THE JELANI FACTOR AND IMPACT OF NORTHERNERS ON NATION BUILDING
Definitely, this article will not be complete without commenting on Jelani Aliyu’s technological breakthrough at General Motors.While we shower, undoubtedly a well deserved encomiums on this Nigerian genius for designing the electric car, Chevvy Volt, nevertheless, I want to point out 2 very important things.
(1) In statistics, when we are interested in finding the mean from a range or set of data, anda number or figure in the range is much bigger or smaller than most numbers in the set of numbers, we refer to such number(s) as ‘outlanders’ and are usually ignored in the calculation. In essence, what this means is that such cases of Jelani, a Northerner, performing such a feat, based on statistics are very very limited. In other words, what one is trying to assert is that there are hundreds of Southerners, living inside or outside the country that have performed such feats in different fields of human endeavours. Such a performance from Jelani, a Northerner is not the norm and comes once in a blue moon after similar performances from 1000 Southerners. This assertion, thus, is not meant to belittle Jelani’s achievement.
What do you make of Bamidele Oyekanmi’s (Ph.D) invention of automobitive part, for which the Nigerian currently with Ford Motors Company, with a view of possibly manufacturing the particular automotive part in Nigeria, thereby offering employment opportunities to Nigerians in Nigeria. What about Olukayode Oluwole, a Nigerian mechanical engineer based in the United States, who made a keyboard capable of typing tonal marks and ascents of over 400 Nigerian languages.
Brino Gilbert, another Nigerian won two medals and a trophy at the May 2003 Invention and New Product Exposition (INPEX) in the U.S. Gilbert also has to his collection a bronze medal in the aerospace/aeronautics category and a manufacturing silver medal. Gilbert met solitude in America after 10 years of plying through the wilderness, soliciting for assistance. Ezekiel Izogu is credited to have designed Nigeria’s first car, Z-600. And what do you make of 12 years old, JSS 3 Nigerian boy, Nyemahame Allwell Worgu, who is acclaimed to be the youngest person in the world in mastering the Sun’s Java program?
You probably must have heard Of the Nigerian indigenous genius software development company called ‘Zinox technologies.’ Zinox technologies, headed by chief Leo Stan Ekeh produces software that rank among the best in the world for a much less price compared to what their western counterparts charge for the same software.The list is endless. The writer will like to use this forum to implore our journalists to write more on this particular issue.
Of course, one is not saying that there are no Northern engineers, doctors, lawyers, e.t.c. The question is “how many graduates do the North have, compared to the South.” What percentage got admission to Nigerian and foreign universities through fair competition, and not quota system? And finally, how many of them are really competitive compared to their Southern counterparts? In other words, if you are to choose at random a Northern and Southernspecialist/graduate, all things being equal, what is the probabilitythat the former is better than the latter. Based on this analysis, another assertion that the contribution of the North to the economy of Nigeria is less than 10% was made in my previous article.
THE NDIGBO CIVIL WAR INVENTIONS AND TECHNOLOGICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
(2) One will also like to remind Nigerians that more complex technological achievements or breakthroughs had been recorded by The Ndigbos during the civil war. In the opinion of the writer, those young Igbo boys, some without formal university education, without access to the most sophisticated computer systems, without a scholarship from the Sokoto state government- got from the oil money – to study at College for Creative Studies, (C.S.S) in the United States, and without the most conducive psychological environment, all of which were at the disposal of Jelani Aliyu, nevertheless, were able to refine oil locally and manufacture ammunitions, including rockets. The technological breakthroughs of the Biafran scientists were so much effective during the war to the extent that the federal government wrongfully accused some countries of arming the Biafran soldiers. The federal government did not have the slightest knowledge that in actual fact, it was the brain and talent of Biafran scientists that were in display!
During a conversation with an ibo friend, Emeka (real name withheld), in a restaurant, sometime in December last year, about Nigerian politics in general and the launching of the autobiography of the present Nigerian ambassador to Moscow, Air commodore (rtd) Dan Suleiman. Emeka told me that as a primary school pupil, studying in the east, he was fond of drawing, and used to draw the pictures or portraits of the federal government military officers, including that of Dan Suleiman, which he pasted or hanged on the walls in the classroom. Emeka, furthermore told me that despite the fact that the civil war ended more than 35 years ago, nevertheless, the memory is still very fresh in mind, as if it was yesterday. Infact, he said that he remembered Dan Suleiman very well, and could still recall how he looked like then.
Accordingto Emeka, Dan Suleiman was a notorious pilot who was dreaded in the east for his air raids and bombings of biafran soldiers. However, the most shocking and saddest story that Emeka told me was that, after the end of the civil war – when de facto the war was over, but an official statement was yet to be made to the effect, the Northern military officers hunted forbiafran scientists, roundedup the ones they could lay their hands on and executed them.
Now, let us assume that the Northern military officers, instead of purposely murdering the biafran scientists in cold blood(I define the act that as murder since the killings were carried out after cease fire was announced, and an official announcement to the end of the war completely was definitely forthcoming) had gathered them all together, invested in them, provided them with all the technical, financial, technological, logistical and pscychological support needed. What do you think the result would had been today? I am convinced, and I am sure most of you will agree with me that the result would had been that many of the biafran scientists and technicians would not only had formed Nigerian equivalent of Daewoo, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Datsun, Kawasaki e.t.c. but, Nigeria by now, would had been competing with the U.S. and Russia in space exploration! Can you imagine the impact these companies could have had on the labour market and the economy in general?
Sometime ago, while watching one of MC Weird musical video clips that ended with the erection of Nigerian flag in space, I thought to myself that this was actually possible or could had been a reality by now, if the Northern officers had spared the lives of the biafran scientists, challenged them to reach for the highest in terms of technological feats.
