Obi Nwakanma, Nigerian poet and journalist writes a weekly column, "The Orbit" in the Sunday Vanguard, and currently teaches at Saint Louis University, Missouri.
In actual fact, in terms of scientific research, the University of Nigeria Nsukka has had an enviable history. It has a broad range of scientists and scientific infrastructure. It follows the particular history that Ibadan began with its emphasis on liberal and humane education. From the evidence of the University of Nigeria charter of 1956, Nsukka was conceived with a broader scope to deal with the aspirations which the proposed Mandela institute now claims.But I think the suitability of Ibadan or Nsukka or Lagos, or even Ahmadu Bello university, which with the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, maintains a long tradition of engineering education should be emphasized to dissuade new and wasteful investments on new infrastructure for the Mandela institute at Abuja. For instance, in the 1980s, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe made a personal gift of the equivalent of $120, 000 fo establish the University of Nigeria Center for Space Research under the Directorship of Professor Sam Okoye, Nigeria's pre-eminent Astronomist. What later became the Zik Center for Space Research retains its basic infrastructure, but has remained under-funded even as Nigeria seeks to enter the space program by launching satellites from Russia and China. It reminds one of the frustrations of Professor Mobison whose premier work in computer and systems design at the university in Enugu in the 1980s was equally undermined by the Nigerian government. A pool of scientists who had done work under Biafra's famous Research and production program remain in that Enugu-Nsukka cluster and can be quickly activated with a proper program. The location of Nsukka is also salubrious. I would strongly suggest that resources intended for building and running the Mandela Institute should be pushed to the three universities at Nsukka, Zaria and Ibadan, to update their infrastructure, and utilize the incredible human and even material resources already available as well as bring in much more value. Besides these universities, there are the various Federal Universities of Technology specifically established in the 1980s for purely scientific and technological education and research. These can equally serve the same purpose that the Mandela institute aims at. I see the proposal to establish a new infrastructure at Abuja basically as a an unnecessary duplication, and in time, might even become another white elephant. If the intention is to honor Nelson Mandela, we can establish Mandela Research professorships and fellowships in all these places to carry on the work and fulfill the purpose of the proposed Mandela institute.