Galileo Galilei, Michael Servetus, Henry Odenburg, Gerhard Domagk and Albert Einstein. What do all these people have in common? Some will be quick to say that all of them are scientists. Yes, indeed that would be a correct answer. Howbeit, that is not the answer I am looking for this time around. Apart from the fact that all these people are scientists, there is something else that unites them. They were all persecuted and prosecuted for their discoveries and beliefs in the role of science in our world.
GALILEO GALILEI: One of the most famous scientists in the world. The Italian physicist and astronomer was put on trial and convicted in 1633 for discovering and claiming that the earth revolves around the sun. Today, that discovery is at the very heart of our existence as a modern civilization. Moreover, the civilization and development of our modern age could be credited largely to the works of Galileo Galilei.
MICHAEL SERVETUS: Servetus was arrested, tortured and burned at the stake in Geneva in 1553, for daring to voice his ideas about reforming Christianity. Servetus was a Spanish Physician, credited with discovering pulmonary circulation. But without him and his discovery, we would not have our modern medicine today.
HENRY ODENBURG (1619-1677): He was credited with founding the Royal Society in London. He was prosecuted and imprisoned for his numerous scientific papers. He was accused of being a spy.
GERHARD DOMAGK (1895-1964): Domagk was a German pathologist and bacteriologist who is credited with the discovery of the first commercially available anti biotic sulfonamide for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1939. He was arrested and prosecuted in Nazi Germany.
ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879- 1955): Einstein was a German Jew, who is known for his discoveries in the area of the general theory of relativity. He was prosecuted by the German Nazi government and eventually moved to the United States of America.
In every generation, people have always paid dearly sometimes with their own lives, just to pass across to the world that they passionately believed in. These men paid a high prize for us to enjoy some of the scientific and technological breakthroughs that we are enjoying today.
However, there has been a big shift in the way our world views science and scientists. Scientists are no longer being arrested or even prosecuted. Scientists in most countries of the world, especially in the advanced countries, are considered to be very important. They are celebrated and appreciated, some of them have even attained the status of national heroes. Obviously, Africa needs to begin to discover our scientists and celebrate them otherwise they will all move to other countries where they will be welcomed and celebrated.
What is more significant about this topic I am addressing today, HOW TO DEVELOP A NATION THOUGH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY is the role science and technology now plays in the future of any country that wishes to be called advanced and developed.
“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” Elbert Hubbard
According to research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) their contribution over the years to the economy of America has been 2 trillion US dollars. That is a staggering amount of money, not just for a research institute, but even for a nation. If MIT were a nation, it would be the 13th largest economy in the world.
This institute (MIT) alone has generated over 25,000 active companies and employed over 3 million people, all in the US. Friends wait a minute, can you believe that? We are talking here of just one university! What if we talk about 10 universities, 100 universities or 1000 of them? Schools and universities in particular are no longer just centers for learning, they are now the backbones for any economy.
If Nigeria and Africa therefore wish to advance as a nation, science and technology must not be neglected. As seen in the example with MIT, science could actually become one of the backbones of the Nigerian economy.
The significant contribution of science to Australia’s economy was revealed when it was discovered that science alone contributes 145 billion dollars directly to the economy every year. Meaning 11% of Australia’s GDP comes directly from science and technology. The amount that is coming to the GDP through science alone is 2 times what Nigeria is receiving from oil in a year. But the indirect contribution of science to Australia’s economy is 300 billion dollars a year, 23% of their GDP and 4 times the amount Nigeria gets from oil in a year.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Dan.12:4
These statistics go a long way to prove to us that if a small country like Australia can from one sector of the economy, generate 4 times the money oil is giving Nigeria, we don’t have any business depending on oil anymore. Meaning we must get out fast and begin to invest in science and technology.
Even though Nigeria is littered with so called Universities of technology, our results however have not proven that what we have now is working. From all indexes Nigeria is underperforming in the area of science and technology even by Africa’s standards.
According to African Innovation Outlook, South Africa produced in 2010 86,000 scientific papers which equals 37% of the total research of the 19 African countries that participated in the studies. Egypt produced nearly 60, 000, which is 27 % of African output, Nigeria only produced 27,000 which is one third of South Africa’s output.
