Recently, science supporters in Nigeria trooped out in their numbers to join more than 1 million people in over 600 locations across the world to march in support of science.
Enthusiastic science lovers made up of scientists, farmers, civil society groups, lawyers and journalists took to the streets in Abuja to stand up for science and sensitise Nigerians on the importance of science and its role in the overall socio-economic development of the nation.
The science enthusiasts spoke with one voice and had a unified message which was their belief in science as a game-changer that can jump-start rapid development and revolutionalise all sectors of the economy with emphasis on the health, and the development of vaccines; environment, and the potential to tackle climate change; agriculture, and the potentials of adopting and applying scientific tools such as biotechnology in revolutionising the sector and enhancing food security.
The Nigeria March for Science 2018, themed, “Science and technology: An agent for economic development” was organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology; the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA); the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter and the Cornell Alliance for Science (CALS).
Welcoming participants, the overseeing director-general of NABDA, Mr Abayomi Oguntunde, said the rally sought to create awareness and sensitise the populace on the many ways science serves our communities and our world, as well as to encourage the public to value science, treasure science, respect science, invest in science, appreciate and engage with science.
Oguntunde said: “The life of everyone of us is highly dependent on scientific inventions, innovations and modern-day technologies. Science has changed the lives of people largely which as we all know, have been deployed to every aspect of modernization and in sectors like agriculture, medicine, environment, education, industry, electricity, aviation, information, etc for both developing and developed nations. Modern science in Nigeria is awakened by the continuous and hard efforts of the outstanding scientists and researchers who attempt scientific advances of highest international calibre.
“Just like other scientists across the world, Nigerian scientists have developed various scientific tools that can help in the area of food security, combating climate change which the public have not been fully aware of. This march for science therefore, has provided yet another opportunity for science supporters to come together, join voices to amplify available science-based solutions the nation can adopt to ensure food security.”
According to him, “At the current population of over 180 million people and projected population of 400 million people by 2050, Nigeria is faced with the risk of decreased farming population due to age; decreased arable land; poverty; malnutrition and hunger because conventional method of agriculture can no longer meet up with our demand. Science holds the solution to our food security.”
Oguntunde represented by the agency’s chief scientific officer, Mr Osino Christian, restated that science is revolutionary and holds the key to constant improvement for addressing climate change, food shortage and challenges in medicine.
Earlier, the OFAB Nigeria chapter’s country coordinator, Dr Rose Gidado, listed the goals of the march to include humanizing science as science is first a human process, saying Nigerians viewed science as abstract and did not know there are scientists in Nigeria; support scientists by speaking up for them and amplifying their voices; and partner with the public, by engaging the communities in the research process.
She said the objectives of the march were to build capacity, gain publicity, and demonstrate strength and solidarity in science to decision-makers; reemphasise the role of science in national development; create an open, honest science communication and inclusive public outreach; and affirm science as a democratic value, describing it as a vital feature of a working democracy.
Gidado empahsised that the sensitization would not end with the march, pointing out that the agency would continually engage the public and sensitise them on the enormous potentials available in science all year round.
In his message, Nigeria’s Science Ambassador, and Nollywood superstar, Paul Obazele, said science is not fiction and likened it to what is done in the movie world, pointing out that it goes through laid down processes to a logical conclusion. He stressed the need for enhanced public awareness drive and sensitization of science and its potentials, adding most Nigerians are ignorant of science and the amazing potentials it holds for revolutionising the nation.
Giving reasons behind their staunch support and active participation in the march, farmers under the aegis of All Famers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) said the work of scientists in the lab, has the potential to change the fortune of farmers.
AFAN’s vice president, Chief Daniel Okafor, said: “Scientists cannot do their work without the farmers, farmers must be involved because they are direct beneficiaries of biotechnology. For instance, when you go to countries like Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Argentina, famers are in the forefront of agricultural biotechnology. Biotechnology has the potential to lift farmers.”
He also urged government to fund science so scientists and researchers could come up with more research breakthrough that can positively affect the populace and the entire nation invariably.
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