Chike Obi Biography, Age, Networth, Wife, Career, Family

Chike Obi
Born April 17, 1921
Anambra StateNigeria
Died March 13, 2008 (aged 86)
Occupation Mathematician
Citizenship Nigerian
Notable awards Sigvard Eklund Prize
Spouse Belinda (w. 2009)
Children 4

Chike Obi  (April 17, 1921 – March 13, 2008) was a Nigerian politician, mathematician, and professor.

The African Mathematics Union suggests that he was the first Nigerian to hold a doctorate in mathematics. Dr. Obi’s early research dealt mainly with the question of the existence of periodic solutions of non-linear ordinary differential equations. He successfully used the perturbation technique, and several of his publications greatly helped to stimulate research interest in this subject throughout the world and have become classics in the literature.

Obi is the author of several books and journals on mathematics and Nigerian politics.

Early life and education

Obi was educated in various parts of Nigeria before reading mathematics as an external student at the University of London. Immediately after his first degree, he won a scholarship to do research study at Pembroke College, Cambridge, followed by doctoral studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, becoming in 1950, the first Nigerian to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.

Career as mathematician

Obi returned to lecture at the premier Nigerian University of Ibadan. He was soon diverted from this by political activities. After the war, he returned to lecture in 1970 at the University of Lagos where he quickly rose to the senior academic role of a professor.

He left Lagos to return to his root in the city of Onitsha, establishing the Nanna Institute for Scientific Studies.

Obi won the Sigvard Eklund Prize for original work in differential equations from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics. He was a university teacher until his retirement as an Emeritus Professor in 1985.

In 1997, Obi claimed to be the third person to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem after Andrew Wiles and Richard Taylor in 1994. He also claimed to have found elementary proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. This work was carried out at his Nanna Institute for Scientific Studies in Onitsha, Eastern Nigeria, and published in Algebras, Groups, and Geometries. However, a review of this proof published in Mathematical Reviews indicates that it was a false proof.

A career in politics and activism

In Ibadan, Obi began to give lectures about his political philosophy, Kemalism, and how best he felt the country should be managed. He helped form the Dynamic Party of Nigeria, of which he served as its first secretary-general. Through the party, he stood in as a candidate in a parliamentary election in Ibadan in 1951 but lost.

The party later entered into alliances with the larger National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon and also the Action Group. Obi was elected as part of the Nigerian delegation that negotiated the country’s path to self-rule at two London conferences in 1957 and 1958.

After Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960, Obi was elected a legislator in the Eastern House of Assembly 1960, he refused to vacate his seat in the national legislature in Lagos, and the Speaker of the regional house ordered that Obi be physically removed by security agents. This order was obeyed and Obi decided to commit himself to regional affairs.

In 1962, Obi was arrested and charged with treason in a closed trial organized by the then national civilian government, which accused him and others, including the main opposition leader at the time, Obafemi Awolowo, of plotting to overthrow the government. He was later released for “want of evidence.”

When the Nigerian Civil War broke out in 1967, Obi sided with Biafra, working for the rebel leader Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. For a brief period in the 1970s when he served in the National Revenue Mobilization Commission.

Obi derided religion and ethnic extremism, and the culture of corruption pervading the Nigerian political class. He was a national newspaper columnist in the 1980s, writing under the title, “I speak For the People.”

Awards

A visiting professor to the University of Rhode Island, USA, the University of Jos, Nigeria, and the Chinese Academy of Science, Obi was a recipient of the national honor of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science.

Personal life

When Obi died in 2008, he was survived by his wife until 2010. Obi’s wife Belinda died in early 2010 as a nurse and they are survived by their four children.

