MAJOR GENERAL VICTOR EZUGWU: A HISTORIAN DRIVING MILITARY INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION IN NIGERIA

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The military all over the world is a symbol of national pride, strength, valour, resilience and power. The hallmark of the military include: patriotism, tact, discipline, selfless national service among others. In fact, the military is a repository of knowledge. History has evidently shown that the military all over the world has broken grounds in several scientific and technological innovations aimed at sustaining national growth and development in the areas of defence, security, aeronautics, medicine, agriculture, ICT etc. No wonder, the need to partly anchor Nigeria’s ship of industrial development on the shores of the military at inception was part of a deliberate plan to place Nigeria on the path to industrial growth and development.

The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1964 with the responsibility of driving this plan of the industrial revolution. As a result, a West German manufacturing firm Fritz Werner was assigned the task of providing technical expertise and setting up of the first Ordnance Factory for the Nigerian military in Kaduna in 1964. The factory had a mandate to produce 5000 units of BM 59 Rifles, 18,000 units of SMG 12, 12,000,000 rounds of 7.62mm x 5 and 4,000,000 rounds of 9mm x 19 of ammunitions annually.

Incidentally, the Nigerian Civil War which was witnessed between 1967-1970 boosted the production levels of arms and ammunitions at that time. The wartime opportunity afforded the corporation a platform to make a significant impact on the war effort. After the war in 1970, the domestic lucrative arms market for DICON came to a halt. Consequently, DICON took a detour of its original roles to remain in business and embraced diversification by venturing into the production of civilian goods like rural water supply equipment, industrial spare parts and furniture for sale. After over 56 years of existence, has DICON lived up to its responsibilities? Industry watchers and stakeholders were of the unanimous view that a lot have been left undone. In fact, DICON cannot favourably compete with its contemporary like the Indian Defence Research Development Organisation which were both established almost the same period.

Many reasons could be adduced to the poor performance of DICON. They range from a paucity of funds to drive the needed production and research to the leadership problem. Another is the political will of the previous administrations to take the bull by the horn thereby leaving a substantial mark on the sands of time. It must be re-emphasised that a production and research-based defence corporation like DICON deserve excellent leadership, the will,  grants and quantum of budgetary allocation for optimal performance.

However, the appointment of Major General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu as the Director-General-DICON on June 3, 2019, by President Muhammadu Buhari has changed the old narrative. Until his appointment, Major General Ezugwu was the Managing Director of Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Assembly in Kaduna where his achievements bear eloquent testimony of his managerial prowess. He has acquired a new oxygen bank and injected a new spark and lease of life to DICON. There is an ongoing revival in DICON. With his penchant for leaving a trail and creating a path where there is none, General Ezugwu has brought to bear his commitment, the wealth of experience and professionalism in driving the affairs of the corporation.

On assumption of office, the DG declared thus; ” it is my commitment, therefore, to transform DICON for maximum output towards national defence and enterprise, I pledge to catalyse all directorates and units through target-driven endeavours, improved welfare and focused leadership.”  He also maintained that; ”in order to key into the new strategic direction and be relevant both within and outside Nigeria, DICON under my able leadership had to do the honest self-assessment. This led to the evolution of a new vision, mission statement and logo to drive the corporation for optimal performance.”

In a spate of one year on the saddle as DG, the industry is on a purposeful and defined path of transformation and greatness. DICON has undergone and currently undergoing a major overhaul. It has recovered lost grounds and has placed the nation on the map of military-industrial revolution. The corporation has not only become the pride of Nigeria but that of Africa and the world. Capacity development of personnel is a top priority. In view of this, many staff have benefitted from sponsored training in China, India and other countries. Compensation and general welfare which hitherto negatively affected morale of staff now comes as at when due. It is said that a motivated workforce is a product of industrial harmony, a reflection of increased productivity and desired results. The needed industry operational tools, equipment and machinery are also provided in due time. Every right and valuable opportunity at his disposal is transformed into excellent results. With the meagre resources at his disposal, he has proved that a lot could be done with commitment and the right people and manpower. The military is evolving and venturing into defence-related businesses all over the world. In the same vein DICON under his watch has opened its doors of partnership and collaboration to states, universities, ministries, agencies, parastatals, companies and genuine investors in line with its corporation’s policies. He has built and is building on President Muhammadu Buhari’s directives to the Ministry of Defence and Defence Headquarters to urgently articulate the establishment of a Military Industrial Complex to produce weapons and other equipment for the country’s Armed Forces and reduce reliance on reluctant foreign suppliers. In realisation of the above, steady efforts were made to tackle the problems which until now hindered production at the Ordinance Factory. Gladly, the production lines have been revived beyond 90% and the factory has now come on full stream.

