum (8.69%), integrated circuits (8.5%), broadcasting equipment (4%), wholly manufactured cars (not assembled) –(6.5%), passenger and cargo ships (4.5%), special purpose ships (3.38%), vehicle parts (3.08%), LCDs (4%), others were hot-rolled iron, cold-rolled high tensile iron, broadcasting accessories, hydrocarbons, chemical products, vehicle tyres, ethylene, propylene, polyesters and polyethylene, telephone and telecommunications, equipment and machinery, etc.

Also in 2011, on the other hand, Nigerian exports still remained as nearly unprocessed commodities, although there was a shift to crude petroleum (78.41%), petroleum gas (9.12%), refined petroleum (6.69%). Hence, as high as 94.22% of exports became petroleum based. The traditional non-oil unprocessed commodities were virtually no longer exported.

It is clear that in 1962, both Nigeria and South Korea exported nearly unprocessed commodities. Nearly 50 years later in 2011, Nigeria still exported nearly unprocessed commodities. Though Nigeria exported commodities in 2011, the situation had become so bad such that she had become essentially a mono-product economy, as virtually all her exports (94%) were petroleum based. On the hand, South Korea had between 1962-2011 become an industrial power exporting broadcasting equipment, wholly manufactured cars; passenger, cargo and special purpose ships. What is most interesting is that though South Korea does not produce crude oil, but she exported refined petroleum products. This should not be surprising because while South Korea paid a lot of attention to science, technology and innovation, Nigeria did not. No wonder data from the World Bank on Investments in Research and Development (R&D) between 2005 and 2014, the expenditures for R&D as a percentage of the GDP for South Korea was as high as 4.15% while that for Nigeria was as low as 0.22%.

Perhaps, for us to properly understand the enormity of the damage that the neglect of science, technology and innovation has done to our national development, it has become necessary to start with a review of Nigeria’s standing in current global comparative statistics on the contribution of scientific innovation to national development. The Global Innovation Index 2016 (, published by the Johnson Cornell University in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) ranked Nigeria 114 out of 128 countries of the world on innovation.

Nigeria stands behind such sub-Saharan African countries as Mauritius (53rd), South Africa (54th), Kenya (80th), Rwanda (83rd), Mozambique (84th), Botswana (90th), Namibia (93rd), and Malawi (98th). The critical indicators used for ranking, include human capital development, Research output, Development funding, university performance and international dimension of Patent application. For me, it is a matter of grave concern that of the countries ahead of Nigeria in Sub-Saharan Africa, only South Africa can compare with Nigeria in terms of economic resources and science and innovation potential. Therefore, why other countries which are less endowed than Nigeria actually performed better confirms the fact that we have not considered science, technology and innovation as a critical component of our economic growth strategy. It is important that we appreciate that we risk being left further behind. This is sad, if the trend continues.

The World Economic Forum’s 2015/16 Global Competitive Index ranked Nigeria 106 out of 140 countries on technological readiness and 107 out of 140 countries on innovation. The indicators for Technological Readiness include availability of latest technologies (99 out of 140); firm level technology absorption (91 out of 140); foreign direct investment and technology transfer (71 out of 140). On innovation, the indicators include capacity for innovation (82 out of 140); quality of scientific research (129 out of 140); company spending on research and development (108 out of 140); university – industry collaboration in R & D (122 out of 140); government pro – industry collaboration in R & D (122 out of 140); government procurement of advanced technology products (117 out of 140) and availability of scientists and engineers (98 out of 140). If we critically compare these two reports, it will be obvious that the position of Nigeria is quite unenviable, given the size of our economy and the potential of human and natural resource endowment at our disposal.

It is important to point out that when I became the Minister of Science and Technology in November 2015, this was the state of science, technology and innovation in our dear country. I decided to stand up, fold my sleeves and go to work to rapidly improve our technological readiness and level of innovation in the country. I know that the journey ahead is filled with a lot of challenges but I am confident that the work can and will be done.

Nigeria cannot continue to be a mono-product economy where our export consists of essentially unprocessed commodities. This makes our economy very vulnerable and hence unable to withstand shocks that arise whenever there is a sharp decline in the prices of commodities in the international market. It also makes us almost completely reliant on imports to meet our national needs. This has made our dear nation essentially a consumer nation that produces very little but depends on imports for majority of our needs.

• Onu is Minister of Science and Technology

  • Tantolorun

    Really? If any absolute like ONLY has to be used at all, I give that to God. Science and Tech is at the top of those things that can help Nigeria but not the only thing. How much have we invested on S/T and even education as to expect huge return from it? Nigeria should pay attention to other areas too if she’s serious about getting out of this economic mess. Agriculture, History, sociology, Arts and culture, sports, etc can work together to make a difference.

  • Prince Awele Odor

    I recall that earlier we were told about the Principle of Comparative Advantage and told that based on this principle we who have comparative advantage in raw materials would earn more and improve our development by concentrating on the production and export of raw materials and not on industrialisation. We accepted this principle and its practice and, therefore, sent our raw materials to western countries. We failed to industrialise along with them, which we would have done, having the materials and the population. They applied our raw materials to their industrialisation and we ended up buying goods produced with them at much expensive costs compared with the costs at which we sold our raw materials to them.

