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Let our best brains move Nigeria forward!

By Ayo Oyoze Baje
04 April 2023   |   4:28 am
The piece of heart-warming and inspiring news that three Nigerian lecturers, Dr. Aliyu Isa Aliyu, Tukur Abdul kadir Sulaiman and Abdullahi Yusuf have been listed among the top 2% most-cited scientists in the world soon after another Nigerian-born 31- year...

Silas Adekunle. Photo credit: Forbes

The piece of heart-warming and inspiring news that three Nigerian lecturers, Dr. Aliyu Isa Aliyu, Tukur Abdul kadir Sulaiman and Abdullahi Yusuf have been listed among the top 2% most-cited scientists in the world soon after another Nigerian-born 31- year old Silas Adekunle became the youngest and richest robotics engineer in the world at the age of 26 is thought-provoking.

Not left out of the praise-worthy exploits of Nigerian-born scientists, inventors, engineers, innovators, lawyers and entrepreneurs is the interesting fact that Nigerian doctors, nurses, hi-tech entrepreneurs rank amongst the best and highest in number in the United States(US). For instance, it is gratifying to know that MymaAdwowa Belo-Osagie (nee Bentsi-Enchill), a Nigerian, serves on the Global Advisory Council of the Office of President of Harvard University, and she is also a member of the Harvard University Center for African Studies.

It would be recalled that US President, Joe Biden appointed Nigerian-born attorney, Adewale Adeyemo, as Deputy Treasury Secretary of the US Treasury. That was back in November, 2020. The list could go on and on. The million-naira question this soul-lifting scenario raises is that how come, that with all these outstanding global achievements in various fields of human endeavor and given our God-given rich and vast natural resources Nigeria remains at the bottom rung of the Human Development Index(HDI), as well as among the world capital of  persisting poverty? There is more to this pitiable paradox of mass poverty in the midst of plenty than meets the eye.

Why, for instance, are we still grappling with lack of stable electric power supply, good access roads, functional and well-equipped hospitals and an educational delivery system to cater for our myriad of challenges? That is where the leadership question comes in.

It is worthy of note that yours truly made a passionate appeal to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President in February 2017 to consider constituting a Presidential Committee on Impact Creativity. It was through my opinion essay titled: ‘Making the Best Use of Our Best Brains.’ The aim is to bring together the creative works of our inventors, innovators, top scientists/ technologists, thinkers, artists and geniuses-both at home and in the Diaspora- to maximally benefit the technological and economic landscape of the country.

It has also become pertinent for sustainable synergy to be forged between the Ministries of Science and Technology, Labour and Productivity with the assistance of External Affairs to identify, highlight and articulate pilot projects of Nigerian inventors for mass production for the benefit of Nigerians. Such exists in the United Kingdom, the United States, India, China and even Brazil where there are deliberate polices for massive funding of researches and their implementation.

The governments-both federal and states- should have credible data on these great achievers and their products. There should be long-lasting and sustainable policies and programmes which the country could anchor on to tap into their creative ingenuity of our geniuses.

Truth be told, we have gotten to a point when governments and institutions should charge our scientists and technologists to find solutions to many of our persisting economic challenges with a prize to the bargain. For instance, in 1795 the French military offered a cash prize of 12,000 francs for a new method, to preserve food. In 1795, Nicholas Appert began experimenting with ways to preserve foodstuff, succeeding with soups, vegetables, juices, dairy products, jellies, jams, and syrups. After some 14 years of experiment, Appert submitted his invention and won the prize in January 1810 on the condition that he makes the method public; the same year.

The private sector should not be left out. How would it feel should Dangote have a prize for solutions to pot-hole riddled roads? His colleagues in more developed countries are already thinking ahead, on who and what would take over from Sean Parker, Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel. One billionaire called Peter Thiel has a Foundation that gives out $100,000(dollars) each to young inventors. Out of the over 122 beneficiaries so far, the most notable is James Proud. His ingenious product called Sense is a small hardware gadget worth $149 that monitors how well the buyer sleeps. It has been discovered that the quality of our sleep affects our health and longevity. It has a sales projection of 250,000 units for 2017 that would translate to $20million!

As patriots who believe in the greatness of One Nigeria, we are proud to be associated with names of Professors Philip Emeagwali, Gabriel Oyibo, Samuel Achilefu, Babajide Alo and Ayodele Olaiya. They ring a loud and crisp-clear bell in the hallowed halls of creativity, globally. Others include Col. Oviemo Ovadje(Retd), JelaniAliyu, Brino Gilbert, Shehu Saleh Balami, Saheed Adepoju, Seyi Oyesola, Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Cyprian Emeka Uzoh, Kunle Olukotun and Sebastine Chinonye Omeh, to name a few.

But while the products of their creative ingenuity are positively impacting on the global economic scene, far beyond our shores, their home country, Nigeria has not benefited much from their immense intellectual resources. Yet, the fault is not theirs but that of our policy makers.

For instance, Emeagwali is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Internet. For his feats, he was awarded the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize normally reserved for 18 scientists. He has also worked on super computers. He explains that for every three barrels of crude oil in any place only one barrel can be extracted. But he has been able to use super computers to see the inside of oil fields with greater accuracy. With such, he states that if only one per cent more oil is extracted, it pays for itself as it amounts to billions of dollars! But has Nigeria, an oil-producing country leveraged on his great discovery? The answer is obvious.

On his part, Gabriel Oyibo, the Kogi State-born engineer, mathematician, researcher and physicist has done what Albert Einstein could not achieve for thirty years! In 2002 he successfully solved the Grand Unification Field Theory. For that he was allegedly nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 and 2003. But has Nigeria recognized or utilized his technological breakthroughs? I am afraid, not.
In a similar vein, Nigeria has not benefited from Prof. Samuel Achilefu’s invention. His is the ground-breaking development of a set of high-tech, cancer-visualizing goggles which assist surgeons to see cancer cells in real-time while operating on patients. It won him the prestigious St. Louis Award in 2014.

Ditto for Ogbonnaya Bassey’s Solarkobo, a renewable power generator that costs six times less than the normal fuel generator. It clinched the prestigious Young Innovators Prize that had 124 applicants from 34 countries in 2015.

Saheed Adepoju. He is the Co-founder of Encipher Limited, a Nigerian-based technology company that introduced the first android-powered tablet into Nigeria. The INYE-1, which was unveiled in April 2010 is a 7-inch resistive screen tablet. It offers about 3 hours of battery life and allows HDMI output to HDMI capable devices.

As we prepare for a new administration, come May 2023, the new crop of political leaders should re-position themselves to key into my humble suggestions to make the best use of our best brains, to move this nation forward.