TEXT OF A GOODWILL MESSAGE BY NLC PRESIDENT, COMRADE AYUBA WABBA, mni TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ACADEMIC TECHNOLOGISTS (NAAT) AT ITS 4TH NATIONAL DELEGATES CONFERENCE HELD ON 11TH FEBRUARY, 2020
I bring you fraternal greetings on the occasion of your union’s 4th National Delegates Conference. I want to congratulate the leadership of your union for putting together this conference. It is our expectation that this conference will further strengthen your union for the numerous tasks and struggles that are ahead of you.
I am delighted that this conference affords the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) an opportunity to recruit leaders who will carry the banner of your union forward for the next four years. I am also very excited that this conference offers all of us the space and time to re-evaluate the state of education in Nigeria especially with regards to specialized professions such as academic technologists.
I will start by congratulating the current leadership of your union for fighting hard for the welfare of your members during your tenure in office. It is also heartwarming that your struggles were not in vain. The improvement in your collective bargaining agreements with government on issues of your members’ salary and general condition of service bear credence to the purposeful leadership that the incumbent executive of your great union has been able to chart.
I am excited by the theme you have chosen for this 4th National Delegates Conference of your great union – “The Role of Technologists in the Economic Diversification Policy of Government: A Look at the Agricultural Sector”. I must say that this theme is most apt given the current crisis of poor economic growth and its attendant consequences of unemployment, poverty and insecurity pervading our country. There is no gainsaying the fact that there is no magic pill that can cure our society of the multifaceted maladies facing us if we do not look inwards and optimally harness the resources and potentials that abound in our country. Like they say, “the devil is in the details”. The work before us in this 21st century lies in the details of how we can scientifically and technologically transform our potentials to shared prosperity.
This is where your noble profession comes in. The truth is that in this 21st century and amidst the epoch of globalization, we cannot harness, develop or transform potentials to actual prosperity without technology and technologists. It is our persuasion that no country can develop beyond the spheres of the knowledge available to it – most importantly technological know-how. As it is in our today’s world, every means of production and distribution of goods and services depends heavily on technology. In fact, the application and use of technology transverses hitherto traditional boundaries of production and distribution to the social and cultural spheres. The way we eat, play, learn, talk, and work are all defined and propelled by technology.
According to a study commissioned by Brookings Institute, digital technology alone contributes $US11.5 trillion which is about 15.5% of the total global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And the size of that contribution keeps expanding with increasing progress being made in the field of super computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). These are really interesting times, technologically. The question we all must ask is “how quickly are we adapting to the rapidly transforming technological landscape in our world?” “How are we supporting our technologists with the necessary funds, tools, incentives and working environment to be adequately resourced to bridge the technological skills gaps that exist in our clime?”
I am happy that the theme for today focuses on diversification with special lens trained on the agricultural sector. About 22.86 percent of our national GDP is supplied from the agricultural sector. More than 70% of our population are engaged in one form of agricultural activity cum enterprise or another. Unfortunately, agriculture in Nigeria has hardly ever evolved from the subsistence form it was at the end of colonial rule to secondary or even tertiary forms of production. Our agricultural sector still majors on the production of raw materials for export to other countries where they are technologically transformed to finished products and subsequently imported back to us at highly inflated costs. Sadly, it is not only the high costs of finished goods that are imported but also unemployment and poverty. For every agricultural raw material exported out of Nigeria, unprocessed and untransformed, is a job lost, is poverty deepened.
To bring a halt to this catastrophic economic pattern, we must get to the roots of things. We must emphasize the use of technology to advance production and distribution of goods and services. We must technologically transform our agricultural products from raw materials to finished goods. Now is the time to overhaul the value chain in our agricultural sector as a proof of our commitment to genuine economic diversification. We must stop throwing money away. We must stop exporting agricultural products without adding value to them.
In order to achieve real diversification in the agricultural sector, government has a huge role to play. Government must prioritize technological research. Our academic technologists must also receive the necessary funding, training, international leverage and suitable work conditions to enhance their competences and impart acquired knowledge and expertise to their students and to our communities.
Given the difficulties in technological transfer – since no country would willingly give up its tech leverage – we must begin to look seriously at technological evolution and adaptation. We must take our destinies in our own hands. We can no longer afford to wait endlessly for foreign technology to deploy and fix our refineries, iron and steel plants, and fertilizer companies. We have waited long enough. My fellow comrades, let us show the world that we can fix our refineries and build new ones, we can revive our steel plants, we can successfully run fertilizer companies and that we can add real value to every grain of crop and pound of animal produce grown in our land. Yes, we can!
In conclusion, I wish you a successful 4th National Delegates Conference. I urge your incoming leadership to continue with the good work of the current leadership and even surpass their accomplishments.
I wish all of us safe trip to our various destinations at the end of this conference. God be with us all!
Aluta Continua… Victoria Ascerta!
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni
11th February, 2020