research and national development: challenges

A Keynote Address Presented by the Vice-Chancellor, University of
Ilorin, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, to the 2010 CODAPNU Workshop at
the University of Ilorin on October 26, 2010
 Prolegomena
 Sources of knowledge
 Research
 Development
 National Development
 Universities at the Border of Development
 Research challenges of Nigerian universities
 The Way Forward
 Conclusion
 Research derives from the Latin word ‘re-chercia’, which literally
means “to seek”. Research means to search and search and
search until solution is found to advance the course of
 It is the search for knowledge or any systematic investigation to
establish facts.
 It is a systematic investigation of a phenomenon.
“The illiterate men of the 21st century will not be those who cannot
read and write but those who cannot LEARN, UNLEARN and
RELEARN” – Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave.
There are several ways of deriving knowledge.
Some of these include:
 Tenacity: what we know through basic beliefs of our daily lives
 Authority: what we know through what experts and authorities
tell us.
 Intuition: What we know through reasoning
 Research: The process of proffering solutions to human
problems through well-defined methods. It is a systematic
way of learning to relearn and unlearn based on new insights
deriving from knowledge.
Research as the Difference
 As a result of Africans’ reliance on tenacity (“experience is
the best teacher”), authority (“it is right because my father
said so”) and reasoning (“what one knows not does not kill,
you can eat it”) Africans lag behind.
 As a result of the Westerners’ research (“why do birds fly and
human beings cannot? Why can’t human beings also fly?”),
the Western nations develop and progress.
Research as the Difference (contd.)
 Research leads to development.
 We have not been doing much research, therefore our
development is stunted. With more research, our
development will bloom.
 “There can be no true friends without true enemies. Unless
we hate what we are not, we cannot love what we are”Michael Dibdin’s novel, Dead Lagoon
 What are we? what are we not? What should we be?
Development: what is it?
 Vilanilam (1979) rightly observed that ‘‘development means
different things to different people (and that) its meaning
varies according to the changes occurring in the social,
economic, political, cultural, ethical, scientific and
technological value of a given society.’’
 Economists: increase in production, GDP and per capita
 Political scientists: improvement in resources through which
power are equitably distributed.
 Sociologists:
process achieved through structural
differentiation, peace, order and social progress.
Development: what is it? contd.
 “The ability of an individual to have greater control over his
environment and increased realization of the values of the
society, its political destiny and self discipline” ( Inayatullah,
 “A widely participatory process of social change in the society,
intended to bring both social and material advancement
(including greater equality, freedom and other valued qualities)
for the majority of the people through their gaining control over
their environment “(Rogers, 1976).
Three Questions and National
In order to establish that a country is developing or not, pertinent
questions are desirable. Seers (1977) contended that in determining
a country’s development, questions should be asked on:
What is happening to poverty?
What is happening to unemployment?
What is happening to inequality?
“If all three of these have declined from high levels, then beyond
doubt this has been a period of development for the country
concerned. If one or two of these central problems have been growing
worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result
‘‘development’’ even if per capita income doubled” (Seers, 1977)
Is Nigeria Developing?
 Poverty rate has worsened from about 45% in 1970 to nearly 70% in
2009. This shows that nearly 70% of our people live below $1 a day.
According to the 2010 Global Monitoring Report of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), about
92% of Nigerians survive on less than $2 daily while about 71%
survive on less than $1 a day. This means that two Nigerians’ income
is equal to the daily feeding of a cow in Europe.
 The rate of unemployment has worsened in the last 10 years from
about 15% in 2003 to at least 20% in 2009 in the total population
reaching 40% among the youth.
 Life expectancy has deteriorated from 54 years in 1980 to 47 years in
Is Nigeria Developing? (Contd.)
“ A country that produces two million barrels of oil a day, has the
seventh-largest natural gas reserves of any country in the world,
but according to the United Nations, the poverty rate in Nigeria
has gone up from 46 percent to 76 percent over the last 13
years... The most immediate source of the disconnect between
Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is a failure of governance at the
local, state, and federal levels. And some of it is due, as you
know so well, to corruption, others of it to lack of capacity or
mismanagement.” Hillary Clinton, August 2009 (Nigerian
Compass, 2009)
Human Development Index 2009
 Nigeria’s HDI Rank = 158.
 This is the last In the ‘Medium Human Development’ Category.
 Countries above Nigeria in this category included- 157 Uganda,
153 Cameroon, 152 Ghana,151 Tanzania, 150 Sudan, 149 Haiti,
147 Kenya,136 Congo, 129 South Africa ,128 Namibia,118
Equatorial Guinea.
 Global Hunger Report (GHI)2008- Nigeria is the 20th Hungriest of
118 hungriest nations (Aimiuwu, 2010)
Universities at the Border of
 Why are universities as components of the higher education system
There are four reasons:
To inspire and enable individuals to develop their capabilities to the
highest potential levels throughout life, so that they grow intellectually,
are well equipped for work, can contribute effectively to society and
achieve personal fulfillment;
To increase knowledge and understanding for their own sake and to
foster their application to the benefit of the economy and society;
To serve the needs of an adaptable, sustainable, knowledge-based
economy at local, regional and national levels; and
To play a major role in shaping a democratic, civilised inclusive
Universities at the Border of
Development (contd.)
 The reasons all point towards a direction: development
 If these are the rationale behind universities, have Nigerian universities
failed Nigeria?
