Isqil Najim had a Professional engagement with High Chief, Engr. Chief Zedomi, an Engineer of repute an Inaugural Chairman, NSE Apapa Branch. He is a former Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM) & its Council member for many years. A past Chairman of the Mechanical Division of Engineers and the first President of NIMechE.
Preamble: The following comments triggered my curiosity as Nigeria grappled for ways to diversify in the aftermath of bitten recession that slowed down the economy. I approach Chief (Engr) Chief Akintunde Zedomi, Engr. Chief ‘Tunde Zedomi FNSE, FNIM, F.IOD, F.CostE, FNIMechE, F.AutoEI, MIPLantE popularly called Double Chief for insight into the past to understand how we get here. We had very fruitful professional engagement which is reproduced below. –Isqil Najim
“Where are the real engineers? Those who did things “improvised”. Now, (during recession) is when to go back into the trenches and put on our thinking caps. Not to join them in talking and complaining! What do we have today? B.Sc/B.Eng/B.Tech/M.Sc/M.Eng/M.Tech/P.hd- all earned and procured. Even to go and teach & impact knowledge is difficult. Engineers indeed!!!
Again what do you find around, (most of them) doing marketing job, Public Relations job; Consultants who themselves have never sat with any engineering team to proffer any solution before: All looking for easy way out. What you saw above was the job of undergraduate engineering students under the tutelage of few senior engineers. Not book, book and talk, talk. Time to search our souls.
Kudos to the insignificant few who are still doing “engineering”. I leave Politics for the Politicians and Law for the Lawyers. I started from Technical College and ended up in the University. I am proud I have paid my prize. I rained all through a Mechanical technician/engineer. Please call me what you will. As long as you pay my prize. Good morning all.”…
Me: I am Isqil Najim
High Chief: Good. When do you intend to start?
Me: Now… sir..
High Chief: O.k. I am ME. A trained Boy Scout and Rotarian Past President.
Me: ha, Boy Scout? “Always prepared…” according to their Motto. We will need such attitude among us today as well. I believe that principle should be introduced into engineering schools.
High Chief: I was taught at Technical College, Ibadan. They called the place then: Techo n moru.
Me: I have never heard of it… why did that call it so?
High Chief: The school is hot. To graduate you have to be prepared. That was before it transformed into The Polytechnic, Ibadan.
ME: Very interesting sir…(pondering at the generational shift)
Me: The Nigerian modern engineering took off at a crucial state in our history when demand for technical expertise was high and there were no universities. With establishment of Nigerian Railway And of course, not forgetting the mining industry especially Coal. Looking back, sir, what were the challenges faced by those early engineers and how were they able to meet up and transform into those quality engineers whose names are still being mentioned today as pioneers in the profession?
High Chief: There was University of Ibadan. They taught Arts & Natural Science, Religion & Administration but not Applied Science.
The challenge faced by the early Nigerian Engineers was that they needed to exhibit or practice their acquired knowledge. The existing establishments then were not ready for them. Remember “Your Masters Voice” syndrome. In fact most of them, then, were known as Public Works Engineers. For the government to accept them into their fold was not easy. For example, my father – a horticulturist – a Parks Superintendent never saw anything good in engineers! He only saw me through the Technical College. He never lived to see his first son – an engineer.
Their (Engineers’) efficacy showed when government set up establishments like Nigerian Railways, merged ECN (Electricity Corporation of Nigeria) with Niger Dams Authority (in Kainji) to form NEPA (National Electric Power Authority), Nigerian Coals Corporation, Nigerian Ports Authority & NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd.) The need to absorb higher cadres of Technology graduates i.e Engineers arose.
Before these engineering centres came up, the Yaba Higher College became foundation to create University College, Ibadan, now known as University of Ibadan. University of Nigeria Nsukka was later established with its engineering faculty with the inflow of Nigerian foreign engineering graduates. This is how they got the engineers whilst the four main Technical Colleges then i.e Yaba Technical College (now Yaba College of Technology), Technical College, Ibadan (now The Polytechnic, Ibadan), Auchi Technical College (now Auchi Polytechnic) & Kaduna Technical College (now Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna) were upgraded to Polytechnics to produce the so called “middle level manpower” with certificates as C&G, O.N.D, H.N.D in Engineering technology.
Technical college, Ibadan was affiliated to Michigan State University in USA. It had first class state of the arts equipments both for teaching & practice of engineering technology. We, the products were very proud because amongst others, the system was 60:40; that is 60% Practical: 40% Academics. To have worked and later go to University to acquire first and second degrees is as good as the peak of engineering knowledge acquisition.
You can now see that deploying these products into the aforementioned establishments was as good as direct work entry. They performed ultimately and left their names in the sand of history.
Me: Looking at the education of the first generation Engineers and today, I could see that the idea of middle level manpower was created around that time; Looking back sir, was there rivalry among the cadets of Engineering in early days, considering that some were university trained and some were products of Technical College?
