By Comfort Obi
A SCARY but heart warming incident happened in Imo State on September 27, 2013. Two teenagers, Gideon Emenike and Chibuisi Nwafor, aged between 16 and 17 years, performed a feat which not only shocked their rural community of Umuchima Ubaha, Okigwe LGA, but the whole state. It also had the state Police Commissioner, Mohammed Katsina, scampering to the community. The teenagers launched a rocket, which both of them fabricated, into space.
Thirty minutes, and over five kilometres later, it crashed into the backyard of Augustine Eke, a pensioner. The sound was deafening. And the villagers did an Usain Bolt.
The first report Katsina got was that a bomb, the handiwork of some hoodlums, had exploded in the area. So, he went prepared. But on arrival, he was taken aback. Hoodlums were not at work. It was two gifted teenagers, putting their God-given talents into practice. Katsina described their action as “excessively reckless,” but noted: “It was an exercise into the world of science and technology by some adventurous, skillful, and intelligent young boys with incredible creativity.”
Secondary school graduates
Here is the story of Gideon and Ndubuisi. The two are secondary school graduates who passed out in 2012. Due to financial constraints, they have not been able to go further. The road to their feat, according to one of them, Gideon, who attended Federal Government College, Okigwe, started when he was still in school. While in SS1, he was asked to do a school project. He built a helicopter. In SS2, he built a rocket which he took to a national competition in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. He was adjudged the second best. At another competition organised by the Society for Science and Technology, he again came second. At an Olympiad competition, he also came second, and was told that he would represent Nigeria at a competition in Brazil. That never happened. His school principal, he said, called him one day and told him he was no longer going to be Nigeria’s representative. He holds it against the principal. “I still dont know why the principal cancelled the trip. This frustrated me somehow, but later, I picked up from where I dropped, and started again,” he says.
The courage to pick up and continue brought him in contact with Chibuisi Nwafor, a like-mind, with whom he launched the rocket. The two pooled their brains together. Gideon: “That was how we planned to build a rocket and a satellite, and send it into space. It was an amateur satellite.” CP Katsina says simple components, including sugar and computer accessories, were used. Mercifully, there was no casualty. And mercifully, again, on deactivation, it was found it had no toxic or radioactive materials. But more heart-warming: The boys did not intend any mischief. They were just two adventurous young boys, driven by a zeal to excel. Gideon said he was challenged that other countries were launching satellites into space.
Let me commend these two teenagers. What they did proves, just in case anybody was doubting it, that raw talents abound in Nigeria. What Nigeria lacks is the will to put them together and propel our country. Nothing confirms this unwillingness than the deafening silence from both the state and federal governments that has greeted the feat of the young boys. That is why I thought the attention of President Goodluck Jonathan should be drawn to it. In drawing his attention to the teenagers, I am protesting the conspiracy of silence and wastage of talents. This is a government which says it is hunting for gifted men and women with very special attributes and yet…. These young boys are from Imo State, a state which its governor claims to have been investing in education long before he became governor. And yet…. So, how come neither the state government nor the federal government has tried to locate these teenagers, ask them questions, and encourage them? Where is the Federal Ministry of Technology? Didn’t anybody in that ministry read the story? Or, is it that the boys came from the wrong state and/or the wrong part of the country? If the boys were from the South-west or the South-south, for example, would it have been different? I think so. Here is why.
In the South-South, ex-militants are being sent to different parts of the world, to some of the best schools, to put their talents into use. Some of them have been trained as pilots and aeronautical engineers. And just a couple of months ago, a teenage stowaway on an Arik Air flight from Benin Airport to the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport was treated as a hero. For embarking on a dangerous, criminal act, he became an instant celebrity, and hero (emphasis mine), with Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and the MD of FAAN George Uriesi, posing for photographs with him. He has since been granted scholarship from secondary to university level by the Edo State government. For now, he is in the boarding house of one of the best secondary schools in Benin.
Before the Edo State offer, a Foundation linked to the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, had also offered him scholarship. And that’s for embarking on a dangerous adventure which dented Nigeria’s image. Even his mum became a celebrity, granting several interviews, and asking the government to take over the welfare of his other children. See?
Now, compare him to these two teenagers from Imo who are truly gifted and have the potential of putting Nigeria, positively, on the world map. Nobody is publishing their photographs. Nobody is talking to them or show-casing them. Nobody is celebrating them. It is as if they don’t exist. It is as if they did nothing. Where are the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and his government? And where are the Federal Government and its Ministries for Education and Science and Technology?
For the records, there are many Gideons and Chibuisis in Nigeria. Young people with raw talents and a burning zeal to be of use to their country. But nobody cares. If these teenagers were armed robbers, kidnappers, thugs, cultists, assassins or terrorists, somebody would have taken note.
Mr. President, I present to you these two gifted teenagers, Chikodi Chiadikobi Emenike and Chibuisi Nwafor. They say they want to study aeronautical engineering. Gideon throws a challenge. “If the federal government can sponsor us, we can take Nigeria to any level they want.” I believe him. Take up the challenge, Mr. President. A directive from you to the appropriate ministries will make them realise their dream. And it will be for the good of our dear country, Nigeria.
Obi is the Puslisher/Editor-in-Chief of The Source, a weekly Newsmagazine.