Arthur Mbanefo [PHOTO: UN]A nonagenarian and former Nigeria’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), Arthur Mbanefo, has criticised successive administrations in the country for what he described as a lack of interest in developing the nation’s education sector.
The 92-year-old accountant and businessman made this disclosure at the weekend during an annual lecture to mark his birthday at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka.
The event with the theme; “Global Digital Transformation and the Nigerian Paradox,” was held at Arthur Mbanefo Digital Research Centre (AMDRC), a N100million worth facility donated to the university by the honoree as part of the activities marking his 90th birthday in 2020.
Mr Mbanefo, who served the university as its pro-chancellor and governing council chairman from 1984 to 1986, had said the intervention was in recognition of the neglect of the education sector by the successive governments.
He also emphasised the significance of technology and innovations to nation-building, even as he said the continued failure to prioritise education as the fulcrum for national development would spell doom for the country.
He said as a nonagenarian he knows that the future of the world is technology but regretted that the nation’s leadership has consistently failed to move at the pace the world is moving.
“The world has gone digital and Nigeria is being left behind. That was why I made this donation when I clocked 90,” Mr Mbanefo said.
“If individuals don’t do it, the government may never do it because they do not care about education. By the time they find out that Nigeria is bigger than them, it will be too late,” he added.
He said Nigerian leaders must realise that the country does not exist in a vacuum and that if the leaders don’t do what they should do at the right time, the country will continue to be left behind.
Though Mr Mbanefo did not speak directly about the ongoing prolonged industrial action by the country’s university workers, the venue of the lecture, UNILAG, has been closed to students for four months.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions (NASU) have been at loggerheads with the Nigerian government over issues of poor welfare for their members, non-implementation of agreements reached with the government, among others.
While the strike lingers, the government has not shown enough concern despite a series of protests organised by students and other stakeholders.
The development may therefore be a confirmation of Mr Mbanefo’s position that successive governments in Nigeria have not shown the required commitment and dedication to fixing the challenges facing the country’s education sector.
Meanwhile, the guest lecturer at the event and chairman of Seplat Energy Plc, Bryant Orjiako, said the continuous delay in digitising Nigeria’s electoral process is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise Nigerians.
Mr Orjiako said it is unacceptable that Nigeria is still struggling with issues around elections adding that there is no reason for people to queue up to register before they get a voter’s card.
“We should be able to register with our smartphones and be able to vote. This is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise Nigerians,” Mr Orjiako said.
Mr Orjiako spoke while delivering a lecture at the third Arthur Mbanefo lecture series titled “Global Digital Transformation and the Nigerian Paradox,” at the Arthur Mbanefo Digital Research Centre (AMDRC), University of Lagos (UNILAG).

He said in Nigeria, e-government should take the lead in the digitisation of the systems, especially with the ideas of e-payments, e-tax, cloud computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence, to facilitate connectivity and social interactions.
He said one way to fight corruption is to digitise everything, noting that digitisation will drive greater transparency, accountability, timeliness and efficiency in government businesses.
Speaking further, Mr Orjiakor said another major issue that the Nigerian government must tackle along with digitisation is access to energy.
“Without addressing this ubiquitous challenge, Nigeria’s digital transformation will never be realised.
“The World Bank estimates that over 85 million Nigerians are without access to grid electricity. This represents 43 per cent of the country’s population and makes Nigeria one of the countries with the largest energy access deficit in the world. We can draw a direct correlation between energy access and GDP growth where countries with low energy access have low GDP growth rate,” he said.
Mr Orjiako, who praised the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for coming up with the National Digital Economy and Policy Strategy (NDEPS), said the policy should quickly be activated and driven with major participation of the private sector.
“Advancing digital technology will no doubt have a transformational impact on Nigeria. This transformation will require focus on accelerating improvements in every sector of our economy and society,” Mr Orjiako said.
He said the Nigerian government must invest in technical education, even as he said there is a need to revise schools’ curricula across all tiers of education to address the new skills that will be required in the coming digital transformation.
To achieve this, he said there should be critical partnerships between Nigeria and critical tech sector leaders like Microsoft, Google and “Yabacon valley.” He said “Yabacon Valley” is Nigeria’s equivalent of Silicon Valley and that it is based in Yaba, Lagos.
“We will require policy direction from the relevant government authorities in this regard,” he said.
The director of the centre and former university registrar, Folasade Ipaye, thanked the honoree for his foresight and investment in the university. She said the university has continued to take advantage of the centre to contribute significantly to the global knowledge economy.

Mrs Ipaye urged other philanthropists to emulate Mr Mbanefo, saying the best legacy they could bequeath to the younger generation is a massive investment in education.

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