Animal houses of the Yellow Fever Laboratory, Yaba Lagos, Nigeria January 20 1933 - Dr. Wilbur A. Sawyer
Animal houses of the Yellow Fever Laboratory, Yaba Lagos, 1933 – Most research efforts in Nigeria are in the medical or agricultural field. Photo: Dr. Wilbur A. Sawyer

Research, according to Mathematics professor, L.O. Adetula in a 1993 journal on educology is a means of not only banishing thought but also turning opinion, conjectures, and experiences into knowledge. Conventional wisdom or opinion derived from insight, raw experience, and common sense, Adetula affirms, may not be properly viewed as knowledge. To draw conclusions, the researcher uses statistics, a description of how things are in gathering and analyzing data. The need to adapt to these epistemological and ontological truths brought about by research, according to social scientist, Chukwu Ngozi, is accentuated by the dynamism of the world in which we live.

Shortly after the demise of the Nigerian Youth Movement, it was decided among patriots that it is essential to make available to people, “facts, in order to enable them have an intelligent grasp of the problems confronting Nigeria and the Cameroons.” Youths were said to be doing insufficient or no research at all to back up their claims, especially for agitation. An example was cited that there was no need to criticize the Medical Department because of the scarcity of hospitals in the country if there were no statistics to support the claim. To this end, the Nigeria Reconstruction Group was formed with members limited to a select circle of intellectuals interested in undertaking research projects of a fact-finding nature. Gerald Helliener, in a 1966 book on Nigerian economy, agonized that estimates from Nigeria are surely at the low end of international reliability spectrum. This alleged misappropriation may be due to faults in the methodology of the researcher, who, against the tenets of the scientific method, refuse to produce or validate knowledge using procedures that are external to him or her.

The scientific method, characterized by openness, systematicity, and empiricism, is ordered in basic replicable steps, thereby making it possible for others to repeat the process with a view of upholding or falsifying knowledge acquired through research. Knowledge is produced when the researcher reaches a conclusion moving from one specific observation. In this induction process, the researcher looks out for patterns, and seeks to explain them. The other method is the Reduction process in which the researcher makes predictions based on the hypotheses made, and investigates if things turn out the way it should, if that pre-conceived theory is correct.

Medical research in Nigeria may have begun with the Yellow Fever Commission of 1920 by a team lead by General Gorgas, which under the auspices of the Rockfeller Foundation visited the West Coast in that year. In 1925, a virus research laboratory was equally set up in Yaba. Soon to follow was malaria research till 1954 when efforts werenbacked up statutorily with the establishment of the West African Council for Medical Research, WACMR.

Due to the economic importance of livestock in Northern Nigeria, an institute dedicated to the research of trypanosomiasis  was established in Kaduna. Agricultural research was minimal, with most attention paid to food crops such as Sorghum, Maize, Rice, and Yam. Cocoa and Oil palm received special attention but the shortage of qualified researchers constituted a problem. Begining in 1958, Eni Njoku had shown the environmental influences of the tropical climate on crops, as compared to temperate climates. His ideas, shared with the Science Asociation of Nigeria would be corroborated ten years later by younger researchers. Other scientists like Onabamiro Sanya provided inspiration for newer generations in medical findings.

Most research funding in Nigeria are in the medical and agricultural sector, and social sciences are hardly prioritized. Even in science where the money goes, publication accounts disproportionately for only 1% or less of global contribution. The notion that strides made in Nigerian automobile industry is indicative of research development was discountenanced as mere product development in an essay by Shonaike of the Lagos State University. Three preeminent hurdles of research process, identified by Shonaike as being usurped by these claims are; basic research, applied research, and advanced development. Nigerian companies have been criticized for having failed to support and utilize research findings from research institutions, including universities. This unfortunate trend has been blamed for non-competitiveness of local industries.