|Ossie Ezeaku||Tuesday, March 21, 2006|
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FIRST MADE-IN-AFRICA CAR SABOTAGED!
igeria, in the eyes of the international community, is a country known for its great potentials. And truly, she has always shown the capability to be the best, but at the end, falls short of that expectation. The reasons are largely due to her traditional reluctance to use her best, coupled with the wrath of ethnic profiling, official mismanagement and corruption. All these have compounded to make a bad situation worse. They have in effect, stunted our journey to progress, and denied us that status of a continental super power.
I make bold to say that ethnic cleavage, among other factors, has been the bane for the slow progress in our march towards home-grown technology. It would be recalled that soon after the Nigerian civil war, Gen. Samuel Ogbemudia, tried to resuscitate the ingenuity of the then Biafran technologists, but was called to order by the government of that time. A move, had it been allowed, may well have placed us in an enviable position in the eyes of the world. Needless to mention the revenues that would have accrued to us from there.
Same was the feasibility study conducted by experts, which adopted Onitsha, as best suitable for a proposed steel complex. A finding that didn't please the then authorities, who instead, opted for the project to be sited elsewhere. So many wrongful and hateful decisions are quite often, and deliberately made in Nigerian politics, irrespective of the consequences of such decisions on the national bearing.
Part of the route to technological advancement, is to nurture and encourage citizens, who have the knack to excell in that direction. Thousands of engineering graduates could easily be turned out from the campuses, But, Inventive minds are actually born. So, a nation that is fortunate like Nigeria to have them, should cease the opportunity to exploit the gifts. To stifle such minds, just because of their ethnic background would be a very foolish thing to do by any administration. How can a nation be afraid to use her best, and expect to walk tall in this era of globalization?
A leaf should be borrowed from the sustained superiority in technology by the United States of America, where people from diverse origins have come to represent that success. The US is an example of the wonders of a melting-pot which Nigeria, by virtue of imperial creation, happen to be one in ethnic composition.
Out of the blue in 1998, BBC's Hilary Anderson beamed to the TV screens around the globe, the first ever Made-in-Africa car. Over 90% of its parts locally produced. The Z 600 pro-to-type was the first ever indigenous all-African automobile technology, pioneered by an Owerri based Technologist, Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu. Built on 4 stroke 1800cc engine, the Z-600 has a top speed of 140 km, with a petrol consumption of 30km per gallon. The Price; in the range of $1800-$2000. It was new! Greeted with jubilation, the average Nigerian's hope to be able to afford a new car was rekindled.
The Government at the time, a military one, in her reaction expressed delight, and sent her Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya (Rtd), to meet with the South-East genius, Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu. During Diya's visit, promises were made to look into the Z-600. And while the promises lasted, the life of that administration was abruptly terminated.
Enter the Obasanjo's administration in 1999: Here we have a democratically elected government in place, and one that have promised so much to encourage local manufacturing and technology. Alas, the wizardry of Dr. Izuogu, the Igbo man from the South East didn't attract her attention. Izuogu's entreaties to have the Z-600 produced en masse, for the benefit of fellow Nigerians at home, and the image of our nation at large, fell on deaf ears. What an irony? Who's kidding who?
With their superior vision and quick wits, the Senegalese first, and later, the South African government, dived into the Z-600 project, and invited the man. At the presidential palace in Pretoria, late last year, Dr. Izuogu was welcomed by the nation's Vice president. Unknown to him, while details of the South African deal were being negotiated, jealous minds were busy perfecting their plans back home to wreck havoc on his 18-years of hard work.
And they actually carried it out! This march, some fellow Nigerians, acting on their own, or sponsored by higher authorities, raided the premises of Izuogu Motors Owerri. During the raid, vital equipments which had been put together for the production of the first-ever locally manufactured automobile in African history were removed Above all, a big note book containing the design history of the Z-600, and the design file of the mass production were also gone with the agents of the saboteurs.
In Ezekiel's own words:
"The perplexing thing about the theft is that it is clear that none of the stolen items can be sold in the market. So the Z-600 is not yet in the market, the items stolen can only be used by the Z-600 prototype which is just one car, so the items removed were not for money making"
"Why would anybody do this? The moulds alone, took 10 years to design and build. In monetary terms, they are valued at over N1 billion. But the problem is not the money........"
So the question remains; why have the Nigerian authorities been pussy-footing over this project? Why was such a supposed, national pride be allowed to leave the Nigerian shores in the first place? In comparison, I have personally seen the Indian-made car, used by their prime minister. The difference was clear! It was not a match for the Z600 prototype. Check it out! Why are we so cruel to ourselves? After all, if the Z-600 prototype was to be mass produced in Nigeria, the vehicles would not be stamped made-in-Igboland, but Nigeria.
Lest we should forget; anything that has a beginning must have an end. May the good Lord who sees beyond the human eyes forgive us.