A FULL TEXT OF THE PIONEER CONVOCATION LECTURE ON: PIONEERING AND PIONEERS: THE SEARCH FOR NATIONAL SELF-SUFFICIENCY, DELIVERED BY DR. OGBONNAYA ONU, MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AS PART OF THE ACTIVITIES MARKING THE FIRST CONVOCATION CEREMONY OF THE FEDERAL UNIVERSITY, NDUFU- ALIKE, IKWO, (FUNAI), EBONYI STATE, ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2016.

PROTOCOL:

I am delighted to stand before you to deliver the Pioneer Convocation Lecture on the occasion of the First Convocation Ceremony of your young University- the Federal University Ndufu Alike, Ikwo (FUNAI). As a young university, today’s event is momentous in many respects. I congratulate all graduands as well as their parents and guardians. As pioneer graduands, you occupy a special place in the history of this University as you become not only a “reference graduating class”, but also worthy ambassadors of your almamater. Therefore, the academic and character foundation you lay must be solid and worthy of emulation by succeeding generations of students. You must become role models for others to emulate, which entails that the quality of your character in the society as well as the contribution you make to nation building will help in elevating your almamater to a national as well as global brand. I wish you the very best as you go into the larger society, to make important contributions for the development of both our dear country and the world.

It is important to emphasize that having become the pioneer alumni of this young institution, you have to make up your mind to play the role of a major stakeholder in its progress as you leave the premises of this young but promising university. The role of the alumni in the growth of the University system, the world over, is very important and can never be overemphasized. This is because they often form a formidable pillar of support for the progress of their almamater at all times. I therefore urge you not to abandon this university that has done so much for you in the days and years ahead. You should rather strive to become one of those that the university would always pride itself as having produced, as evidence of its academic and mentoring excellence. I am confident that you will play this vital role. May I use this opportunity to thank the Vice Chancellor, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba, for inviting me to deliver this convocation lecture. I also wish to thank him and the distinguished team of devoted professors, lecturers and administrators, including the other pioneer principal officers of the university, for their dedication to duty and commitment to upholding the ideals of excellence and professionalism on which the foundation stone upon which the future progress of this young university was laid.

I will also like to thank the Pioneer Vice Chancellor, Professor Oye Ibidapo Obe and Professor Mosto Onuoha for their important leadership role in helping to nurture this young university. I must thank the Pioneer Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Engr. Anayo Onwuegbu, for his immense contributions to the growth of the University. The current Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Professor Mba Uzoukwu, deserves a lot of commendation. It is with happiness that I also commend the Pioneer Chancellor, His Royal Majesty, Oba Michael Aremu Adetotun Gbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland, for his immense contributions in nurturing this young university. I salute you all and wish you a very successful tenure in office.

I am very impressed that this young university has hosted a number of international conferences. I am also happy that the university is positively influencing its immediate environment by integrating nearby secondary schools into its skills acquisition programmes. It is remarkable and highly commendable that the university has attracted some scholars within its teaching staff who are well known within the global academic community. I am confident that this will help improve your ranking among Nigerian Universities. I most eagerly look forward to a day, not too far from now, when this university will be ranked among the best in the country. This is not easy, but it can be done. It requires hard work, commitment and determination. I am confident that you will succeed.

As I stand on the sacred soil of Ikwo, I most sincerely remember many great sons of Ikwo who helped to shape the past and possibly the future of Ikwo. I specially remember Chief Martin N. Elechi, the second elected and the immediate past Governor of Ebonyi State who also played an important role in the Movement for the Creation of Ebonyi State. I salute and remember Chief Nwanchor Atuma, who in his days was popularly known as Chief Nwanchor Oginyi. I also with happiness remember Chief O.O. Nweke, Chief Nweke Anyigor, Chief Franklin N. Ogbewu, Chief Lawrence N. Nwuruku, Barr. Eric Kelechi Igwe, who is currently the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State and Professor Fidelis O. Ogah. I cannot fail to remember Chief Livinus Nwambe, a man of great principle and integrity, who is deserving of trust and honour. Though dead, his spirit and the good work he did still live on.