On the other hand, Nigeria only secured 18 patents in 2010, while South Africa in comparison was able to secure 1000 patents according to World intellectual property organization (WIPO)
The solution in my thinking is that the new Nigerian government must make science and technology the new priority and declare a national policy in this regard.
The Buhari government must:
- Implement the recommendations of the Steve Oronsaye committee, that the way to go forward is science and technology in Nigeria.
- The second thing I think Nigeria must do is to bring in private sectors to begin to invest in science and technology and especially in research.
- We must once again go back to the idea of setting up schools for gifted students, especially in the area of science, where young and future scientists can be groomed into greatness.
- I think our universities especially those of science and technology need to establish exchange programs. Especially with the leading institutions of science like MIT.
- I believe that our institutes and universities must be encouraged to generate their own funds and revenues from their inventions and ideas. This will make room for healthy competition and cause these universities to be less dependent on federal government funding.
“Does not wisdom cry out, And understanding lift up her voice? She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet. She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entrance of the doors: “To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.” Prov. 8:1-4
I think the Nigerian government must go out of their way to look for Nigerian scientists that are successful all over the world and bring them back home to head our universities and institutes of science and technology (at least in the research departments). These men and women might not be “professors” but because of what they have been able to do and their experience, I think they should be given the chance to raise up more gifted people like themselves in our universities.
Some people don’t even believe that Nigeria has scientists, at least credible scientists, which is not true. Nigeria has some highly gifted young men who are making waves in the area of science these days. We could turn to them at a time like this to allow them to give direction to our industry of science and technology.
Let me mention a few of Nigeria’s leading inventors, who could be a great help to Nigeria in the area of science and technology.
1. SAHEED ADEPOJU:
He is the inventor of the INYE-1 & 2, tablet computers designed for the African market.
Saheed is the Co-founder of Encipher Limited, a Nigerian-based technology company that introduced the first android-powered tablet into Nigeria. The INYE1, which was unveiled in April 2010 is a 7-inch resistive screen tablet. It runs Android 2.1 and allows users to connect to the Internet using its inbuilt WIFI card and to use an external 3G modem from GSM networks. It offers about 3 hours of battery life and allows HDMI output to HDMI capable devices.
INYE-2, which was unveiled in May 2011, is an 8-inch capacitive screen tablet. It runs Android 2.2 and allows users to connect to the internet using its inbuilt Wi-Fi card as well as its inbuilt SIM. It offers about 8 hours of battery life and allow users to connect to other USB devices.
If I were in the place of the new Nigerian government I would risk giving him an Institute of Technology, at least a department to inspire the students from his experience.
2. EMEKA NCHEKWUBE:
He is credited with the co-invention of the following:
- Hypoestoxides, derivatives and agonists thereof for use as stent-coating agents, U.S. Patent no. 7229979
- Hypoestoxides, derivatives and agonists thereof for use of antiparasitic agents Patent no. 6242484
- Terfenadine oral powder, U.S. Patent no. 5455049
- Solutions of pentamidine, U.S. Patent no. 4,853,416
Emeka Nchewube is a Nigerian-born Neurosurgeon who currently lives and practices in the United States. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria and earned his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Central Michigan University. He attended Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit where he also finished his Neurosurgery residency. He is board certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgeons and is a member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. He is also a member of the San Jose Surgical Society, the American Medical Association, and the California Association of Neurological Surgeons.
3. BRINO GILBERT:
He is credited with the invention of the Counter Collision Gadget (CCG), a device that has the capacity to prevent accidents on the road, air, sea and rail. The invention earned him many awards including a bronze medal in the Aerospace/Aeronautics category at the May 2003 edition of the Invention and New Product Exposition (INPEX) in the United States. He also received a silver medal in the manufacturing category and a trophy for being the best invention from Africa in the continental category. His vision is to make CCG exportable to many countries of the world. Can you imagine the Federal government putting money into Gilbert’s technology? I think a technology like that which could prevent accidents everywhere, could be one of the biggest hits in the world. It could become our biggest export. And that technology alone could earn Nigeria an overwhelming amount of money.
