EMEAGWALI: 'MY MOTHER MARRIED AT 14 AND GAVE BIRTH TO ME AT 15
To publish or not to publish? That's the dilemma we were faced with after we published, in our October edition of Education Review, the first part of Philip Emeagwali's speech delivered in Paris on the 50th anniversary of Nigeria's independence. Two weeks or so after the publication, NEXT, a sister newspaper, had gone to town with what it called 'The Lies of Philip Emeagwali' in its edition of Sunday, November 7.
Reported by Musikilu Mojeed, it sought to establish the fact that Emeagwali, contrary to our labelling of him in our last edition, was at no time regarded as the 'Father of Internet,' in the scientists' world, that he is rather, 'the Father of all liars,' an intellectual fraud who arrogates himself what he is not.
This Mojeed proved by interviewing a wide spectrum of leading American scientists including Professor Jack Dongarra, the widely-respected American computer scientist, and a judge on the panel that awarded the Gordon Bell Prize to the winner in 1990 and Alan Karp, a principal scientist with Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, and one of the judges who selected Emeagwali for the prize in 1989.
They all insisted that he was never regarded as the Father of Internet as he couldn't have been able to make 65,000 processors communicate with one another like he succeeded in doing without the help of an already existing internet technology. If anything, he could be called 'a Father of Intranet.' NEXT, in their news report also sought to prove that he was neither a Professor nor a doctorate-degree holder as people have been made to believe, over the years.
Professor Dora Akunyili, the Minister of Information and Communications, who was contacted for her comments, said that the government will probe the allegations before taking action. It should be recalled that the Nigerian Postal Services which in January, 2006, put Emeagwali on its stamp is under the supervision of the minister.
'The allegations are unbelievable, but we cannot jump to conclusion,' the minister said. 'Our government is a responsible one and so, we cannot disregard what has been published. We will piece the information together and if necessary, we will invite him to say his own side of the story. He is our son. When they tell you your child is a thief, you can't just jump up and start celebrating. You will have to find out and establish the truth.'
'Nigerians and black people deserve to know who the real Philip Emeagwali is. This will save them from the embarrassment of continuing to celebrate a fraud while real black scientific achievers and pioneers starve for attention and recognition,' Saharareporters noted in a report it published the same week that NEXT came out with its report.
Education Review has no problem with these sentiments being expressed on this matter which actually has been in the public domain since Elendu Reports published a story on it six years ago, based on some allegations by one Chioma Ezeillo. But the Nigerian Postal Services did not call him 'Father of Internet,' which is the bone of contention, but 'Supercomputer Genius' which everyone including the white man, through the Gordon Bell award, agrees he is.
As for Nigerian embassies in Brazil and Paris inviting him over to deliver speeches or lectures, Education Review understands that many of the lecture topics given to him are limited to the future of Nigeria's oil, a topic which he is eminently qualified to talk about given his expertise in the field of petroleum engineering technology, expertise which even his bitterest critics acknowledge.
It's in the light of these facts that we've decided to publish the rest of Emeagwali's speech delivered in Paris. But we've chosen to henceforth refer to every comment he makes as claim. He claims that the elderly woman whose photograph appears here is his mother and that he is married to one Dale, whose photograph is published here and that, together they have a son called Ijeoma, whose photograph also appears here.
We are publishing these photographs with the hope that an enterprising investigative reporter somewhere will put a lie to all these claims by turning up with some interesting new facts that will show, for instance, that the woman he claimed to be his mother is in fact the mother of Michelle Obama, and his so-called wife is in fact the wife of one of the US Black congressmen and that the boy he calls his son is in fact, Martin Luther King's long lost son with a secret mistress somewhere. Or, aren't we journalists interested in winning journalism prize any more?
•Continued from October edition
'I wish to look back to 1960, and forward to 2060, to share my thoughts about the challenges to, and opportunities for, building a stronger Nigeria through technology. In the past 50 years, Nigeria has grown economically stronger through its use of technology to discover and then recover petroleum. Fifty years ago, Nigeria had only one oil well. Fifty years later, that first oil well is empty and abandoned. Do the math: 'How many oil wells will Nigeria have left in 50 years?'
Empty oil wells are not abstract, intangible things. They're as concrete as Nigeria's first oil well: the Oloibiri well, that now exists only on postcards. We treat our oil wells like we treat snails: We take the flesh and leave the shell. And we leave the shell for our children, and they leave it for their children, who will earn income by converting it into a tourist attraction.
Fifty-year-old oil wells are drying up everywhere, from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia to Russia. Perhaps in 50 years, Nigeria will no longer be one of the twelve members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Our petroleum was formed millions of years ago, when our pre-human ancestors crawled on four legs. And today we've discovered nearly all the oil that can be discovered. Yet Nigeria's future is being written by its few oilfields. Oil revenºues account for 80 percent of Nigeria's budget. The nagging question is: What will we do when that 80 percent is gone? What is our Plan B when our Plan A fails? Searching for more oil is not the answer.
These are tough questions that we prefer to ignore but our children must answer. I am forming a think tank that addresses futuristic questions, such as: 'What are the challenges to, and opportunities for, a Nigeria without oil?' The answer lies within the soil of our minds. If we do not understand our past we are bound to repeat our mistakes. Nigeria will join the world's top 20 economies, not because of its petroleum revenues but through the technological knowledge of future generations.
For Nigeria to join the top twenty economies, it must turn its brain drain into brain gain. For Nigeria to become a top twenty economy, it must control critical technologies, and not merely purchase them. Nigeria needs men and women of ideas, technological visionaries and futurists, to help its people answer the larger question of who they are, where they've been, and where they want to go.
