Magnus Eze, Enugu
Recently, Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu told the Federal Government to search for innovators and scientists of the defunct Biafra who churned out technological inventions and equipment that sustained the then Biafra army during the 30-month civil war.
Speaking at the commissioning of Technology Orientation Centre, built by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), at Idu, Abuja, he urged the agency to trace those who were still alive to deploy their technological know-how towards the nation’s drive for industrialisation.
The minister regretted that the nation failed to take advantage of the innovations propelled by the civil war, which ended in 1970 by making use of the people who he called great minds.
His words: “I recall that during the civil war; we had so many innovators from Nnewi and other parts of eastern region then. So many people who didn’t have university education, they developed so many technological infrastructures in the east. But it looks like after the war, they were forgotten. I think Nigeria ought to look for these great minds that may not have had university education; but in terms of innovativeness, they sustained to a great deal the then Biafra Republic Army”.
If Shittu’s call invoked memories of Biafra, the maiden edition of ‘Nkata Umu Ibe’ a monthly dialogue instituted by Centre for Memories, took it a step further on May 4, as the ingenuity and enterprise of the Igbo reverberated at the Enugu Sports Club in Enugu State.
Fiery scholar and former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who delivered the lecture on “Igbo Ekunie: Lessons from post-war recovery in South East Nigeria”, was at his best in giving graphic details of the process of recovery as well as the methods and tactics.
He described the republican spirit of the Igbo as second to none and noted that the biggest achievement of the people after the war was rebuilding their dignity and solidarity.
According to him, since the rehabilitation, reconstruction, and reintegration policy enunciated and code named ‘3Rs’, by the General Yakubu Gowon’s military government was abandoned, the Igbo were left with no option than to pursue their own ‘3Rs’ consisting of rebuilding livelihoods, reclaiming assets and establishment of Rangers International Football Club.
“After the war, we needed to rebuild assets in society, assets in solidarity. The biggest achievement of Igbo aftermath of the war was rebuilding dignity and solidarity; reclaiming our capability as a people who could win again.
“Shortly after the war, the Igbo were seen as toxic in Nigeria; to worsen the matter, wherever you went, people were calling brothers saboteurs, we could no longer trust ourselves because solidarity had broken down; dignity had been totally destroyed and needed to be rebuilt. Rangers FC made that possible, they gave us the will that we could win again.”
He further averred that in the context the Igbo find themselves today, especially with the imminent dry up of the nation’s mono-revenue earner, crude oil, they would no doubt survive the shock.
However, Odinkalu urged the zone to adopt what he termed economic mobility, prepare the young people to rediscover themselves for an emergent enterprise culture; manage its population and land tenure, stressing that only that could save them from the likely doom that would follow post oil era Nigeria.
National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo thanked the Centre for “regurgitating our identity. In the same way the Enugu Sports Club as always is giving us a platform to dance to our Igboness.”
Nwodo also praised the guest speaker for reawakening people’s memory about things they tend to have forgotten.
“What is very demonstrative to begin with; is the young people here; you gave a concise, comprehensive and incisive detail into our history, our circumstances arising from the war and post war constitutional repression of our industry, extempore. You spoke from your heart, you spoke as if you are reading a speech; your professorial characteristics were evident, it was difficult not to follow you; every word counted and yet you were not reading. And you dramatized your scholarship, but in the process you reminded us of things you were not witness to.”
Nwodo continued: “I fought the war, you didn’t; I went through starvation, you didn’t. For us to be trained in military in Biafra, we sang in Igbo like this; “dibe, dibe dibe, ndidi nwe mmeri, onye agu nagu ya taba ngwere, Biafra nwe mmeri” (endure, endure, endure, if you are hungry, eat lizard, victory is for Biafra). And I ate lizard, and it didn’t do anything to me. But nobody will eat it today.
“You showed us how we were landlocked; first, to ensure that we had no supplies for the war and we cannot sustain ourselves in our resistance. And after the war, that our commercial enterprise was quarantined in such a manner that the only way of sustaining ourselves was to live outside Igboland.
“One of my greatest difficulties in the position I occupy now is to maintain our capacity for resistance and at the same time pursue a diplomatic warfare different from what we had during the war, in order to get ourselves out of our predicament. That is what your lecture just did now, and I do hope that as the Centre for Memories continues with this interface, you will have much more of these lectures and as we continue to elucidate on our present circumstances, so that we will get better.”
Chairman, Enugu Sports Club, Chief Ben Etiaba in his welcome remarks urged Ndigbo, rather than crying of marginalisation, to blame their successive state governors for their woes since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Etiaba stated that the region would have been much developed today, if the governors used their share of federal allocation prudently. He however, said that it was not too late to redress the situation, while calling for implementation of a regional economic development agenda; anchored on Ndigbo thinking home first.
A large number of Igbo elite resident in parts of the country particularly, Enugu, Lagos and Abuja, attended the concourse.