The average literate Nigerian reading this would have read or come across snippets of history in their lifetime – from Nigeria’s amalgamation and the First World War in 1914, to our independence in 1960 and the launch of the first human spaceflight in 1961. You would probably have heard of several inventions that took place during that period and would have been left asking the question:‘What were our ancestors doing when all this was happening?’
But really, where were they? In the time interval spanning from 1500 till 1800, before colonial era, when other countries and empires of the world were busy advancing their technologies, sailing round the world and discovering new elements, what exactly were our ancestors doing? What parts of the world did they sail to? What discoveries did they make and document beyond herbal medicine and cultural values? How come when the Portuguese and the British came, our ancestors were almost powerless to resist them? How come the mirror (a piece of glass) became the value of exchange for the life of a Nigerian in the name of slave trade? Why were our ancestors so crude? Did they arrive on earth really late?
I really don’t have any answers to these questions and I’m not sure anyone does. But more important to me is the question our grandchildren will ask of this generation in another fifty years; when they look back and realize, that we were actually alive during the births of the GSM era, the Smartphone era and the Social Networking era. They will be shocked that even though, unlike the ancestors before us, we were aware of and used these technologies, we contributed little or nothing to their creation. They will be stumped to realize that despite being one of the largest consumers of telecommunications technology and services, we could not even attempt to invent any for ourselves. They will also be surprised beyond belief that 129 years after the first automobile was produced, Nigeria was yet to start manufacturing its cars. In fact, they will laugh to stupor when they realize that we were still importing crude oil 50 years after we had discovered it.
This is what I’m driving at. It is time we shifted our orientation from that of consumers of technology to creators of technology. And our current startups don’t qualify in this regard – successful startups truly owned (and funded by Nigerians) are as hard to find as Wizkid in Ojuelegba. Much of the technology we use today, have come from and is being controlled by nationals of other continents, including the servers hosting the websites where some of you spend the useful part of your lives.
Like it or not, we’re repeating the pattern of our ancestors and it’s only a matter of time before our progenies start asking us the same question: What were you doing when the world was moving forward? The thought of that alone bothers me. And it should bother you too. Because if this doesn’t bother you then I don’t know what will.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Denise P. Lett