The famous Mine Resistance Anti- Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) code-named Ezugwu MRAP is a phenomenal military colossus: proudly a local content initiative designed to tackle insurgency and other forms of internal and external insecurity conceptualised, invented and designed by Ezugwu. Other milestones are the production of military hardware tactical, combat vehicles and other defence-related items. Achievements also recorded were in the areas of production of ballistic vests, helmets, boots and other defence-related items. Abandoned production lines for the manufacturing of ammunition and high powered pistols, among others, were restored by the corporation. There is also an established unmanned aerial vehicle workshop and a groundbreaking ceremony of  DICON-SUR Corporate Wear Nigeria Limited: a collaborative effort at building the biggest garment factory in Africa at DICON Ordinance factory. In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, DICON rose to the occasion by producing ventilators, face shields, face masks and quality hand sanitizers. All these efforts were in line with the Executive Order 5, directing ministries, departments and agencies to leverage on local content. Ezuguw said; ”DICON is becoming self-reliant in its production capacity and we owe our gratitude to the unflinching support from the Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai and the President Muhammadu Buhari.” DICON is really working!

Major General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu was born on the 28 June 1964. He joined the Nigerian Defence Academy Kaduna on 27 September 1985 as a member of 37 Regular Combatant and was commissioned to the rank of 2Lt on 22 September 1990. The DICON DG holds Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the famous Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna and a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Studies from the University of Ibadan. He also holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD). The senior officer has attended several courses in the course of his career: Young Officers Course, Special Warfare Course, Anti-Tank Platoon Commanders’ Course, Commanding Officers Course. Others are Junior Course, Senior Course, National Defence College, Abuja and Crisis and Mass Disaster Management Course in Israel among others. He was the former 28 Task Force Brigade, Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division, Commandant Nigerian Army Depot and until his recent appointment, he was the Group Managing Director of Nigerian Army Vehicle Manufacturing Company (NAVMC), Rigachikun, Kaduna. He commanded 28 Task Force Brigade in Adamawa State and 7 Division Maiduguri as General Officer Commanding from 2015 – 2017. He was appointed Director-General Defence Industries Corporation on 3 June 2019.

A military historian but an engineer by vocation and divine call, he initiated the design and production of prototypes variants of Light, tactical patrol as well as Armoured Fighting Vehicles by DICON-CED Kaduna. Hard work pays. And when a child washes his hands clean, he dines with kings. In recognition of these feats, the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen TY Buratai rewarded his achievements by naming the first indigenous MRAP as Ezugwu. Encomiums were poured out for his dedication and commitment to the service of our nation during the official commissioning of Ezugwu MRAP in 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari. Other meritorious honours and award to his credit are Fss Mss Dss Psc Golden Jubilee Medal CM Fd Comd Medal of honour; General Operations Medal ECOMOG in Liberia (NIBATT 11) Operation Tiger Tail/Sand Storm in Sierra Leone (NIBATT 33), UNAMSIL and Operation Zaman Lafiya Dole among others confered on him by communities and corporate bodies. An infantry officer of high professional rating, he served Nigeria meritoriously in ECOMOG/UN Operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia and Operation Restore Hope in the Niger Delta. Major General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu holds the revered title ‘Ochiagha’ Odenigbo Nsukka. He is happily married and blessed with three children.

Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Communication Specialist is the publisher: thenewinsightng.blogspot.com. He writes via sunnyeze02 @yahoo.com and could be reached on 08060901201

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