A former Minister of Science and Technology, Major General Sam Momah (rtd), in this interview with Funke Olaode, proffers solution to Nigeria’s unemployment problem and explained that for the nation to join the world power, science education must be taken seriously
While you were Minister of Science and Technology and you had this notion that by 2020, Nigeria should be among the big league of advanced countries. What gave that conviction considering the fact that the nation is still lagging behind?
I didn’t say that it was what government had said. The previous government under former President Goodluck Jonathan said that by 2020 Nigeria should be one of the developed countries in the world. You can see that two years into it there is no way we can attain it. It means it is not visible. I still believe we have to map out another date. Another problem with us as a nation is that we don’t plan for the future. We should look at what Nigeria should be in the next 20 0r 30 years.
I was in Indian Academy as a cadet in the early 60s. Then India couldn’t feed themselves, but they decided to sit down and give themselves a date that by a certain year, say 1964, they must feed themselves and they were able to achieve it. Farms sprang up everywhere and government supported them. And every two years they set for themselves a target that they would produce wrist watches, cars, among others. From that day till this moment, India has continued to take care of itself.
You have written almost 10 books committing money, time and resources to it, what is the motivating factor?
It is because I love Nigeria and l believe we should make it. I write on issues about Nigeria. I have written books on ‘Consequences and Solutions, Nigeria on the Brink’, ‘Technology is Power’, and so many books about Nigeria given global strategy. I don’t have the strength to be a politician in Nigeria because it is not for service. Politics is still very dirty that is why I write books. Hopefully, people can pick one or two things and start implementing it. The inspiration is the love of Nigeria and a strong conviction that a black race must emancipate itself by developing our best. We should create wealth such that in the abundance of it, people will not have to fight themselves. The reason why people fight is because of the scarcity of resources.
Nigeria is still far in meeting the world power and our technology is in comatose. What is the problem and the solution?
The problem of science and technology in Nigeria is because we still do not take education seriously. Technology starts with education and when you go there and apply what you learn, you will get it. Most countries make science compulsory for you to get to their level, but here in Nigeria, our education system is zero. I am ashamed and embarrassed about what is going on now on sex for marks in a country that is supposed to lead the black race. When you get to our universities it is a shame. Some don’t go to school but they end up with a higher grade. Like the developed world, it is either you produce or perish. You must produce as a nation to earn money. Secondly, it is because we have duplication of research and efforts. Universities and ministries are researching and everybody is researching. I was once in a ministry where I introduced what is called ‘Technology Digest’.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, there was a television programme whereby we showcased those who had made some research and achievements such that you don’t duplicate what I have done. When I was in the ministry all the researches were brought close to my nose, but I learnt that they have gone back to various ministries because some people wanted higher budget. Again, when we research, we don’t update or when we do we don’t commercialise it. Abroad, once you carry out a research you call the private sector, they will look at it and see how they can use it. This idea of importing is affecting us as a nation as we don’t patronise made in Nigeria goods. So science and technology is not encouraged. When you see people buying what you researched, you get your commission and research more.
It is often said 50 per cent of Nigerian youths are unemployed and those who are employable cannot find jobs. What is the way out?
The way out of unemployment is to strengthen our economy. Before we can achieve this, the main courses of our problem as a nation, which is security must be dealt with and once we take care of those things, investors will come and there will be a boom in the economy and things will improve. It beats me that in this country we do not eat what we produce as we import everything, we cannot save for raining day. We have a refinery, but we still export our crude oil and bring back the refined one. We have textile mills but we don’t use them and we all wear foreign clothes. If you buy everything foreign how do you create employment? It means we are creating unemployment which creates insecurity.
For instance, the vehicle we use today, why must we import vehicle from outside when we have assembly plants in Nigeria? If the president starts using one of the cars being produced in Kaduna or wherever or there is an instruction that, henceforth, government agencies must buy Nigeria assembled cars just to ensure that we patronize them, we will create employment. Ultimately, if we use what we produce, unemployment will reduce by 50 per cent. If we eat what we grow and stop importing rice, we are strengthening the economy. These are critical areas that we have to look into as a nation.