Creativity and Innovativeness in Building a New Nigeria: The Case of CUDIC 2022 International Conference


Bola A. Akinterinwa 

The 2022 Caleb University Disruptive Innovation Conference (CUDIC-2022) was held from Tuesday 25th through Thursday, 27th October, 2022 at the main campus of the university in Imota. Caleb University is the first private university in Lagos State and CUDIC-2022 was its second international conference held virtually and physically on how to grow and build a new Nigeria that will be capable of meaningfully responding to the challenges of a changing world of globalisation and technology. The conference theme was “#Future Forward: Innovative Entrepreneurial Ecosystem for Sustainable Development.” The first international conference focused on the theme, ‘Future Forward, Disruptive Innovations: What Next?’(Vide ThisDay on Sunday of 31 October 2021 for the report on CUDIC 2021). 

We noted at the CUDIC 2021 the issues intrinsic in the notion of ‘Future Forward’ and ‘disruptive innovations.’  ‘Future Forward’ first raises questions about the relationship between future and forward. Future can mean immediate future while forward can mean the future after immediate future.’ Put differently, how does the immediate future push future forward further or enhance innovations? Under what circumstance will there not be disruptions when the explications on both the immediate future and the future thereafter will be conjectural? 

In fact, we did ask: must there always be disruption before innovation can take place? Does innovative effort necessarily imply disruption? Mr. Muhammad Nami, the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue, provided an answer to the 2021 question. He noted in his goodwill message to the CUDIC 2022 that ‘overtime, innovations have disrupted and changed the ways of doing things, and disruptions will continuously evolve. Therefore, the government and businesses must always develop forward-thinking strategies to adopt and adapt to the changes.’ Thus, innovation can be disruptive anytime, especially in light of technology developments.

As observed by Engineer Chukwumaobi J. Adiele, ‘technology is the means of creating wealth, but capability in the utilization of technology is determined by technology-development or development in the technology. It is capability in the utilization of technology, not technology per se, that determines efficiency and effectiveness in wealth-creation. Hence, level-of-development-in technology or level-of-technology-development decides the quality, quantity, and cost of created wealth (see his Technology-development, Are We Getting It Right? – Petroleum-development; Lagos: NIIA Lecture Series, No. 88, 2009, p.3). 

The essence of CUDIC 2021 was that it asked ‘what next’? CUDIC 2022 provided one answer to the question, its theme: ‘Innovative Entrepreneurial Ecosystem for Sustainable Development.’ The CUDIC 2022 theme is essentially about capability in the utilisation of technology. Consequently, how should innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem be understood? What makes development sustainable? The question raised in 2021was ‘what next?’ and CUDIC 2022 provided many explications to the question.

CUDIC 2022: Organisation and Issues

Professor Olanrewaju Olaniyan of the Department of Economics, University of Ibadan, who was the keynote speaker at the CUDIC 2022 had it that ecosystem ‘refers to the elements – individuals, organisations or institutions – outside the individual entrepreneur that are conducive to, or inhibitive of, the choice of a person to become an entrepreneur, or the probabilities of his or her success following lunch.’ Additionally and more importantly, Professor Olanrewaju also noted that ‘organisations and individuals representing these elements are referred to as entrepreneurship stakeholders’ and that ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem comprises… all the stakeholders, including government, bureaucracy, funders, and consumers.’ In this regard, how does entrepreneurial ecosystem sustain development? What is sustainable development, especially from the perspectives of the United Nations and economic theories? To what extent is the Nigerian environment conducive to creativity and innovativeness? How can there be a linkage between the recently signed Start-Up Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari and the CUDID and CUDIC platforms for innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems? CUDIC 2022 provided more than enough answers.

And true enough, CUDIC 2022 was quite interesting for various reasons. First, CUDIC 2021 was a 2-day conference held on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th October, 2021. CUDIC 2022 was a 3-day conference held from Tuesday 25th to Thursday 27th October 2022. The increase in the number of days of the conference is a reflection of an increasing public interest in the conference and the little time there was for full discussion of the various topics shortlisted in 2021. 

Secondly, as noted by the Conference Director and first female Professor of Taxation in Nigeria, Professor Olateju Abiola Somorin, CUDIC 2022 ‘is a platform for scholars and professionals to evaluate innovative exploits and ideas that can make our world a better place in the era of the New Normal.’ Chief Adesina Adedayo, the 15th Chairman/President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, corroborated the observation of Professor ‘Teju Somorin in three ways. Chief Adesina said in his goodwill message to CUDIC 2022 that the theme of the conference was apt because ‘it embodies several vital components including innovative reasoning and entrepreneurship… [I]t presents an opportunity for the academia to address the long standing fault lines between the knowledge and skills acquired by most graduates and the fundamental requirements in the contemporary work environment.’

