History Of Nigeria's Scientific And Technological Struggle
G.Connah in his research among the Damia of N.E Nigeria discovered that the cattle, sheep and goat rearers who lived in this area used polished stone axes and other tools and weapons that they made from polished bones.
However Nigerians deviate from her concept of technological development due to colonial forces for instance; long before the colonial invasion in Nigeria, Nigerians involved in various agricultural and technical activities promoting the use of the natural resources in the country like brewing of gin (KAIKAI) but the colonial masters declared that the native gins are illegal and instead of gin been made in Nigerian they promoted the importation of drinks from Europe. Although native gins were still made but in secret hereby stifled the growth of indigenous breweries.
Also, traditional bone setting by the bonesetters were preferred than Orthopedic hospitals. Due to Christianity brought to Nigeria by the western culture, traditional medicines were discouraged. Evangelism tended to label all traditional medical practitioners “FETISH”. This believes made individuals who patronized dibias seen as committing the sin of idolatry. With such large conversion of individuals to Christianity indigenous pharmaceutical industries could not grow. As at march 1999 there was a trade fare for alternative medicine going on at Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt the nation was trying to promote traditional medicine and healers claiming to cure completely illnesses such as sickle cell, cancer etc and this cure totally goes contrary to the Orthodox medicine and one of them by name Chikwe Odii claims to have discovered an effective cure for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDs).
The Yoruba culture had an idea on the scientific knowledge of gravity as a field of force and some of their practices were followed by an unexpressed knowledge of the principle of physics involving the phenomenon of gravity. For instance the Yoruba culture forbad the carrying of a pointed metallic object during rainfall and also the stretching of fingers out in the rain this is because the pointed metallic object and the human carrying the object form a conducting system through which electric charges flow into the earth if the lightning stroke occur before neutralization. This shows that Nigerians never lacked knowledge of science; the above analysis is also applied if fingers are stretched out in a thunderstorm because the human body has become a pointed conductor therefore, the Yoruba famers in those days always warn their children to lie flat on the ground whenever there is a thunderstorm.
The element of physics in this believes is that by lying down on the farm there will be no part of the body to act as a pointed conductor. Also some of the original Yoruba traps “EBITI”, the Igbo’s called it igbudu. It consist of a heavy load suspended in a way that when the animal which it is meant for bites the bait on a cord thus destroying the suspension, and the gravitational force makes the heavy load fall on the animal. There are other traps which were in use at that time and not only did they apply the physics of gravitational field but also simple machines like pulley, level etc when a Yoruba person wants to lift a log of wood or some firewood but cannot carry it on his/her head due to the gravitational force, they test the log to find the centre of gravity by slanting the wood and then the head moves along the length until it reaches a balanced point. With the centre of gravity the load is now easily moved from the ground and carried the Igbo’s also made use of the same technique.
The people made ropes from uhioro, palm fronds even heavy-duty ropes for climbing palm tree before the western invasion. They manufactured baskets and handbags, soaps, cosmetics etc. Maximum use was made of the natural and raw materials which was provided by nature. Brooms, wines, oil, ropes, medicines etc were gotten from palm trees. The Europeans instead of developing these indigenous lines, palms was converted into cash crops and were exported to Great Britain while the finished products were exported back to Nigeria. Instead of being the producers Nigeria became a consumer so, how then will the cosmetic industry grow.
The Westerners who invaded Nigeria caused a serious back slide in areas of indigenous technology and thus nothing was good to encourage in Africa. Yet in the pre-colonial era the westerners were not ready to impart their technological knowhow to fill the space which they created.
Nature having denied Nigerians the opportunity to make good use of their indigenous technology and the ability to theorize, Nigeria would have been a developed country as at today. Was it not a Nigerian residing in the United States of America that invented the fastest computer so far but right now they are many manufacturing firms in the country but this firms are owned and managed by expatriates and the question to be asked is why? The German philosopher by name Hegel has the answer to this question he understood that when a capitalist Westerner is faced with the problem of producing excessively with lack of the appropriate number of consumers, it leads to poor development and income earning since the product is more than the consumers. Therefore the capitalist Westerners push these products to other lands that lack these excessive products which they produce and sell them at a higher price than how it was sold in their own land in order to reduce general backwardness in their industries. This Hegel’s philosophy was adopted by the westerners as a solution to their problems.
Due to the poor academic condition of our polytechnics and universities the government should wake up to its responsibilities and provide the necessary and a conducive climate for learning in our various polytechnics and universities of science and technology so they can lead the country out of the darkness into the light. People who fully used iron in the 5th and 6th century and also engaged in iron metallurgy in the 1st century also had bronze-use techniques before the western invasion can do better than just fold their hands and wait for foreigners to help them in their steel industries. Almost all the modern technology and amenities we enjoy in Nigeria is based on the Western technology from cars, fertilizers, NEPA “Never Expect Power Always” while in the Western countries the, power supply is constant and highly dependable and the question being asked is if Nigeria is operating in the same Western technology, why the half measure? With this we now understand that we do not use the same technology which the westerners use but rather we use cranky second-hand spear parts like the aircraft, fertilizers etc.