Obi was in England in the summer of 1947 and returned from Liverpool to Lagos on the Apapa, leaving on 11 July. He was in England again in 1958 arriving in Liverpool on 22 September on the Aureol. He was part of the Nigerian East Region Delegation and he was living with the East Nigeria Commissioner in London. On 27 October 1958 Britain set the date of 1 October 1960 for Nigerian independence. In Federal Elections 1959: Manifesto of 1959 Obi argued for the formation of the Economic Community of West African States stating that:-

… the best strategy for any country for reducing the number of her enemies, actual and potential, to a minimum is for her to organise as many countries around her as possible into a closely knit political union of which she must be a member. … Nigeria’s foreign policy should aim at the ultimate creation (the earlier the better) of a political Union of West African Republics.

In 1959 Obi was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Ibadan. In March 1960 he was elected to the Federal Parliament of Nigeria as a member of Onitsha Urban. Biya Afonja writes:-

While at Ibadan, the renowned mathematician, Chike Obi, was a lecturer that one cannot easily forget. On many occasions, he would come straight from Lagos where he was a parliamentarian to give us lectures in Real Analysis and Differential Equations.

Obi was elected as a member of Onitsha Urban East to the Eastern House Assembly in November 1961 but refused to give up his seat in the Federal Parliament. The Speaker of the Parliament ordered that Obi be physically removed by security guards, which is exactly what happened. Obi then decided that he would devote himself to regional rather than national affairs.

In 1961 he published the political pamphlet The People: Facts You Should Know. He stated:-

Down with the enemies of the people, the exploiters of the weak and oppressors of the poor. The days of those who have enriched themselves at the expense of the poor are numbered. The common man in Nigeria can today no longer be fooled by sweet talk at election time, only to be exploited and treated as dirt after the booty of office has been shared among the politicians.

In 1962 Obi was arrested and, as Edwin Madunagu relates in:-

Most of the time Chike Obi was either with the police, or in prison, or in court. The offence was either sedition, incitement or defamation. But one particular arrest that has not been mentioned – to the best of my knowledge – took place in 1962. Chike Obi was one of the people arrested and detained with Chief Obafemi Awolowo on the charge of treasonable felony. He was later released for “want of evidence”. I regret that I could not ask Chike Obi whether, indeed, an attempt was made to overthrow the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1962 and if he was, despite his release, part of the plot.

Also in 1962, Obi published Our Struggle Part II. He continued as a member of Onitsha Urban East to the Eastern House Assembly until June 1966. The country had seen increasing unrest since independence which was intensified by-elections in 1964 with widespread reports of electoral fraud. A military coup in 1966 was put down but resulted in the army taking over. Regional governments were abolished which was why Obi ceased to be a member of the Eastern House Assembly. The Biafran War broke out in July 1967, the coup being a significant factor in the outbreak of war which was fought between government forces and the state of Biafra which was seeking independence motivated by ethnic and religious differences. Onitsha was in Biafra and with Obi a Christian, the Biafran side was the obvious one for him to support. During the war years, he worked for Odemegwu Ojukwu, the Biafran leader. The war ended in January 1970 with defeat for the Biafrans.

With the end of the Biafran war, Obi returned to mathematics. He was appointed as an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Lagos. Obi’s two eldest sons had been educated during the years that Obi was first a lecturer in Ibadan, then a politician in Onitsha, and finally a professor in Lagos. Mustafa Chike-Obi said in the interview :-

My father was a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, which you may consider lower middle-class. Let me tell you about my educational upbringing. First, I went to a school in Ibadan. It was a public school and my brother, Balogun and I used to walk two miles to the school. Then, we went to Mayflower School, Ikenne-remo, Ogun State. It was a very tough school and very underprivileged. After that, because he had become a politician, we moved to Onitsha and I went to St Joseph’s Primary School, Onitsha. Again, not a school for the privileged. We didn’t own a house and we were living in a rented house in Onitsha. Thereafter, I went to Christ the King College in Onitsha. Then, the war started and because of the war, we didn’t go to school for three years. In 1970, when I came back from the war, I went to King’s College, Lagos. You may consider King’s College a privileged school, but that’s the only privileged school I attended. From there, I went to University of Lagos. So, it was at best, a middle-class background.

