RESEARCH NIGERIANA AND TETFUND

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The link between research and government policies needs special attention, writes Okello Oculi

A vaccine named ‘’RESEARCH NIGERIANA’’ is being deliberately and vigorously spread among Nigerians at home and in Nigerians in the Diaspora. Its first frontline administrators numbered 162 former and current university academics. They assembled inside Transcorp Hilton’s Congress Hall in Abuja and told to surge forth and invent Nigeria as a ‘’global world power’’ in undertaking research for promoting development.

Research costs more than money. It runs on dominant core cultural values built into the fabric of society. Goldsmith published a book titled ‘’SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER’’; suggesting bearing difficulties to gain a desired goal. It was illustrated by a story told to me by M.G. Smith a Caribbean-British anthropologist about his trip from Zaria City to Kaduna. The path he rode his bicycle on suddenly disappeared.

The bicycle crashed into a pit created by builders who had scooped soil for their craft. After he checked the condition of his bicycle, he noted blood from a broken front tooth. A first aid team from farms near bye nursed his body and soul. His research yielded a book that earned him fame. Malaria killed his contemporaries.

A tale repeatedly told to American graduate students is of a researcher who won cooperation among a Pacific island community by enduring a ritual in which an old woman chewed a mixture of fish, stew, and breadfruit and transferred it from her mouth into the waiting mouth of the young researcher. He swallowed it and washed it down with coconut water. The amused and delighted audience cheered his brave act of stooping to earn their hospitality.

A research trip to Bakalori Dam, now in Zamfara State, earned me an accusation of linkage with America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Interviews with British construction staff provoked claim that, as a beneficiary of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, I was sent to sabotage the credibility of Marxists at Ahmadu Bello University. My success would earn me American protection against Idi Amin Dada’s wrath in Uganda. My report would be included in a book by Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman.

Conducting research for ‘’Volunteer Service Overseas(VSO) and the European Union while travelling on good roads free of kidnappings and random killings, as well as easy access to petrol, allowed our team of local researchers to cover States of Niger, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Aba, Cross River, Bayelsa, Lagos, Kwara and Osun. The two agencies ensured good quality vehicles, accommodation, meals and per diem. No swamps were crossed.

These amenities were part of our income. It enabled access to vast spaces at a time when such capacity was becoming increasingly impossible. External counterparts’ were paid at rates tightly covered by a conspiracy of silence. A Nigerian-Norwegian citizen would not risk losing his benefits by leaking such information. Accident and general Health Insurance was not offered to us. The equivalent of written conditions stipulated by the European Union was lacking in Nigeria.

The link between research and government policies; interests of private companies; civil society groups (including religious organisations), needs special attention in Africa. Ministries of Foreign Affairs have shown little presence in studies and research projects by students in local and overseas universities. Studies on emerging powers, notably: China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Australia have received scanty promotion by both governments and business group.

Listeners on a radio station for African, Caribbean, Asian and South American immigrants in the Washington, D.C. area reacted harshly to my statement in a live interview that I was researching relations between American elected officials and their constituencies for possible lessons for African countries. It was considered scandalous to event think that the United States can hold lessons for those building democracy in Africa. They had, however, not done research on the subject. Likewise, the Nigerian Diaspora in Britain has neglected to study the role of the Queen in governance by touring local governments.

Several novel projects at Ahmadu Bello University for promoting research among youths may be of interest to TETFUND. Pioneer students of ‘’International Studies’’ also travelled by road across ECOWAS Member States. Between 1978 and 1990, students presented annual dramatised simulations of SUMMITS of the Organisation of African Unity by African Presidents.

A similar project has been varyingly undertaken annually by Secondary Students at ‘’Day Secondary School’’ at Lungi Barracks; ‘’Olumawo Basic School’’, and ‘’Anglican Girls Grammar School’’ – all in Abuja. Research on African countries is through collecting data from newspapers, magazines, and Google’s library. Guidance and dramatised skills are provided by trainers sourced by AFRICA VISION 525 INITIATIVE, an NGO promoting knowledge about Africa.

A major gap in the project is a slow rate in borrowing from Japan’s record in anchoring political and industrial governance in core injunctions of Buddhism. TETFUND should consider ‘catching them young’.