The Igbo as a Blessing to Nigeria By Reno Omokri
On the 15th of August 1945, the axis nations fighting in the Pacific theater defeated imperial Japan and two weeks later, Japan formally surrendered to allied forces led by the U.S. General, Douglas McArthur, who formally accepted the signed articles of surrender.
But though the U.S. defeated Japan, they never decimated Japan’s great technological and industrial complex. They were visionary enough to distinguish these from Japan’s military industrial complex, which they scrapped. Realizing that Japan was decades ahead of the West in many technologies, the allied powers, led by the US, allowed those industries to remain as a going concern and took the unique step of enacting legislation and policies to enable them flourish. What they did in Japan, they also did in Europe.
In Europe, the US, acting unilaterally, even went a step further by introducing the Marshall Plan through which America sent financial and other types of aid to help Europe (and especially Germany) recover from the ravages of the Second World War.
The point of the allied and American actions in Japan and Europe is that technological advancement belongs to the human race and should not be allowed to suffer because of a quarrel or war amongst humans.
This lesson was thoroughly established in 642 AD when the Library of Alexandria was burnt to the ground during the Muslim conquest of Egypt. It has been argued that that act set the world several centuries back in technological advancement and has become something to watch out for during the prosecution of a war.
A war is a quarrel between or amongst people that is settled by means of violence. It is not a quarrel between or amongst technology, so civilized nations have pursued the policy of fighting wars while preserving technology. Gone should be the days of the scorched earth policy which is why despite the bestiality of the apartheid regime, President Nelson Mandela did not do a Mugabe, but rather left intact White owned farms, industry and universities and only insisted that they be opened to Blacks and other races. This brings me to Nigeria.
I would like to state a fact that will be argued against, but still a fact that even those who would argue against it know to be true. The Igbo (or Ibo) ethnic nationality of Nigeria are the most technologically advanced Black race on planet earth, bar none! This is a fact. A fact that was proven to be true for 30 months while they were landlocked in their constantly shrinking enclave known as Biafra. Cut off from the rest of the world, the ingenuity of the Igbo came to the fore during the civil war as they constructed the Uli airstrip and when that airstrip was bombed, they repaired it in record time and under the most trying circumstances.
They would go on to repair Uli not once and not twice. The Igbos refined petrol from a variety of non fossil fuels, including from but not limited to palm products (from which they also produced diesel) and manufactured surface to air missiles which they also adapted to surface to surface missiles (theOgbunigwe). They converted commercial planes to fighter jets and weaponized them.
That was no mean feat in 1967. In fact, when in 2012, the Nigerian Army rolled out the igirigi and promoted it as the first indigenous armored personnel carrier, they were wrong.
I am not a Biafran. I am proudly Nigerian. And beyond that, I am a proud dark skinned Black African yet I make bold to say that the igirigi is not the first indigenous APC. In fact, the first indigenous armored personnel carrier in Black Africa is the Red Devil, built by the Igbos during the Nigerian Civil War. The Nigerian Civil War ended in January 1970 and the Nigerian Army unveiled theigirigi in July of 2012. If they had converted the Red Devil to their own use, they would probably be talking about a greater feat in the year 2012.
My question is what happened in the intervening 42 years between 1970 and 2012? Why didn’t the Nigerian Army integrate the military industrial complex of Biafra into its Defence Industry Corporation of Nigeria, DICON? Why did we have to reinvent the wheel at great cost in terms of time and money? The Nigerian Civil War ended on a note of ‘no victor no vanquished’.
That was a watershed moment inspired by the Christlike mind of General Yakubu Gowon. That gesture is to be applauded. But why did we as a nation not go the whole hog and take advantage of Biafra’s technological advances and integrate her scientists into our Research and Development sector much like the US did with German and Japanese scientists? That is where we failed as a nation.
I remember growing up as a child and how other Nigerians scoffed at ‘Igbo made’ electronic products. There was hardly anything including electronics, pharmaceuticals, spirits and wines that the Igbos could not counterfeit.
