A past President of Nigerian Society of Engineers,(NSE) and former Vice Prescient of World federation of Engineering organisations, (WFEO), Engr Ifedayo Akintunde has challenged the Nigerian government to look within for the National economic growth and industrialization and also to take a second look at the proposals of NSE which has been laying idle for decades, unimplemented.
This is part of his message at the recently held Ifedayo Akintunde Public lecture organised in his honour by the NSE Oluyole Branch in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Speaking at the event, the cerebral engineer, who was the first African to win WFEO Medal of Excellence in Engineering tracked the root of Nigeria’s current economic stagnation to the derailing of the mission of its visionaries. From a promising nation with a lot of global attention and admiration, to a nation lacking verve in development, and heavily dependent on other nations for its national needs.
Reminiscing, he recalled; ”…years ago, precisely on October 1, 1960, our country, Nigeria, wrenched her independence from her colonial master… Expectations were high on the young country. Intellectuals all over the world were predicting her position in the world affairs. Certainly She will lead Africa. Imaginative Nigerians were manufacturing in their minds the quantum, quality, variety, and sophistication of goods that will be tumbling out of Nigeria’s factories, say, ten years post independence. But sadly this was not to be so.
“Nigeria had many associates on the global development platform at the time. She had elders like India, Canada, Australia; mates in Gold Coast, (later Ghana), and younger sisters like Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore. The competition was keen. Rivalry was real, although there was simple room for cooperation and mutual assistance. Nigeria stretched here helping hands to Malaysia and Brazil.”
“There was no reason why all should not be well with Nigeria. Her forests are lush, her soil is manure itself. Her subsoil is home to various precious stones. She sits on large quantities of both black and yellow goal. She is second to none in the quality of her human resources. And the equation that formulated her weather could be accused of exhibiting divine favouritism.” he recalled.
‘Yet at 20 years post independence, Nigeria was clearly not developing to expectation. The imaginative Nigerian’s prediction as to where Nigeria should be occupying on a global national development scale was shattered. This gap, between expectation and actual, noticed as early as the first decade after independence, has continued to widen.” He lamented.
Continuing, he said; “People say that there is no reason for Nigeria’s languid rate of effective national development, as she is so well naturally endowed. However, hardly is it ever emphasized the fact that Nigeria first jettisoned her first love before her woes started to descend on her. In the process she lost all senses of shame.”
He traced the root of Nigeria’s industrialisation woes to Nigerian mindset using the rice cultivation as a case study.
“In 1988 a tonne of California rice produced in America cost 180 US dollars landed in Japan. At the same time Japanese farmers demanded 2, 000 US dollars per tonne of rice produced on Japanese farms. This is ratio 1.11. But the Japanese would not buy the American rice despite the huge price differential. Their government forbade anyone from importing rice and paid the heavy amount to keep the Japanese on their rice farms.
“The Japanese merchants did not smuggle rice in order to make this heavy profit. I call this self reliance per excellence- Japanese style. Put this side by side with the report cases around the same time in this country of military and police vehicles escorting convoys of smuggled goods to their safe locations. I call this self un-reliance per excellence- Nigerian Style.’
“Please recall that children born in Nigeria in the year rice were first banned in this country has become grandparents many years ago. And all Nigerian markets are choked with imported rice till today.’ He observed.
He recommended that Nigeria must reinvent itself and the good qualities that were hallmark of the country in its early years and place less emphasis on materialism.
In his word; “In the beginning Nigeria was noted for high degree of responsibility, honesty and integrity. These now all seem to have gone with the wind. Nigeria must reinvent these good qualities, to act as good foundation for effective national development in place of the preset rush for wealth.”
He suggested that the Nation’s leadership must return to the decade old NSE Recommendations and implement it for at least 5 years. According to him: “The prescription of the Nigerian Society of Engineers which has been incubating for almost six decades, if faithfully adopted and implemented, will surely deliver Nigeria safely to her safe destination.”
He listed the NSE recommendations and cardinal principles as follows:
1. Rigidly adopt Science, Engineering and technology as the language of effective national development, and back it up with correspondingly adequate budgetary provision.
2. If you must use a thing, make that thing. If you cannot make it for the time being, you do not need it,
3. Develop stubborn political posture will that will not yield to any opposition including foreign ones.
4. Maintains this rigid self-reliance posture for at least 5 years.
Stressing that real National development must be driven from within with everyone as stakeholder, and warned against repeated practice of importing professionals and products to fulfill national needs, Engr Akintunde said; “We assumed that you know what is “effective national development’, and what can make it ineffective. Development of a country is effective when it is endogenic, that is, when the nationals know it, take part in its evolution; can build it, can maintain it, and can replicate it. Outside that it is technology dumping.” He concluded.
The Annual Ifedayo Akintunde lecture was instituted in honour of the past president of the NSE Engr Ifedayo Akintunde and aimed at bringing critical national issues to the front burner while solutions as seen from engineering and technology minds are preferred.
The Annual Lecture aims at reflecting ”the finest of academic culture, the purest of the Nigerian essence and the loftiest refinements in the art of national development all presented at the cutting edge of human knowledge.”
This year edition had Dr Joseph Shevel, President of Galilee International Management Institute as the Keynote speaker. Dr Shevel shared his country development experience and lessons Nigeria can learn on its part toward self sustenance.
The event attracted various dignitaries across the country. Representative of Oyo State Governor (who later meet with selected engineering leaders), President, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Engr Adekunle Mokuolu, President Association of professional Bodies in Nigeria and Past President of NSE, Chief Olumuyi Ajibola Alade, Past president of Nigerian Society of Engineers Engr Olorunfemi Ademola Isaac, serving National Executive of NSE, Engr Akin Akintola, Engr Mojirade Oloruntoba, Chairmen NSE from Branches and Divisions some of who are, Engr Dr Olanrewaju Apanpa, NSE Abeokuta, Engr Funmilade Akingbagboohun, NSE Ikeja, Engr NSE Ibadan, others are Engr Margaret Oguntala, three times vice President of NSE, Engr.. and host of others.
Report compiled by Isqil Najim