By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD.
Ndigbo are, no doubt, very creative people. Though they are often misunderstood, the ingenuity and dogged enterprising spirit of an Igbo man is second to none. They do not wallow in self-pity or inferiority complex.
Let us ponder this staccato of questions against the background of uncertainty of direction of the Igbo. Does my belief in Biafra diminish me from aspiring to be a President of Nigeria? Are our fathers who prosecuted the Civil war better than us today? Have the Igbo a beggarly people like Obi Nwakaknma wrote in his piece Igbo dilemma: scaling up the conversation? Are we ‘’inferior Igbo people’’ just waiting as Nwakanma wrote?
Can anyone be found in Igbo land who can match the sagaciousness of Zik of Africa, the courage of Okpara, Ojukwu and Mbakwe, Okadigbo or Ojike? Is it true we are only good in crying over marginalization rather than place act Biafra in the World map with their achievements?
The article of Nwakanma, a Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida, USA’s piece would have been tagged utopian, but on a second thought, I agree with him that we have slacked in galvanising our strengths for collective good of our people. Have Ndigbo lost their spirits of innovation, entrepreneurship and ingenuity?
Nwakanma’s piece was a wakeup call on Ndigbo to be united.
Has Nwakanma heard of the exploits of Ndigbo youngies at Silicon Valley, in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of California. Five young girls from Regina Pacies Secondary School Onitsha, Amanbra state, Nigeria-Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye represented Nigeria and Africa at the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco, US and returned home with the Gold Medal in the contest, beating other youngsters from over 2000 applications in the World. They developed a mobile application called the FD-Detector to help tackle the Challenge of fake pharmaceutical products.
A few weeks later, four boys from Anambra won bronze medal in Tunisia at the African Science and Technology competition (IFES). The students, Ugwuishi Meshack Ogonna, Chuka-Umeora Anthony, Machi Dominic and Nwachukwu Daniel are students of St John’s Science and Technical School, Alor, Anambra.
They placed third position out of the 31 countries in Africa with two devices, the Adaptable Alternative Power Supply for Sub-Saharan Africa which is a single, fully-packaged solar technology and another noiseless inverter system all locally. Their School Manager, Rev Dr Francis Unegbu, said that about 251 projects were showcased at the competition from 40 countries across the world.
University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) recently broke a jinx record of electricity generation by using organic waste to install 100KVA Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) gasification plant for its Nsukka Campus under the watch of Prof Benjamin Ozumba, UNN Vice-Chancellor. The University has shut off the excesses of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC). The project was first of its kind in Nigeria.
Prof Emenike Ejiogu of Department of Electrical Engineering led research team produced the RDF gas plant. He noted that 100 KVA RDF project is designed and fabricated by laboratory of industrial power devices and energy system under special grant by Ozumba. UNN had shone through Professor Njoku Obi of the Faculty of Biological Sciences, who founded effective Cholera vaccine which helped in curbing the spread of the illness.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, while lauding the feat said the new invention was clearly another attestation to the creative ingenuity of Ndigbo and is most remarkable at a period fossil energy is diminishing.
The Igbo nation has offered much to the World in all spheres of knowledge, but the people have been subjected to the most humiliating and agonizing situations. There are many who believe that if Igbo leaders have galvanized their cerebral resources, Ndigbo would have startled West Africa if not Africa. What has happened in the interim is that they continue to pull one another down rather than encourage self-efforts. Are Ndigbo hurting themselves and busy blaming everyone for our condition?
The civil war witnessed the emergence of indigenous Igbo technology, an indication that Biafra is a blessing and not a curse to Nigeria rather than a curse as perceived in some quarters. Their ingenuity came to bear and we constructed the Uli airstrip, repaired it when it was bombed; refined petrol from variety of non-fossil fuels including palm fruits; manufactured surface to surface war missiles aka Ogbunigwe with Igbo technology; and converted commercial planes to fighter jets and weaponized them as well as building the first Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) in Black Africa nicknamed Red Devil in 1967. It was used long before Nigerian Army in 2012 rolled out ‘Igirigi’.
Ndigbo ingenuity continues to suffer. Entrepreneur, Business magnet and Investor Ifeadiaso Chukwuma is the founder and CEO Innoson Vehicle manufacturing company Nnewi, Nigeria’s first indigenous automobile manufacturing company. They are punishing him today. What happened to Izuogu Motors Factory is what is happening with Innoson. Innoson survived but Izuogu didn’t.
They are dealing with Innoson whose contribution to the automobile industry in Nigeria and beyond is amazing with ethnicity, frustrating his business whereas his likes are supported in other climes by the Federal government. Why can’t Federal Government support Innoson?