More significantly, Chief Adesina posited that ‘profoundly, the present economic reality and the present day world of work acknowledge and value solution providers. Individuals that are innovative and can harmonise such innovative thinking to provide solutions to economic and organisational problems are almost indispensable.’ And most importantly, he argued further that ‘if we as a nation effectively leveraged on innovative disruptions occasioned by the Fourth Revolution, we could create entrepreneurial opportunities for our present and future generations. Similarly, effective harmonisation of innovation and certification could bring about a society free from high rate of job seekers, poverty, anarchy, tyranny and profligacy.’ Chief Adesina’s points simply lend much credence to the importance and relevance of CUDID and CUDIC series as delineated and articulated by the Caleb University Vice Chancellor, Professor Nosa Owens-Ibie and his management team of eggheads.

Thirdly, 57 papers were listed and presented virtually and hybrid. Many of the papers were discussed simultaneously in three syndicate sessions during the 3-day conference. Every paper presentation was followed by a general discussion and was moderated by a relevant and seasoned scholar. Fourthly, most of the papers were jointly prepared and presented. The paper on ‘Passive Design and Sustainability Convergence was done by three authors. The paper on ‘Assessing the Efficiency of Vertical Movements in Academic Buildings in Caleb University,’ was authored by six people. In fact, only 20 papers out of the total of 57 papers presented at the conference were singly authored. In other words, the Conference was largely innovatively an expression of the development of team work, which, grosso modo, should be encouraged beyond Caleb University. 

Fifthly, and perhaps more significantly, the international character of CUDIC 2022 is noteworthy, especially in terms of the issues covered, diversified nationality of the presenters and various analytical frameworks adopted by the many presenters. For examples, Filipa Correira, the Director of Tax Policy Unital Liaison Partner Crowe Valente Associati GEB Partner, gave a paper on “Post-COVID-19 Recovery and Emergence of New Opportunities.”

In the same vein, Piergiorgio Valente, the Chairman of the Global Tax Advisers Platform (GTAP) and Professor of European Union Tax Law, Link Campus University, Rome in Italy spoke on “Value Chain Resilience and Transfer Pricing Challenges Ahead within a Sustainable Environment.” 

At the level of attendance of Nigerian academics, they were in abundance: Moses Akiibinu, a Professor of Medical Biochemistry and Immunology, who coordinated the syndicate sessions, Professor Adedeji Daramola, the Caleb University DVC, Academics who has not only served as pioneer head of many schools of architecture but is also a member of several international professional bodies, such as the International Advisory Board of the International Energy Foundation in Canada; International Network for Traditional building, Architecture and Urbanism in United Kingdom and European Network of Housing Researchers, all took active parts during the CUDIC 2022. The high-level quality of presenters and discussions that followed raised several intellectual challenges that have the potential to serve as new bases for CUDIC-2023.

For instance, thinking along the perspectives of Todaro and Smith (2006), Professor Olaniyan explained that ‘development is ‘a multidimensional process that involves major changes in social structures, attitudes, and institutions, as well as economic growth, reduction in inequality, and eradication of absolute poverty.’ In this same vein, ‘sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ 

And perhaps most importantly, Article 13 of the United Nations 2030 Development Agenda says ‘sustainable development recognises that eradicating poverty in all forms and dimensions, combating inequality within and among countries preserving the planet, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and fostering social inclusion are linked to each other and are interdependent.’ It was within the context of the understanding of sustainable development that the quest for innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems was investigated at CUDIC 2022.

The problematic in this case is that the number of the demand for entrepreneurs in Nigeria is reported to be quite high in some States and low in some others. For instance, the people requiring decent jobs as at 2020 was 436,113, in Nasarawa State, 461,253 in Kwara State, 476,904 in Ekiti State and 500,505 in Bayelsa State. When compared to the four States with the highest number of people looking for decent jobs in 2020, Kaduna State had 2,448,183 as against Rivers State’s 2,490,162, Lagos State’s 2,833,835 and Kano State’s 3,027,296 people. Holistically put, Professor Olaniyan had it that ‘the total number of Nigerians looking for decent jobs is 44,706,620 which is 25% more than the whole of Nigerians that are working. What and which are the decent jobs?

Creativity, Innovativeness, and New Nigeria

One important case study of innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem for sustainable development, which not only discussed decency or indecency of jobs but also underscored the dimensions of creativity, innovativeness and implications for making of a new Nigeria, is the paper by Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, author of Sweet Sixteen and seasoned journalist with ThisDay newspapers, as well as former Minister of Youth Development and Chairman National Sports Commission. Mallam Abdullahi spoke on “Innovative Communication, Media and Human Development.” The paper investigated the innovative transformations that have occurred in the media and communications landscape and how the transformations have also impacted on the role of the media ‘as a critical driver of human development.’