Back into mathematics at the University of Lagos, Obi began mathematical research again having not published a paper since 1955. He picked up his research very much where he had left off and the first paper published after a gap of nearly twenty years was the Analytical theory of non-linear oscillations. I. An existence theorem for periodic oscillations of equations of the second order appeared in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1974. This was, in fact, the first of a series of ten papers he published on the Analytical theory of non-linear oscillations. He was promoted to Professor of Mathematics at the University of Lagos in 1971 and in the same year became Chairman of the Mathematics Department and Dean of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

We get some idea of the life he was leading at this time from Edwin Madunagu who was studying for an M.Sc. with Obi at the University of Lagos in the early 1970s :-

I carefully studied Chike Obi’s movement outside his home. He usually arrived at the office early in the morning. Between that time and when other offices opened, he solved his Differential Equations. I also established that whenever he returned to the office in the evening he usually moved from there to town to “wind down”. And I knew his usual joints. So, whenever I was going out in the evening, I had to go to the department and check if his K70 Volkswagen car was parked at the usual place. If it was there, I would either cancel the outing or move farther afield. But Chike Obi was not mean; in fact, he was the opposite. He was intellectually hard and disciplined. But no other teacher of mine was as tolerant of me as Chike Obi. For I was not a particularly “obedient” student.

Madunagu is also quoted in:-

Many of us (his students, including the leader of the Deeper Life Bible Church, William Kumuyi) remember what joy and pain it was to be in his class. He was a disciplinarian. As a scientist, he believed in rigour. There were no assumptions. Everything must be explicitly stated.

Although Obi returned to full-time mathematics in 1970, he did not give up his attempts to improve a lot of Nigerians. For example, in the 1980s he wrote a newspaper column entitled “I Speak For the People”. In fact, this title was also the title of the maiden speech he made to the House of Representatives in 1960. In 1985 he retired from his chair at the University of Lagos and returned to Onitsha where he set up the Nanna Institute for Scientific Studies.

In 1985 Obi was awarded the Sigvard Eklund Prize. The announcement states:-

The International Centre for Theoretical Physics Prize in honour of Sigvard Eklund (Sweden), Director General Emeritus of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria), in the field of Mathematics, was awarded to Chike Obi, University of Lagos, Nigeria, for significant contributions in the study of nonlinear ordinary differential equations with several parameters for which he established numerous results on the existence, number some analytic expressions of harmonic, subharmonic or uniformly almost periodic solutions.

Obi travelled to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste in November 1986 to receive the prize. He was awarded the prize on 12 November 1986 and he addressed delegates in the Main Lecture Theatre of the Centre.

Earlier Obi had been honoured with election to the Nigerian Academy of Science in 1977, being one of those elected at the establishment of the Academy on 18 January 1977.

Most biographies of Obi relate how he solved Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1997 providing elementary proof. He published his “proof” in 1998 in a ten-page paper which, sadly, contains an error. Obi is one of several leading mathematicians who, when fairly old, have believed, incorrectly, that they have solved a major mathematical problem.

Chike Obi’s Networth

He is estimated to be worth between $2 – $5m

References

  1. ^ “Obituary: Chike Obi”www.thenewblackmagazine.com. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  2. ^ “Guardian Editorial Tribute to the Memory of Chike Obi (1921-2008)”waado.org. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  3. ^ “Chike Edozien Umuezei Obi, Mathematician of the African Diaspora”www.math.buffalo.edu. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  4. ^ “A Memorial Tribute for Professor Chike Obi by Edwin Madunagu”waado.org. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  5. ^ “Chike Obi – Biography”Maths History. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  6. ^ “Igbo, Yoruba fight over maths”Vanguard News. 2018-04-21. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  7. ^ “Igbo, Yoruba fight over maths”Vanguard News. 2018-04-21. Retrieved 2020-05-17.
  8. ^ “Chike Obi and Fermat’s Last Theorem”www.math.buffalo.edu. Retrieved 2020-05-28.

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