Security challenges, local and foreign tools
THE report that fundamentalist sect Boko Haram is developing a rocket factory in a location in Borno State is disturbing but shows the inventing capability of Nigerians, even with limited resources. In the face of Nigeria’s recurring failure to utilise human and material resources to build capacity in local technology, it is noteworthy that a continued dependence on foreign technology, in defence matters especially, almost rendered the nation impotent against the insurgents until recently. Therefore, this poor disposition to technological advancement given the vulnerability resulting from total dependence on foreign tools is absolutely unacceptable and must end.
The task, therefore, is for the government, universities, research institutes and other relevant stakeholders of the Nigerian Project to do something worthwhile to launch Nigeria into the technological age. There is always a starting point and the process has to be set in motion with the right political will as well as determination to make appropriate material investment. The statement made the other day by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gabriel Olonisakin, a General, who submitted that the country could not continue to depend entirely on foreign technology to tackle its security challenges is very comforting. He appropriately examined at a research and development seminar the prospects of the maximization of our potentials for self-reliance in weapons for the Air Force through innovation and local partnership. The hope is that this frank review of affairs will be backed with action.
Instructively, the defence chief not only lamented a lack of synergy as the basis of technological and industrial backwardness being experienced but also proffered a way out: collaboration between the military, academia and technocrats and industrialists towards harnessing the country’s endowments (including world-class professionals spread across the globe). Other input which supported the CDS position were no less instructive: home-based technology is a sure way to acquiring immunity against the vagaries of international intrigues of defence in security business.
For decades, Nigeria, especially with its acclaimed pool of top-rated academics and researchers in science and technology, has never lacked attempts at research and development. Again, the problem is the leadership which has to be keen on the pursuit of technological advancement with the will to fund it.
It is gratifying that the armed forces have become the leading lights of the initiative to jumpstart research and development efforts. But then, it is a well-established fact that several technological breakthroughs in contemporary world have roots in military attempts. From wherever the initiative flows, however, military, academia or industry, it is high time the country took the chance to be counted among the countries making an entry into the elite league with a globally respected local technology.
Still on the Nigerian military, credit must go to the armed forces for the laudable efforts of the Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), the Air Force and the Naval research and development departments which reports say still pursue interesting creative exploits. They can do more with the collaborative efforts of other relevant institutions. Besides, government must be fully supportive of these productive capacities by funding them very well in the same way as any other institution pushing for the best.
In like manner, efforts of academics of old like the late Prof. Ayodele Awojobi of the University of Lagos in the design of a Nigerian car, Autonov 1; award-winning Prof. Ebenezer Meshida on roads technology and many more in universities or various institutions as well as by Nigerians home and abroad are worth acknowledging. Advancing research in local technology in the field of communication tools can also assist the armed forces in the insurgency battle in the northeast in particular and war on terrorism in the country generally. The country has to support the best brains, which make themselves available for service.
The pool of Nigerian researchers, scientists and technologists making waves abroad is massive, revealing and inspiring. The government, through some departments and agencies, can tap into these resources in the service of the nation. Many of them would be more than willing to collaborate with researchers at home, with proper funding and encouragement. The government must be ready to do just that and prove that the era of indifference to creativity or innovation is over.
A new day must be allowed to break in research and development for the greater good of the country.