The founder and CEO of Centre for Values in Leadership, Professor Pat Utomi has said that if Nigeria will truly alleviate poverty, generate prosperity and social harmony it must build institutions that will strengthen a culture of innovation. He stated this while delivering the 32nd Convocation/40th Anniversary lecture of the Federal University of Technology Akure titled: Innovation, Technology, and Prospects of prosperity for Posterity Nigeria” on Thursday, November 25, 2021.
Professor Utomi said universities such as FUTA were part of Government’s Policy to facilitate innovation in Nigeria. To that end he said appropriate efforts must, as a matter of urgency, be put in place so that such institutions will become the vanguard in technological innovations that will usher in a prosperous nation for generations unborn. This is imperative because, according to him, innovation drives economic growth and development and impacts Nations, moving the quality of life of some people some notches upscale. Thus, strong progressive societies thrive on strong institutions.
He said a snapshot of where Nigeria is on matters of basic necessities like security, SDGs and digital poverty could leave the impression that discussing innovation and technology is to escape reality when in truth, technology and innovation can enable problem solving that can energize a leap frog from extant national underperformance to a season of prosperity.
He lamented that Nigeria’s journey on that track has unfortunately been inconsistent. He said “unfortunately our talk in Nigeria has not been marked by action. Policies including the Act setting up the National Manpower Board prescribed admission quotas into tertiary educational institutions that favoured STEM. But instead of more than 60% of admissions going to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, a higher majority is going to humanities.”
Utomi pointed out that history has presented us with a menu of countries and societies that the failure to innovate left behind in backwardness and also provides ample illustration of societies that came from relative obscurity to claim a place of pride in the comity of nations. Citing examples he said, Haiti has gone from the highest GDP per capita in the world in 1789 to the poorest country in the western hemisphere today while China on the other hand which was frozen for nearly half a millennium was awakened by the Deng dynasty in 1978 and one generation later has transformed into an economic superpower. He added that as the centre of this scenario, is the development of a culture of innovation or lack of it. He said Nigeria’s case will worsen if its leaders continue to be intellectually deficit.
Citing another example of a country whose economy was driven by innovation, he said Finland became deliberate about its education and within half a century, became a very innovative country producing companies like Nokia. He said Japan also took a friendly disposition to education and technology and has changed the course of the country.
Utomi said to build strong institutions, that will evolve, boundaries must be set that can allow for, “Stout economic performance as social progress comes by the type of values that the society holds important.” He added that our institutions have not grown because “many times the investment that can make life better does not get to be made”. He however decried the fact that our environment does not provide the necessary support for young entrepreneurs and that poor leadership has been the bane of Nigeria’s backwardness.
Professor Utomi submitted that higher institutions can support the sprouting of entrepreneurship and develop human capital through innovation and research breakthroughs while lauding young Nigerians starting up Fintech companies which he described as the future of Nigeria’s economic progress. He said “to understand entrepreneurship and how innovation, technological evaluation, and STEM culminate in human capital development, as the case with Finland is to come to terms with how people prosper and the origins of inequality and embrace the policies that can change the fortunes of an economy.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape said innovation is a strategic driver for institutions and organizations as the world enters the Fourth industrial revolution. He said the obligation of leaders at every level to impact their people meaningfully is more urgent at this time in history more than ever before. He said “the fulcrum of the fourth industrial is the information technology and the deployment of internet in rapidly exchanging ideas and information. Thus, the world is a global village”.
Professor Fuwape said “the criticality of innovations in science and technology to the advancement of our nation is not lost on the administration of the university as we consciously and persistently strive to accelerate the transformation of our society through research breakthroughs.”
He said “we are not resting on our oars because one of our core values is excellence and we know that excellence is a continuous journey and not a destination. We are well informed that Nigeria would be counted among the leading nations in the world only if more efforts are geared towards innovation and technology in line with global best practices”.
At the occasion a Book, “FUTA : Forty Years of Advancing Technology and National Development “ commemorating the 40th anniversary of the University, was presented to the general public by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr Godknows Igali . Igali lauded the institution for what he described as sterling contributions to human capital development and technological innovations in the last forty years.