Nations all over the world develop through innovative solutions that emanate from various researches carried out by members of their academic and other independent researchers. Having realized this for a while now, the Executive Secretary, ES of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro is working assiduously to improve the quality of research in the Nigerian tertiary institutions. Solutions to most of the challenges facing Nigeria can come through research and development. Not just any kind of research though, but the one that is solution-oriented or problem-solving.
Fortunately for Nigeria, there is no better time to push for local solutions to our domestic problems than now when Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and global oil price crises have tumbled global economy with more impacts on Nigeria owing to its monocultural economy nature. However, what Prof. Bogoro has been emphasizing on for more than a year now is what will bring immediate and permanent solutions to Nigeria’s development challenges. He is walking the talk in ensuring Nigerian academics conduct and publish solution-oriented research. The policy direction agrees with the fundamentals that make advanced and emerging economies what they are today. More so, Nigeria’s development hinges on harnessing solution-oriented research results in relevant sectors for progress.
One of the functions TETFund performs is to train academic staff of public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The ES prioritizes this more productively by scaling up the training and funding of lecturers on problem-solving researches.
The strength of research to development
Nations are known for one thing or another which are borne out of research and development. Japan for its robotic technology advancement, China for its massive exports goods production, Germany for its car manufacturing, the United States for its space technology and academic prowess, the Russia federation for its military weaponry advancement and the Scandinavian countries for their sustainability innovativeness.
The gains in the process of development of all these countries do not just happen on their own accords. They happen as a result of deliberate actions that were taken by governments, academics and corporations towards research and development that eventually delivered solutions to their problems.
For example, internet and telecommunication solve problems of a long cycle of the communication process and insufficient access to information, sustainable energy sources reduce greenhouse gases emission rates, and chemotherapy helps in the slowing spread of cancer in the human body. The counts of solutions created by purposeful researches are uncountable.
Even with the outbreak of Coronavirus, Nigeria is not focusing on research and local solutions to the virus. By now, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 should be talking about how we can solve the testing challenge locally. Let us take the queue from Senegal. The country develops a testing kit at the rate of $1 and a ventilator at the rate of $16. These items cost $60 and $16,000 respectively in advanced economies. The success of Senegal’s research results is helping the country COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently than its neighbours. The Senegalese scientists’ research solutions were not only medically sound but also economically efficient.
The state of research among Nigerian academics
Nigerian academics turn out research articles in their numbers; however, the qualities of their works fail to deliver practical solutions. Nigeria has sound academics all over the country, even beyond her shore. Their works can bridge the gap between where we are now and where we desire to be as a country. But Nigeria can only achieve this if the researchers do their works with solutions-primed minds.
The success of research work goes beyond intellectual ability. It includes factors like; motivation, support, style and creativity, and personal qualities of the researcher. That is why training of the academics in our tertiary institution is important to scaling up development agenda. Agreeably, TETFund is working to improve the country’s members of academic research skills as shown in the Fund’s commitment to the training of lecturers in the last one year.
Honestly, Nigeria has some brilliant academics doing great jobs out there. Still, the country has many of its academics who are lazy and give excuses for not doing quality research. Lecturers do not have a business in higher institutions if they are not conducting quality researches especially the university ones. Good research work earns academic respect. One of the main reasons we always rank bottom of World University is because what we turn out as research works often lack creativity and ingenuity and sometimes credibility. The Academic Staff Union of Universities needs to work with its members for better researches even in their present conditions. The union advocacy should go beyond its demands for an increase of financial benefits and complete autonomous to include quality research from its members.
The state of research among Nigerian students
Majority of students in Nigerian higher institutions see research as a threat and often fail to do good research works. Most of the analyses on this blame it on conditions an average Nigerian student find his/herself.
However, research work is primarily a personal exposure to the journey of unstable waters. Students need to take personal responsibility by turning their passions into something they can work on rigorously and unstintingly. If students continue to blame lecturers’ lack of support, poor power supply, lack of funding and society’s value systems; they are delaying Nigeria’s progress. In the same vein, this applies to academics, also.
The primary factor in conducting a successful research work is motivation. A student studying a course for almost four, five or six years, having an interest in a sub-discipline of such course should not be a strange or difficult thing. At this level, the student needs to have a path to his or her career. Lecturers need to help students in building their research prowess from the first year. It is part of what they are paid to do. Students’ failure is theirs’, too.
In advanced and some emerging economies, students use their undergraduate works to form career paths. And this helps these nations in turning out sustainable quality researches. Our students, especially at postgraduate schools, and academics should take a cue from this success.
From all indications, research results in Nigeria fall behind global standards. More importantly, most of the time, they are not useful for policymaking and corporate organizations.
The main reason for this is because; researches are not result-oriented. Conversely, Prof. Bogoro led TETFund is emphasizing on changing the status quo in the tertiary institution as the Fund is ready to increase its grants to academics.
The Bogoro’s Push
Prof. Bogoro is an astute researcher whose works are well documented in local and international journals. He is not just a successful academic but also an efficient administrator who is transforming research and development in Nigeria. The Bogoro’s push for quality research in Nigeria is something that deserves commendation and is what stakeholders in the research community should embrace. One of the academic’s achievements during his first coming as the ES of the Fund was to establish an R&D Department for TETFUND. The creation of the R&D department has opened an opportunity for the Fund to design and implement its solution-oriented research agenda.
