Remarks by Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the fundraising dinner for the Nigerian University Of Technology And Management on the 11th of September, 2019.
I need not emphasize how honoured I am to join you here today at this historic meeting: a gathering of important thought leaders in business, politics and academia, in aid of the establishment of the Nigerian University of Technology and Management (NUTM).
Every once in a while, in the life of a nation or community, a vision emerges to do something truly extraordinary, something truly game- changing; to develop a construct capable of decisively making a difference in the community or nation.
Frankly, I think I do not exaggerate when I say that we are at such a moment here today.
A lot has been said already about the need for the school, and I am sure we have avoided the term, “an elite school”, because it suggests that the school is only for a select few. But the truth is, this is what this school is about, about setting up an elite school in the sense that it brings together the best minds and talents, but does not depend on their capacity to pay.
Indeed, there must be an institution whose sole objective is to inspire innovation, inventions and research that address the most crucial problems that we face as a nation and the world. How do we solve peculiar African health challenges such as Sickle Cell Anemia, fibroids and cancers, some that are specifically even African? We simply have not addressed those challenges from our institutions.
Clearly, we need an institution able to provide the atmosphere to invent agricultural inputs that will guarantee the huge yields per acreage or volumes in dairy and livestock to meet the demands of food security in our country today.
Every time we talk about agriculture, look at what we are producing and the size of our population and how much we import, it is very clear that somebody has to work on uniquely Nigerian solutions to some of these agricultural challenges.
We need an institution that will produce cutting edge Artificial Intelligence applications for education, business, medicine and security. One that can design the educational innovation required to train millions of children in and out of classrooms all across the country.
I have been around the country, practically every local government, one thing that is obvious is the need to crack (the problem of) education in Nigeria. It is getting increasingly out of hand, the sheer number of young people all over the country who require high-quality education but are not getting anything at all.
So, the question is, what sort of design or technology would work? In and out of the classroom, what would work? What do we do with languages? Are we going to teach using local language or dialect?
We must now produce world class economists, managers of commerce in a world increasingly disrupted by technology and innovation. We must convert our best young minds and talents, to creative thinkers, innovators in science, technology, the economy, commerce and public finance and in public sector related endeavors that truly make a difference in governance. Only a deliberately planned and resourced university can deliver these.
We already have several tertiary institutions of science and technology and management sciences all over the country. But what is proposed is an institution intentionally created as a world class centre for the training of the best Nigerian minds and talents. It is not an equal opportunity establishment, except that capacity to pay must not be an object, admission standards will be set very high, only the best are required in such an institution.
The institution must also engage the best academics and scholars, locally and internationally. This is not an institution that we have seen the likes before locally. The comparators are the deliberate creation of thinkers in the public and private sectors like ourselves here today.
The vision is clear, but the key, of course, is funding. As is the case with comparable institutions all over the world, the NUTM must have considerable resources to support high-quality research. The implications of this are vast.
To excite research, the NUTM ought to be able to attract to the residence, Nobel Laureates and international leaders of thought and innovation. Whether they spend 2 weeks, 5 weeks or a year, it will obviously cost money.
Provisions for the attendance and hosting of academic conferences locally and internationally must be made. The challenge we have is whether we are prepared to dream this big dream, see it through, and consistently fund and creatively find sustainable ways of keeping it adequately resourced.
I am convinced that the founders have not just the zeal, but the will to see this to fruition. I was privileged to be invited to the first event to introduce the Nigerian University of Technology and Management to people such as yourselves in Abuja, when ideas were at the preliminary stages. But what we have seen between then and now, is the market. I think so much progress has been made and I’m excited to see the progress. It is not surprising given the calibre of individuals who are the founders.
I think what this evening calls for is how to ensure that this dream becomes a reality. It is only the beginning. A lot of inspiring things have been said already about why we need to participate in this activity, in founding it and sustaining it. But frankly, whether you and I choose to do it, somebody will do it. I am so convinced that it will be done. That is the thing with great ideas, somebody, somewhere, someday will do it.
I really hope people here in this room are the ones that will pick up this great idea and really work towards it and ensure it is done.
I want to congratulate the founders for doing an excellent job so far, and to make my own personal commitment and commit on behalf of the government, to do all that is necessary to ensure that this sees the light of day.
Obviously, I won’t be making any large donations, we are still struggling with a budget deficit, but I am sure that everything else that is required to ensure this happens, especially from the side of government, I will work with others to ensure that.
I also want to say on behalf of Mr. President, that this a project that he is very keen to see happen and I am sure with his backing and with the able support of so many in and out of government, we will see the NUTM come to life and remain alive and live up to the dreams charted out for it today and in the future.