By Toyin Falola
It is a deserving recognition and praise to Professor Abdullahi Ibrahim Musa, the Vice Chancellor of Kaduna State University, who had the courage and the foresight to bring us together from September 5-7 to host a conference on the timely topic of how we can become fully engaged in research that will transform the universities and the nation. The Convener was the warm and vibrant Professor Hauwa’u Yusuf, who advises the Vice-Chancellor on Research matters. Professor Yakubu Ochefu, formerly Vice Chancellor and the current Secretary of the Nigeria Committee of Vice Chancellor, was the co-host of the conference, while the Director of Laboratories at Kaduna State gave the lead paper. It was a privilege to have been invited to give the Keynote.
At the conference
At the centre of all progress driven by sophisticated technology and unprecedented institutional adjustments is a human seemingly inordinate curiosity to uncover the unexpected. It is inordinate because behind every scientific and artistic discovery are accusations of hallucinations usually levied against the front runners of the engagements. From Aristotle to Galileo, even to Orunmila, the possession of extraordinary capabilities enhanced by human’s innate cognitive effervescence has often been seen as efforts to disrupt the existing system, predicably by individuals who are perhaps opposed to evolutionary necessities or are too comfortable to imagine a transition from what they used to know to what they are not. Meanwhile, evidence abounds that every intellectual engagement has brought immeasurable positive results than the negative effects associated with them. Although the ways we interpret the products of human intellectualism energized by their curiosity differs. The difference in evaluation depends largely on the people’s perspective, experiences or motivations. For all it is worth, whether or not people use the phone, as an example of technology, to perform morally reprehensible acts does not diminish the fact that phones are an important result of intellectual investment because they make communication and business easy.
The preface above is necessary to the extent that we understand as a people that everything ever invented, used by people and cherished because of its effectiveness initially began as a curious undertaking by those who intended to use their intellectual resources to enhance progress for humankind. When it is apparent that such faculty of the human mind is not sufficiently explored, we can infer objectively that their intellection is experiencing protracted slumber occasioned first by their inability to understand the probable consequences of their actions and second by their limited envisioning of a better and different future. At this level, what is needed is the rejuvenation of the people’s intellection, which would, among other things, necessitate extensive learning. Will it not surprise you that a considerable population of African youths in the current age are comfortable with being consumers and not producers of cutting-edge innovations needed to bring ease to the people of the world or make them irresistible in the world entirely? Of course, our youths have shown in recent times that by exploring African cultural content, they have no limits in the world at large. See how Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, Asake, Rema, Angelique Kidjo, and Odumodublvck make international tides in the modern music industry. That’s the product of their curiosity, the rejuvenation and revival of their very intellectual resources located first in their cultural identity and accessed through their quality intellection.
But you would be gob-smacked by the number of Africans on Tiktok, trooping there daily to put obscene content out for available consumers. TikTok is another source of economic power generation achievable only through the number of likes or traffic attracted by the individual using it. In their deep-seated immersion in this culture, Africans have refused to understudy how TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook owners make money without putting their sensitive parts online for any available devourers. In other words, they need to understand that instead of being consumers of products intellectual products such as the ones cited already, they could become the owners by waking up the sleeping giants in them, which is their intellectualism. In contemporary times, lifelong learning has never been this important or emphasized. The current generation of African youths must understand that in their efforts to accumulate available wealth on the apps or Sportybet, which many of them are very engrossed in, they would have been killing the intellectual materials lodged in their minds by nature. They are, therefore, encouraged to dedicate their attention to lifelong learning. Quick fixes attract quicksand results, and they cannot afford to face the consequences of get-rich-quick-syndrome because that does not leave a lasting legacy to those who would succeed them. If anything, it forces them to follow a similar circle.
