In the midst of the challenges besetting the nation it has become easy to mix the grain with the chaff and possibly throw away that which is valuable because of a now dominant tendency to pull down anyone in public office irrespective of whether they are tainted as alleged or not. The Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Professor Lucy Ogbadu’s sterling performance in office has not insulated her from such mudslinging. If anything, her achievement in office rather served as accelerants for her detractors to pile on the fire of persecution against her.
Given the several attempts on the integrity of NABDA and the person of its Director General in recent times, it came as no surprise that the last round of such efforts centered around maligning Professor Ogbadu using the investigation of a Director of the Agency, Mr Josiah Habu, who heads its Bayelsa Office as a cover. Interestingly, even Habu is a secondary person in the said investigation, which makes the DG a distantly placed person. Yet her invitation to clarify issues for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was convoluted to equate her being the primary person of interest.
Since the anti-graft agency must not be distracted in doing its job, and doing a thorough job for that matter, it becomes pertinent to not dwell on what they will not find in the course of their investigation but to focus on those things that Professor Ogbadu has gotten right since taking over the helms of affairs at NABDA. This is important for several reasons. One, it is important to make a departure from the culture of negativity, which has in some instances discourage some people of high standing from accepting to serve the nation. Secondly, in a world that is increasingly research, technology and biomimetics driven, the good works that NABDA is doing for Nigeria should not be buried under the avalanche of wild accusations that could compromise the credibility of the agency.
Furthermore, it is about time we give credit when there are glaring result to prove that a public office holder has performed. This entails that we collectively look below the surface. Perhaps, it would open our eyes to the strong possibility that the recent persecution of Professor Ogbadu is being instigated by militants and job racketeers who have been shown the way out of a place where they are ill fit to function. Details that emerge are that she has refused to play ball, which was the usual practice and those who felt shrifted by this decided to get at her with negative media trial and campaign of calumny. These persons had vowed that nothing will ever work in the agency and one who is determined to make a difference has decided to dare the status quo because of her belief in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari with its focus on change.
Reform, like birthing, has its pains. Professor Ogbaduis however not the one to be daunted by the tendency of humans to resist change and reforms brought NABDA to the era of modern biotechnology. The core departments of the agency, which were responsible technical matter were limited to only the Department of Molecular Biology before 2014, a situation which was at variance with the fact that application of molecular techniques can be found in all the other technical departments of Medical, Agriculture and Environmental departments. She swung into action and go new departments which approved by the office of the Head of Service, which has tilted the organization towards being heavier on its core mandates as opposed to being administration heavy.
The DG has also explored the goodwill she and the agency enjoy with the legislative arm to push through the passage of a biosafety law. For a country like Nigeria where scientists were once in grey areas whenever they had to venture into modern biotechnology practice the law is a lifesaver with its passage after 13 years of struggle thus paving the way for the practice of modern biotechnology in the country. In terms of legislation, the NABDA Bill, which had remained in limbo since the inception of agency in 2001 is now before the National Assembly after her vibrant leadership got the approval of the Federal Executive Council for it.
These and other achievements did not spring out the thin air but are product of careful planning, a culture Professor Ogbadu entrenched with NABDA’s 5-year Strategic Development Plan was developed has kept the agency from drifting after fads and being blow in any direction that the global biotechnology wind blows.
Part of the measurable results from this plan is the improved and strengthened research capability at NABDA made possible with the acquisition of state of the art facilities. It is now able to deliver world class services in the areas of DNA Fingerprinting Service and research, Level 2 Biosafety laboratory for research, Vaccine research laboratory, Aquaculture recirculating and breeding facility, Aquaponics facility for vegetable, Proximate Analytical laboratory, Refurbished Tissue Culture/TIBS facility, Semen Banking facility for Animal Genetic resources research, Microbiology laboratory for Starter Culture research, Upgraded Bioinformatics training facility and Bioenergy Analytical laboratory. Result coming out of the place has reduced the country’s dependence on running some tests abroad.
As someone with a strong belief in Nigeria’s self sufficiency, she has brought NABDA to collaborate with other organizations in Nigeria in a way that maximize resources through sharing with other local and international institutions. In is in keeping with NABDA’s mandate to promote biotechnology in Nigeria and it has enabled the agency to bring together research experts from Universities and research institutes to form a functional network that can address national goals.
These and other achievements were made possible through reform and a will to implement change. Sadly, those that are not comfortable with this development believe the best way to truncate the march to progress is to malign the pathfinder that Professor Ogbadu is. It is up to her to make sure that the unjustified persecution does not define her or temper what she has committed to doing for the country.
History is always around as a teacher and a guide to those who have made up their minds to live for humanity.
The story of late Dora Akunyili in the hands of Onitsha market drug dealers and her close shave with death is a pointer to help this Amazon not to be distracted by such criticisms, the new den which Ogbadu has found herself might still be her stepping stone to the top.
Ibekwe, a security strategist contributed this piece from Nsukka, Enugu State.