By Ori Martins
Obviously, one of the greatest Nigerians alive today is the industrious and illustrious Chief (Engineer) Emmanuel Chukwuemeka Iwuanyanwu, MFR,. Ahaejiagamba Ndigbo.
Iwuanyanwu represents the true essence of greatness – enterprising, hard working, visionary and philanthropic. His industry and entrepreneurial delivery clinically stands him out among his equals.
A man of history and rich epochal background, the Ikeduru LGA Imo State born business mogul was in the Engineering Department of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, at the outbreak of the unfortunate Nigeria, Biafra civil war which lasted between 1967 and 1970.
According to a tale he has told many times, the Biafra head of state, the late General Odumegwuu Ojukwu stormed into the University’s premises and headed straight for the engineering hub looking unfriendly and very much poised for battle action. After inspection, Iwuanyanwu noted, Ojukwu summoned both the students and lecturers of that department. Everyone was worried and apprehensive. But his message to them was simple: “In the shortest period of time, you must produce for me and Biafra a device with which we must counter Nigeria’s air raids and ground operations against us else I will come back here to shutdown this department”.
As Iwuanyanwu later narrated, all received that order with both aplomb and apprehension as they were challenged to the extraordinary and unimaginable.
Meanwhile, they retired to work and within weeks, Iwuanyanwu and his fellow engineering students, directed and supervised by the Biafra production and research group, came up with the fabrication of the dreaded and highly effective Ogbunigwe which the Nigerian forces nicknamed Ojukwu’s bucket.
Therefore, Iwuanyanwu was an integral part of the body that manufactured Ojukwu’s bucket which in no small measure helped the Biafran soldiers and Ndigbo in general to, a very large extent, keep the Nigerian army at bay during the civil war, and by extension saved the generality of Ndigbo from extinction.
The Ahaejiagamba Ndigbo regrets today that after the war, due to the obnoxious policies and discriminative tendencies of the Federal Military Government against Ndigbo, neither the students nor the supervisors who participated in the research and development of the innovative Ogbunigwe project was integrated into any of the Nigeria’s security organizations for improvement and further modernization of the Ojukwu invention.
In the 1980s, Iwuanyanwu had become a household name in Nigeria. He was one of the biggest employers of labour. His construction firm, Hardel and Enic, was one of the most visible and trusted companies in the country, competing favourably with foreign giants like Julius Berger, SITRACO, G.CAPPA and few others.He also had business interests in real estate, banking and general merchandise. Fortunately, as he had a Midas Touch, all his investments blossomed.
Probably, Iwuanyanwu is always remembered most now as the man who gave Ndigbo a sense of belonging in Nigeria, providing succour after the devastating effects of the civil war. In this regard, mention is made that at a time Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola established Concord Group of Newspapers, Iwuanyanwu responded with Champion newspapers. Abiola floated Abiola Babes Football Club and Iwuanyanwu put in place Iwuanyanwu Nationale. Abiola had Concord Airlines while Iwuanyanwu came up with Oriental Air.
All three schemes projected the Igboness of the Igbo creature. It was Rangers that first got to the final of the CAF Champions League final in 1975 and lost to Haifa of Guinea. Iwuanyanwu Nationale became the third team behind Ringers and Shooting Stars to reach the final of Africa’s most prized club competition. The team achieved this greatness in 1988. Two, the Champion glamourized and repositioned the business of newspapering in Nigeria as it not only became an instant hit but also a must read by virtually all newspaper readers and promoters in the country. As a matter of fact, no newspaper had ever before done what Champion was doing with its sports pages as Paul Bassey, Emeka Inyama, Fan Ndubuoke, Emeka Obasi were magical and superb in delivery. And the Oriental Air provided wonderful services to travellers allover the country.
It was indeed Iwuanyanwu’s moment of glory as virtually all Igbo were very happy with him on the excellent job he was doing to promote Igbo’s ingenuity and doggedness of the Ikenga spirit. He was bedecked with multiple chieftaincy titles across Igbo nation and beyond. Successive Federal Government of Nigeria showered him with various National Awards and Honours. His name was invoked upon by all looking for anything from any government agency, private firm or even foreign recognition.
And then, it must be noted here that what is today known as the Sam Mbakwe Airport Owerri may not have been accomplished without Iwuanyanwu’s commendable contributions. He made financial donations that aroused other Imo sons and daughters to follow suit. For that, Imolites, comprising today’s Abia, and some parts of Ebonyi states, are grateful.
Of course, Iwuanyanwu is not a perfect man – no man/woman is. He has committed some blunders that made people to ask: why this? Why must Iwuanyanwu do this? His idea of supporting Any Governmental In Power (AGIP) has been his achilles heel. Yet, it is believed that his good deeds so far outweigh his bad actions.
In the lecture organized to celebrate his 80th birthday in Owerri, former president, Goodluck Jonathan, described Iwuanyanwu as an “all time good man”. Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma said Iwuanyanwu “is a man of peace”. While former Imo State governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha noted that “Iwuanyanwu inspired a generation of Ndigbo to greatness”.
Happy birthday Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu on your 80th birthday!!!