4. ALOYSIUS ANAEBONAM:
He holds about 12 U.S. Patents including the following:
- Extended release acetaminophen, Patent number: 6254891, July 3, 2001.
- Extended release acetaminophen particles, Patent number: 6126967, October 3, 2000.
- Pleasant-tasting aqueous liquid composition of a bitter-tasting drug, Patent number: 5962461, October 5, 1999.
- Pleasant-tasting aqueous liquid composition of a bitter-tasting drug, Patent number: 5763449, June 9, 1998
- Composition and process for prevention and treatment of cutaneous immediate hypersensitivity reactions, Patent number: 5684037, November 4, 1997.
- Composition and process for prevention and treatment of cutaneous immediate hypersensitivity reactions,Patent number: 5684038, November 4, 1997.
- Terfenadine oral granules,Patent number: 5626879, May 6, 1997;
- Process for treating uremic pruritus,Patent number: 5576346, November 19, 1996.
- Process for treating hemangioma, Patent number: 5552436
- Composition and process for prevention and treatment of cutaneous immediate hypersensitivity reactions,Patent number: 5532270, July 2, 1996;
- Terfenadine oral powder,Patent number: 5455049, October 3, 1995.
Aloysius holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, Boston Massachusetts. He is the Founder & Chief Scientist of BREEJ Technologies, Inc., a developer and marketer of advanced treatment cosmetics products for problem skin.
What would it take to bring back people like this to Nigeria? I think the new government should contact people like this personally and ask for the conditions of their return and grant it to them. We urgently need them to return to Africa.
5. YEMI ADESOKAN:
He was selected by expert judges of the Technology Review of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America for his discovery work on drug-resistant infections. He was honored by the MIT in 2011 because of his innovative work.
Yemi is Nigerian born and United States-based founder of Pathogenica Inc. Medical experts are of the view that his innovation may bring an end to the problem of drug resistance in the world particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. His discovery work was carried out by a biotechnology start-up that he founded with Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School DNA technology.
Someone like Yemi could be given a project to come back to Nigeria to start our own variant of MIT, especially since he is already working there. He could be tasked to understudy their system and setup so as to come back to Africa and replicate it.
6. SHEHU SALEH BALAMI:
He is credited with designing a solid-fuel rocket.
Since the year 2000, Shehu Balami, a Nigerian Engineer has been involved in designing rockets. He is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from the Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna, Niger State. He has produced two solid fuel rockets which were launched along the new Kaduna Millennium City Road in Kaduna State. In 2008, with the support of his friends and family members, he was able to build his first rocket which he later modified in 2011. The solid-fuel rocket was produced under the auspices of the Movement for the Propagation of Science and Technology in Nigeria.
Someone like Shehu is a raw gift from the heart of Africa, can you imagine Nigeria having its own “NASA”? If we are to do it, it would be thanks to people like Shehu. He must be tasked specifically for this assignment. A team must be formed around him so as to work at developing our own “NASA”
7. SEBASTINE CHINONYE OMEH:
He is best known for his research into the use of wind-propelled turbines to generate electricity.
Sebastine is the Managing Director of Hybrid Micro Machine Products Limited. He is from Ogrute town in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, Nigeria. He is a graduate of engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Challenged by the energy crisis in Nigeria, and the need to develop indigenous technology, he conducted research into the use of wind-propelled turbines to generate electricity, thereby pioneering wind energy technology in Nigeria.
We have to put money behind someone like Sabastine, even if the government doesn’t have money for research, I am sure that there are corporations, companies and international donors who would be interested in helping Sabastine achieve his full potential. Can you imagine us having our own Indigenous solution to the electricity problem? Amazing! Nigeria would stand a good chance if we do what we need to do.
8. OVIEMO OVADJE (RTD):
Oviemo is a Nigerian medical Doctor who is credited with the invention of the Emergency Auto Transfusion System (EAT-SET), which is an effective, low-cost and affordable blood auto-transfusion mechanism that saves patients in developing countries. He has patented the invention in nine countries.
Oviemo was born in Nigeria and hails from Delta State. He began working on the invention in 1989 with $120 dollars. In 1995, he was declared best African scientist and founded EATSET Industries, in April 2001. The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and the government of Nigeria funded the EAT-SET Project, with the World Health Organization (WHO) acting as the executing agency and providing assistance in the coordination of the project.