Can you imagine how many potential Phillip Emeagwalis the Northern military officers deliberately murdered after the war. Emeagwali is globally regarded as ‘the father of the internet,’ an assertion that was confirmed by the former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, during his last visit to Nigeria, in the capacity of the U.S. president.Bill Clinton said this about Emeagwali: “One of the great minds of the Information Age is a Nigerian American named Philip Emeagwali. He had to leave school because his parents
couldn’t pay the fees. He lived in a refugee camp during your civil war. He won a scholarship to university and went on to invent a formula that lets computers make 3.1 billion calculations per second.Some people call him the Bill Gates of Africa…”
Emeagwali later went on to win the coveted and very prestigious Gordon Prize in Computing in 1989, equivalen
t to the Nobel Prize in Computing. For those who have not heard of Phillip Emeagwali before, I implore them to log to his site atemeagwali.com in order to read more about this Nigerian genius, most especially how he miraculously survived the civil war, and made it to the U.S.
Now let us imagine thatEmeagwali did not make it to the States, but was killed during the civil war. Try to imagine the number of potential Emeagwalis, Okochas, Kanus, Achebes, Soludos, Utomis, e.t.c., that were coldly murdered by the Northern military machine, seeking for ‘revenge’ at all cost. Imagine what they could had done for Nigeria. Isn’tit painful that the U.S. is the major economic benefactor from Emeagwali’s ingeniousness?
During my trip to Kiev- the capital of Ukraine, more than 10 years ago, a Nigerian friend studying aeronautical engineering told me that his professor had a copy of Prof. Awojobi’s Ph.D thesis in his personal library. What do you make of that? If a Soviet Professor had a copy of Awojobi’s Ph.D thesis that was defended in Germany in his library, undoubtedly that means that what he wrote was very important and was worth the attention of leading scientists, more so, when one takes into consideration the fact that as far as aeronautical engineering is concerned, and science in general, Russia is a superpower. For those who might not know who Awojobi was, one will like to remind them that Awojobi designed the right hand drive for Mercedez in the 70’s. We all still remember how Awojobi, instead of devoting all his time and attention to his profession, was compelled to fight the Northern led government for violation of basic human rights and installation of democracy; a major prerequisite for the development of any society. He later met his untimely death in a very mysterious way out of stress and frustration. Finally, it is also an open secret that quite a number of Nigerian scientists work for National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA).
Now, let us imagine that the North led federal government put the likes of Awojobi and Emeagwali under one roof, gave them all the necessary support. Can you imagine where we would have been by now? Imagine when Gowon said that Nigeria’s problem was not money, but how or where to spend it, but instead had the foresight to invest the oil money in science and technology. Please do not forget that the topic is leadership and decision making. Today, we are paying a big price for wrong decisions that were taken, or will it be right to say, that were not taken.
We live in the age of science and technology, most especially information technology. No society can develop without industrialisation and huge investments in science and technology. Small european countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway e.t.c. have the highest standard of living today thanks to selling of their science and technology products to the whole world. Japan is another example of a country, densely populated, and without any mineral resources, nevertheless was able to build the second biggest economy in the world thanks to science and technology.
If past Northern leaders had invested in science and technology, instead of issuing import licenses to their Northern brothers to import almost everything into the country, by now, we would have been reaping the dividends of good decision or foresight.
Imagine the number of Nigerian scientists and professionals that have migrated to the west out of frustration. The role of science and technology in development is either not appreciated or undervalued by Northern led presidents/head of states, otherwise, they would not be closing down universities, paying lecturers peanuts, withholding salaries of lecturers for months and denying Nigerian scientists and doctors access to modern equipments for research and treatment.
THERE ARE STILL MANY EMEAGWALIS WAITING TO BE DISCOVERED
During his address, Bill Clinton, said further: ” But what I want to say to you is there is another Philip Emeagwali , or hundreds of them, or thousands of themgrowing up in Nigeria today. I thought about it when I was driving in from the airport and then driving around to my appointments, looking into the face of children. You never know what potential is in their mind and in their heart; what imagination they have; what they have already thought of and dreamed of that may be locked in because they don’t have the means to take it out. That’s really what education is. It’s our responsibility to make sure all your children have the chance to live their dreams so that you don’t miss the benefit of their contributions and neither does the rest of the world.”
Undoubtedly, many potential Emeagwali are still abound. The Aba boys that can manufacture practically any spare part of any car locally are one example. However, it is very unfortunate that the Federal Government of Nigeria presently being led by another retired military officer is not ready to yield to the advise of Bill Clinton. I found it very difficult to hold the tears rolling down my cheeks when I read in the news that OBJ promised Ethiopia 600 Nigerian professors to teach at its various universities! That act, undoubtedly is a proof that ‘our leaders’ have practically no regard for education or knowledgeable people. Can you imagine the number of years, money and hard work needed to become a professor? And OBJ is very eager to dash Ethiopia 600 Nigerian professors just like that! Can you imagine the negative impact of removing 600 Nigerian professors from our higher institutions? May I ask Aremu omo Obasanjo, with whom is he planning to replace those 600 professors after their departure for Ethiopia? Perhaps with the hens and fowls in his farm.
Definitely, if our highly qualified doctors and nurses had modern equipments to work with, and were well paid, they would not be migrating en mass to Saudi Arabia, United States and other countries to work. They would had stayed behind to save the lives of Nigerians, many of whom had met their untimely deaths due to lack of adequate medical service. One ought not to have being surprised, after all, the Otta farmer himself is a semi-illiterate, who does not have a degree from any higher institution. OBJ, undoubtedly is an opportunist, who under normal circumstances or democratic setting, should not have even dreamt of becoming the chairman of his local government, talk less of becoming the president of a great country like Nigeria.
TO BE CONTINUED…