I am very happy to speak to you as the Pioneer Convocation Lecturer on Pioneering and Pioneers: The Search for National Self-Sufficiency, at an event which is part of the activities marking the Pioneer Convocation Ceremony of the Pioneer Federal University in Ebonyi State. The Oxford Advanced English Dictionary defines “pioneering” as ability to “introduce ideas and methods that have never been used before” and pioneers as “trail blazers in the field of knowledge, science and culture”. Indeed, within the context of the foregoing definition, pioneering efforts in national development is nothing short of becoming the “prime movers” in crafting novel ideas aimed at solving our numerous national developmental challenges, one of which is the lack of national “self-sufficiency”. Our national dependence syndrome developed over the years found expression in our inability to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves and we almost became mere consumers of goods and services produced abroad while very little is produced at home. This unfortunately leads to the situation we do not even believe in ourselves that we have the capability to even try. The apparent loss in confidence manifests in our dependence on imported raw materials to feed our industries as well as the levity with which we treat admonitions to buy and consume “made- in- Nigeria” goods. This challenge, more than any other, has made it difficult though not impossible, for our nation to occupy her rightful position among nations of comparable economic and natural resource endowment.

The urgent need tor “pioneers” in the achievement of self-sufficiency through industrialization is underscored by the huge national import bill on imported raw materials to feed our industries and provide basic consumables such as food, wears, medication and even pencils and chocolates. For instance, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS, 2015) puts our food import bill in 2015 at over 1 trillion Naira despite having huge agricultural potentials including fertile arable land, conducive climate, and institutions of higher learning including this University that produce first class professionals in various fields, including agriculture. Our agricultural exports remain rudimentary as unprocessed raw materials that undermine our bargaining power at trade negotiations and renders our economy vulnerable to the shock that is inevitable with the collapse or sharp decline in commodity prices in the international market.

In fact, despite being a country with a large continental shelve running into several hundreds of miles, our fish import is unacceptable. Recently, trade statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics indicated that Nigeria remains the largest importer of rice (N700bn in 2014), sugar (N217bn in 2014) with the implication that our food imports was growing at an alarming rate of 11 percent per annum.

Our import dependence syndrome on mineral products is no less a source of concern as Nigerian imports of mineral products was put at 31 percent of our total imports in 2013. In the same year, imported chemicals accounted for more than 9.1 percent of total imports while import of machinery and appliances stood at 19.7 percent of the total import bill. The growing import dependence and rising import bill on industrial inputs occur in our country that is endowed with vast and largely untapped natural resources including mineral resources such as petroleum, tin, columbite, Kaolin, gold and silver. Others include limestone, coal, lead, zinc, gypsum, clay, shale, marble, graphite, iron ore, stone zircon and natural gas. Few countries of the world are endowed with such a diverse array of mineral deposits that could be used to power an industrial revolution that will turn us from a net importer of raw materials and finished products to a net exporter of wide ranging consumables to many countries around the world.

It is important to remind our graduands that as pioneers, you are stepping into the society in a period when not only the Nigerian economy, but indeed the global economy is facing a debilitating recession; one that has seen growth of some economies contract and job opportunities and income levels shrink especially among commodity exporting countries of which Nigeria is one of them. This is even more devastating when one considers the grave implications of this recession on your future prosperity and that of our dear country, Nigeria. Therefore, the greatest challenge facing our nation today is the need to move our economy away from a resource-based to a knowledge-based innovation driven economy so as to move our country forward in the direction of self-sufficiency.

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.

It is therefore not surprising that the renowned Prussian Military Strategist, Carl Van Clausewitz (1780-1831) who, after studying the numerous problems that confront a people, observed that “all military problems are political, all political problems are economic and all economic problems are scientific and technological.” This clearly explains why pioneering efforts require creativity and innovation in order to succeed. This also explains why political leaders and scholars of various schools of thought agree that knowledge, particularly scientific and technological knowledge, is an important instrument to unlock the doors of underdevelopment. Indeed, one of the greatest Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Sir Winston Churchill, in a 1943 broadcast to his country men and women, had remarked thus: “the future of the world is to the highly-educated races, who alone can handle the scientific apparatus necessary for pre-eminence in peace and survival in war”. Even the imperishable words of Charles Steinmatz (1865-1923) found expression in the monumental national development achievements of Israel. According to him: “there will come an age of independent nations whose frontline of defence will be knowledge”. It is also necessary to observe that just as the acquisition of scientific and technological knowledge has helped nations embrace prosperity; its neglect has impacted negatively on the fortunes of countries. Indeed, both Jim Nelson Black and Arnold Toynbee in their respective monumental works; “When Nations Die” and “A Study of History” agree that lack of knowledge and vision have led to the disintegration of structures and waning of forces that have helped make human progress possible.

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.

In ancient times, human beings moved from one place to another in search of food and water. They never had homes, the way we have them today. They moved around in the same manner as undomesticated animals of the land, the birds of the air and the fishes in the waters of the oceans, seas, rivers and streams did in the past and still do today. At that time, man lived near any known source of water and food as could be found in fruits, seeds, leaves and roots of trees, shrubs and herbs which served for both food and medicine. They wandered from place to place during the day and at night slept wherever they could find some comfort and protection from the elements.

