• Sunday, December 03, 2023
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‘Town’ and ‘Gown’ must find meeting point


The decision to move this edition of our 100-day accounting period to LASU and dedicate it to communicating with higher education institutions and the undergraduates in training is deliberate. The reason is simple. Our human resource is the most important resource we have and will ever have.

Our students in tertiary institutions are in the generation right behind us. They are the ones who are being prepared for the job market and leadership responsibility. They are the ones who will replace me and the commissioners, the permanent secretaries, the legislators and the judges, indeed the entire public service. They are the ones who in a short time will bear the responsibility to refine our crude oil, generate our electricity, produce our water, manage this university, build our trains, secure our state and country and generally be responsible for our people’s well-being. All of these will happen very soon.

The questions then are: Do these leaders in waiting and in training understand what we are doing? Do they understand why we are doing it? What are the choices of study that they themselves have made? Why did they make them? Does our society still require those skills they are learning? Is there an inherent flaw in the training we are offering in a way that it does not connect with our societal needs? Why do we have so much to do in our country and yet still have so many unemployed people?

It seems clear from what I hear from our experts that the GOWN (the generic word for our higher institutions of learning such as LASU, AOCOED, LASPOTECH, MOCPED) is not communicating with the TOWN (the generic word for the larger society comprising the government and its institutions, as well as private sector). So the GOWN and the TOWN must begin to talk. There must be a handshake. It seems to me, therefore, that our training methods must be re-orientated to retain the critical building blocks, but they must also become adapted to the real needs of society.

That is why we have started a school of transportation here, to prepare a new generation of professionals that will become our transport planners, transport managers and transport operators. The reason is simple. Transportation is a global problem and it is no less so in Lagos or any other part of Nigeria. Major cities and countries including our state are building transport facilities such as the rail project on the Badagry corridor and the expressway expansion. But how many Nigerians have the knowledge about rail construction and how many are involved in building our bridges and highways?

That is why I advised the university management not to move the Transport School to Epe but to leave it in Ojo, so that the students can use the on-going construction as their laboratory. This is why I am here: To facilitate and encourage the discussion and communication between the GOWN and the TOWN.

We need to build more water works. But how many of us even know how the current water supply is being produced? We need constant power supply. But how many of us have visited our power generation, power transmission and power distribution facilities? How many of us know how cars are made from design to assembly?

Twenty-five years ago I was still in school and I did not have an answer to these questions. I studied in Nigeria, in a government-owned University of Benin, like LASU, so I understand this problem. Twenty-five years later I have become your governor with the responsibility to solve these problems. I expect many of you to assume leadership responsibilities even earlier than I did. I am here because I want you to be better prepared than me. I am here because I want you to leave school with the jobs waiting for you rather than you looking for the jobs. Or better still to leave school with a clear idea of what you are going to establish or produce and how you want to go about it, instead of idling at home looking for employment.

But whatever you do, there are three things you must do. First, you must become adaptive. Second, you must be innovative. And third, you must be creative.

In order to help the GOWN assist in developing the TOWN, we have created an Innovation Council led by the honourable commissioner for Science and Technology and other members drawn from the private sector. Their brief is to promote innovation and development. We are also operating an After-School Graduate Development Programme where we are investing graduates with new skills to help them adapt to the needs of our economy and find well-paid jobs or start their own business. We have also created in our state budget a provision to fund research and I have inaugurated a committee to set guidelines for access. Currently for this year, the sum of N1.5 billion was budgeted and to my knowledge no person has applied for the research fund.

Why is all this important? The answer is simple. The key for finding a solution to unemployment and joblessness is in three simple words – ‘made’ ‘in’ ‘Nigeria’. No other nation has done it another way. We barely competed in the agricultural age before oil overcame us. We missed industrialisation, but we can leapfrog industrialisation and get on the train of the age of technology.

Do not misunderstand me. Without agriculture, processing and industrialisation, there will be no made in Nigeria. So we cannot do without those two. What I mean is that we must use technology developed by our own people to fast-track our deficit of agriculture. So to get to “made in Nigeria”, we must innovate and be creative. They may sound like catchy or fancy words but I think they mean something very simple. Innovation requires us to start looking for new and more efficient ways of doing the same thing. Creativity is the handmaid of innovation which suggests we must develop things for ourselves. This is the road to “made in Nigeria”. This is the super-highway to a new economy that is home-grown and increasingly self-dependent and self-reliant.

Let me attempt to illustrate what I mean with a few examples. The training of our doctors must adapt to what we are seeing today: public health issues, lifestyle diseases like hypertension, heart and kidney diseases and cases of cancers. We must find ways to treat these locally and keep the jobs here. Our medicine must now focus also on sports medicine which is a growing area of need and which requires specialisation. We must stop thinking about treating malaria, and start thinking about how to eradicate plasmodium or create a vaccine for it. We have put a research fund there. Please use it.

Our lawyers, for example, must receive training in either contract or commercial law on how to negotiate PPPs or concessions. Otherwise we will be forced to hire lawyers from overseas because this is the new way that is gaining ground globally for financing public infrastructure. The content of our criminology courses must change in order to become responsive to the new types of crime that we have to deal with.

As a state and a nation that has so much to build, our bankers, economists, architects, engineers and town planners must be trained in proper project planning, project implementation and project monitoring. The essence of these skills explains why projects are not delivered on budget, on schedule, and why we have thousands of projects across the country that are uncompleted as we see in the print and electronic media reports.

It is ironic that there is unemployment in a nation that has so much to finish.

Extract from a speech delivered by the governor on the occasion of his 2200 days in office at the Lagos State University, Thursday, June 6, 2013.