    We committed this crime against our comparative advantage in raw materials and human resources, frustrated our education, intellectualisation, science, technology, industrialisation, competitiveness and comparatively superiority and, hence, gave as food to the west our national development. These happened because we did not intellectualise the principle of comparative advantage independently, did not have a sense of competition with the west, and did not have established national values for population, education, science, technology, economics and development vis-a-vis the west.

    May I ask why science and technology are being recommended by the minister and, indeed, many other Nigerians? Is it not because they have been recommended by the present generation of the people who earlier recommended Comparative Advantage to us? In other words, have we intellectualised the about three decades old and intended science and technology independently? I see no evidence of this because if we have intellectualised it independently, the fact that it violates natural laws and traditional scientific methods and tenets in a novel way, and the effects of these on the environment, food safety and human health longevity would have been obvious and, hence restrained us until these are removed.

    Other points: Where is the iron and steel necessary for active and sustained application of science and technology? What kind of education are we giving our children and university students: education that promotes independent intellectualisation or the education that sustains our dependence on their models, theories and practices? The education that promotes competition with them on science, technology and development or makes us subservient or tools to them? The education that promotes nationalism, patriotism, other necessary national values and the quest to be the greatest nation and most powerful government in the world in the world or the education that enslaves us to them perpetually?

    In short, the fact that is obvious to me about the recommendation is that our experts specialise in taking and using or applying and not in dialectics with the west or independent intellectualisation and, hence, western intellectuals, businessmen and governments continue to use us to achieve anything that is desired by them to our comparative disadvantage, dependence on them, enslavement to them, and detriment.

    What they want to achieve with science and technology drive—indeed have begun to achieve and want to increase the speed and quantity, and institutionalise the process or methodology—is obvious to me. It should be obvious if it is intellectualised independently—-with a sense of nationalism, patriotism, competitiveness, national interests, and determination to excess in the world added to the intellectualisation—-or the examples of the effects of science and technology given earlier are considered.

  • Ogbonnaya Okike

    It is very unfortunate – Presidential planes for sale and tomorrow buying new presidential jets. To sell the jets, be sure those mafia sellers will make billions and the same will turn back to buy if not the ones they have just sold away then fairly used ones at a price more than new and make another billions. When the leaders are blind and deaf, there is nothing that can be done towards scientific and technological development. As of today Nigerian youths are being given scholarships to study Hausa-language in Poland.

  • Prince Awele Odor

    Dear Fellow Nigerians, especially men at the presidency, National Assembly, and the universities, beside my worry that active competition with the so-called advanced countries, through independent intellectualisation and creativity is lacking in our developmental vision and mission, I am very worried by the fact that our experts in the IMF, WB, etc, ministers, and learned and educated men in the universities and professional bodies do not give us any evidence that they engage sources of foreign ideas, models, practices, standards and values in dialectics before they accept them and impose them on the rest of us. What are evident are thoughtlessness, subservience, gullibility and slavishness. The third thing that I worried about is the lack of nationalism, patriotism, national interests and national values in our politics, international relations, human and material developmental policies. I do not intend to write about these here in detail.

    I intend to say that it is high time these greatest, absolute and inevitable necessities for making Nigeria not great in the world, the greatest in the world, in a finite time in the future, when we will not be here, were practiced and institutionalised, so that Nigerians of the future will have the means of achieving the greatest nation status.

    In my last posting, i wrote about the effects of the application of the new science and technology. I find no good reason for its adoption because of its GENERAL lack of precision, specificity, and sustenance or preservation of the safe environments—land, water and air—foods, and medicines which characterised the earlier practice of biological, chemical, microbiological and biochemical sciences, engineering and technology.

    Take as example, genetic engineering—RIGHTLY, genetic RE-engineering—which has been adopted and it is praised in superlative terms. Why was it adopted and is praised.

    1). It is claimed that it will make foods abundant. But its products are called genetically modified foods (GM foods) and NOT foods. If this does not speak to us about the error of adopting it and praising it, why does the fact, or TRUTH, that NO GM food has been shown to be safe anywhere in the world, NOT EVEN ONE, not make us reject it until safety can be achieved with it? Rather than adopt this reason, intelligent and consistent with the practice of applied science though and, indeed the only intelligent thing to do, our presidency, National Assembly, university people and professional bodies, including the men and women of the Academy of Science, adopted it.

    2). We should diversify our economy. Should we diversify our economy based on a deadly science and technology? Should we diversify our economy based on the production of deadly substances called GM foods which are taken as foods in absolute and unfortunate ignorance of the difference? How will we sustain the diversification knowing that its sustained application will wipe out the population of Nigerians that is vital, absolutely necessary and inevitable for the sustenance of the benefits or gains of the diversification through the production of real foods, preservation of safe environments, ensuring that we do not plunge our selves into irreversible climate change effects, etc? Have we given thought to the necessity, indeed imperative, of sustaining our population in order to have people to secure our territory always and avoid irreversible Population Implosion?

    Why do we not diversify our economy by reviving and making active our iron and steel sector, taking advantage of our rich minerals, sunlight, water, and wind? Why do we want to destroy our good weather through climate change, pollute our waters, air and land with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and synthetic chemicals used as fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides? Why are we making our foods deadly by producing Genetically POISONED foods (GP foods) and diminishing our food supply? Why do we neglect the native intelligence and creativity of many Nigerians, especially children which, like our native metaphysics, called “juju”, will give us distinctive or very competitive science and technology, and make us excel in the world in a definite future?

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