Prof. Fred Eze is the Director, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) Business School, Enugu. The Professor of Public Administration, at ESUT in this interview, spoke on the difficulties faced by researchers and research institutions in charting the course of economic emancipation of Nigeria.
Eze who holds a Bachelors and Masters degrees as well as PhD in Public Administration praised the Igbo apprenticeship scheme, stressing that the school would soon commission researches to enhance economic development in the South East and Nigeria in general.
He spoke on several other issues Excerpts.
My biggest challenge as Director of ESUT
It’s not possible to have everything 100 per cent in any organisation. There must be challenges. Number one challenge we have is the country’s economy because that will determine how many people will be able to afford our programmes. Once the economy is back on track, you find that people will have the disposable income to look for additional qualifications or additional knowledge.
So, the economy is the greatest challenge that we have; if it will afford a lot more people the opportunity to take advantage of our programmes. Our programmes are quite good and unique. You need to come here and participate in just one contact lecture. Take one Saturday from 8am to 4pm and see the kind of delivery that is going to happen. Our students are wowed on that first day, is this is what is happening here. So once the economy is back on track, we will be in good stead to go.
We thank the Enugu State government because it has provided the atmosphere; there is peace in Enugu. There is infrastructure in Enugu. There is security in Enugu which has provided us with the platform to run our programmes peacefully and successfully. So, we thank Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. The ESUT Business School is grateful to the Executive Governor of Enugu State for the way he has piloted the affairs of the state which has provided the peaceful atmosphere for the school to thrive.
And the infrastructure; there is good road network in Enugu, there is streetlight in Enugu, and there is security in Enugu, without which the ESUT Business School wouldn’t have been able to find its footing. Of course, I’m very grateful to the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Charles Eze, who found me worthy to take up this position as the Director, ESUT Business School. Also, the ESUT Business Council that equally has confidence in me to run the Business School because even if the Vice Chancellor appoints you, you still undergo another interview under the ESUT Business Council. They have the right to say they don’t like this person, Vice Chancellor appoint another person. But they found me worthy to pilot the affairs of ESUT Business School.
Our achievements in 25 years
It has been quite rewarding experience, in the sense that, we’ve been able to impact the business community in Nigeria particularly and of course abroad, with the quality of our products. If you go to any bank in Nigeria and other sectors of the economy, you will be able to find the alumni of ESUT Business School. So, in that regard, we have impacted heavily on the industry and of course the industry has also impacted on us by providing us with their goodwill, our students, their workers and their workforce.
And of course, some of them have even given us material support, like I must mention Fidelity Bank specifically that gave us a bus which we are still using till now. But I will say that our disconnection from Lagos shook us a little bit to the extent that it is quite difficult for us to find the same footing we had in Lagos in this place. We would have covered a lot more mileage had we remained in Lagos than we are here. So far, so very good, the industry has been so beneficial to ESUT Business School and also the ESUT Business School has been quite beneficial to the industry in Nigeria.
So, I ‘m just about six months here anyway, and wouldn’t know all the details of what we have been able to do, but I know that they would have done one or two or three studies, because it is still one of the aims and objectives of this ESUT Business School to conduct research into major issues and problems of the industrial world of Nigeria, the economy of Nigeria.
But because of the state of the overall economy, it was struggling to find its feet. So, research grants have not been flowing as it should. I remember that the last council meeting that they had here; they talked about sponsoring a research on the economy. But it has not been finalised.
How business schools can intervene in current economic situation in the country
Let me tell you, the issue is this, we have the manpower, we have the researchers here, what we are lacking is the support. The only institution that gives research grants in Nigeria is TETFUND, that’s all. That is not enough for a country like Nigeria. We should have a lot more grant awarding foundations, institutions and bodies that will tackle particular issues.
Some will say we want a research on this particular area, maybe in agriculture not just agriculture, some part like cereals, some root crops, some fruits, some horticulture. That’s what happens abroad. But we don’t have that in Nigeria. That’s the greatest problem. We have the researchers here, but where is the grant, where is the research grant.
