Food for thought.

Economic growth and development is not achieved by mere talk-shops and symposia. It takes a process well described by Chief Obafemi Awolowo as “the burning of midnight candle engaging in a thinking exercise, while other men snore their lives away or gallivant with women”.

Ohakim’s men were hosting allnight parties every Friday for four years. Rochas does not sit in his office, he built a bush bar inside government house premises, business of government is conducted from a bar….

Michael Okpara became Premier in his late 30’s, he was one of the best administrators Africa ever had. He was the first African leader to conceptualize an indigenous political-cum-economic philosophy on which his development strategy was anchored on. He called it Pragmatic Socialism, and he came up with this before Nwalimu Julius Nyerere launched his Ujama which equally had a socialist bent. Because we do not have scholars who dig deep into such authentic and original economic philosophies nobody paid attention to their intellectual bent.

What China under Deng Xiaoping launched in 1980 thru its version of State Capitalism (and to some extent South Korea did with its Chaebols) were all variants of Okpara’s Pragmatic Socialism. As they say in development studies, a leader is as good as his circle of influence. Okpara was so good because he had great cerebral minds whose job it was to dream big and think big, churning out earth shattering innovative ideas by the minutes..

His biggest influence was Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great dreamer who decades before had idealised everything in his book Renascent Africa where he surreptitiously captured the Igbo Manifest Destiny in Africa (the same philosophy on which Ojukwu anchored his Biafra’s quest for freedom).

Latching on to Zik’s development philosophy, Mbonu Ojike masterfully grafted Zik’s ideas into the Eastern Nigerian Economic reconstruction plan (1954-1964) – the ten year plan, which was handed over to Michael Okpara for execution.

Have you asked who are the biggest influences of your so called governors today.Who do they take advice from, who do they listen to? You cannot develop a region without easy access to financial intermediation. Zik saw this decades before, that was how African Continental Bank and Cooperative Bank of Eastern Nigeria were birthed. This instigated the rise of indigenous entrepreneurial initiatives at a massive scale in the East from 1953 to early 80’s. The industrialisation of the Eastern Region was part of its urbanisation policy, that was why most of the cities had industrial zones embedded in their layouts: Aba (factory Road),Umuahia (Factory Road) Calabar (Factory road), Enugu and Port-harcourt had Industrial Free zones – the Emene Industrial Lay out and the Trans-Amadi Industrial lay-out. So did Owerri, which had an industrial layout,so did Onitsha etc. etc. Owerri,Aba and Port Harcourt were already designed in what was clalled “A three city nexus”.

Chief Awolowo was marveled at Okpara’s ingenuity with the Trans- Amadi and Trans Ekulu Industrial Estates that he xeroxed it and replicated similar versions at Ikeja and Oregun industrial estates. Okpara built the first Farm Settlement in Africa at Igbariam. He built the first indigenous brewery at Umuahia. Built a Metallurgical industry at Onitsha, Glass Industry at Aba. A cement factory at Nkalagu and also added the Calabar Cement Company. He also established the Obudu Tourism and Entertainment Ranch. Nigergas. Nigersteel. Aba Textile company.Standard Shoe Factory in Owerri. Modem Ceramic Industry. The Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation’s ENDC enormous Estates of oil palm, rubber, cocoa, cashew and rice, with the intercropping of pineapples, banana, plantains and cassava, formed veritable bastions for cash crop and food production. These farms include the expensive rubber plantation located in Amaeke Abam, Ndioji Abam, Arochukwu, Ozuitem, the Ikwu, Imo River waterways, Ubani Ibeku, etc. understandably, the massive oil palm plantations of Kwa falls, Calaro, Ikom and others in Cross River state.

Leadership is not a one man show, it is a team work, and no leader has the sole perquisite of knowledge and wisdom such that no one can give him advice or call him to order like Rochas Okorocha and others.

Okpara had intellectual giants whom he deferred to. He had Zik, Mbonu Ojike, Eyo Ita, Akanu Ibiam, Nwafor Orizu, Ozumba Mbadiwe to name a very few, all these were men smoke was coming out from their heads due to deep thinking, writing and reading.

NCNC had the highest assemblage of astute intellectual juggernauts than any political agglomeration in Africa in the 60’s. Okpara was number 9 on the NCNC hierarchy and he was humble enough to understand the privilege Zik gave him to serve. And he remained loyal to the CAUSE such that he even forgot to build a house at his village.



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