Summary of Highlights

 

Professor T. Isoun was appointed Honourable Minister of Science and Technology by the President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at a time (2000) when there had been a lack of direction and focus regarding science, technology, and innovation as drivers for development. Thus, from 1980 to 1999, the federal government did not have a clear vision with respect to the purpose of the Ministry of Science and Technology.


Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, however, had a clear vision for using science, technology, and innovation to invigorate the Nigerian economy and gave the Ministry a central role in implementing his vision.

NigComSat Satellite Receivers

The Ministry of Science and Technology under Prof. Isoun was one of the few ministries that used its own staff and local expertise to formulate its policies and plans for re-vitalization of the Ministry and its Agencies and para-statal institutions. To facilitate this in-house activity, Professor Isoun established as a first step, committees to address the adoption of a focus on high technology. The declared fundamental strategies were:


1.To get policies in place for the application and management of key technologies and


2.To emphasize merit in the selection and appointment of top managers of the Agencies within the Ministry.


3. A concurrent strategy was to select target technologies and act to acquire capacity and projects by going directly to the frontiers of the technologies to gain competitive advantages in commerce and development.

In other words, Prof. Isoun believed that Nigerians (indeed, Africans) did not need to master obsolete science and technology when it was possible to go straight to the cutting edge of essential and readily applicable technologies. There were challenges that this approach would face of course, including that:


• There were numerous instances of competition for resources and obstructive protection of turf and territory by different ministries and parastatals.


• There was a debate as to whether a Ministry of Science and Technology should stand alone or be embedded in The Presidency.


• Technology needs to be driven by the vision, political will, conviction and sustained commitment of all tiers and sectors of governments.

Solar Water System

In spite of the challenges, Prof. Isoun was convinced that Nigeria must acquire such versatile technologies as space, ICT, biotechnology, energy, and climate change adaptation technologies if it were to be positioned strategically for high tech acquisition and implementation for local industrial, economic and social development. More importantly the acquisition and application of high technologies in Nigeria would ensure that the country would of right, take its place at the tables where far-reaching decisions are made that reflect the major security and equity challenges of the world in order to protect and develop its people.

Capacity building in renewable energy. Trouble-shooting of dysfunctional solar water system.

In order for Nigeria to be able to acquire and apply the key targeted technologies, Isoun also recognized the strategic importance of foundations, structures and alignments fundamental to effective application of STI in Nigeria. These include support systems for micro- to medium- scale industries; capacity building using diverse acquisition approaches; institutional support systems such as Science Parks, Science Foundations, and intellectual property rights management; globalization including foreign direct investment and technology adoption and carefully considered alignments; and reforms (including NEEDS, the Honorary Presidential Advisory Council, and a concerted harmonization of institutions.)

“Historically, the scholar of both science and technology drew inspiration, or had an intuitive flash of insight, from the reservoir of a cultural background. Over time, the understanding of natural processes, the discoveries of science, and the structure, methods and tools of science have become isolated from their cultural origins and internationalized; however, they are, in fact, the common patrimony of man everywhere on the globe.”


Quoted from the editorial of the inaugural edition of Discovery and Innovation

written by T. T. Isoun in 1989, in the book Why Run Before Learning to Walk ?