All these changed in ancient Egypt. Human beings were able to plant a seed, watched it germinate, grow to maturity and was later harvested, stored and eaten when needed. This changed so many things. People started to live in one place. Wondering from one place to another in search of food continued to decline. Settlements, villages, communities and cities sprang up. The population grew as more people settled in one place. It was intriguing that this major development occurred in ancient Egypt, a country virtually surrounded by deserts but had River Nile, the longest river in the world run through it. The people of ancient Egypt were successful in using science and technology in nation building.

They were able to irrigate their land by using the water of River Nile. They developed expertise in mathematics, science, engineering, astronomy, medicine, philosophy and the arts. The Emperors of ancient Egypt were powerful men who dominated the world of their time. The pioneering effort in ancient Egypt produced great pioneers. The pyramids, which were built at that time, remain one of the wonders of the ancient world.

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. The emergence of the Roman Empire was attributed to the superiority of its military and communication technology.

The emergence of the steam engine in the late 1700s in the United Kingdom transformed the manufacturing process and eventually brought about an industrial revolution. Steam power made it cost effective to produce steel. This resulted in many downstream industries such as rail transportation, the construction of naval vessels lined with steel to protect them against cannon fire as well as a wide adoption of machine power and the factory system which led to the production of large amounts of goods. Agriculture and commercial economies were transformed into industrial ones which resulted in a high degree of urbanization and population growth.

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.

The American attitude to knowledge, particularly scientific and technological knowledge was shaped from the beginning of the republic. Bernard Cohen in his book: Science and the Founding Fathers showed that the founding fathers of the USA were men who were seriously influenced by the science of their days. Three out of them became presidents. Science influenced their political thoughts both in and out of office. George Washington, the first American president, in his farewell address at the end of his presidency strongly advised his fellow Americans to support “the diffusion of knowledge”. This trend of thought has continued to shape America’s behavior, attitude and policy up to now.

It is not surprising that when the Nigerian Academy of Engineering paid a courtesy visit on President Buhari in November 2016, the President of the Academy in her remarks stated that “in China, between 2000 and 2013, all the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo were trained engineers. Currently, about half of the Cabinet Ministers in Singapore are engineers and in China, seventy (70) percent of the Cabinet are Engineers”.

The pioneering work in science, technology and innovation in the United States of America is strong and ongoing. Advances in space science and technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and nanotechnology have reached new heights. The USA NASA’s planetary scientists had on September 28, 2015 confirmed the existence of floating liquid water on Mars. Also, serious efforts are on to mine asteroids in space. Asteroids are rich in precious minerals such as platinum. It is yet not profitable to do so. However, it is expected that with advances in technology, mining of asteroids would become profitable.

In 2014, Google’s newest driverless car had no steering wheel and no brakes. This showed clearly that cars of the future would be fully autonomous with no human driver needed. When in the future, self-driving cars are on the streets, it would have tremendous impact on many established industries and also help reshape cities as well as how we live, work and play. It is remarkable that advances is artificial intelligence software and robotics are giving cars rapid and accurate visual perception. It is expected that driverless cars could in future offer billions of people in many countries of the world a safer, cleaner and a more convenient mode of transportation. We cannot also fail to acknowledge the enormous contributions which unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have already made to air transportation.

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. The current state of science and technological development is a big challenge as well as a wake-up call for us to rise up and fully embrace science, technology and innovation in biotechnology, chemical technology, food safety and security, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics, new materials, space technology, ocean technology, etc. We may not get it right at the beginning but we can get there if we put our mind towards achieving it. We must be ready to make mistakes and accept mistakes as inevitable in the learning process. We must change our thinking to recognize and accept that research and innovation take time. We must be patient to accept this. We must also reward both hard work and achievement. As a people, we need to invest heavily in research and innovation. As of now, we are doing very little in this area. We should reorder our national priorities so that in the next one or two years, we should be spending at least 1 % of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research and innovation. This percentage should gradually increase with time, such that in the next 25 years we will be spending at least 3% of our GDP on research and innovation.

We should work very hard to commercialise research findings. Ideas are meaningful when converted into goods and services available in the market place for the good of the people. The linkage between research institutes and industry must be strengthened just as that between universities and research institutes. Government, industry, universities and research institutes must work together for the common good.

