Nigeria has lost a great one as African foremost inventor from Imo state, Ezekiel Izuogu, dies after a brief illness. The Imo-born inventor produced Africa’s first car, named Z-600 in 1997 to much applause when he was still a lecturer.
President Muhammadu Buhari and other Nigerians mourning his death described him as a great innovator and an important figure in the nation’s political terrain. Ezekiel Izuogu is from Akokwa clan in Ideato North local government of Imo state. The popular inventor died on Saturday, July 18, after he had been sick for a while according to family sources.
It should be noted that Izuogu once competed for the Imo state governorship seat and was a BoT member of the All Progressives Congress(APC). His inventions astounded the world. He created the Z-600 in 1997 when he was a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, making it first Africa’s indigenous produced car.
The car was seen as “The African dream machine as 90% of its parts were sourced locally. At a projected sales cost of $2000, it would have taken the world by storm and become the cheapest and most affordable car on earth.
“With mass production planned under Izogu Motors plant in Naze Owerri, the prospects of an industrial revolution in Igbo land and Nigeria, was in the making,” the BBC stated about the car. He got FG’s attention but not the grant . Another thing worthy of note is that after the federal government under the late General Sani Abacha’s regime gave the car a clean bill of roadworthiness, it promised to give the inventor a grant of N235 million. The grant, however, never came.
The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, led by Uchenna Madu, on Sunday, said that the former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha, alongside his followers frustrated the vision of Engr Ezekiel Izuogu, who was said to have manufactured the first indigenous car— Z-600— in Africa. MASSOB was reacting to the report of the demise of Izuogu, where Madu, described Izuogu as a patriotic son of Biafra whose dream should not be allowed to die.
President Buhari speaking on his passing said Dr. Izuogu will be fondly remembered and honoured for his exceptional work that laid the foundation for the manufacturing of the first indigenous prototype car in Nigeria. The President notes that Dr Izuogu, beyond his accomplishments in the field of science and innovation, was also an important name in Nigeria’s political landscape; and his vision and leadership was recognised in his service as a member of the APC Board of Trustees and member of the National Caucus.
The President affirms that the legacy of Dr. Izuogu will live on in the innovations he pioneered, the human institutions he built, and passed on to those that came in close contact with him. Also. Buhari prays almighty God to grant the soul of the departed eternal rest and comfort all who mourns.Mr Ndubisi Ekekwe in his reaction to the development said ”the story of Izuogu Motors Limited( IML) is the story of Nigeria: constrained progress. The Z-600 was the first indigenous car in Africa, and the man could qualify as Henry Ford and modern-day Elon Musk.
The BBC called Z-600, “the African dream machine”. Affordable, durable, and with 90% of all parts sourced locally at a price point of $2,000, it was a beautiful vision.”General Abacha, the junta then, looked at Z-600 with a 12-man committee and gave a pass to the car for the Nigerian roads. Naze, near Owerri, was the destination for the mass production factory.
They have done lots of work at the Ugwu Orji Owerri IML Lab. Nigeria promised funds, but none came. Then South Africa came and wanted Izuogu to relocate to South Africa with his team”. Nigeria has lost a technical legend.
In an interview with Vanguard Newspaper on July29,2019 Izuogu talked about Z600, recent automobile industry developments, Nigeria, APC, and politics as well as his experience as an international researcher. Excepts:
You seemed to have faded off the scene since you launched your Z-600 Car in 1997, what are you doing currently?
I am engaged in the international research of emagnetodynamics, a car engine that works with nothing. It produces its own energy and if you put it in your car, you can drive the car for 50 to 100 years. The engine works without petrol and if you have emagnetodynamics engine in your car, you can drive your car without petrol. It is not an electric car but a car in its category. It is being perfected in 130 countries across the world. That engages me completely. A car engine that works without fuel, is it possible? It has been done. The prototype has been produced and the world is surprised that the black race can do this. Russia, South Africa, New Zealand have perfected it. Europe has perfected it, so, that is what has been engaging my attention and I also didn’t like the way politics is going in Nigeria. I’m in the All Progressives Congress, APC, but I don’t like the way things are going in Nigeria.
