By Esther Okpabi
Leadership is a difficult experiment in Nigeria. It is so because in most instances, Nigerians prefer to fraternize with leaders, who are unproductive, devoid of focus and helpless on their assignments, but dole largesse to a clan of loyalists.
A leader who has full grasp of his briefs, deflates intimidations from professional critics and faces his task positively is often denounced and dismissed. He is forgotten and Nigerians are easily blinded to his efforts or achievements’ in bettering the lot of society. Nigeria deserves pity because had all leaders manning the various segments of national development are positive in managing the mandates entrusted in their hands, the country would have been truly great.
However, the tide is gradually changing for good. A few Nigerians manning leadership positions are striving extremely hard to prove that Nigeria can indeed work again. Professor Mrs. Lucy Jumeyi Ogbadu, the Director General/Chief Executive Officer (DG/CEO) of the National Biotechnology Development Agency, (NABDA) is one among the few Nigerians who believe the nation has enough human and material resources to develop itself.
When this Professor of Microbiology abandoned academics in 2002 to join NABDA at inception, the decision was flavoured by her passion to be an active player on the biotechnology vehicle of Nigeria. She had a vision that sighted her country flourishing in this aspect of science and technology, with an awful gamut of profitable operations. And upon her elevation to the lofty heights, as head of NABDA in 2013, she clearly sighted the platform of her dream erected for her to deploy her natural talents to advance Nigeria’s development.
And in the near four years she has superintended on the affairs of NABDA, Professor Ogbadu has demonstrated an impressive consummation of the privilege of leading the agency and has deposited an indelible impression. The DG/CEO of NABDA has advertised achievements that were previously eerie dreams of the agency.
NABDA is now in multi-sectoral partnerships with institutions and foreign countries in areas like medicine, agriculture, genomics and environment. Does it not sound pleasing to learn that Nigerian scientists in NABDA would soon flood the pharmaceutical market with a drug to cure sickle cell anaemia and cancer? Its certainly a thing of joy to realize that scientific researchers of NABDA are also working assiduously to perfect vaccines against killer diseases that often afflict Nigerians.
Moreover, with Mrs. Ogbadu’s leadership foresight as reflected in the partnership with institutions, experts and countries, these drugs and vaccines are to be produced in Nigeria. She is a leading exponent for the revival of human vaccine production in Nigeria and if her parley with federal parliamentarians and government in this regard works out positively, Nigeria shall be launched on this innovative and endearing culture in medical science.
Aside making these drugs and vaccines easily available to Nigerians, creating jobs for Nigerians and preserving Nigeria’s scarce foreign exchange, the actualization of these plans would earn respect for Nigerian from the international community, as a country eventually breaking new grounds in human medicine.
Professor Ogbadu is working behind the scenes to resurrect the Bioresources Development Centres in all the six geo – ecological zones in Nigeria. And efforts are in top gear to institute a Biotechnology Resources Centre at the Federal University Otuoke to carter for its research and manpower needs. These are innovations demonic critics would hardly trumpet.
Similarly, in agriculture, her intervention is marvelous. NABDA has trained ex-militants on various aspects of agriculture. Elsewhere farmers are being trained in fishery production. There is partnership with private agro-based firms for improved varieties of seedlings for farmers in the quest for food security.
The NABDA boss believes that the change in human consumption patterns and preferences is panacea to a zero waste, carbon neutral economy in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Professor Ogbadu says, “Consequently, visionaries are now talking of carbohydrate economy to replace the old hydrocarbon economy, meaning that human consumption patterns and preferences must change, if life must continue to exist on planet earth.”
Professor Mrs. Ogbadu who is Nigeria’s representative on the board of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and doubles as its Vice President is convinced that Nigeria can become better if the potentials offered by biotechnology are properly harnessed.
This position is no doubt, very sensitive and lucrative for Nigeria’s desire to advance in biotechnology. It is the right template to utilize or leverage to cause the “expansion of the strategic agricultural commodities value chains, health care delivery systems, and the mitigation of climate change in Africa.” It is a challenge for Nigerian scientists to rise up to the occasion, with Professor Ogbadu providing the illumination, support and working tools to set Nigeria on a new realm and glorious path of biotechnological feats.
Before Ogbadu’s leadership of NABDA, little was known about the agency. But her years of dedicated and rewarding work has opened the eyes of Nigerians into the vastness of the agency and its potency to salvage Nigeria in multiple ways. This alone is commendable.
A researcher, Dr. Sunday Uhiene says, “Africa with the highest Return on Investment (ROI) remains the next global destination and Nigeria with 20% of all black people remains the headquarters of Africa.”.
Professor Ogbadu’s knowledge that biotechnology is Africa’s entry point into the front line research, towards achieving the shared targets for food sufficiency and nutrition security in the developing countries . This hope is now abundantly expressed in NABDA under Ogbadu. Indeed, the hope for Europe to have sustainable supply of the much needed natural food and fibre is the propelling force of the innovations and new researches currently undertaken by the agency.
It is based on this realization that Mr. Steven Onwu, Executive Secretary of a civil society organization in Nigeria, the New Initiative for Credible Leadership (NICreL) pleaded with the Federal Government in an interview recently that it should actively back biotechnology and genetic engineering research in Nigeria. He insists that both are capable of liberating Nigeria from economic recession, since its application can impact positively on the country’s gross national earning. He was emphatic that NABDA under the guiding light of Professor Ogbadu has laid the template in promoting, coordinating, and setting research and development priorities in biotechnology for Nigeria.
And many Nigerians believe the path to attaining food security and diversification of the economy through agriculture is to reposition and expand the impact of NABDA beyond Abuja to cover the 36 states in Nigeria . This is the thinking of Dr. Simon Chukwuemeka Okolo, the immediate past national President, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).
Therefore, Professor Lucy Ogbadu can appropriately be described as a silent innovator and the unsung hero of the biotechnology industry in Nigeria. Unfortunately, there is the tendency that she might not be appreciated by those who feel Nigeria should perpetually be tethered to the chains of slavery and misery.
Nigeria is a great country, endowed with talented people. The only problem is that some Nigerians lack the will-power to manifest the best in them when entrusted with leadership. So, it is wonderful that Professor Mrs. Lucy Ogbadu has proven to be among the rare breed of women in Nigeria, who can inject life into a seemingly dead agency or make the impossible possible, in support of her country and the “change mantra” of President Muhammadu Buhari. She has a chance at NABDA and she has not failed to create an impression so alluring and captivating.
Okpabi writes from the New Nigeria University, Abuja.