The ES disclosed his motivation as being the awful state of research in Nigeria which he intends to reverse. To bolster the Fund’s commitment to the new research goal, the Head of the Department of Research and Development, Salisu Bakare of the Fund shared with Premium Times that the actual state of research in Nigeria, which Prof. Bogoro stand to correct. He said: “There is no research capacity in the country. Our national budget is so low on research that less than 0.002 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product is spent on research. That is a shame.”
In Mr Bogoro’s agenda, TETFund is shifting its focus from infrastructural development of the higher institutions to content development. Lecturers who have demand-driven research plans will have more funds available for them. Because of this, the agency is regularly training both the academics and higher institutions so researchers in public institutions can proffer innovative solutions to Nigerian socio-economic and political problems. This push is what the country needs to scale up development and the man in charge of TETFund is doing a great job to realize quality research turnout in Nigeria.
Beyond plan to full actualization
While every great achievement starts with a practicable plan. TETFund is doing a lot to see a transformation in the Nigerian research community. But, no matter how much the Fund works to change things, the success of its drive rests on other stakeholders in the research industry. For a successful demand-driven research grant campaign, transparency should be the hallmark of the Fund in administering research grants. Furthermore, academics and students in higher institutions should be open to learning and be self-motivated. Also, corporate Nigeria should support TETFund and researchers.
The most important factor in bringing solution-oriented research into reality in Nigeria is TETFund’s transparency in administering research grants. Without this, many sound researchers will lose interest in the grant process, and the aftermath will be a failure to the demand-driven research plan.
However, given the antecedents of the executive secretary, there is a high proclivity for transparency in administering the grant. We all know that Prof. Bogoro was reinstated as executive secretary, ES of TETFund on 21st January 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari having being relieved of the same position on corruption allegation. He was earlier appointed in April 2014 by Former President Goodluck Jonathan. His reinstatement indicates the fact that upon many corruption allegations against the ES, none was he found guilty of, from an administration that did not appoint him.
The story behind Prof. Bogoro’s appointment, suspension, and restatement illustrates the strength of his characters. But still, the transparency issue transcends the personal integrity of a leader, it revolves around the entire process of an institution. Thus, TETFund needs to guide diligently its process in administering research grants so trust ensues.
The attitudes of lecturers towards the new direction of research is another factor that will determine the success of the Bogoro’s push. First, the majority of our academics have to learn new methods of conducting research. Fortunately, TETFund is building research competences of research directors in the country’s higher institutions through training.
Lecturers will need to be humble enough to learn about research writing, research grant proposal, modern research design and research collaboration for a successful solution-oriented research outcome. Just as in any other profession, soft skills are important to a successful research outcome. Theoretical understanding is one thing but the application of such is another. In most cases, the process of discovering a new method, product, and innovation goes beyond knowledge but proficiency in skills that enhance knowledge application. Therefore, Nigerian academics will embrace developing researches that suit solution outcomes in their research activities.
Secondly, self-motivation is key to research breakthrough. Access to research fund does not automatically guarantee a successful research outcome. Most of the patents granted today globally come into reality first from a personal drive of researchers. Therefore, beyond enabling environment that academics always demand is their genuine interest in their sub-discipline.
Moreover, the TETFund’s guideline for research is explicit enough for applicants to understand and it hinges on solution-oriented research proposals. With great assurance, lecturers who are motivated to providing demand-driven research will not have issues accessing the Fund’s grant.
On a final note, corporate organisations are important to achieving solution-oriented research outcomes. Most companies have research and development departments specifically designed to meet their strategic objectives. Corporations synergizing with the tertiary institution in Nigeria will go a long in fostering TETFund’s demand-driven research campaign.
By collaborating and sharing data with lecturers for the purpose of research and development, companies are strategically empowering their own growth. Collaboration between a company and a group of academics whose research objectives are in tandem with the company’s strategic plan will encourage lecturers and will benefit the organization as well. For instance, a telecommunication company working with a group of academics in clean energy to solve the heavy cost of using diesel engines in maintaining its masks will reduce its expenditures for years to come. If the engaged academics are able to come up with novel and efficient sustainable energy source or make improvement on existing ones, such a company will be the first beneficiary and enjoy an economy of scale over its competitors.
Private companies can also support academics by sharing data especially primary ones for research purpose. One constraint that all Nigerian researchers face is a dearth of data. Fortunate enough, private companies are the custodian of data especially the ones relating to social metrics. From examples of most advanced countries, corporate entities support to research institutions and researchers bring more benefits to companies than the researchers. In essence, corporations in Nigeria supporting academics in conducting their research is equivalent to investing in the growth of their companies.
In sum, Prof. Bogoro push for result-oriented research in the nation’s tertiary institutions is central to solving many developmental issues facing the country. As an astute researcher, and coupled with his proven integrity as a public officer, the current TETFund’s demand-driven research campaign is bound to succeed. However, the Fund’s organizational process for administering research grants requires monitoring and transparency that guarantees trust among the research community. To overturn the unacceptable state of research and development in Nigeria, the Fund, lecturers and corporate organisations have collaborative roles to play. If the Bogoro’s push is diligently implemented and scaled, Nigeria will certainly become a hub of development. Because a little here and there are what make a whole.