Hurrah! Let’s begin to celebrate. Let’s begin to dance. Let’s begin to toast, to pomp champagne, to make merry, because we have arrived. We have succeeded in joining the league of technologically advanced countries. After nearly 59 years as a nation, we now can pride ourselves of being able to produce pencils!

This is a significant achievement going by the fact that Nigeria was all along importing every conceivable item, from toothpicks to cotton buds. Now, we have made it. With the installation of equipment and machines for the production of pencils at the Project Development Institute, PRODA, Enugu, Nigeria is now in the upward swing.

According to Chairman, Governing Board of the PRODA, Mr. David Onjeh, the school pencil project “is a flagship and the first of such production facility in West Africa”. He stated that the facility would “be producing a minimum of 15 million pencils per annum, when completed”.

Onjeh further announced that “pencils are in high demand, which is why we are emphasizing pencil production. The pencil factory will create employment and also support the economic policies of the Federal Government”.

Wonderful. You see? That is why we should be congratulating ourselves for attaining such an enviable height, for making such a significant breakthrough. In no time, many countries of Africa would be making frantic efforts to come to Nigeria to buy “made in Nigeria pencils”. That is a very big achievement, something to be proud of.

But the funny aspect of it is that we are not even going to be in control of the facilities for the production of pencils in the country. The Chinese are going being to be in charge. According to the PRODA boss, “we are expecting experts from China in October to install the machines that will produce pencils with waste paper”. This means that whenever there is any fault in any of those machines, we would be flying experts from China who installed the machines, to come and refix it for us!

I don’t even know whether we are moving forward or moving backwards when we are celebrating the production of pencils in this our 21st century when computers and the internet have taken over. I can’t quite remember when last I used pencils or when I bought pencils for any of my children, yet, we are proud to be celebrating the production of pencils!

The Project Development Institute, PRODA, was conceived or established to be a replica of the Research and Production, RAP, that had wrought wonderful miracles in Biafra. RAP, made up of Biafran engineers and scientists had produced every conceivable item on earth, which raged from matches to the most sophisticated weapons of war, such as bullets of different types, machine guns, “ogbunigwe” or mass killer, etc. They refined all petroleum products that were being used in Biafra. In effect, it was RAP that kept Biafra going for as long as it lasted.

With the defeat of Biafra, those who were in RAP went their different ways. The Nigerian government did not bother to bring them together to replicate their Biafran miracles in Nigeria. But after several criticisms and pressures from both the high and low, and particularly through the initiative of Administrator of former Eastern Central State, Ukpabi Asika, the Federal Government grudgingly allowed the establishment of PRODA.

Those who were recruited to work in PRODA put in the same zeal and enthusiasm as was in Biafra, and succeeded in making many scientific breakthroughs and producing several prototypes. But the authorities refused to fund PRODA to develop their discoveries into every day use. In frustration, many of the people bolted away with their fine ideas, talents, and beautiful brains. In the end, Nigeria continued to lose and refused to grow.

This is where our folly has landed us, celebrating the production of pencils in the 21st century! Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology is indeed very lucky. At least, he has something to show for his tenure. Other Ministers before him were not as much lucky – Professor Gideon Ezekwe, Professor Bath Nnaji, Professor Turner Isuon, etc. They had their fine brains wasted because the system had refused to appreciate their worth.

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