As a result, the rejuvenation of their intellectualism depends on how creative and innovative they are. One thing that youths and everyone should understand is that the inspiration for people’s innovation is usually in their cultural environment or identity. They need to dedicate themselves to studying the items of their culture to come out with unique productions with profound significance that would draw the world’s attention to them, and they would become economically liberated. Creativity does not lie in people identifying problems; everyone can do that. It is residual in one’s ability to look at the problems and come up with cultural interpretations of them to find solutions that would have global applications. Such undertaking would, therefore, enable the person to be constantly involved in self-evaluation, introspection and examination. An individual who wants to be creative brings an unusual approach to solving problems and to be ahead of others, they would constantly ask themselves if they are making progress. The culture of self-assessment propels individuals to evaluate their goals and understand if they are near achieving or not. The totality of this would birth the rejuvenation of their intellectualism.
An important question we ask ourselves as intellectuals, therefore, is how do we incorporate the idea of intellectual rejuvenation into the habits of our youths? The answer is already implied by the indispensability of education in our contemporary global society. We should understand that we must cultivate a culture of sustainable research as a people. The interconnection between intellectual rejuvenation and sustainable research is illustrated by the fact that when individuals dedicate their attention to lifelong learning, such is meant to create or cultivate the culture of research engagements. This is underscored by the fact that a close study of anything requires dedication of attention, which signals the foundation of research. Without a sustainable research culture, there can be no accomplishment of impressive discoveries in academia and every scientific endeavour, which are the bedrock of human advancement in every sphere of existence. In other words, research is to collectively advance what oxygen is to humans. Oxygen is not the element that pumps blood or circulates it within the human body system; without it, however, these human systems would not function in any way. As such, for societies to function greatly, there is a need for us to collectively engage in the business of sustainable research.
To that extent, those in academia should understand that the spine of sustainable research culture is diversity and inclusion. Knowledge, creativity and innovation are not gender specific. In essence, what you can bring to the table intellectually is not determined by your sex status. Given this condition, an inclusive approach is needed for our research culture to be productive and sustainable. Inclusion brings together professionals from different disciplines to participate in research engagements that bring innovation and creativity. They would use their combined energy derived individually from their various careers and harness them for collective purposes. Academics do not reject the possibility of collaboration, and that is because they were nurtured with the philosophy that the exchanges of ideas and values are a passageway for discovering great things that would transform the human world beyond what is anticipated. As innovations and inventions are not gender sensitive, so are they not ethnic-conscious. People across cultural boundaries can come together and participate in research where everyone comes to the table with outstanding contributions and useful information needed to improve the conditions of society. Research network within the academia is therefore sacrosanct in the contemporary world.
It is important to mention also that a sustainable research culture is possible where there is active mentoring from the older generation of academics to the younger generation. No matter how brilliant and loaded with ideas, a young individual without experience would find navigating the world’s jungle difficult. The world is naturally hostile, but you would not understand until you begin to take the moves. But then, the elders are always in good positions to educate the younger ones about where they should or should not venture during their development. Older members understand where opportunities lie. They are familiar with the terrain and know where exploration would birth results. In mentoring the younger ones, they would also help reveal available opportunities to guide the growth of the fledgling researchers. New entrants into the system always demand considerable guidance to succeed in their undertakings. Among other things, they are expected to make the right decisions that would positively affect their lives. They need solid mentoring and guidance to achieve all these.
There is an impediment along the way, one of them being the scarcity of funding opportunities. People already familiar with capitalist philosophy and the pressure it brings would only be encouraged about academia when they have things that rekindle their hope. Funding, grants and other opportunities would be substantially important to incentivize their involvement. The outcomes would benefit everyone if these and other related problems can be addressed. For example, innovations would have rapid acceleration in our society. Those with access to the necessities needed to survive would not hesitate to give their attention as much as possible. They would produce energy that would translate their collaborative research into results that can transform the conditions of their basic environment and the world. This crop of intellectuals would be resilient. In the face of daunting challenges, they would stand their ground and use their mental resources to produce changes. Essentially, they would make a global impact that increases their respect in the grand scheme.
On a happy note, Professor Musa accepted all the key recommendations at the conference. His tenure promises to make the University one of the best in Nigeria.
**Part of the Keynote Address delivered at the conference