Engr. Ezekiel Izuogu, constructed the first all African car but was frustrated. Before Jelani Aliyu, from Sokoto state responsible for designing the new GM’s futuristic Chevy Volt, Izuogu had designed Z600 which prototype hit the TV screens of the world ten years ago. They rather sabotaged Izuogu’s intellectual property as some faceless people raided Dr. Izuogu’s project’s site at Owerri and removed the design history and moulds of the Z600 worth over N1 Billion. Dr. Izuogu and his project faded in the public memory and that dream died?
Izuogu by 1997, invented the first African Car Z600 put at 1800 dollars per unit, codenamed ‘African dream machine’ by BBC report? Was it Tribalism or hate syndrome? Dr. Izuogu’s car got clean bill of health from Late Abacha’s 12 man panel. What happened after that? That was five years before India built their first car known as the Indi. What of the grant of N235 million promised Dr.Izuogu by FG represented by Oladipo Diya before over 20 Foreign Ambassadors? This is certainly a million Dollar question?
And then, we have Prof. Maduike Ezeibe, Head of Department, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, who had in February 2017 announced that he has found a cure for HIV/AIDS.
First, he appealed to the Federal Government to assist him secure International patency for the drug. And, as a Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology, a national patency which was given to him in 2014 is not enough as the only thing needed is the international patent before his to his research efforts are hijacked.
Does any care to consider the fact that Nigeria would benefit from royalties accruing from the drug as no other known therapy has so far been developed anywhere for the treatment of HIV/ AIDS.
Director-General, NACA, Dr. Sani Aliyu, and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, had in a joint statement dismissed the claims by Ezeibe as untenable. NACA and NCDC jointly said Ezeibe did not get clearance from them to conduct the research, but, confirmed the drugs healed ‘’evidently vulnerable patients’’ who gave their consent to be administered the drugs. Why this cheap blackmail by NACA and NCDC?
However, the Nigerian Senate intervened and the federal government set up a joint committee to investigate Ezeibe’s claims of discovering the Medicinal Synthetic Aluminum-Magnesium Silicate (MSAMS) which normalizes immunity and terminates HIV-infections. They were convinced.
The committee came up with the recommendation that funds be made available to Professor Ezeibe to carry out more research into his studies. And, the federal government, through the Ministry of Science and Technology, honoured Prof Ezeibe as an inventor last year, with a grant of N350, 000. Let’s clap! Clap for the insult, but a great feat for Prof Ezeibe. What is N350,000 for an invention of that magnitude when TETFUND avails millions of naira for some lecturers without any attachment to their names as inventors to study abroad in Ivy League Universities?
Ezeibe’s research was at its last stage which required testing the drug on about 300, 000 HIV patients at the cost of N71 per patient per day and needed funds for production of the drugs and other logistics. Can N350,000 handle this? This has gone beyond Prof Ezeibe.
The World has accepted Prof Ezeibe’s works and invention but Nigeria is just frustrating his efforts to get international patent. Why can’t Nigeria learn to celebrate their own? Professor Ezeibe said that the two minerals used in developing the drug – aluminum silicate, and magnesium silicate are in large deposits in Abia State. What can the management of MOUAU, and the Abia State Government do to assist harness the full benefits of his scientific exploit?
Ezeibe from Isiala Ngwa, Abia state who has invented drug for bird flu in 2008 explained that he started research on the therapy for HIV/ AIDS since 1995 but had a breakthrough in 2011. The drugs have been used on over 500 HIV/ AIDS patients including a Jamaican and they have been all confirmed free. What are we waiting for to place Nigeria’s name in map of invention of drugs history? The results of the laboratory tests were presented and accepted at the 2015 World Virology conference in Atlanta , as well as the 2016 Antonio conference in Texas. Why not Nigeria?
The Abia- born scientist challenged all those doubting the efficacy of his claims to engage him in a scientific debate or assemble experts in the field for verification instead of dismissing his hard labour and years of rigorous research without superior argument. He is now appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to come to his rescue with International patent, since former President Goodluck Jonathan rescued him in 2014 with a national patent.
A leading diagnostic laboratory, Seeding Labs, in the United States of America chose the Nigerian inventor, Prof Ezeibe, as the personality to celebrate. The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Seeding Labs, Nina Dudnik, extolled the university don for “giving hope to the world.”
If international bodies including those in the USA are paying compliments to the Nigerian HIV/AIDS medicine invented by Prof Ezeibe, why not Nigeria’s regulatory agencies and the Federal Government, since the international recognition is a proof that Ezeibe’s claim (that Nigeria has found cure for HIV/AIDS) is convincing to the world? Why wait to celebrate Prof Ezeibe?
Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu.
Odogwu is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, Publisher and Conversationalist @ www.odogwublog.com among others.
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