And rather than our leaders seeing the potential in those products, we all scoffed at them. Igbo made products were a pariah. Did it ever occur to any of our leaders that if government had supported these technological advancement, Nigeria could have become an industrialized nation today and Igbo made products would have been exported abroad as made in Nigeria products? It would surprise many that a number of the greatest technological advancement and products that came out of America after the Second World War were the work of German or Japanese scientists!
In an operation code named Operation Paperclip, 1500 German scientists, engineers and technicians were airlifted to the United States and given US permanent US residency and citizenship immediately after the defeat of Germany in 1945. The primary aim of Operation Paperclip was to prevent these skilled men and women from falling into Soviet Russian hands.
Hans Erich (Eric) Hollmann who was one of the fathers of radar technology was one of such scientists airlifted to America. Kurt Lehovec the pioneer of the integrated circuit systems in electrical engineering is another. He was airlifted to America in 1945 where he became a Professor at the University of Southern California and passed on his knowledge to America’s next generation of scientists. The allies had been having issues with the jet engine and were not able to develop planes like the German Messerschmitt Me 262.
But after the defeat of Germany, US forces gave safe passage to Rudi Beichel who went to the US and became an adviser to the US army on liquid propulsion. Other German scientists such as Magnus “Mac” Freiherr von Braun and his brother, Wernher Von Braun helped reverse engineer German jets which led to the development of the US American F-86 Sabres, a plane that helped the US dominate the air during the Korean War.
More importantly, Wernher Von Braun provided much of the know how that helped America build the Apollo spacecraft which allowed America beat Russia as the first nation to get to the moon. Methamphetamine was invented by Japanese a Japanese chemist, Nagai Nagayoshi and the drug was shared with their German allies and helped their soldiers stay awake and focus. After the war, German scientists helped American scientist synthesize the drug which revolutionized the US health industry.
Why can’t we do the same in Nigeria? Can you imagine what our technological base would have been if we as a nation had a policy of patronizing the so called Igbo made products right from the end of the war till today? What if we had absorbed the the Research and Production Organisation of Biafra (RAP as it was then known) into the Nigerian Army Corps of Engineers? By now, we may have been manufacturing jets and we would not be dependent on foreign nations for weapons to fight terrorists.
This is why I was so disgusted with the minister of science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu for aspiring, on Nigeria’s behalf, to produce pencils by 2018! I mean this man is the first civilian governor of the old Abia state which today encompasses both Abia and Ebonyi states.
Right there, under his own nose, Nigerians of Igbo extraction, without ANY governmental support, are manufacturing electronics and heavy machinery components and Onu is caught up on pencils! Onu should visit Nnewi if he knows where it is.
Right there he would see a city that does not wait for government. Nnewi people are so industrious that after years of waiting endlessly for government to provide basic amenities, they have built their own roads, have their own power stations and their own water works.
Just like Japan, Nnewi has manufacturers of such things like batteries, pistons, automobiles and other products. These Nnewi manufacturers have built schools for the kids of their workers on site, just like in Japan. You just need to visit Nnewi or Aba to see what is going on in Nigeria.
These guys are Nigeria’s most guarded secret because even the federal government is not aware of them. And the reason why this is so is because these people are Igbos! It is time for Nigeria to forgive the Igbos for being Igbo and accept them as full partners and equal partners in the Nigerian project and use the entire strength of the Nigerian federal government to provide them the support to fulfill their destiny as the Black African people that are nucleus of the technological advancement of Africa. Notice I say Africa, not just Nigeria.
I don’t say this lightly.
All over West and Central Africa, Nigerians of Igbo extraction are the backbone of the commercial and technological sectors.
I can say what I have said above without any accusation of self or group interest promotion because I am not Igbo neither am I married to one.
I have said the truth as my conscience sees it because I am committed to advancement of the Black Race because as a proud Black man, I know that no black African tribe is as great as the Black Race when it is united.