The support for the research is not available. Unless you are able to attract research grant from abroad and those people awarding you grant from abroad will make you undertake research that is relevant to their own economy and to their own needs. So, if we are able to get support from foundations, from philanthropists, from governments, ESUT Business School is ready to undertake major researches that will impact on the Nigerian economy.
How to make research reports useful to Nigeria
That’s another problem we have in Nigeria even when you did; research endeavours are overtaken; you find out that the majority of the research findings are never applied. Enugu State University of Science and Technology, last week, had a three-day workshop on this issue. How do we convert research findings into products and services?
That is one area where we are lacking. In UNN, there was a young man that did undergraduate research in engineering, he invented a machine that pounds yam. They awarded him “A”. He graduated and left. That research report was gathering dust everywhere until one Whiteman came here on study leave; on sabbatical and stumbled on that thing, took it back to America and applied for a patent on that thing and got the patent.
He is now mass producing it all over the world but the young boy did the research at UNN here. Nobody was interested. We have many research findings like that gathering dust all over the country. Nobody is interested and you cannot make major economic breakthroughs without these inventions.
So, there is no country in the world that develops without research and application of research findings. America is America because it is able to have a pool of what we call human capital. These top individuals that are highly trained and highly developed; we call them human capital management. They are the people who create, innovate and invent.
Just like in Apple Computers, Steve Jobs was able to gather this crop of people who could see what others could not see and create these smartphones, iPod and all the rest of them. And that’s how they become the richest country in the world today. That’s all. It’s through research and invention. So, that is why Nigeria is a net consumer of products and services. We wait for other people to create and we pay money and consume.
How to make local enterprises oulive their founders
It’s an area we have our eyes on in trying to change the trajectory of business in Igbo land. In Igbo land, we have this one man business outfit and it has been one of the greatest challenges of the Igbo man. He is being individualistic both in business and in thinking. We do not come together a lot in businesses. We run solo and in the modern world, it takes a lot to be able to build a significant company. It is easier for a Whiteman to team up and come together and contribute their resources in order to make something meaningful.
But we have this suspicious character about our partner. But we have something going for us and that is that Igbo apprenticeship scheme. One researcher who was commissioned by the World Bank has done a work on that. He said that the greatest venture capital in the whole world is the Igbo apprenticeship scheme. The greatest venture capital is that system where an established business man takes up a younger person; trains him on that trade and gives him money, establishes him.
He gives him the seed money to start his business and this young man grows with it and builds other people. And these other people pick other people and that’s how the Igbo dominate business and many people don’t understand it. When one man goes to a particular town and establishes a business and is successful, he goes home, picks one person; that one will pick other two and that is it. Before you know it, that community is established in that town.
I take my own town as an example. If you go Cotonou, people from my village that are in Cotonou, are more than 100. If you go to Niger Republic, people from my village are more than 300. There are some in Lome. There are some in Accra, Ghana today, even as far as Ivory Coast. And it was just one man that started it. His name is Emmanuel Odo. In fact, our people had to one day recognise that man and gave him a chieftaincy title. They gave him up to ten cows that day because he was the person who went to Lagos, took our people to Lagos; went to Cotonou, Niger, and so on, the same person. And everywhere he goes, he plants our people there. If you come through Iheakpu community; you will see what I am talking about. You will see that our place is now like Abiriba in Abia State. You see structures and you will be wondering where these ones are coming from; little boys that are in Niger Republic, that are in Lome, Togo; that are in Ivory Coast. But what are these boys doing in Ivory Coast?
They are doing very well. So, your question is on point. When I stabilise here, because when I came here, this place was down. We are trying to rebuild. And I thank the Almighty God who is answering my prayers. We are having subscription in large numbers now. And I believe that by the end of this year, we would have the muzzle to branch into other areas.
Making researches to benefits our environment. We must do researches on cassava, maize, ukpaka and other things that are relevant in our own environment. You don’t begin to do research that the whiteman is doing. Do the research in your own environment here, the one that is going to benefit our own environment. (Daily Sun)