Remarks By Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, mni, Obi Of Onitsha, Agbogidi, At The Year 2002 Award Winners’ Lecture Of The Nigerian National Merit Award On Tuesday 10 December 2002
Remarks By Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, mni, Obi Of Onitsha, Agbogidi, At The Year 2002 Award Winners’ Lecture Of The Nigerian National Merit Award On Tuesday 10 December 2002.
• The Chief Host, Engr. Mohammed Abba-Gana, Hon. Min., FCT;
• The Chairman, Prof. Anya O. Anya, OFR, FAS, NNOM;
• Distinguished Lecturer, Prof. O.S. Adegoke, NNOM;
• Distinguished Award Winners, Profs. Tomori and Ette; other laureates;
• Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
Firstly, I must thank the Governing Board of the National Merit Award for considering me fit for the honour of Special Guest at this year’s lecture. I feel extremely privileged and humbled by this gesture and my people of Onitsha proudly share the privilege.
Professor Adegoke has given us food for thought in his erudite lecture. The subject is indeed most relevant to our national development. Having spent over thirty years in the petroleum industry (though not privileged to be a geologist!), I share much of his feelings.
Without jumping the gun, I daresay that our two distinguished award winners, as well as a large number of our Nigerian intellectuals, are equal to and often surpass their counterparts elsewhere in the world when it comes to empirical knowledge.
It would seem, however, that where Nigeria clearly lags behind is in the application of knowledge. By that, I mean the process through which knowledge is put to ordinary use for society. We tend to rely on solutions and applications developed elsewhere in the world. The situations in such places are not often comparable to ours. For instance, are the motor vehicles imported into the country well suited to our driving conditions? Is the asphalt on our roads suitably adapted to our environment?
In the past, applied research was promoted largely by business enterprises for commercial purposes. More often today such endeavour is carried out as partnership between the government, the universities and research centres and the private sector on a mutually beneficial basis.
The famous Silicon Valley in California, USA, became a household word and a typical example of such partnership over three decades ago. There, knowledge-based (high-tech) companies spawned around the US west coast universities and developed the necessary applications for the US aerospace programme. Though the original intent was national security
that initiative and similar ones have yielded a constant stream of products for ordinary use in the society.
The computer company, Hewlett-Packard Inc. and pharmaceutical company, Syntex Laboratories Inc. are but two of the world famous companies that originated at the Stanford Industrial Park, which was created solely by Stanford University, my alma mater. Today around the world, there are replicas and variants of the Silicon Valley. For Nigeria’s rapid technological and economic transformation, there is a yearning need for a tripartite partnership to adapt the vast knowledge that is available for the benefit of our people. The government has a duty to make effective policies, invest in infrastructure and promote research.
The private sector, including our well-endowed citizens, should actively invest in research on a venture basis as well as for endowment. The universities and research centres need to build the necessary linkages and the managerial framework to make it all happen.
There is no better opportunity to jumpstart such a partnership than earth sciences, including the petroleum sector, much of which has been
reflected on today by our distinguished lecturer.
There are innumerable advantages from having knowledge-based industries in close proximities to universities and research centres. For instance, significant cost effectiveness can be achieved by sharing the burdens of research as well as the benefits therefrom. Turn-around time can be much reduced for projects. Also, faculty and students of the respective institutions can have ready opportunities to test their concepts and feel part of the real world. Overall, much synergy can be achieved since there is only a thin line between the end of empirical research and the beginning of applied research.
My remarks must be brief since there is only one distinguished lecturer for today. I have thrown out one or two ideas that may or may not be of any use. Only rigorous examination can determine if they have any relevance to our Nigerian setting.
The Chief Host, Chairman, Distinguished Lecturer, Award Winners and other laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your attention.
Agbogidi – 10/12/02.