 Why is it that 50 years after the commencement of university education in
Nigeria, all indices of development go down while the number of universities
go up? Fafunwa (2010) presents a gripping scenario:
“Between 1960 and 1991, a period of 31 years, a total of 31 universities
were established. That is to say, Nigeria was opening a university at the rate
of one per year. A record that can hardly be surpassed by any other country.
And as if this is not phenomenal enough, we now have 104 universities in
2010; that is 73 Universities established in 11 years at an average of 6
universities per year!”
 If universities are to create development, why is Nigeria not developed
despite the current average of 6 universities per year? What is the missing
The Missing Link.
 Universities are established for :
 Teaching: the primary role of universities is the transmission of
knowledge and the training of minds.
 Research: The central role of universities is to conduct research that
could lead to the advancement of knowledge and contribute directly
and indirectly to economic progress and the quality of life.
 Community Service: universities serve as change agents by diffusing
knowledge , skills and technology to the transformation of the society
through enhancing the production of goods and services, better
hygiene and improved efficiency.
 How much research have our universities been doing?
Nigerian universities and research
There is a yawning gap between universities and the quantum of
research expected from them.
According to Igwe (1990), only a limited amount of university research
reaches a commercial state. Musa (1988) stressed that research in
universities is mainly conceived in terms of publications and career
development and tends to have little social relevance. While Kumoye
and Igwe (1989) discovered that Nigeria has not developed
revolutionary products and processes, despite claims of inventions
and breakthroughs, Okigbo (1985) found that basic and applied
research of Nigerian universities operate between 6% and 24% of
national research capacity. These findings indicate that Nigerian
universities perform below average if they are to contribute to national
 There are as many challenges facing research in Nigeria as there are challenges
facing universities:
 Let me ask you the challenges facing Nigerian universities which ultimately hinder
Poor research facilities Yes?
Inadequate human resources Yes?
Poor linkages with the production system Yes?
Lack of funds Yes?
Poor policies and lack of implementation Yes?
Lack of motivation Yes?
The Challenges are three
We are good at identifying problems. But the challenges are not
as many as we think.
All the challenges can be said to be:
 Political
 Financial
 Attitudinal
The Way Out
 The main problem confronting university education and
research is lack of planning. We all know that to fail to plan
is to plan to fail.
 I believe our esteemed Directors of Academic Planning
have a huge task in articulating and driving the research
efforts of their universities.
 As obtains in the University of Ilorin, research niches may
be created through which specific projects can be focused
on at a time.
The Way Out (contd)
 If truth is constant, the way out of the situation has been carved
last month in a Conference initiated by the University of Ilorin,
jointly organised by the NUC and the AVCNU to mark the 50th
year anniversary or 50 years of university education in Nigeria.
 Part of what the conference came out with, as relevant to this
presentation, is as follows:
Guidelines: “Nigeria at 50 Conference”
 The pursuit of research is what distinguishes universities from other types of tertiary
institutions. Research is aimed at advancing the frontiers of knowledge, seeking
solutions to major social and technical challenges, and providing materials for
evidence-based decision-making. Quality research is that which conforms to
rigorous, acceptable standards of scientific investigation appropriate to a discipline.
Relevance refers to the extent to which the focus and results of research are
responsive to societal developmental needs.
 One sure way of improving the quality and relevance of Research is to create an
enabling academic environment on university campuses, an environment that can
attract and retain a constellation of research scholars. This should go along with the
provision of the technical and financial wherewithal for the conduct of quality
research- targeted research funding in a sustainable manner, scientific and ICT
equipment, library facilities, etc. Facilities for research production should also go
along facilities for research dissemination and the sharing of results – travel and
conference attendance facilities, journal and electronic publication outlets, etc
Guidelines: “Nigeria at 50 Conference”
 Efforts to generalise the practice of collaborative research in different forms
will have to be intensified. This includes collaboration within and across
disciplines and areas of study, in the course of which mentoring and capacity
building for young researchers is enforced. It also includes a lot more,
extending to university-government agencies, university-industry, universitydevelopment agency, university-big business, university-small scale
business, university-civil society collaboration. The field to be explored in this
regard is quite vast and universities must rise up to the challenge.
 Above everything else, it would be necessary to give directions to university
research. One way of doing this is the development of institutional research
agendas that can percolate to all academic constituent units of a university.
The development of such agendas is best done as a collaborative
participatory exercise that brings research producers in mutually benefitting
contacts with the potential end-users of research results.
Suggestions in literature
 Universities should emphasise their capabilities
 Research in universities should be need-based; what does
the market need?
 Grant researchers autonomy to establish direct links with
 Universities should hold regular workshops and seminars for
industry in order to disseminate their findings and discuss
 Government and institutions should give incentives to quality
research and good collaborative research endeavours.
Suggestions in literature Contd.
 There should be staff-exchange programmes between industry
and universities
 Clear-cut research policies should be formulated and
 Lecturers should be seconded to industries for short periods.
 Joint university-industry research appraisal panels/committees
should be set up.
 The onus of accelerating research in our universities to
achieve national development lies in the academic planning
 Our directors should be innovative, creative and pro-active.
They should serve as the engine room of their universities.
They should generate ideas and be the catalysts of the
required change.
 My belief is that the challenges are surmountable if we plan.
We can in fact convert our challenges to strength if we plan
Thank you very much.
You are a wonderful audience!
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