By Japhet Alakam
It was another intellectual feast for Nigerians and the rest of the world as memories of the scientific and technological innovations made by the Biafrans during the tragic Nigerian civil war that happened over 44 years ago was relived as one of the major actors in the war, Dr Felix Oragwu, a Nuclear Physicist and the brain behind the Scientific and Technological innovations that sustained Biafra during the war years recounts the story of one of the fascinating aspects of the war in his new book, Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra, The Ogbunigwe Fame 1967-1970 which was presented to the public last week at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, (NIIA)Victoria Island.
The occasion which was graced by notable dignitaries ;especially some of the major players during the ill fated war afforded the people the opportunity to reminisce on the war and its aftermaths.
Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the occasion, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, former military Governor of old Imo State and Lagos State and member of the Supreme Military Council called on the Federal government to as a matter of urgency imbibe and absorb the surviving Biafran scientist and technologist that produced the series of technological and scientific innovations that sustained them during the thirty months civil war despite the adverse conditions in which they operated.
Failure of the leaders
Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu who pointed out that the issue is not an Igbo nor Nigeria affair, but a matter that goes beyond that, disclosed that the loss of Biafra robbed Africa of what could have been a World Power- technologically, economically, politically, and so on. And lamented that “it is most unfortunate that Nigeria could not imbibe and absorb any lesson from the scientific and technological innovations in Biafra. That is why, 50 years after, along with the underpinning problems of faulty foundational structure, the country can hardly generate electricity or refine crude oil.”
Continuing, the Retired Navy Officer bemoaned Nigeria leaders for their failure to learn from the lessons of the war. “ It is also unfortunate that Nigeria in real terms, did not learn anything from the war itself.” Pointing out that virtually all the societal problems that led to the war are still present and have not been addressed.
The reviewer of the book, Dr Walter Ofonagoro who took time to reminisce over that war of attrition stated that war brings out the worst and best in history. He said that the book talks about how technological innovations can come out of people that were under pressure and therefore called on Nigerians to learn a lesson from that and apply it in order to achieve the Vision 2020.
Continuing, he added that the book should be a wake up call to Nigerians adding that , “ some of the scientist that manufactured those weapons are still alive, they should be consulted and used before they pass on. Biafrans survived for 30 months because of the ingenuity of the likes of Felix Oragwu..” He said.
He also described the 130 pages book published by Fourth Dimensions Publishers, Enugu as a very useful addition to list of literature on the Nigeria/Biafran war and finally called on Nigerians to address the issues that led to the civil war instead of debating on which zone should produce the president.
On his part , the author of the book , Felix Oragwu stated that the book, Scientific and Technological Innovations in Biafra: The Ogbunigwe Fame, 1967-1970 is a documentation and appraisal of the technological feats and phenomenal achievements of scientists and engineers in Biafra without foreign support and or assistance in the production of modern technologies including unique military technologies such as Ogbunigwe, food and basic needs of the population and in the construction of economic development infrastructures such as energy, airports, crude petroleum refining plants, medicines among others which were unthinkable in Nigeria before the Civil War.
Continuing, he said that the book addresses two fundamental and very serious issues of concern to the development of Nigeria as a stable and competitive industrial nation. The first is what to do to establish National political cohesion, political stability, patriotism and pride in Nigeria so that all its citizens will be proud and happy to belong and be prepared to “die a little” to defend it in order to avoid a repeat of the type of the Civil War that almost tore the country apart between 1967-1970.
Path for development
The second issue, he noted, is what the post Civil War Nigeria should do in order to develop and use science and technology activities, in particular, S & T education, R&D, technology production and technology innovation, as was experienced in Biafra, to enable Nigeria reduce technology import dependence for the commanding tasks of her economy and to leapfrog into a competing World technology and industrial nation.
The book presentation was graced by notable dignitaries including; Ohanaeze chieftains, Ndi Igbo Lagos, scholars, political leaders, corporate executive and other notable faces at the events, including: Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, special guest of honour who was represented by Dr Sylvanus Ebigwe, President of Aka Ikenga, Chief G.C. Oranika, the book presenter represented by Chief Laz IIoka, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Deputy President of Ndi Igbo Lagos, Chief Oliver Akubueze, Rear Adimiral Alison Madueke, Gen. Philip Onyekwere, Captain August Okpe, Chief Ayo Opadakun, Igwe Laz Ekweme, Elder Umar Eleazu, Prof. J.O C. Ezeilo, Prof. Isaac Osisiogu, Prof Green Nwankwo and others.