What happened to the Z-600 car you produced?
It was the first car we produced in Africa. We finished it and the government at that time, the government of General Sani Abacha supported it after he saw it in Owerri. In fact, the government wrote a letter that I should receive N253 million in order to smoothen the body of the car. The government was very impressed by the design and everything but no kobo came to me. Nigerians kept attacking the Z-600. The problem in Nigeria is jealousy, there is a lot of jealousy in Nigeria, they kept attacking this product in the press and I didn’t have time to be replying them. I was more concerned with emagnetodynamics. So, that is the position. I thought the businessmen in Nigeria would take on the car and mass-produce it but they didn’t do so. And I have a more important design which is the invention of this emagnetodynamics engine or what they called the Izuogu Engine by the World International Property Organisation. So, that is what has happened.
Your emagnetodynamics, is it in Nigeria now?
Is it that Nigeria did not believe in your innovations but other countries accepted you?
The Izuogu machine is working in many countries of the world. Some people are even producing it illegally. They are going to pay us damages. They are producing it in Pakistan, they are producing it in America and few other places in 139 countries, but we are the owners of the franchise. Those who are producing it will pay us for it and if we want to produce it in Nigeria, we will do so. Nigeria is not technology-minded, otherwise, they would have embarked on it. There’s this automobile company that says it wants to manufacture electric cars but ours is better than electric cars which need recharging twice or three times a day. We are far ahead. This does not need recharge or fuel and you can use this engine for about 50 years. The other day, Leyland Motors was in the Sun and they said they were going to produce the electric car and all that. It was exciting but electric cars are far below what I have invented. They should be producing this car with our engine, that is what Leyland should do. They should enter an agreement with us and buy the rights to produce it. Did you market this idea in Nigeria? No, it has not been marketed at all. Many people don’t even believe that it is achievable because it is against the law of science, it is against the law of conservation of energy. So, virtually all engineers and scientists don’t believe it can be produced but it has been produced.
That means the problem is not Nigerians not buying into it but you not introducing the engine to Nigerians?
The problem is not Nigerians in this case even though Nigeria didn’t encourage me. President Muhammadu Buhari administration gave us only N10 million three years ago. Perhaps, you didn’t ask for more… I did. It was in the papers, it was the Minister of Science and Technology that presented the money to us and they had the media cover it. I thank the government for the gesture but I told them that it was most inadequate for this kind of invention. I made it clear to the press. But like you said, the product should be marketed. Even Europe that is producing it asked that it be marketed to other places.
You didn’t market the Z-600 car after such much hype was made about it in the past. What really happened to it?
The point is when you make a design and the design is successful, it now lies with those who are holding cash to promote it. If people had put in N5bn into the Z-600, you would have seen the car all over Africa. That design took me 14 years to design and manufacture. I used all the cash on me to manufacture it, to try to fabricate it and all that. And now, I have another design which is far more important, that is the Izuogu Engine, and I didn’t want to waste time arguing with pressmen and those who were hired to be writing that no Igboman can produce a car, no Igboman can do anything, this man is not a mechanical engineer, he is not an automobile engineer, how could he come from electronics to produce a car? All these arguments were in the press and I refused to reply to any of them. There was no need.
But I think times are changing. Look at what Innoson is doing and he’s succeeding. If his own cars are being used even in government quarters, even by the military, I think this is the time to push yours…?
We have different orientations. I am an inventor and not somebody who brings the car parts together. Innoson has done tremendously well but we’re not in the same category. We’re on different levels.
I design a car, produce it, then I design the emagnetodynamics machine and I produced it. I am an international researcher. Innoson and I are at different levels.
You talked about jealousy and when I look at Innoson and his current travails, would you say jealousy is playing out in his case?
Yes, there are people who attack those who go into science and technology especially from the South East. It’s a culture that should be discouraged because everything we are doing is for the good of Nigeria. This emagenetodynamics machine can remove unemployment from the whole country. So, if you are attacking it because I am an Igbo man, that is self-deceit. Any intellectual property that you do here is for the good of the whole country, Nigeria, Africa and the whole world also. Everybody is a beneficiary and so, anybody that is attacking us in Nigeria is short-sighted which should not be in the system because Nigeria should take her proper place in the world.