High Chief: It is indeed a sorry state. I will limit my analysis to the rat race exclusive of the politics of decay in Nigerian Education system which resulted in what you have today and which have affected the quality and quantity of the Engineering Profession.
Because I have been on the Governing Council of both a University & Polytechnic at various times and I am a product of both; I will painstakingly remain within it. Our early Engineers 1950 – 1960 (I belong to the 1980 – 1990 set) had a recognition or acceptability problem. NSE and later COREN were set up. These were strictly for B.Sc and B.Eng certificates (University graduates). The Education planners then recognised the need for the followings: Executive Engineers (Chief Engineers), Technical cadres (CTO Chief Technical Officers); Craftsmen (Chief Foreman).
The ladder was Pyramid. At the base, were the craftsmen (they were more because of their limited formal education). They do “freedom” (local graduating ceremony). At the middle were the Technicians and the Technologist (they attended the trade schools and mastered their specific jobs hands-on). At the top, you find the very few Executive Engineers (the University graduate engineers who apart from technical knowledge were also trained in management of the 5-M’s then). Upon graduation, you are ready to go. The system worked perfectly well then.
The societal goal then was well defined and respected. A lot of things happened with the advancement of developmental needs of the society which naturally caught up with the engineering profession. There was need to lower standard by bridging the gap, creating windows to bring in those who could not go the normal route.
As a former Vice President (membership) in Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, many things happened. COREN act was changed to accommodate those outside the bracket. This was expected to reduce the so called dichotomy between the various cadres. Remember that the taste of the pudding is in the eating. HND holders went back to the University to do B.Sc. and M.Sc. All want to be Engineering Managers.
Again Planners went back to the drawing board. They replaced Executive Engineers with Pupil Engineers (B.Sc. GL 8 step 5.) and Pupil Technologist (HND GL 8 step 3) at their point of entry. After a year, the Pupil Engineer moves automatically to GL 9 step 2. The career path worked well then but with the advent of other societal developments, it exploded. Legal issues came into it: Later economics, and finally CORUPTION.
As of today, the best place to go (to practice engineering) is ACADEMICS if you are not lazy and greedy. At least you will work till 65yrs (Polytechnic Chief Lecturer) or 75yrs (University Professor). Whilst in Civil Service you are retired at 60yrs Irrespective of your expertise. So is this not dichotomy again?
Me: The system we adopted in that era worked so well for the era. But today we have access to knowledge which used to be scarce. Anyone can learn any technology online and from his own home. HND and Bsc knowledge gap has been greatly narrowed. Despite this, don’t you think, sir, that over reliance on paper qualifications has played huge role in the system along with the observations you made above? Also, some have called for abolition of HND, what is your view on this and what is the way forward for the engineering education to rediscover that era of excellence?
High Chief: The solution is not scrapping HND. HND has not been scrapped even in England. What they did which is in line with their educational policy is to upgrade some Polytechnics to 3rd grade or 2nd grade Universities. This has no social or political coloration there. Here it is a different ball game. Remember when some University of Technology was established, to award B.Tech degrees. Sooner these University of Technology started running courses in Law & Medicine. Yet COREN accredited their courses.
COREN as a stakeholder in the formulation of the education policy (TECHNICAL & ENGINEERING) should have pressurised government to upgrade those mentioned Polytechnics to University of Technology (awarding B.Tech). Government and Private sectors will then invest in them. You need to know the history of MIT (Massachusetts institute of Technology) in USA and even (Institute of Management and technology) IMT Enugu.
What is bad in COREN setting up a Policy committee as a Pressure group? COREN has no business breathing down NSE back when it has 3 other divisions making up the Engineering family. In our days, you go to do a course you are really interested in. Not what happens now that JAMB gives a child admission (in a course he didn’t apply) and it is celebrated in their church!
Engineering including Craftsmanship, Technician & Technology are specialists’ courses. Take for example, a B.Sc/B.Eng./B.Tech. Mechanical Engineering has no real meaning. What has a meaning is what your interest is. Or at the point of Professional registration, what have you done or what can you do? Everybody knows this is a wide field. A mechanical Engineer may not know how to repair his car. He is a system designer, maybe! Or at best a welder! Or an Erector! Another might decide to remain in academics thus going to do M.Sc/M.Eng./M.Tech. and then PhD. Interest is what drives us then: Not Money/Position (Ego) as today.
Trade centres are as important as the best engineering university in the land because their area of NEEDS is different. Do you know that there was a time in this country, where there were only 8 Professors of Mechanical Engineering feeding 30 engineering faculties? I am sure it is still not healthy as we speak.
You have to have a kind of gift to think, talk and act Technical. It is not an all comer’s profession. Not only must you know mathematics, you must also have credit in Further Mathematics. At our time it was Maths, Maths, Physics. You must have credit in Chemistry and English. Today it is Maths, Physics, Chemistry, English + any other credit. COREN should wake up to its responsibility and save this profession.
Me: Thank you so much sir. It has been a very enriching learning experience.
High Chief: You are welcomed