When UNN Was MIT of Africa on Inventions and Innovations

When UNN Was MIT of Africa on Inventions and Innovations

Reading some comments on the UNN electric car, I felt really bad. Simply, there are people in Nigeria that would not believe Nigeria and its technical professionals even when there is indisputable evidence that Nigerians have never lacked capabilities. Our problem remains absence of enabling environments (my Owerri office uses national grid as second backup). I did not study mechanical engineering but from the little motor vehicle technology workshop I did in secondary school, I have this confident that Nigerian universities can build an electric car.

University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) has created Nigeria’s first electric car. Yes, the Nigerian version of Tesla. It is called Lion Ozumba 551. UNN graduates are Lions and the Vice Chancellor under which the show ran is named Ozumba. Building a prototype which can be tested for five minutes is different from having a product in the market. Yes, they can build a prototype which I think is not really a big deal.

UNN Makes Nigeriaâ??s Tesla Electric Car: Lion Ozumba 551 (Photos)
UNN Electric Car

Yes, UNN built electric car. OAU Ile Ife, UI, UNIPort, etc had also done their own things. Covenant University does many great things regularly. I was in Usman Danfodio University few years ago; I met people doing great things. Yet, the citizens will not believe.

The national contract is broken because there is severe lack of trust in the nation. This is very unfortunate. INEC, our electoral umpire, believes that our professors are trustworthy – the very reason they are called to coordinate the most critical elements in our national democracy. Yes, university vice chancellors are now exclusively put in positions to drive elections across states. If you cannot trust the vice chancellors, who would you trust in Nigeria, INEC reasons?

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!

UNN was like MIT of its African era, leading in engineering, medicine and practically any field you could imagine in Africa. Of course, UNN went on lost decades as the military took over and underfunded research in the nation’s namesake university. But who knows ,this electric car could be a positive sign that the Lion is roaring back from slumber!

Yet, UNN should not over-celebrate this. In 1968 during the Biafra War, UNN students and professors produced military-grade vehicles and one of the most sophisticated indigenous bombs in modern Africa (Ogbunigwe). In Okigwe, they built a refinery to refine crude oil when all the axes were closed. So, UNN should chill, this is not a big deal when you look at the history of UNN. Nigeria had done all these things more than 50 years ago and used in warfare.

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Sir! The vaccine was something tangible. I personally don’t see the electric vehicle as a tangible creation. There must be a reason why theirs is different and better than previously invented electrical vehicles. I believe what they’ve done; is to couple things together, so that it works. Merely what a technician also would have done. We shouldn’t be hyping mediocrity. It could have given their students more practical knowledge though. I stand to be proven wrong though.

My Response: Glory – in this world, nothing is really new. In your Toyota, there may be more than 100 suppliers from different vendors. If you have iPhone, 90% of the components inside it are not made by Apple. Our problem in Nigeria is that we set bars to ourselves that we cannot set for others. In U.S., my Church dedicated a Sunday congratulating kids that finished secondary school. They thanked them, gave them gifts, and printed their bios for all to read. But in Nigeria, who cares?

If UNN said it made a car, and NASENI said it made a car, there is nothing you wrote that is off point. The right thing is to challenge them to take it to market.

I want young people to be “crazy” in trying things. There is nothing in your comment that shows you know what they did but you defaulted that it has no value. That is the problem for Nigeria. You “believe” but you are not sure. Yet, you believed.

I am not defending UNN, OAU, ABU or FUTO. But I hope in NG, we change. UNN had built military cars 50 years go as I had noted. Visit Umuahia – the civil war museum – tomorrow. They have built refineries. They have created things. They invented vaccines 50 years ago. But today, no one can believe it. That is unfortunate.

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3 thoughts on “When UNN Was MIT of Africa on Inventions and Innovations

  1. Well, “the size of your audience doesn’t matter; keep up the good work”

    Sometimes it’s all about storytelling capabilities, whoever tells better stories usually appears as the biggest inventor or innovator.

    I am not sure if we can compel or force anyone to believe in Nigeria or Nigerians, but that doesn’t mean the latter have been stripped off greatness anyway.

    You choose to see what you want to see, but reality is what it is.

    We just want these things to get to market and become utilities, they must leave the laboratories and workshops.

    Reply
      1. I agree but I think we need the proper approach to some of these things. I think we need to follow laid down procedures that has worked and has continued to work for others, this way we will achieve better outcomes.

        If we keep doing the same things, I think we will always get the results we have been getting.

        Our engineering/business curriculum should be re-visited to re-designed to enable students have the skills/capabilities needed to create jobs.

        For example, Business case development, Feasibility studies, Project management (PRINCE2 or PMP), Business analysis, Systems Development Lifecycles (SDLC), Enterprise architecture could be incorporated into studies so those inventions and innovations would not just address needs but be marketable and re-usable etc

        Reply

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