Our research efforts for now, in the short term, should focus on agriculture and energy. Nigeria must be able to feed herself. Nigeria should use science and technology to support food production, storage, safety, processing and preservation. Nigeria must be secure. Nigeria must achieve food security. We should also achieve energy security. It is very disturbing that electricity generation, transmission and distribution are very problematic. This is not right. Nigeria should use science and technology to generate enough electricity to light our homes, and power our factories so as to produce the needed goods and services we urgently need. Nigeria can effectively utilize her unique geography to exploit solar and wind energy. Generating enough electricity to light our homes, offices, schools and power our factories and laboratories will help the growth of small and medium enterprises. This will help job and wealth creation as well as reduce poverty in Nigeria.

Nigeria is today the home of young people. About 43 percent of our population are below the age of 15 years, while only 3 percent of this population is above 65 years. This presents a great opportunity if the energy, creativity and talent of these young people are harnessed through education. Nigeria must invest in education, first to attain universal access such that no Nigerian child will be unable to read and write. Secondly, the education offered to these young people should emphasize science and technology. This way we will produce the best scientists and engineers to help us efficiently harness the abundant resources in the country for the happiness of Nigerians and the peace and prosperity of the world. Let us never forget that in everything we do, we should always look for the best, because only the best is good enough for Nigeria. This will also help Nigeria in the near future to produce Nobel laureates in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine. We must work tirelessly to reverse the current brain drain where many Nigerian professionals prefer to work abroad. We must work to retain at home the best brains we have in our dear country. We should use appropriate immigration policies to attract to Nigeria the brightest of the bright minds in other parts of the world. We must work to ensure that Nigerian universities in future rank among the best ten in the world. Excellence must remain the hallmark of our educational system.

It is important that Nigerians should start looking inwards. We should rely more on what we can do for ourselves. We should encourage trade and exchange of goods and services among ourselves. We must patronize our locally manufactured goods as a way to encourage the local production of the goods and services we need. This will not only help job and wealth creation as well as poverty reduction but will also help make us self-sufficient. This will help nourish our self-pride and human dignity. We can no longer continue with our current taste for foreign goods that has left us as mere consumers and not producers. We cannot continue to import everything that we need even if they are cheaper. When we do this, we end up exporting jobs to other countries. This creates unemployment problems for us at home. Again, how can we learn if we do not even give our people the chance to try? We must never be afraid of failure, because at times it is through failure that new opportunities are created. The direction the country followed in the past needs change. We are now ready for this change. That is the correct thing to do. The time is now.

The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST) is working very hard to bring about this highly deserved change. We are determined and are working very hard to pioneer changing Nigeria from being a more consumer nation to one that produces most of her needs and exports the surplus to other nations. We can no longer continue to allow our economy to completely dependent on commodities, which we neither determine nor control their prices. We have on several occasions seen the sad effect, on our economy, whenever there is a sharp drop in the prices of commodities in the international market. The FMST is working very hard to move our economy from a resource-based to a knowledge-based, innovation driven economy. This is difficult to achieve but we are determined to succeed. We have strengthened inter-agency cooperation and promoted a cordial relationship between industry and research institutes as well as between universities and research institutes. We have encouraged the commercialization of research findings, as well as the protection of intellectual property through patents. The National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC), which took thirty years to hold its first meeting has already met three times this year. A bill to institutionalize the NRIC as well as the National Research and Innovation Fund (NRIF) will soon be before the Federal Executive Council for onward transmission to the National Assembly for enactment into law.

This pioneering spirit has been with us for long. I remember vividly how more than twenty years ago, in 1992, as Governor of old Abia State, I started work on the establishment of a Technology Village in the State. At that time, we had purchased computers for the distribution to selected primary and secondary schools in the State. Now as Minister of Science and Technology, with the availability of funds, we intend to establish Technology Villages as well as Science and Technology Museum and Knowledge Centers throughout the country.

As I look around this beautiful University Auditorium, my face is full of smile as my confidence in the future is great. I see a great future both for this University and our country. I once again wish to remind the pioneer graduands that there is no time that your ingenuity and the pioneering spirit is considered more urgently needed than now in contributing your efforts to help unchain the huge dormant potential that nature has graciously endowed us with both as individuals and also as a country. This will also help serve our collective interest, both for today and also for the future. It is our fervent hope and prayer that majority of you here today will become the pioneers that will help transform our nation to become the truly great nation which the world expects us to become, given the enormous potentials we are endowed with by God. Once again, I wish you a successful convocation ceremony tomorrow in the Convocation Arena.

I thank you so much. May God bless the Federal University of Ndufu-Alike Ikwo and also bless our dear country, Nigeria.

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