It was Britain's superior maritime technology that enabled it to shape Africa's destiny with over 500 years of slave trading and colonization. Slave trade lead to brain drain needed for growth while colonization yielded brain gain that increased development.
Technology will allow Nigeria to do more with less, without depleting its natural resources, but with greater reliance on technology. The future is for us to create, but first we must outline our vision.
Foot soldiers, not generals, will lead our war against ignorance. The foot soldiers are our 100 million young Nigerians whose weapon is knowledge. Their collective intellectual capital will enable them to build a stronger Nigeria using technology knowledge. My 50-year vision for Nigeria is to tap into the creativity and innovation of our young people. Our young people have the potential to uplift humanity.
Technology is all around us and we humans are constantly inventing and reinventing new tools, techniques, and technologies. Our journey of discovery to the frontier of science reaffirms humanity's goal to endlessly search for new knowledge, and to demand more of itself and its people.
The man with wisdom is a shining torch that sheds light in our darkness and guides us out of our ignorance. I am often asked: 'How do we build a stronger Nigeria through technological innovation?'
I came across the answer in 1963 sitting on the verandah of our house along Gbenoba Road, Agbor, Midwest Region. I was silently reciting a quotation on the masthead of the newspaper called the West African Pilot. It read:
'Show the light and the people will find the way.'
Because I was nine years old, I did not understand the deep meaning of those wise words. I now understand 'the light' as a metaphor for knowledge, and 'showing the light' to mean increasing the intellectual capital, the sum of human knowledge possessed by 6.6 billion men, women, and children. We find 'the way' when we've brought to fruition our dream of eradicating poverty, discovering the cure for AIDS, and inventing the internet for email communication.
A long time ago, a man asked his children, 'If you had a choice between the clay of wisdom or a bag of gold, which would you choose?'
'The bag of gold, the bag of gold,' the naÃ¯ve children cried, not realizing that wisdom had the potential to earn them many more bags of gold in the future.
The wealth of the future will be derived from developing the intellectual capital—the clay of wisdom—and the innovations of the younger generation to make Nigeria stronger.
Should Nigeria migrate from oil to soil, as is often suggested. I think not. It should leapfrog into the Information Age. Nigeria cannot return to an agricultural age because the West is being urbanized, the East is being eroded, and the North is being desertified. A Nigeria without oil must make the transition to a knowledge-based economy. Nollywood can redefine 21st century Africa as the continent of arts and innovation.
If Nigerians have an average of three children per couple, it will become the world's third most populous nation in 50 years. It will lag behind China and India, but will have a greater population density.
Where will we find farmland? My grandfather's farmland was located where Onitsha market now lies. For countless centuries, my Igbo ancestors were farmers. Sons walked in their father's footsteps, ploughing the same land. Their life expectancy was about 37 years.
Daughters married early, had as many children as they could, and became young widows. My mother married days after her 14th birthday and gave birth to me six days after her 15th birthday. She was born in colonial Africa, where she counted her age on her fingers and toes and by her age-grade affiliation.
Yet she had a son who could count the ages of humanity on his supercomputer, which occupies the space of four tennis courts. Her son's supercomputer computes and communicates as an internet and sends and receives answers via e-mails to and from 65,000 subcomputers.
My father and I, followed by my son, broke the tradition of walking in our ancestors' footsteps. My father was a nurse, and my son and I are computer scientists. All three of us abandoned the soil to work in knowledge-based industries.
Nigeria has approximately a 50-year supply of oil if no new oil is found. In a world without oil, the cutlass will replace the farm tractor. We know most oilfields have been discovered and that oil exists in limited quantities. We know that oil wells dry up after 50 years. Rather than debate the exact year when Nigeria will run out of oil, I prefer to imagine we've already run out. The arrival of that day is as certain as the death of the Oloibiri oil well.
If Nigeria's oil well number one is empty and abandoned, what will be the fate of its oil well number one thousand? It may come sooner than any of us expect. Our heirs will thank or curse us for the amount of oil we leave for them.
Scientific discoveries lead to technological inventions and are the foundations of knowledge: the knowledge that must precede the development of new products, services, industries, jobs, and new wealth.
In human history, technological development and economic growth have gone hand-in-hand. A nation that is second to none in science is second to none in economic power. The grand challenge for African scientists is to make discoveries and inventions that can be domesticated and diffused into the continent's economy.
It's innovation and technology that create new products, which, in turn, create new wealth that alleviates poverty. For every ten gallons of oil in our oilfields, only three can be recovered. My discovery that an internet can solve physics problems by sending and receiving answers via emails is one of the innovative tools, techniques, and technologies used to recover maybe one percent of the remaining seven.
In 1989, while solving one of the 20 grand challenges in supercomputing, I broke world records in computation and communication. It garnered international headlines and I, the mathematical storyteller, became both the story and the witness.
I broke those records by reprogramming and reinventing an internet comprised of 65,000 subcomputers to compute and send and receive e-mails to and from 65,000 unique e-mail addresses and to solve 24 million equations, each restating the laws of physics at a world-record speed of 3.1 billion calculations per second.My belief is that a scientist has to be more than a witness; he or she must be a person of ideas, in constant search of better rules. There is always room for better rules.
One day I received a phone call from an American mathematician working in Germany who had read about my discoveries in the Wall Street Journal in June of 1990. I explained to him the grand challenge equations I invented and solved. I said to him: