'NLNG Prize Winning Research Conducted In My Room ' – Dr. Meshida

No Comments » July 27th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Science & Technology



 

INDEPENDENT

July 28, 2008

‘NLNG Prize Winning Research Conducted In My Room ‘

Between 2004 and 2007, University of Lagos (Unilag)has produced three of the nation’s most celebrated laureates in persons of Professor Akpoveta Susu, Dr. Kingsley Ahbulimen and Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo. They won The Nigerian Prize For Science and The Nigerian Prize for Literature. This year’s winner of the Nigerian Prize for Science, a Unilag lecturer too, Dr. Ebenezer Meshida, who was recently honoured by Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), spoke with our Correspondent, Yemi Adebisi. He narrated, among other things, his challenges, success story and future prospects on the research that made him a winner, ‘Solution To Road Pavement Destabilisation by the Invention of Lateralite: A Stabilising Flux for Fine Grained Lateritic Soils on laterite’. Excerpts:

How do you feel being this year’s NLNG award winner in sciences?

I feel on top of the world. I feel confused. I feel terrified but I feel very happy and grateful to my creator.

 

It’s a spotlight on you, you know?

Yes, you are correct. It is most unexpected. I have never lived like this before. I wasn’t expecting being known by anybody apart from my family and church, anyway.

 

How would you regard the tenet behind your research?

It is the invention of a powder, which can be added to laterite soil to stabilise against water destabilisation.

 

How do you intend to rate the appreciation of knowledge in Nigeria, especially in scientific discoveries?

Ideally, it is not encouraging. The researchers are not really encouraged to settle down physically and mentally to carry out work that will worth the while. Researchers cannot work without the environment being set for relative comfort.

 

Is that the reason why it took you 26 years to complete the research?

If I was working in some good laboratories, the findings supposed to have ended in three months or even one month but because the environment was not there, it wasted such a valuable time. In fact, at a time I had to retire myself from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)Ile-Ife to have my peace of mind and to concentrate.

 

You mean you were not allowed to do the best you planned at OAU?

I carried out my research privately in my bedroom and my sitting room until I came again, ten years later, to join Unilag. So without the environment being favourable for research, nothing good can come out of it.

 

Why did you choose to work in the area of soil testing and all that?

It has its own historical background. My elder brother is a soil engineer. He snatched me from the arts and pushed me into science, engineering to be precise. He encouraged me to stay put in the studies of soil for engineering purposes.

 

This appears to be a groundbreaking research. Do you think it portends an end to road problems that we have in Nigeria?

Well, scientifically speaking, I think it should automatically stop the development of potholes on our roads. If you have a soil that you can stabilise and utilise as foundation and the soil cannot be affected by water no matter what water logging it is, provided you take care of the base of the natural ground anyway, then I think no pothole can develop. Now you protect the stabilised base course or sub-base course with asphalt. If the road is properly designed and constructed, it should stop everything that is adversely affecting our roads.

 

Do you mean all those big construction companies and foreign experts did not know about this innovation before now?

The big companies you are referring to have come from their various countries. They don’t have the type of soil that we have. In their own countries, soils have been well studied and well known and their roads are stable. In our own case, no one has really studied the soil the way it has been studied now. They are doing their best but the soils are difficult and no one seems to have the solution. So, it’s the Nigerians that must proffer the solution. This is just the beginning.

 

Do you think government will be interested in further research on this project?

If we produce this material commercially, we don’t need anything to confuse us. We can stabilise and construct any number of networks of Nigeria now and the roads will be stable. What we mean by research is, for instance, in Rivers State or Delta State, know your area very well and outline this flux. This flux will treat as many soils as possible. But in science we don’t flatter in sweet statements. We want to know our facts and stay by it. We do what we think may satisfy or solve the problems at hand.

 

Sometimes when people do this kind of research they hold on tenaciously to it and never allow any other person to make use of their findings. Are you going to make it public?

This flux must be a household utensil. If we produce it, you use it like we use Portland cement. Like I say, the use is extremely simple. You don’t need to be educated. After all, you know what mixing is all about. You know water. Finish. You can use a trowel to mix the material. There is nothing to learn about its use.

 

What about the potency and validation of this material?

The material has been tested for at least seven years very actively in the department here and elsewhere. It has therefore been confirmed that you only need to add a little to your problem soil. Then you have an engineering soil to depend upon.

 

What efforts have you made for sponsoring of this project so that it can see the light of the day?

We need investors to come around us. A lecturer has no money to institute a factory. Such investor would have perfect understanding legally, financially, morally, and all that. Materials would then be rolled out and bagged in large quantities. We can then put a price tag on unit volume of the material. It has to be very economical. I always want to avoid the phrase ‘cheap and expensive.’ What is expedient is what matter to me. If you know you need to spend money to get something, spend it.

 

Particularly, government reactions to such project are not always forthcoming. Why are you still convinced that something will be done?

I think I must continue by trusting that Federal Government will do something about it. As a Nigerian, I don’t condemn anything but first of all, I want to identify who government is. I am only a scientist; I am not a political expert. Who is government? Is it the president or the ministries? Meanwhile, the word government is nebulous to me. It is very amorphous. So if I say I trust that government would do something, I know that one power, something somewhere in Nigeria, will pick it up, show interest in it and encourage its use.

 

As a scientist, how do you think that we can change the idea of depending on imported materials in Nigeria and encourage indigenous producers?

Fundamentally, Nigeria is very eager to develop physically but not mentally. We cannot develop mentally in a hurry. It needs a lot of patience and understanding. So, if we are importing things that we don’t know about, we are totally dependent on buying; when those people don’t supply anymore, then we are back to our primitive age. I think scientists must be encouraged to go on. They must be funded. They must be made comfortable. They must be convinced economically that what they are doing is not a punishment on them.

 

Though you started this research at the OAU Ile-Ife but you concluded this research in your sitting room according to you. Today, you are in Unilag, what inferences are you trying to draw out?

University of Lagos has the infrastructures for research. These infrastructures must be developed. All those broken down equipments must be replaced and make functional and expanded. The laboratories must also be made functional. This means, in my opinion that Unilag, should be heavily funded. Preferably, this funding should come from Federal Government, since it is not an individual company. It is a knowledge disseminating institution. If government pumps billions of dollars here, young Nigerians would benefit. The older a researcher is, the more he must continue to think that time for him to go away is imminent.

 

What would you regard as your challenges within these 26 years of research?

The most important challenge has been frustration and anger.

 

From who?

From myself. That I am not achieving anything worth the while. But eventually after the thing succeeded, I became happy. With this event, I am most happy.

 

What is your advice for the up coming scientists?

Decide on your problems; pursue your problems; aim at success. Despite the type of frustrations I had, if you go through similar things, don’t give up until you end up with a conclusion.

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