According to Ernest Shonekan, the formulation and implementation of technological development policies in Nigeria dates back to the pre-independence era where agricultural research development stations meant to boost output and provide enough raw materials for industries were established in different locations in the country, e.g. Umuahia, Zaria. Research and development industries were established and its area of jurisdiction covers not only technology but also agricultural engineering, medical, environmental and social sciences. In 1980 Ministry of Science and Technology was created and all research institutions were under this Ministry. The government in 1986 published a blue print which articulated specific goals that it set out to achieve namely; to increase the public awareness on science and technology and vital role it can play in national development, to create, increase and maintain internally driven S&T theoretical, practical and the overall technological base of the country. These goal are to be achieved though;
(I) manpower development.
(ii) development of capital goods e.g. machine tools.
(iii) technological environment – imported technology transfer regulations.
(iv) military science – enhancing the technological capacity of the arm forces. (v) pursue international exchange and co-operation on science and technology.
With the aforementioned the nation witnessed sudden increase in polytechnics in the 1970s and Universities of science and technology in the 1980s. Unfortunately, these institutions have performed below expectation because of inadequate funding since research is money consuming and where there are unequipped laboratories, workshops and teachers are poorly paid, it will take a miracle to produce high quality technicians, engineers and other scientists thus Nigeria remains technology dependant in spite of her enormous human and natural resources. Although many Nigerians make notable contributions in countries like U.S and other countries, like the Igbo man , Philip Emeagwah who invented the fastest computer in the United States a high school dropout and a former war refuge, this U.S based Nigerian is today a wonder boy of supercomputing and is referred to as the ”Bill Gates of Africa” his early school mate at Christ the king college Onitsha remember him as “Calculus” and his computer does 3.1 billion calculations per second, also the world record for solving the largest partial differential equations with 8 million grid point and a Nigerian boy in his early teen manufactured a car in Scotland.
In Nigeria the work of the Aba and Nnewi industrialist is commendable over the years this geniuses have single handedly engaged in the production of various items ranging from foot wears and textile to car parts and these prove that it is lack of funding, not the absence of brilliant minds and brawn that prevents technological breakthrough in the country. Nature is lavishing its resources on us and we are not financially equipped to make maximum use of these resources. For instance we are financially ill to tap the solar energy which the equatorial belt is replete with, yet a breakthrough in solar energy will solve most of our problems. We cook with firewood yet at the oil wells we have natural gas all the year round thereby causing environmental hazards. Some of the nation’s energy scientists have immigrated to other nations after frustrated attempts to get their inventions funded and commercialized in this country. Some of our scientists sell their inventions and research to other developed nations because of lack of funding. The need for job opportunities, marketing, capitalist expansion for the nation makes the west have a stronghold on Nigerian economy and industry these makes some writers as that there is nothing like technological transfer and the only way to get the western technology is to steal it. Some westerners see African technological backwardness as a sign of lack of brilliant minds on the side of African descent.
The Way Out:
Nigeria should take certain measures to prevent been a dumping ground for foreign policy and out-dated machines whose spare parts are hard to find or inventions which are irrelevant to Nigeria. Nigeria should try and look inwardly, properly fund education and research and rely more on her nationals who are scientists including those based in Europe and North America. They should learn from the past instead of throwing away because they look antiquated in the face of Western paradigms. We should choose goals that conform with our needs, and balance technological advancement with moral integrity we do not have to make the same mistake. We need person-oriented technology, an integral and sustainable development.
The Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development is development which meets the needs of present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs. From all the forgoing, it can be agreed that economic buoyancy is not in line with development Walter Rodney distinguished three level of development; individual, social groups and economic level of development. He explained the individual level of development as increased skills and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material wellbeing. The social group’s level implies increasing capacity to regulate both internal and external relationships. While the economic level requires social members to increase their capacity for dealing with the environment, Universities need to become more entrepreneurial in nature, conservation and social sectors, instead of focusing on producing functionaries for the civil service, they ought to develop the measures needed to enable them become engines for sustainable development.
Africa badly needs new generations of institutions of higher learning that can combine research, training and utility, also new educational models. There are quite few business schools that train people on how to turn ideas into products and services. Nigerians are advised to look deep and see that the cause of our technological backwardness is coming from us as the government fail to acknowledge skilled individuals who are in the country waiting for appropriate funding from the government but yet they are not funded and so the carry their ideas to other countries that are willing to fund their research. The need for the innovations of institutions of learning can make it possible for science and technology to play a role in sustainable development.