By Jelani Aliyu, MFR,
This is a lecture to inspire us to be bold in philosophy and action so as to create a new generation of Super Nigerians, and usher in a new era of advanced national progress and global relevance.
From the Atlantic shoreline in the South, through the grasslands of the Middle Belt, all the way to the rolling hills and bright blue skies of the North, this is truly a magnificent and blessed country.
We are blessed with incredible natural and human resources. We all come from incredible empires, kingdoms and cultures that prospered in historical times. We developed innovative architecture that was in tune with our environment and also affordable and attainable by all. We developed local technologies that were sustainable, biodegradable and effective in easing the lives of everyone in the society. Now the world talks of environmental consciousness, but who has inherited that philosophy more so than the African and the Nigerian.
As early as the 8th century we had developed advanced international commerce that allowed us to sustainably engage in the trans-Sahara trade with North Africa, which in turn fostered the flow and transfer of ideas, enlightenment and the related improvements in the standards of living.
Our kingdoms, and empires were sophisticated and highly successful governments that had well-structured systems comparable in positive societal efficacy to any other authorities anywhere in the world.
We valued our natural habitat, protected our flora and fauna: our forests grew and the natural ecosystems prospered.
We were self-sufficient in food production, as we welcomed the rains and maximized the production of various foods which ensured a very healthy populace.
Our heritage is that of a successful people, a people who collectively ensured that peace and prosperity were real. We knew no absolute poverty; we knew no hunger. Unemployment was alien to us, because the talent and worth of each citizen was recognized and empowered, and as a result whole societies prospered.
All these are who we were. A people of incredible wisdom, virtue and prowess.
But who are we today? We used to be in step with other nations of the world and globally very relevant, not just because we had a natural resource that we sold internationally, but because each one of us was a productive and integral part of the society, and that society was subsequently an integral part of the world, whereby it directly or indirectly contributed to the development, progress and sustainability of the human race.
So once again, who are we today? Today our powers lie dormant, that dynamism and those powerful capabilities within us continue to remain inside and unproductive. You may argue that we are not standing still, and that we are making some progress, but when you observe the pace of technological advancement around the world, you know that we might as well be standing still.
We cannot remain as such. The rest of the world is talking about and is into robotics, Nanotechnology, electric and autonomous vehicles, while our youth are whiling away their lives on city streets and motor parks.
China is already into space missions, on January 3rd, 2019 the country became the first nation to send and land a probe on the far side of the moon.
Tesla, the American electric car maker on November 16th 2017 unveiled their electric powered truck which has an 805km travel range. These are what is happening around the world: incredible feats of technology, incredible bravery in leaping into the new, into the unknown, all in the search of solutions that will positively redefine the human experience.
So what do we need to do? We must not be left behind, we must empower our youth with advanced technology, we must give them the necessary tools and resources to recapture our magnificence and usher in a whole new Nigeria.
If we do nothing, if we allow the status quo to continue, we might very well be threatening the very existence of our nation. And we all very well know that we have come too far, our histories too rich for our future to be threatened by a few artificial problems that we started to experience only in the last twenty to thirty years.
And so those powerful capabilities that lie within us must be reawakened, and it must be done on a scale that is, if I may say, scary. We must push ourselves beyond the limits in order to be relevant in the world. We must see ourselves not just as Nigerians, but as members of a global community, sharing constructive ideas, sharing inspirations and together coming up with dynamic solutions for the betterment of humanity worldwide.
In every home, in every classroom, the new message must be loud and clear; that we will not settle for less, that we are committed to build the next generation of super Nigerians who can be at par with the best from any part of the world. And that, by the grace of God, we shall no longer be those who are left behind, but shall be the best of the best.
We shall rebuild our cities and our societies to be the epitome of success. We shall not just read about advanced societies, or visit them, but we shall build our own advanced societies right here in Nigeria.
And I strongly believe that it is all in the mind, our strongest tool is our psyche, once we are able to reprogram our thought pattern to that of positivity, to that of believing in success, then we are already halfway there.
We must dare to do the seemingly impossible. Short of inviting an alien space craft to land in our midst, we must adopt any and all positively relevant advanced technology. That is why I am particularly excited about a program that our agency, the National Automotive Design and Development Council is doing with this very university: we shall soon start, God willing, an Electric Vehicle Pilot Program.
We recently met with the Honourable Vice Chancellor, Prof. A. A. Zuru, and our agency is in the process of procuring three EVs which we will test run in collaboration with the Energy Research Centre here, to begin the technology transfer and to understand opportunities and challenges. It is designed to be a comprehensive program composed of the Electric Vehicles themselves, Charging Stations and a Training component, where students of the university and staff of the centre will undergo training on vehicle electrification and associated technical systems.
The Electric Vehicles will run within the permanent site and also shuttle between the two campuses. The whole objective is to not be afraid of advanced technology, to identify fantastic innovation, secure it, deploy it within our localities, thereby enlightening and empowering our people. Because the human mind once exposed, once empowered, would hardly go back to its earlier stage.
And so I strongly urge other groups, other authorities to do the same in their relevant sectors, to identify and deploy new advanced technologies and further empower our people, especially the youth.
Let us look at a particular situation and opportunity: we have incredible capacity in the ICT sector, many very talented youth and experts doing some incredible things in the country. But on the other hand when it comes to hardware itself we do not see as much innovation in the country, and yes, it takes more financial resources to develop and fabricate real physical hardware, but we must not relent.
That bridge must be built, that synergy must be created between our talents in software and those in hardware, and that is what would lead us to robotics, to drones and to other intelligent systems that will leap out of the computer screen and into our everyday lives to enhance those lives and uplift millions of our people.
These new intelligent products and systems could easily simplify and enhance our farming, logistics, construction industry and many more facets of life.
We must not just be in a position to export raw materials, but also highly innovative technology, products and solutions. Why can Nigeria not be a hub for solar research and development, why can Nigeria not be the African centre of Robotic Research and development, and export robotic systems to all parts of Africa and beyond.
We are at a crossroads, we must grab the bull by the horns and choose the path of ubiquitous progress, so that development reaches every city, every town and every village. Every man, every woman and every child must be empowered to live a better and more successful life.
That generation of Super Nigerians must be created in order to usher in a new Nigeria of peace, prosperity and abundance. We must unlock those powerful capabilities that reside within us.
Nigeria presents a dynamic new opportunity, and is ready for innovation in its truest form.
This is an unparalleled opportunity for us all, especially the youth, to be part of an exciting journey in the provision of relevant advanced and value added solutions to uplift the lives of millions of people. This at a time when the world is exponentially revolutionary in its quest for the advancement of humanity and the sustainability of the planet’s natural ecosystems.
Only by advanced enlightenment and empowerment can compete with the rest of the world, protect our interest and be a valuable and integral part of the global economy and order.
We must not be defined by our current problems, because we are bigger than them, we must be defined by our dreams and aspirations, we must be defined by what we can achieve, we must be defined by a better tomorrow. By the grace of God, nothing is impossible, there are no impossibilities, there is only a better Nigeria to build.
Jelani Aliyu, MFR, is the Director General, National Automotive Design and Development Council.