Dr. Edward Mensah makes two comments:
I know I will be opening a Pandora's box with my contribution but I am not the one to shy away from making controversial statement if I believe the evidence is on my side. I am Ghanaian who spent considerable part of my academic life in Nigeria, first as a graduate student at Ibadan ( 1975-1977) and a lecturer and director of technology policy at the Faculty of Technology, University of Ife ( now OAU). I witnessed a lot of political infighting which destroyed the success of great ideas in Nigeria. Of course, Nigeria does not have a monopoly on political incompetence. That is the domain of the whole continent. And this forum has been trying to produce some good commentaries on how to move Africa forward.
My main problem with the location of the Nogerian or West African "quota" of the Mandela institute is that, like all great ideas in that great country, geopolitical balance ALWAYS substitutes for rational thinking. And this is what I am seeing now from the commentary on the Mandela institute by Obi Nwakanma. He makes a good case for 3 locations in Nigeria, Nsukka, Ibadan, and Zaria ( Ibo, Yoruba, Hausa), to appease the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. I love Mr Nwankanma's idea of Mandela Professorships. However, the choice of the ideal location for this institute must be rationally done. It might even be better for Nigeria to present a good case for these locations and put the selection to a vote by the scientific community in Ecowas, with input from the diaspora. This issue is too important to be left to the nation that provides most of the funding, in my mind.
You are right, Sesay, that science and technology will take Africa nowhere in the midst of despotic regimes. However, I do not think an institute for democracy should replace the technology institute. We can do both. Without good governance we are doomed for ever. And the new Africa Union is doing a good job by, for example, rejecting the coup in Togo. This sends a clear message to future despots that the old rules of governance where misrule was the order of the day may be disappearing in favor of constitutional rule. The need for a separate institute for science and technology, in my view, is based on the premise that Africa cannot wait until democracy takes root everywhere before we begin to pay serious attention to the creation indigenous knowledge base needed to move the people out of poverty. My main concern is that politics and egos will get in the way of locating the institute where it will create the maximum scientific and technological benefits to society. The synergy with existing centers of excellence and industry will not be maximized if the center is located in Abuja. Apart from local geopolitical balance ( in Nigeria) nothing, in my view, recommends Abuja as an ideal location for such a great idea. It does not matter if Nigeria puts down lots of oil money. She must locate the institute in a place where the whole sub-region will benefit most.
I must thank Professor Falola for hosting this forum. It is now possible to read contributions from alumni and friends we never thought we would meet again since graduation. Yes, I am a Ghanaian and an alumnus of ISU ( economics). I have enjoyed your contributions. Please keep providing your comments on these important issues.