Over 400 participants, including researchers, scientists, journalists and science lovers, joined the Nigeria March for Science as it walked from Eagle Square in Abujato to Unity Fountain — a route strategically mapped because of its centrality to the Capital Territory.
The March for Science, organized by the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) and the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) Nigeria Chapter in collaboration with the Cornell Alliance for Science, was indeed more than a march. It was a celebration of Nigeria’s potential to change for the better with science leading the way.
The crowd assembled as early as 6:54 a.m. at Eagle Square, and by 7 a.m. the 7-kilometer march commenced amid an electrifying atmosphere. Amongst the participants were volunteers who expressed their passion for science, which has the potential to solve the problems of the millennia and ultimately save our planet.
This year’s March coincided with the world Earth Day. Though scientific gatherings are ordinarily expected to be boring, the March was full of enthusiasm, vigor and excitement. Gathered were a crowd of people united by science, instead of protesting the lack of recognition and funding of science, and the jubilant in their call for increased scientific awareness.
They recognized and empathized with people affected by the prevalent hunger, poverty, epidemics, disease and pest infestation of farmlands; infant mortality; and unemployment. They called the government’s attention to the fact that science holds the answer to these challenges, which have gone unabated because of the lack of or misinformation of policy makers on how science can help in solving these issues.
One could see the undying enthusiasm of all participants as they unanimously raised their voices in support of science. Many of them could be seen posing with thought provoking placards and happily displaying them for the world to see. The messages on some of the placards read: “the world has so many problems science has the solution”; “fund research create jobs”; and “you didn’t die of an infection, thank a scientist,” among others. The motivation behind these messages was borne out of a burning desire to see the fortunes of Nigeria change for the better, with science at the forefront driving the vehicle for change. The possibility of this happening sooner, rather than later, with the attention of government made it even more worthwhile.
During the march, people listened to speeches from DG/CEOs, academic and research unions, permanent secretaries, politicians, media and research leaders. In their speeches, they recognized the role science has played in the development of countries and economies around the world and emphasized the urgent need for increased funding of science and research activities.
After the March, there was a media chat and facility tour of the laboratories in the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA). During the chat, the discussions about science attracted non-scientists. Some who spoke to me after the chat said they could not imagine how the world would be without science, and they now realize how beneficial science has been to them. They also added that the March for Science has helped them see how the dividends of science can help in overcoming most of Nigeria’s challenges and help her claim her pride of place in the comity of developed nations.
On the whole, this march has reemphasized the need for scientists to communicate more with the public. Government policies around science and research should be based on facts and serve the interest of the people. It has again brought to the fore the fact that science is missing in Nigeria’s quest for development.
Science is science, and its results transcend all races and remain the only tool in our quest to preserve our planet, understand the world around us and derive the maximum benefits from what nature provides.
Henry Kumba is the commercial officer of the National Biotechnology Development Agency and an Alliance for Science short course participant.