Mbazulike Amechi Hits Double Sapphire

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Zebulon Agomuo

For keen observers of Nigeria’s First and Second Republic, the name Mbazulike Amechi rings a bell. “The boy is good” as he is known by his political peers, was one of the foremost nationalists and crusaders of an independent Nigeria. Mbazulike Amechi was famed to have hid the foremost South African nationalist and former president, Nelson Mandela for six months in his house in Nigeria to evade arrest by officials of the then apartheid regime in South Africa.

Renowned for his oratory skills and love for education, “The boy is good” was also a known political strategist, trade unionist, first class Zikist, politician, former Minister of Aviation in the first republic, author, advocate of rural development, statesman, sportsman, worthy son of Igboland and a proud nationalist.

On December 30, 2019, Mbazulike Amechi, also known as Dara Akunwafor, will mark his 90th birthday, though he was born in June. The event, which promises to be grand, would be celebrated in Owerri, Imo State and would be hosted by the Imo State governor and co-hosted by the other South-East and South-South governors.

Double sapphire which signifies a 90th anniversary or birthday is a landmark. Sapphire is a transparent precious stone that symbolises wisdom, virtue, good fortune, royalty and it is believed to protect wearers from illness. These qualities aptly capture the life and times of Mbazulike Amechi, one of the few surviving Nigerian nationalists worth celebrating given his contributions to the socio-political and economic emancipation of Nigeria.

Born on June 16, 1929, at Ukpor in the present day Nnewi South Local Government Area, Mbazulike Amechi attended the Roman Catholic Schools at Ukpor and Ozubulu from 1937-43. He then went into Etukokwu College Onitsha 1944 – 47, where he got the Cambridge School Certificate. He enrolled with Woolsey flan Correspondence College, Oxford for lectures. In 1953, after successfully achieving his London matriculation certificate, he enrolled as an external candidate with Beverly Hill University U.S.A. and took a Bachelor of Arts honours Degree in Political History.

After his Cambridge School Certificate, young Mbazulike Amechi worked as a Clerk in Armels Transport Limited, Benin City from 1948 to 1950. It was during this period that he became one of the youngest members of the Zikist Movement and its Assistant Secretary, Benin Branch between 1948 and 1950. From 1949 to 1953, he became the Secretary General of Armels Transport Workers Union and from 1950 to 1953; he was the Secretary of the Council of Labour, Benin-Warri (Bendel). Between 1953 and 1955, Mbazulike was the Secretary of Lagos and Colony District Public Utility Technical and General Workers Union. In 1950, he became the Deputy Secretary General, Nigerian National Federation of Labour, a position he held until 1955.

Mbazulike transited into a full-blown politician. From 1950 to 1955 he became the Secretary-General NCNC Youth Association and from 1955 to 1960, he became the Principal Organising Secretary of NCNC. From 1957 to 1960, he was elected a Council in the Niger County Council 1957 to 1960. From 1956-57 he was a Councillor, Onitsha Southern District Council (the present day Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ihiala and Ekwusigo Local Government Areas). Between 1957 and 1960, he was appointed a member of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation Board. In 1959, Chief Mbazulike Amechi was elected an Honourable member of the Federal House of Representatives to serve between 1959- 64. From 1960-62 he was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information. He was re-elected to the Federal House of Representatives in 1964.

Amechi was appointed the Hon. Minister for Aviation between 1962 and 1966. During his tenure as Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, he undertook a marketing expedition of Nigerian air bus to the United States, an exploit known as “Operation Fantastic”, to popularise Nigerian Airways.
His love education made him endow scholarships for brilliant youths from his constituency who today are professors in our universities.

Amechi also championed rural development. He set up the first rural-based agro-industry in Eastern Nigeria, the famed Niger Pork Products Co. Ltd. in 1963, backed with necessary infrastructure (roads, electricity, pipe borne water and telephone). In 1977, he set up the Industrial Clays Nigeria Ltd, a mining and beneficiating enterprise based on Kaolin and other industrial minerals. He generated and sustained free electricity supply to his village for over 15 years (1963-78) until national grid came to his hometown.

He has authored three books — The Forgotten Heroes of Nigerian Independence (1985); Nigeria: The Two Political Amalgams (1994) and Simply the Good: An Autobiography (2004).
A compendium on him, titled, “Mbazulike Amechi: His Words and Thoughts,” will be released to the public in a landmark in event on December 30, 2019 to be organised in his honour.

Part of the celebration of his 90th birthday includes the inaugural Dara Mbazulike Amechi Lecture Series and a public presentation of a two volume title: “A Political History of Modern Nigeria” and “Words and Thoughts of Mbazulike Amechi” with foreword by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.