For the umpteenth time, President Muhammadu Buhari has restated his administration’s unwearied commitment to lift not less than 100million Nigerians out of poverty circle. This, no doubt, is audacious and a bold bid towards creating a stable social order because once the majority of Nigerians are empowered, there will be a spiral effect on security and social life.
Borrowing a leaf from countries like China that was able to lift 700million citizens out of poverty in 40 years, Nigeria’s dream of lifting 100million people out of poverty is achievable. However, the right strategies must be put in place. One of the areas China leveraged on is Science and Technology through innovative research.
Conscious of the fact that without connecting Research to Industry the development we seek might remain elusive, the Buhari-led government took a bold step to create the framework for the development of Science and Technology through national development strategies.
The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), under the leadership of Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro, has in line with Pres-ident Buhari’s push keyed into the vision of aligning Research in tertiary institutions with industry so that researches in higher institutions of learning will not only be for academic promotion. One of Bogoro’s major areas of concentration is a programme that seeks to advance the nation’s tertiary institutions through conduct of research, innovation and de-velopment activities. During his first stint, he floated the Department of Research and Development (R&D) at the TET-fund headquarter with the duty of stimulating, supervising and coordinating research and development activities in the public tertiary institutions.
To breathe life into this expectation, TETFund backed intention with concrete action with the inauguration of the Re-search and Development Standing Committee (RDSC) set up to redefine focus and drive a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s Research and Development enterprise.
President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated his intention to achieve sustainable development by approving the recommendation of the Board of Trustees to increase funding to TETFUND Research enterprise by the 50 per cent in-crement of NRF from N5 billion in 2019 to N7.5billion in 2020.
In the contemporary world, no nation can dream of ever attaining any meaningful level of development without key-ing into the concept of knowledge-driven economic dynamics. Without a doubt, Nigeria has remained underdevel-oped despite its huge human and material resources, a sad situation attributed to non-engagement of researchers in confronting the vagaries bedeviling the 21st century. With the hitherto lack of coordinated approach to scientifically solve our problem, issues that should not make the headlines in the 21st century have remained a visible threat.
However, this sad state of affairs is about to give way to a new paradigm with the inauguration of the RDSC, which analysts long predicted. It is evident that with prominent members of the private sector, academia and members of the National Assembly in attendance, the inauguration of the RDSC serves as a prologue to the establishment of Na-tional Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) that is expected to monitor R&D initiatives for national ad-vancement.
In his keynote address at the inauguration, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro, captured the urgent need to focus on R&D to promote knowledge economy. He regretted that for too long, there had been a clear and disturbing disconnect between academia and industry which reduced research in the country’s tertiary insti-tutions to just a means of climbing the academic ladder, with a view to earn promotions, rather than problem solving for the good of the country.
“For industry, it was more convenient to shop for innovations and the results of research findings in clime outside the shores of Nigeria since the academia have developed thick walls and create artificial valleys that prevent the industry from leveraging Research outputs in our Tertiary institutions. Coupled with the mutual distrust between academia and industry, these factors have negated the principles of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which identifies traditional and indigenous people at the center of development,” Prof Bogoro noted.
Extolling President Muhammadu Buhari for taking more than a momentary interest in “providing a framework for the development of Science and Technology (S&T) by mainstreaming it into our national development strategies,” Profes-sor Bogoro stated that the federal government graciously increased budgetary appropriations to the National Re-search Fund by 50 per cent as shown from increase of N5 billion in 2019 budget to N7.5billion in 2020 budget, following recommendations by the TETFund’s Board of Trustees.
As rightly outlined by the TETFund’s boss, the ultimate goals of the RDSC is the “institutionalization of R&D in Nigeria; content development in our tertiary institutions for improved global rankings; stimulate the development of R&D units and departments in private and public enterprises/organizations in Nigeria; establishment of National R&D Foundation for sustainable funding and management; mainstreaming R&D solutions for economic diversification and frontloading R&D for policy, program and project development by governments at all levels.”
Much as there’s a genuine cause to give a standing ovation to President Buhari’s disposition in increasing research funds in the 2020 budget, the TETFund’s boss disclosed that considering the number of universities and tertiary institu-tions in the country, the sum of $1 billion is needed on a yearly basis for implementing research and development models in order to create new innovative products towards engendering national growth.
Against the backdrop of the poor and dismal ratings of our ivory towers and research schools on global ranking, the new focus by the TETFund leadership is imbued with the capacity of improving the rating of our universities and other tertiary schools at both global and continental ranking scale. The entrenchment and institutionalization of R&D models could serve as the new focus of TETFund under Bogoro after leaving indelible footprints in terms of infrastructural de-velopment, among others, in almost all the nation’s tertiary schools.
On the face of many development challenges confronting Nigeria, President Buhari and Prof Bogoro have refocused their energies to fully realise the potential of national development through the institutionalisation of R&D models. They are fully aware that in an era where revenues available to government are decreasing, the active engagement of the private sector and eggheads to chart a new paradigm shift that enables industries to partner with research schol-ars for innovative products and services is increasingly becoming necessary.
More significantly, the presence of National Assembly members at last week’s event and their resolve to support the R&D models through legislation for its institutionalization makes bright the hope for the formation of a National Re-search and Development Foundation (NRDF).
If we ever hope to emerge from the mud of underdevelopment, as Professor Bogoro appropriately pointed out, we need to work towards ensuring “a veritable paradigm shift in our quest for a more competitive technology and econ-omy through a decisive departure from the old order. Governments, Academia and industry must interface in a sus-tainable manner that produces goods and services for local consumption and export. Any research that does not hold out commercial possibilities is, in my view, an effort in futility against the emerging realities of these times and sea-sons.”
All hands must be on deck and all Stakeholders must work assiduously to boost the morale of the research profes-sionals. It is expected that as the RSDC conclude work on the R&D, the next lunch of the programme will receive pres-idential blessings where President Buhari himself and the Honourable minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu will personally superintend over it’s final take-off.
– Ibrahim is the director, communications and strategic planning, Presidential Support Committee (PSC).