In discussing human development, he observed, using the capability methodology of Nobel Laureat Amartya Sen, that technological transformation of the media has created great opportunities which have attracted new players into the communications ecosystem but whose primary motivation is profit-making. In the eyes of Amartya Sen, development is ‘the enhancement of freedoms that allow people to lead lives that they have reason to live… Development requires the removal of major sources of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities, as well as systematic deprivation, neglect of public facilities, as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive states.’

The epicentre of Sen’s development theory, Mallam Abdullahi explained, is capability and ‘the functioning of each individual (i.e, the activities that one may undertake) depends on the set of actual capabilities with which one is endowed by a road constellation of social factors.’ And perhaps most significantly, Mallam Abdullahi recalled Mahbub al Haq’s four constituents of human development: equity in access to political and economic opportunities; sustainability of all forms of capital – political human, financial and environmental; productivity, and empowerment of people who must participate in the activities that shape their lives. Additionally, Mallam Abdullahi submitted that ‘democracy thrives only when the people have free access to correct information about matters that affect them and are able to use this knowledge to make informed choices and take decisions about their lives.’

Without any shadow of doubt, if democracy thrives when there is access to correct information, does that necessarily imply individual happiness? How does that enable nation-building without agitations for separation? More precisely, how can creativity or innovativeness serve as a tool for building a new Nigeria?

In the making of a new Nigeria of our dream, how does ‘future forward’ apply? /what type of creativity and innovativeness will be required in the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria? Can Nigeria survive with the current constitutional democracy? On a more serious note, which type of creative policy initiatives can help prevent the disintegration of Nigeria, as well as enable sustainable development? Answers to these questions are largely a function of the domestic environmental conditionings. In this regard, there are three levels of political agitations in Nigeria: North-South divide; intra-state divide; and conflicting policy divide.

As regards North-South divide, two critical issues are involved: alleged Fulani hegemony and Islamisation agenda. Many notable Nigerians strongly believe that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has a Fulanisation agenda. Can it not be true that PMB has a Fulanisation agenda based on his RUGA (Rural Grazing Area) policy, and various forceful efforts to acquire land for the nomadic Fulani herdsmen? President Olusegun Obasanjo was among the first people to publicly state that PMB has a Fulanisation agenda and PMB has not publicly denied the allegation.

General Theophilus Danjuma openly told Nigerians to take up arms and defend themselves in the face of deepening insecurity and incapacity of the Nigerian military to contain the excesses of boko haramism and other extremist violent terror groups against law abiding Nigerians. The main problem here is the forceful acquisition of titled land by Fulani herdsmen and without the PMB administration being able to bring culprits to justice. Divisional Police Officers often refuse to attend to issues involving the Fulani for fears of not wanting to act contrarily to instructions of their principals. In fact, the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, openly revealed during a television interview with the Channels Television that Fulani people from both West and Central African regions were being brought to the ungoverned spaces of Nigeria. His thinking was that the unexploited spaces in Nigeria are vast and that turning the land into a more productive purpose will enhance economic boom.

On the contrary, people who look at the various PMB policies, including pardoning illegal residents in Nigeria and giving them six months within which to regularise their stay, argue along the belief in a Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. For now, the prediction of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya that Nigeria will never have an enduring peace until Nigeria is divided into Muslim North and Christian South is yet to be proved wrong. Thus, the apparent challenge for creativity and innovativeness is to come up with policies capable of preventing a break up into Muslim North and Christian South. The challenge is also containing Fulano-Islamisation of Nigeria. Southerners are very suspicious of Fulanisation agenda from the north while the PMB administration is adopting a manu militari approach in dealing with the agitating southerners. This is an intractable problem.

At the intra-state level, particularly in the South, Igbo people are divided on whether there should be a Republic of Biafra. In the same vein, there is no consensus as to whether there should be an Oduduwa Republic in the Southwest. What is sure is that a great number of Yoruba people are disgusted with the political governance of Nigeria, and in reaction to it, are asking for separation from Nigeria through a referendum. The Federal Government is reacting with full military force which, rather than deterring, is only further strengthening the agitation for self-determination. The same is true of the Igbo in the Southeast. And perhaps more disturbingly are the conflicting politico-constitutional policy contradictions. On the one hand, the 1999 Constitution provides for religious secularity, while the same Constitution is promoting Islamic faith to the detriment of other religions. To promote national unity, fairness and justice, the principle of Federal Character was adopted, but the non-contestable main feature of political governance under PMB is nepotism of the first order. He is fighting corruption and the more he fights, the more institutionalised corruption becomes. Poverty and insecurity have become the hallmark of political governance under PMB. As such, which creative and innovative leeway can serve as a tool for building a new Nigeria and that the Caleb University can come up with before CUDIC 2023?

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