THERE is presently a visionary and purposeful spirit felt by the Igbo as well as across Igboland, Biafra. This development is immensely uplifting.
The Igbo appear poised to complete the march begun on 29 May 1966 – the reinforcement of their inalienable right to freedom, in the wake of the outbreak of the genocide. Surely, the sun is on its ascent. These are indeed extraordinary times the likes of which have not been seen since the 12 January 1970 end of phase-III of the genocide and the progression to phase-IV. During the previous, phases I-III-harrowing 44 months (29 May 1966-12 January 1970), the Nigeria state and its allies murdered 3.1 million Igbo people, or one-quarter of this nation’s population, in this foundational and most gruesome genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa.
20 years before…
AS THIS march to the restoration of freedom dawns, the Igbo should, as a matter of urgency, retrieve from the archives the plan for the reconstruction and transformation of the then east Nigeria drawn up in the 1950s by Mbonu Ojike, the cerebral Chicago University scholar and African peoples-centred economist, who was the minister of the region’s economic development and planning. The Ojike Plan had envisaged a 20-year timeframe, beginning in 1954, during which the east would be transformed into an advanced multifaceted industrial and agricultural economy.
The main thrust of this plan is still valid and should be reworked and adapted to 21st century priorities and the advantage of new technologies. Such was the impressive pace of this programme that, by 1964, ten years later, the overall economic performance of the east had not only outstripped the rest of Nigeria but was in fact Africa’s fastest growing economy. The east had the best schools and the first independent university system in the country, the best humanpower development in the country across a range of fields including, crucially, engineering, medicine, the arts, and the middle-range technical cadre.
THE REGION also had the most integrated infrastructural development in Nigeria and its manufacturing, distributive and extractive enterprises centred in the Enuugwu-Nkalagu-Emene conurbation to the north, Onicha (commercial capital and home to the future Oshimili stock exchange and index) to the west and Igwe Ocha/Port Harcourt-Aba-Calabar to the south were clearly the hubs of the making of this African industrial revolution of recent history. But for the Igbo genocide, the east was on course to construct the “
(Alice Coltrane Sextet, “Something about John Coltrane” [Coltrane, piano; Pharoah Sanders, soprano saxophone, bells; Cecil McBee, bass; Tulsi, tambura; Rashied Ali, drums; Majid Shabazz, tambourine, bells; recorded: Impulse! Records,
New York, US, 8 November 1970])
THE Igbo have one of
Hubs of industrial and agricultural activities are already in place in their designated sites of operation in Igboland and these would form the foci of this transformation: the Onicha-Nnewi-Oka-Ihiala industrial conurbation for machine tools and heavy industry; the Enuugwu-Emene-Nsukka information technology valley; the Aba-Umuahia-Abiriba-Igwe Ocha precision equipment/light industry; the Uburu-Okposi-Egbema sodium carbonate deposits/other minerals for potential pharmaceutical and food-processing manufacturing; reactivation of Enuugwu-Udi coal fields for unlimited power generation to work this manufacturing enterprise and provide affordable lighting and other energy requirements for domestic and industrial requirements in addition to exports to countries across west Africa and elsewhere; work on renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, refuse – it is indeed incumbent on Biafran engineers to exponentially increase the country’s access to these renewables in this first vital phase of redevelopment; enhanced agricultural activities in the central and east Asu/Ebonyi valleys/Abakaleke corridor and the Onicha/upper Anambra farming belt...
(Andrew Hill Trio, “Tripping” or “Naked spirit” [Hill, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Ben Riley, drums; recorded: Barrigozi Studio, Milan, Italy, 3/4 July 1986])
RESTRUCTURING the communication/infrastructure base of
Another road and rail bridge should link the historic twin cities of Asaba and Onicha and a tunnel service under the Oshimili to carry these dual modes of transport should also be constructed. Both bridge and tunnel should be appropriately named Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Asaba and Onicha should also have a modern hovercraft service in operation. Commuter bus, coach, tram and rail services in Igbo cities and towns should quickly replace the ill-suited and unsafe “okada” or motorcycle provisions of the present. The Igbo, a much travelled people worldwide, must now establish direct flight access entry to Igboland from the outside world that is not dependent on
EVERY Igbo child must have access to a computer and every school in Igboland linked to the internet. Equally crucial, technical colleges should be set up in Igbo cities and towns to develop and expand on that sphere of humanpower resource upon which the advancement of society is largely predicated – growth of plumbers, electricians, draughtspeople, carpenters, builders, etc., etc. Cities and towns including Aba, Nnewi, Agbo, Nsukka, Eha Amuufu, Abakaleke, Ohafia, Mbano, Item, Umuahia, Onicha-Ugbo, Owere, Ogwashi-Ukwu, Aboh, Ozubulu, Agbaani, Akaeze, Abaa, Okigwe, Enuugwu, Asaba, Ogidi, Igwe Ocha, Olu, Isele-Ukwu, Igwe Nga, Onicha, Mbaise, Okpana, Oshiri, Ahoada, Ogwu, Ehuugbo, Ehuugbo Road, Uburu, Aguleri, Nnobi, Umu Ubani, Ahiara, Abiriba, should be sites for these colleges. These urban centres could also have their own city universities to cope with the continuously high demands from Igbo youths and others who have, since 1970, consistently maintained top position for the highest number of students seeking university places in
THE 50 MILLION Igbo should now set to work as determindly as ever. The prospects are incredibly exciting. This resultant transformation of Biafra within a generation will at once be a time-honoured memorial to the 3.1 million and the additional tens of thousands murdered since (phase-IV) and the triumph of the nonnegotiable right to freedom by the survivors and their children and grandchildren and theirs...
*****Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of, among others, Biafra Revisited (2006) and Readings from Reading: Essays on African History, Genocide, Literature (2011)