ROSTRUM: Physics And Buhari’s Change Agenda



By KufreAbasi Essien

There is no denying the fact that the change that President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) promised Nigerians seems not to be functioning the way it was sold to the masses ahead of May 29, 2015. There is also no shame in admitting the fact that the country seems to be accelerating in a downward spiral towards economic blackout. Hunger, violence, agitations, unemployment and insecurity seem to be in a race for who among them will lead other vices and social ills to break the unity of the country, killing the existence of the Nigerian state.

In the centre of these noise and confusion, one desire stands out: Nigerians earnestly want solutions – practical solutions to the brunt of insecurity, hunger, unemployment, and environmental challenges which has become part of their regular lives.

Solutions to Nigeria’s numerous problems may be sought for in different places; but the university seems to me a veritable place to shop for these solutions. I know that university dons are a repository of theories, models and ideas that, if properly harnessed and deployed, will help build a better country with a stronger economy.

Talking about university dons as rich sources of ideas, models and philosophies that can help Nigeria, Professor Idara Akpabio is one person that you can count on to deliver. He is a professor of Applied Geophysics, a resourceful member of the Faculty of Science, and the Dean, Faculty of Science, University Uyo. He accepted to bare his mind on how Physics – as an academic discipline – can help Nigeria in the areas of security, food sufficiency, employment, and environmental management.

Let’s read the words of Professor Idara Akpabio:

“The starting point in the use of Physics as a tool to solve part of Nigeria’s problems is for government to be sincere and committed enough to invest in the infrastructure, research and technology needed to move the principles of Physics and translate same into visible and beneficial projects. Such investment begins with investing in the welfare and training of researchers and faculty members. If lecturers are treated in such a way that they can live comfortably in the economy, then they can concentrate, giving the best to the system. Even if we have some of the best brains that you can find in Africa, without proper motivation and support, they may not be able to demonstrate their best. That’s why you see most of us shine once we leave the shores of this country. That said; let me outline some areas where Physics can help our dear country.

Security, intelligence gathering and surveillance processes can be enhanced by the deploying space science and technology. Satellite imaging and communication can be used to study movements, provide the backbone for telecommunication networks which could serve as serious tools needed to provide security and surveillance.

Electronic security cameras, sensors and other gadgets which work with Physics principles can be deployed to help keep security checks. As we know, some of these things are already in use. What I cannot tell is the extent to which they’ve been deployed.

Food insecurity is another area where the principles of Physics may be deployed to help solve problems .What comes to mind quickly is the application of these principles in technologies that enhance productivity in agriculture. For instance, infrared imaging of crops by devices fitted on drones, have been extensively used to monitor the health of crops. In fact, this technology can delineate an area of stressed crops from those that are healthy. This same technology has been used to give an early signal of the approach of locusts, birds and other pests that attack crops.

Still on food sufficiency, radiation techniques have been used elsewhere to check the quality of farm produce and processed products which are ready to be shipped to consumers. The whole or large part of quality control processes can be performed with Physics driven technologies.

In pest control, ionizing radiations of damaging dosage can be used to sterilize some species just before their mating season. By so doing, the spread of such species of pests could be controlled by population reduction.

Space science and technology can be deployed to monitor the coastal regions for information gathering on the sea level. This can help in giving early signal on tsunami and related phenomena. This same technology can also give information on the rate of desertification of the country.

In the Niger Delta and oil producing region, satellite imaging can help in monitoring oil installations, and in the early detection of spills. Or, in the event of spills, the extent of damage can be easily ascertained by satellite imaging.

Today, solar energy technology has provided jobs for many. Some of these persons may know nothing about the Physics principles that drive the technology that they use; but it works all the same. This is one area that Physics has helped in the provision of jobs for the unemployed.

Need I say that Geophysics has provided the principles which drive the production of crude oil? This, as we all know, is the sector where the economy of our country rests.

Having said all this, if the power of Physics to transform our economy is to be fully tapped, two things must be done: more researches aimed at solving our domestic problems must be conducted; and more multi- disciplinary researches and collaborations must be entered into. My desire is to see the Science faculties conceptualizing and working on mega projects that will pull Nigeria out of the woods.”