RESEARCH AND PRODUCTION (RAP)
Biafra survived for 30-months thanks to the ingenuity of many individuals and groups. One of such groups was the Research and Production (RAP) unit of the Biafran Army.
Many of the geniuses who worked for RAP are dead. The recent passing of one of them led to a bit of a kerfuffle on social media and prompted Ken Okezie (whose father was a founding member) to write a rejoinder to set the records straight.
The piece below is culled from Ken’s submission. Parts of his essay were edited out to focus more on the people of RAP and PRODA.
I post it here in the hope that you will pause, pay your respects, and say a prayer for the repose of their souls. Theirs was the greatest generation of Ndị Igbo … yet
During the civil war, the Biafran military assembled a cast of core engineers, scientists, agriculturists, strategists, technologists etc to produce food, weapons, defence systems and equipment for civil and military uses. They also had the mandate to produce other useful items that would help the people to survive and to give the military a better chance to win the war. This group assembled under the RESEARCH AND PRODUCTION (RAP) unit of the military. There were many branches of this important unit including those who refined petroleum
The war lasted three years. It probably would have been shorter if RAP had not existed and the resilient spirit of Biafrans was low.
When the war ended, the East Central State Government under Ajie Ukpabi Asika tried to bring back all these engineers and scientists under a research institute called Projects Development Agency (PRODA) later to be renamed Projects Development Institute.
The story of these geniuses, exceedingly inventive men and women who showed they were among the best in Africa has been written in several articles and books in the last 50 years. Some of the stories have been bewildering in their claims, while some have been quite concise.
After the war, many of these scientists in RAP ended up in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Some of the key people who were in RAP:
Ben Chukwuka Nwosu, nuclear physicist, – he was the overall head of RAP
Willy Achukwu, scientist – he was in charge of RAP in Umudike
Sylvester Akalonu, engineer, – he was part of the team that developed the Ogbunigwe
Charlie Okafor, chemist – he was one of those who helped to name it RAP and the team that compounded solid smokeless rocket. The initial rockets fired had trails of smoke.
Ngozi Okafo, chemist
Agu Ogan, biochemist – helped to design some of the weapons and some antidotes for any eventual chemical attack on Biafra
Gordian Ezekwe, engineer – he was the head of the team that produced the explosive weapons and rockets, especially Ogbunigwe. The weapons development revolved around this soft spoken gentleman.
Clifford Ezeilo – engineer, specialist in thermodynamic, he worked on the rockets
Mark Chijioke, engineer – together with Ezekwe made solid fuel for the rockets.
C.O. Chiori, pharmaceutical scientist
Edmond Kaine, engineer – rocket and weapons design
Oleka Udeala, pharmaceutical scientists, helped in creating pharmaceuticals and other drugs as well as antidotes
Ebenezer Ekechukwu – engineer, he was the prime mover for the creation of the salt lake in Uzuakoli. He helped to source the brine and salt cakes for that project.
Eddie Mbadiwe, biochemist
Martin Nwaji, chemist, designed the incendiary weapon that burned through tanks. FEMIT
Sam Agogbua, biochemist, synthesised writing ink from herbs with FU Ekezie
Emmanuel Anosike, biochemist
Chimere Ikoku, chemist – was the head of the Uzuakoli group of RAP
Fabian Ekezie, technologist – rearmed spent bullets, synthesized vehicle fuel from alcohol and created laboratory glassware for the scientists and engineers. Also built silencers for guns with Agogbua
F.N.C. Oragwu – nuclear physicist, headed a unit in RAP and was at the core of producing war machines for the military
Willy Achukwu – technical scientist whose input helped in building Ogbunigwe
Fred Ozoh – chemical technologist, ensured the laboratories worked at prime.
There were many others great men and women who made RAP what it was. RAP was big. It had many branches.
The Projects Development Agency was the idea of the then Administrator of the East Central State, Ajie Ukpabi Asika. It was set up under a state edict and had Professor J.O. C Ezeilo, an eminent mathematician and one-time Vice Chancellor of the UNN as its founding Chairman. Dr. Ebenezer Ekechukwu was the first Director for a while before leaving for the US. He did well in providing leadership at those initial times. The draft document setting up the Agency had some deficiencies, key of which was setting the tenure of the Director. When the document was finally corrected, Ekechukwu’s term ended abruptly. When he left Professor Gordian Ezekwe came on board to run PRODA as Director.
Of course, there were others like Engr. E.O. Kaine, Harry Okolo (eminent chemist), Vincent Iwenofu, Ferdinand Obodo (technologist) F.U. Ekezie (my Dad, who was consultant to PRODA for over ten years), Prof Nduka Okafor, and many others.
Finally to the memory of the great men who have gone the way of all flesh, I pray you to remember them, our fallen heroes: Gordian Ezekwe, Ben Nwosu, James O. C. Ezeilo, Ebenezer Ekechukwu (recently), Martin Nwaji, C.O. Chiori, Agu Ogan (recently), A.N. Njoku-Obi, Sam Agogbua, Fred Ozoh, Fabian Ekezie, Ferdinand Obodo of PRODA, Vincent Iwenofu and others. May the Lord continue to grant them rest.