He has received many international awards including:
- OAU-WIPO Best African Scientist Gold Medal, Geneva Switzerland (1995);
- Winner Promex Medal Geneva, Switzerland (1998);
- First African Winner World Health Organisation Sasakawa Gold Medal, Geneva, Switzerland, (2000)
- Winner ARCO Gold Medal, The Dorchester, UK, (2001);
- Winner Army Council Medal, Nigeria Army, Army Head Quarters, Abuja, Nigeria.
Someone like Col. Oviemo is not of the younger generation anymore, we need to put all efforts behind him to be able to produce all he can while he is still actively working.
9. SEYI OYESOLA:
He is credited with the co-invention of CompactOR or the “Hospital in a Box”, a solar-powered life-saving operating room which can be transported to remote areas of Africa and set up within minutes.
Seyi is a Nigerian trained doctor and inventor. He received his basic science and medical education at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, with specialist training in Anaesthesia and Critical Care in the United Kingdom and United States. In order to help bring surgical care to every region of the continent, Seyi co-developed CompactOR, or the “Hospital in a Box”: a portable medical system that contains anesthetic and surgical equipment. One major advantage of this invention is that the operating suite is light enough to be dropped into inaccessible zones by helicopter and it can be powered by solar panels.
The invention of Seyi is so practical, specifically to the African need. There is no doubt that there must be many more inventions and discoveries in such a man. The government needs to find him and impact into him the faith to go on and give us more inventions.
10. CYPRIAN EMEKA UZOH:
He holds more than 126 United States issued patents and over 160 patents worldwide in semiconductor technology including U.S. Patent No. 6709562,“method of making electroplated interconnection structures on integrated circuit chips”, which earned him the inventor of the year award in 2006 from the New York Intellectual Property Association.
If someone has 160 patents, that person must have a lot more to give to the world and to Africa in particular, let’s find him and have him come back to contribute to his motherland
11. KUNLE OLUKOTUN:
He is well known for leading the Stanford Hydra research project which developed one of the first chip multiprocessors with support for thread-level speculation (TLS).
Kunle is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from The University of Michigan. He is the founder of Afara Websystems (later acquired by Sun Microsystems), a company that builds servers surrounding a custom high-throughput CPU architecture and develops IP traffic management systems for high-throughput, low power server systems with chip multiprocessor technology.
These are the people that must be enticed back to Africa, no matter what the cost. They must be encouraged to come back and set up research institutes.
12. UME IFEANYI CHARLES:
He is credited with five 5 inventions all of which were patented at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). These are:
- Method and Apparatus for Measuring Thermally Induced Warpage in Printed Wiring Boards Using Shadow Moir, United States Patent No. 5601364, Feb. 11,1997;
- Method and Apparatus for Measuring Thermal Warpage Using Projection Moir, United States Patent No. 6564166 B1, May 13, 2003;
- Object Inspection Method and System, United States Patent No. 6747268, June 8, 2004;
- Inspection System and Methods, United States Patent No. 7492449,February 17, 2009; and
- Ultrasound Systems and Method for Measuring Weld Penetration Depth in Real Time and Off Line, United States Patent No. 7762136, July 27, 2010.
Ifeanyi is a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia. He is a recipient of the Donald P. Eckman Education Award in recognition of his contributions towards education of mechatronics throughout the world. In 2010, he was also awarded the Electronics and Photonic Packaging Division (EPPD) Excellence in Mechanics Award.
If the federal government could somehow convince all these people to get involved with our universities of science and technology, Nigeria could experience a surge that could lead to a fast track development.
If the Massachusetts Institute of Technology can contribute so massively to the US economy as much as 2 trillion US dollars, then science and technology is one sector of the economy that we cannot afford to neglect.
If Nigeria is indeed serious about finding an alternative to oil foreign exchange earnings, we need to call on our talented scientists and inventors from all over the world to come to the rescue. If Australia can through science and technology, bring into their economy 4 times the amount that oil is giving to Nigeria, then Nigeria too should tap into the huge potential of science and technology to fast track our quest for growth and development.