In the second part of this article, several Nigerians who were duly elected into various political offices by the citizens of their host countries in Europe and America were presented. In United Kingdom alone nine prominent Nigerians were elected either as mayors or British Members of Parliament. Names like Chuka Umunna, Helen Grant, Abimbola Afolami, Kate Osamor and Kemi Badenoch featured. Others were Ernest Ezeajughi, Chinyelu Susan Onwurah and Olugbenga Babatola among several Nigerians.
In most cases, they made history as the first black persons to hold such elective posts, which were hitherto exclusive reserve for white men/women or indigenous people of such countries. The list of Nigerians who are political office holders outside the shore of Nigeria cannot be exhaustive. These few Nigerians endowed with creative capacities and innovative thinking underscore the creativity of Nigerians in excelling amid challenges.
Few other areas need mentioning to present the creativity in Nigerians are academia, inventions and business sector. In academia, one exquisite example published in this column three years ago, precisely on June 17th 2016 presented the giant stride of Nigerians in universities abroad. The article was titled “Educational Feats of Nigerians in Diaspora: Food for Thoughts”. It was the story of postgraduate students’ performances at the convocation ceremony in far away Howard University, Washington DC, USA on 7th May 2016.
The news of Nigerians’ spectacular educational performance at this university was joyously welcomed and celebrated by Nigerians in particular and Africans in general. Local and international media carried the news with various attractive captions; “Howard University: Nigerian students in the US excel, 16 bestowed special awards”, “Good news for Nigeria from Howard University” and similar titles. The story is that Nigerians captured the majority of the prizes presented during the Howard University’s 2016 graduation ceremony.
Out of the 96 graduates with PhD in Pharmacy, 43 of them were Nigerians. Similarly, out of the 27 awards presented, 16 of such awards went to graduates who were Nigerians. The total number of graduates represented 46 states of America and 35 countries across the globe. Yet, Nigerians collected 16 awards and left only 11 awards to American citizens from 46 states and other nationals from 34 different countries.
Among the Nigerians awarded was a 24-year-old graduate who excelled all through during her academic sojourn in Howard. She was honored with numerous awards and recognition at every level of her program. During the graduation ceremony, she received the Howard University Department of Chemical Engineering’s highest level of academic achievement award, Howard University Department of Chemical Engineering Wall Of Fame Award – with commentary as one of the best students the department ever came across in over 20 years of academic endeavors.
She finally graduated with a Summa Cum Laude (first class). She was mentioned on the list of who is who within American Colleges and Universities. Finally, she was made the President of the National Engineering Honors Society by invitation only to top 8 of the junior class and top 5 of the senior class. Records in the university rated the performance of Nigeria as a clear outstanding feat that has not been achieved by any other country in that University. However, this excellent academic performance of Nigerians in Howard University may be an isolated case but averagely, majority of Nigerians are astonishingly doing well academically in many universities abroad.
On invention and innovations, Nigerians’ names ring bells especially in Europe and America. Three examples may suffice. The name of Prof. Philip Emeagwali is prominent. He is a Nigerian, American based inventor and scientist; he was credited for invention of high-speed computer. In 1989, Emeagwali won the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize ($10,000) for price-performance in high-performance computing applications, in an oil reservoir modelling calculation using a novel mathematical formulation and implementation. Emeagwali was voted the “35th-greatest African (and greatest African scientist) of all time”.
Another name worth mentioning is that of Jelani Aliyu, a Nigerian from Sokoto state living in USA. Aliyu is a celebrated car designer of General Motors. General Motors is perhaps the world’s largest automobile maker. Jelani Aliyu is the designer of the Chevy Volt; a car reputed to be an American Revolution and considered to be one of the apt concepts in the design line. Globally, Jelani’s work was considered to be a masterpiece in the car industry because it was the best selection made out of many entries from renowned automobile designers across the continents.
Prof. Carl Olsen, an American professor of automobile design, a teacher to Jelani described Jelani’s piece as the bright future of General Motors. He said “Jelani is exceptionally gifted as a car designer, he is representing the future of the General Motors. Every designer was given opportunity to design a car that can meet certain criteria, not only in the United States but Britain and Germany submitted their designs for the project. In the end, Jelani’s design was chosen as the best design” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqx-xKGeDCA)
Another globally renowned inventor is Oshi Agabi who is a Nigerian USA based inventor. He invented what he calls “KonikuKore”. It is a giant invention of the 21st century. KonikuKore is a device that can fuse live neurons from mice stem cells into a silicon chip. The device is a next generation neuro computing platform that can provide uses in security, military and agriculture.
KoninkuKore is an application for real-world issues such as detecting illness and terrorism threats. This invention offers a glimpse into how biology can be integrated into technology, and ultimately how the human brain can help technological advancements. KonikuKore is an amalgam of living neurons and silicon, with olfactory capabilities — basically sensors that can detect and recognize smells.
The Nigerian born inventor, Oshi Agabi proclaimed before international journalists at the conference, “You can give the neurons instructions about what to do – in our case we tell it to provide a receptor that can detect explosives.” More information on this invention can be accessed via my blog; www.breakthroughwithmkothman.blogspot.com
On business, Nigerians are equally moving excellently. Alhaji Aliko Dangote has been consecutively the richest African in the last eight years. Aliko Dangote is the President and Chief Executive of Dangote Group, which he founded over three decades ago as a simple enterprise and nurtured to its current status, an international business conglomerate with interests in diversified manufactured commodities distributed across the continent.
According to Forbes 2017 ranking, Aliko Dangote remained Africa’s richest person for the sixth year running with a $12.1 billion fortune, despite about $5 billion drop in his net worth for the second year in a row. By the 2018 ranking, Dangote’s fortune of $14.1 billion placed him as the 100th billionaire in the World alongside Harold Hamm of the United States of America. Dangote remains the richest African of the year for the seventh time by 2018.
There are several other multi-billionaire business tycoons within and outside Nigeria. With all these vast natural resources and few citizens with high innovative acumen and excelling in all aspects of human endeavor, why is Nigerian system not working? Why is the country facing multifaceted problems? What is really the missing link between Nigeria with her vast resources and the few distinguished Nigerians who are superbly doing well in other climes?
On the missing link, how can the few good people excelling home and abroad be linked to the vast resources on Nigerian land? This linkage is very necessary for our national development. The linkage will transform the potential of being great to actual greatness. Yes, the linkage of good Nigerian people to the vast natural resources will galvanize the country to become Eldorado, a model country in the world with global leadership in all aspects of development. There are factors for fast-tracking the linkage. The factors responsible for bringing the missing link are good governance and nationalism.
Good governance and nationalism are the strong pillars for nation building and excellent performance among the comity of nations. What are the factors embedded in good governance and nationalism? How can Nigerian people use them to address our challenges to the national development? Discussion on these factors will be the concluding part of this article next week by His grace.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.