With the death on July 3 of Col. Ejike Ebenezer Obumneme Aghanya in far-away Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America, at the age of 87 years, Anambra State has lost a remarkable son.
If many of our people, particularly the younger ones, do not know about him, it is understandable. Col. Aghanya was not an obtrusive person.
He was one of the first accomplished professional engineers to join the Nigerian Army, having studied in institutions in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.He was already a well-regarded broadcast engineer and leading the staff union of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation when he joined the army in 1962, purely out of patriotism.He was soon to command the Nigerian Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (NAEM) in both Kaduna and Lagos.
It is a supreme irony that the army he loved so passionately was to arrest and detain him without charges for long for merely being suspected of knowing one or two things about the Jan. 15, 1966 coup d’etat.When events which followed the coup forced session on his Eastern Nigerian people, Col Aghanya could not help taking up arms in defence of his people.
He thus served Biafra in different roles, including in working in the highly regarded Research and Production Agency (RAP), which manufactured some ingenious arms, ammunition, vehicles and petroleum products, despite the extremely difficult circumstances of the period.At the cessation of hostilities in 1970, Aghanya took to engineering practice in different parts of the Southeast.
He is reputed to have designed and built the first traffic lights in old Anambra State which comprises today’s Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu states.He built quite a number of traffic lights later which worked with amazing efficiency. As has been said in some quarters, if Colonel Aghanya had been encouraged, he probably would have been to Nigeria’s answer to Ren Zhengfei, the former Chinese military officer who founded Huawei firm, the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment manufacturer which has now emerged the leader in 5G technology.
Aghanya did not confine himself to engineering practice after leaving the army. In response to the government campaign for investment in the realm sector of the economy, especially farming, he turned attention to agriculture.An indigene of Amawbia, Col Aghanya invested in palm plantations and palm oil mills in places like Ihiala in Anambra State to provide employment and goods to our people.
The people and government of Anambra State led by Gov. Willie Obiano mourn the departure of this distinguished Anambra son, a foremost practitioner of the `Think Home philosophy’. While sympathising with his family and the people of Amawbia, we are consoled by the fact that Col Ejike Obumneme Ebenezer Aghanya led a purposeful life. May the Good Lord receive his soul.