Nigeria’s Latent Inventing Opportunities – Looking Back at Biafra

Nigeria’s Latent Inventing Opportunities – Looking Back at Biafra

As I have noted here, I have been reading New York Times archives since 1967 to understand on the fly what happened during the Biafra War [I acknowledge that anything reported in NYT was from the American perspective]. This entry dated Jan. 25, 1970 by Vance Boubjailly is simply moving.

“We saw small homemade oil refineries in the jungle, which the Biafrans had built themselves with an ingenuity very much like that we pride ourselves on having. We saw homemade rockets, launchers and land mines.”

Yes Nigeria, Nigerians have built working refineries before 1970. And those were researched, designed and constructed within two years, in the midst of a war. Simply, professors in UNN turned their labs into war equipment manufacturing units.

According to NYT, Biafra suffered severely when the first bomb landed at Nsukka, disrupting the work of those professors. With that, the technical team went and everything collapsed.

When UNN Was MIT of Africa on Inventions and Innovations

You will shed tears – no matter how strong you are. Nigeria has everything here and yet we are wasting in poverty. Did you know they created a vaccine – and which was later used in Kano to stop cholera, after the war? Prof Njoku Obi made one and WHO approved it!

To our young people, I do not know the books you read these days. But when I was growing up, I read about Nigerian inventors and makers. Mathematical Chike Obi was like a little god no one could see. Then, the day we met him – Prof Augustine Njoku-Obi; his son married from my clan. He may not sound a name. But he could have been the father of cholera vaccine in the world. He was the man that invented the cholera vaccine that stopped the Kano Cholera outbreak in 1972. The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the vaccine in 1971 and when the outbreak came in Kano, Nigeria deployed the vaccine. That was actually one of the finest moments of the post-war healing process – an easterner created a vaccine to save lives in Kano when few months ago they were killing themselves!


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