Friday, October 2, 2020 8:17 am
By Chris Adetayo
You will be forgiven if you assumed that Nigeria is not blessed with many greats in the field of wide field of sciences. Given the state of the nation’s development, it’s a fair assumption. But it’s nonetheless incorrect. For our scientists comfortably rob shoulders with the best of them around the world. So if we haven’t felt the impact of their presence here, the question we should be asking is what’s hindering them from delivering for us? It’s a question that needs to agitate our policy makers.
For now, let’s have a look at my Top 10. They are men and women whose prints are writ large on the sands of science and are globally recognized in their fields. This has also been quite tough and some greats missed out because I felt that they made their greatest impact as Administrators.
See what you think of them and share your thoughts too.
1. THOMAS ADEOYE LAMBO
Professor of Psychiatry, he is reputedly the first in his field in Africa and pioneered the combined use of western and African curative methods to stunning effect in the treatment of mental illnesses, while also cutting down on the stigma prevalent in our colonial and post colonial societies. He rose to become Deputy DG of WHO, and is the inspirational founder of Aro Psychiatric Hospital. He was one of the earliest winners of the National Order of Merit (NNOM).
2. SANYA ONABAMIRO
Professor of Zoology. Discovered 4 new species related to the Guinea worm and these are named after him. Halicyclops Korodiensis Onabamiroid, Thermocyclops Iwoyiensis Onabamiroid, Tropocyclops Mellanbyi Onabamiroid, and Ectocyclops Phaleratus Ilariensis Onabamiroid. Guinea worm no longer ravages the world. Part of the reason for this is the sterling work of this man.
3. CHIKE OBI
Professor of Mathematics. Nigeria’s first in the field. Many in my generation will remember their parents referencing him in their bid to encourage their kids to “love” Maths. That’s because he was a global icon in the field, winning prizes for original works, especially in differential equations.
4. ELIZABETH KAFARU
Traditional medicine expert. No, she was not a “Mamalawo”. Rather, she mainstreamed the use of herbs as alternative medicine in the treatment of many diseases. And with great success. Her “Herbal Remedies” column in The Guardian as well as her weekly TV program were favourites for much of the 1990s. The growth in alternative medicine (African and Chinese) in Nigeria owes a lot to her pioneering work.
5. OLUWAKAYODE OSUNTOKUN
Professor of Medicine. World renowned Neurologist. National Order of Merit (NNOM) winner. Long list of achievements and awards. His signature work is in discovering the causes of Tropical Ataxic Neuropathy (TAN). Today, the “Osuntokun Sign” is widely used to refer to the onset of neuropathy (nerve pains) due to injestion of poorly processed cassava.
6. AMEYO STELLA ADADEVOH
Medical Doctor. Diagnosed the Index Case of the Ebola virus in Nigeria in 2014. Crucially, refused to discharge patient despite harassments until the Government stepped in on the case. Her actions saved Nigeria from what would have been a difficult-to-contain Ebola spread. Sadly lost her life to the same disease.
7. PIUS OKIGBO
Professor of Economics. National Order of Merit (NNOM) winner. Many know of the “Okigbo Report” which details how Ibrahim Babangida’s Govt could not account for $12B of oil revenue.But Okigbo was famous long before then, having laid out the Accounting Standards for Nigeria back in the 1970s. An advocate of African economic solutions, his was a loud voice against the IMF “Conditionalities” that ultimately wiped out the Nigerian middle class in the 1980s-90s. Wish we had listened more to him and his likes.
8. ANDREW JONATHAN NOK
Professor (of Biochemistry) Andrew Nok. Another NNOM winner to go with other top prizes including the globally competitive Humboldt Prize. Made a significant discovery relating to the causes of “Sleeping Sickness” which has helped in developing scientific solutions to curb the spread of the disease.
9. AKINLAWON MABOGUNJE
Professor of Geography and Development Expert. NNOM. First African to be elected President of the International Geographical Union. First African Associate of the American Academy of Sciences. And the list of accolades goes on. Possibly the greatest development policy expert Nigeria has ever produced. PS: I missed working with him at his Development Policy Centre in Ibadan during my NYSC due to some annoying red tape. My loss!
10. AYODELE AWOJOBI
Professor of Engineering and Inventor. A renegade per excellence. His pioneering work in the field of Vibrations is globally recognized. And he put his hands to work, inventing a hybrid vehicle (named Autonov 1) that could move in both directions (front and back) with all pre-existing gears (not just the reverse gear). He died at 47. But the legend of “Dead Easy” lives on.