Yesterday, my brother-in-law Nnamdi Kalu-Ezera and I visited Dr Sylvester Ugo at his residence in Maryland. It was an enlightening visit.
Dr Ugo, a Harvard trained economist who is 90 years old, was the Governor of Central Bank of Biafra, Former Ministers of Education and Science and Technology and running mate to Bashir Tofa in the June 12 1993 election. It was a pleasant engagement.
He had well-kept kola nut and ose oji; we won’t debate the English name today. He spoke like an elder. His memory is sharp and his thoughts lucid. At 90, he is a delight to talk to and a fountain of knowledge.
I asked, in your opinion, What was the singular factor that led to the failure of Biafra? His answer was long but the short version; poor planning, lack of international support and emotions.
How did he become Governor of the Central Bank of Biafra? He said Dr Pius Okigbo, returned to Eastern region before the hostilities and started a small group of intellectuals to plan for various scenarios. The scenarios included how to manage the economy, currency and regulate Banks in the event of secession. The work of that small group formed the initial economic ideas for the new country, and Okigbo recommended him for the Central Bank Job.
The stories kept coming. We talked about Dr M I Okpara and his leadership style, and his plans for the Eastern region economy. He told us an interesting story about the difficulties he encountered to get printers for the Biafran currency.
He had strong views about the 1966 coup. He was in Zaria for a conference when the soldiers struck on January 15 1966. The coup damaged Nigeria, in his opinion. It was unnecessary, he said.
He expressed worries about the challenges facing education in the Northern parts of Nigeria due to Banditry and growing violence. Nigeria holds a lot of promise, and the leadership should focus on educating the people and building a public service anchored on service, not personal enrichment.
I extracted a promise from him for the Centre For Memories – Ncheta Ndigbo to have a recording session with him to document the invaluable first-hand account of our history.
He saw us off to the car and mentioned that he just renewed his drivers license without stress and he still drives. I walked to the car with a quick prayer, let this be my story at 90.
- Extracted From Osita Chidioka’s Facebook Page. Chidioka is a former Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of Federal Road Safety Corps and former Minister of Aviation in Nigeria.