Now that you brought the Igbo thing into it, many have been saying that the enemy of the Igbo is the Igbo. Is this true?
That is very correct. I watched a programme on TV sometime where a man was saying that the best thing that can happen to Nigeria is to produce a Nigerian President of Igbo descent but that it is an Igbo man that will kill him. The man was making a statement and he is not Igbo. The truth is, the selfishness among the Igbo is too much. Now, for this emagnetodynamics machine, it was a Yoruba governor, Dr, Olusegun Mimiko who gave N65 million three years ago to support us. No Igbo governor has given us a farm. Alex Ekwueme gave me N12.5 million when he was alive and he was going to give me another N22 million before he died. But what about the other Igbo governors? They know about it but they won’t support it. So, the endemic selfishness among the Igbo should be tackled for Nigeria to move forward. It’s unfortunate. In other words, besides the perceived hatred of the Igbo by other ethnic groups, the Igbo are their own worst enemies… Yes. There’s that personal jealousy. It beats my imagination why the Igboman will not be excited by the good thing God is doing through them. We should support ourselves, we should love ourselves first for the other Nigerians to love the ingenuity of the Igbo. Nigerians should love Nigerians. If anything good is coming to Nigeria whether, from Kaduna, Oyo, Kafanchan, Port Harcourt or Enugu, we should love it because we all are Nigerians. If the economy of Nigeria is good, everybody will enjoy it, no matter the language you speak. But when the passion for the country is not there, we will continue having problems in Nigeria. I told you how a Yoruba friend put in N65 million for the project. I didn’t sign for it. He said I should continue what I am doing. That is a Yoruba man but some people will say Yorubas don’t like Igbos. It is not always the truth. It depends on who you meet. Nigeria fought a civil war in the past, but it’s like the events in Nigeria today are worse than the events that led to the civil war in 1967… I am 70 now. I was there when the civil war started and was fought, and I can confirm to you that the hatred in Nigeria today is worse than the events of 1966 that led to the civil war. And it is the responsibility of the man we made President to correct it. When I was supporting Buhari in 2015, people were phoning me and asking me to stop but I didn’t. I believed that if he can fight corruption, we should give him a chance. I didn’t know there was an Islamic agenda in the whole thing. To propose Ruga all over Nigeria is frightening and it is the duty of the President to stop it in whatever guise it is coming. If he imposes that, he is endangering the whole country and you are telling the different parts of Nigeria to prepare for war. If you are asking Muslims to prepare for war through the introduction of Ruga, you are also asking Christians to do the same. And if there is war, there can be no progress and Nigeria has not recovered from the 1967-70 war, let alone prepare for another one. So, I appeal to President Buhari, let him stop this thing. He was elected to protect the lives of Nigerians no matter their village, no matter their tongue, it is the responsibility of the President to protect the lives of Nigerians, whether they are Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Tiv, Ijaw or from wherever. He should not introduce any programme that will obstruct peace or endanger lives. I am appealing to him, I prayed for him in all the states in the federation to succeed in 2015, but the kind of vibes coming into Nigeria now is scary. I am speaking as a Christian. I will always make sure Christian and other peoples’ interests are protected. I cannot be a party to any conspiracy that will endanger the lives of Christians in Nigeria. Neither will I be a party to a conspiracy that endangers the lives of any Nigerian, whether he is a Muslim, a pagan or a Christian or whatever. I cannot be a party to that conspiracy. Everything should be done to avoid it. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a good letter to Buhari. That letter should be skillfully studied. Those who are attacking OBJ are not patriotic at all, they are anti-Nigeria. Obasanjo spoke as an elder statesman and he has been there. He has been President of Nigeria on many occasions and it was out of the burden of his heart that he wrote the letter. Strangely, the people attacking Obasanjo were happy when he supported Buhari during his first term. If he is now writing him letters, we should take it seriously in the interest of Nigeria.