Little 11 year old Kareem Olamilekan who drew a portrait of the French President Emmanuel Macron in just two hours had it presented to him by host of the event, Banky W, alongside Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, upon his visit to late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Africa Shrine in Lagos. The French president was pleased that such work of genius could come from a preteen!
It has come to the notice of many that Nigeria has not put in much effort to develop promising talents for the advancement of society. While regarded as the most populous black nation, Nigeria is also known to produce very talented and intelligent individuals abroad. The world celebrates the likes of Aliyu Jelani, Dr Bennet Omalu, Chris Aire and a host of others for inventions, creativity and discovery. It is a pride to the nation and at the same time a loss to the nation as well that these intellectuals with potentials left the shores of the country in order to nurture their dreams overseas.
More embarrassing, in our opinion, is the fact that they willingly left Nigeria believing that only abroad in these developed countries can their dreams be fully achieved. This has become history as Jelani’s designs have become famous, Chris Aire’s jewels are Holly woods choiciest and Dr Omalu’s discovery of CTE, epic in contributing to the medical field.
We suggest that government should watch out and be keen on nurturing these prodigies and intellects at home by giving them the right enabling environment and receive the onus when their innovations are celebrated. This, we dare say, is better than standing in the shadows with a silent ovation, whispering claims to these successful individuals or, at worst, try to buy back a knowledge that would have freely been given had it been meticulously nurtured.
It is lamentable, in our view, that many of these talents have been buried under heaps of discouragement borne from non acceptance, an environment that is not viable to nurture and sponsor their inventions. And so they leave in their hundreds for greener pastures where they can turn their inventions and talents to reality, creating a vacuum in society which is not only felt by the individuals but also affect the entire nation.
In this era of diversification, talents that once nurtured to maturity can contribute towards areas such as technical knowledge and its transference, investment opportunities and development of infrastructure whose lack is presently a bane in society. Furthermore, discouraging these talents allows the knowledge to be shipped out of the country in hundreds. Developed economies motivate dreams of the many that arrive their lands, believing in the capabilities inherent in these beautiful minds. Institutions scramble to support the talented after seeing a future where their contributions would save entire economies, security sectors. Another such example of how nations advanced through beautifully talented minds is Dubai, a country which is a part of the United Arab Emirates. It began from a peoples dream, and was built from the scratch, today it is an international tourism gem. There are many other similar stories.
With enabling environments, adequate inspirations and resources, innovators can thrive knowing that hard work will be rewarded with success, and dreams achieved. Countries that have tapped into this are advancing technologically and becoming more civilized.
There are reports of a boy from the Northern part of the country who built a helicopter and the other that built a drone that was testdriven at the Ministry of Science and Technology headquarters here in Abuja. What has become of of them? If the government does not nip this issue in the bud, many more like Aliyu Jelani, will leave the country in droves.
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, is in a position to encourage such young innovators. However, the nation is yet to feel the full impact of this ministry.
The official duties of the ministry as stated on its website is to facilitate the development and deployment of science, technology and Innovation to enhance the pace of socio-economic development of the country. Another platform that is supposed to encourage young innovators in Nigeria is the Young Innovators of Nigeria (YIN) established in 2013 from the NITDA Knowledge Hub for young Innovators initiative which resides in the Corporate Strategy and Research Department.
The NITDA has been said to fund all initiatives of YIN and has also offered YIN various platforms to showcase their activities and products in several forums. There are a few known others that support young talents. Nigeria must begin to pay attention and encourage its young innovators so that talents such as little Kareem would not be nurtured abroad. We recommend that awareness of many such platforms is needed to help those who have no knowledge of them. Perhaps from here we can, in our own little way, bring to reality dreams of the mythical ‘Wakanda,’ from the bestselling Black Panther movie, of a highly technologically advanced African nation.
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