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Gabriel Oyibo and Philip Emeagwali: A Clarification

By Farooq A. Kperogi My article titled “Intellectual 419: Philip Emeagwali and Gabriel Oyibo Compared” which compares and contrasts the te...

By Farooq A. Kperogi

My article titled “Intellectual 419: Philip Emeagwali and Gabriel Oyibo Compared” which compares and contrasts the tendency for Dr. Oyibo and Mr. Emeagwali to romanticize and hyperbolize their contributions to knowledge—to put it mildly—attracted quite a buzz on the Internet. I have been told that the hate-filled, barely literate commenters that swarm Sahara Reporters like fetid maggots hurled vile and vicious personal insults at me for exposing the intellectual fraud of these swellheaded, egotistical imposters.

 I have stopped reading comments on my articles on such Nigerian Internet sites as Sahara Reporters and the Nigerian Village Square; they are too sadly familiar and too predictably malicious and ignorant to deserve being read by any serious person. So I didn’t get to read the insults thrown at me.

But two article-length responses were written to my write-up by two respected Nigerians. The first was by Mr. Sonala Olumhense, the cerebral Guardian columnist whose exceedingly well-written essay I had the pleasure to read in my secondary school Practical English class several years ago. (I had no idea that he was still alive until I rediscovered him in the Guardian in the 1990s). That he wrote such a kind and flattering defense of me is at once humbling and inebriating.

The second article-length response to my article was written by a certain Dr. Dare Afolabi, a mechanical engineer who teaches at the Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis, which I thought was a fair and thoughtful, if misguided, rejoinder. The substance of the rejoinder was that although Oyibo may be “crazy,” he did make substantial contributions to knowledge in his field, and that it is not impossible that the Guardian was right in speculating that he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

He then brought the example of a certain Arthur Clarke whom the New York Times reported to have been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994. “The whole world knew, in 1994, not fifty years later, the same way Arthur Clarke knew that he was a nominee for the Peace Prize in 1994: someone leaked it. Leak? In journalism? How in the world is that possible?” he wrote.

Well, these are valid points. Recall, though, that I admitted that Oyibo did, in fact, make original contributions to scholarship through his many peer-reviewed, scholarly publications. Not being a scientist, I am, of course, in no position to sit in judgment over the quality of these contributions, but I am persuaded by the fact that he did lots of work that went through the crucible of peer review.

My point—which Dr. Afolabi seemed to agree with when he said "More recently, however, I must confess that Gabriel has lost me when he started speculating on Atum, Atom, God, and so on”—is that Oyibo's GAGUT theory, which is at best an unpersuasive conflation of science and metaphysics, on which he stakes his claim to genius and Nobel Prize nomination, has never been peer-reviewed, hasn’t been published by an academic press, is pooh-poohed by his peers, and therefore can’t be anything but the vapors of a once brilliant but disturbed mind.

So, that leaves us with the question: on the strength of what contribution to knowledge was Oyibo nominated for the Nobel Prize? His routine academic articles as a university professor which, by the way, his colleagues didn't find worthy enough to grant him tenure at two separate U.S. universities? If that were the case, every intellectually productive scholar should be a Nobel Prize nominee. And as I said earlier, he couldn’t have been nominated on the strength of GAGUT when, in fact, the "theory" has never gone through the rigors of peer review, which is crucial for the circulation and acceptance of ideas in the scientific community.

Afolabi’s point that Oyibo may indeed have been nominated for the Nobel is well taken. But the fact is: thousands of people get recommended--or, if you like, nominated-- for Nobel Prizes by several different organizations and people, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Since I haven't read of any groundbreaking, earth-shattering work that Oyibo has done in his field to deserve a serious consideration for the Nobel, I am inclined to think that his nomination, if there ever was one, falls in the region of the ridiculous.

 But the impression often created when Oyibo’s putative Nobel Prize nomination is mentioned in the Nigerian press and in the black diaspora is that he was on the shortlist of people being seriously considered for the Prize, and not that he was merely recommended by some person or organization.

For me, there is perhaps no greater proof that his nomination—again, if there ever was one—was of the flippant kind than the fact that Oyibo has been fired by the two low-end universities he worked for, is presently unemployed, and wrote a Wikipedia profile on himself that betrays flashes of incipient insanity—to put it nicely. Anybody who can describe himself as “closer to GOD (intellectually and in other ways), than any other human being because of the GAGUT discovery,” “the Greatest Genius and the Most Intelligent Human Being ever created by GOD,” and “the Greatest Mathematical Genius of all time” can’t be anything but demented.

Lastly, the Nobel Peace Prize, with which Afolabi contrasted the politics of Oyibo’s nomination, is intensely political, isn't anchored on knowledge production, and is therefore amenable to wild newspaper speculations. The Physics Prize, on the other hand, isn't. It's a specialist prize. I don't recall reading newspaper speculations about Nobel prizes in physics, medicine, and economics before and after the prize winners are announced. Only the Nobel Peace Prize is subject to newspaper speculations. So the contrast is flawed.

 I call Oyibo a 419er because he owes his popularity to the falsehood he promoted in the Nigerian media that he was seriously considered for the Nobel Prize in Physics three or four times in a row supposedly on the basis of his farcically harebrained GAGUT.

Well, if he had merely been popular as a result of these speculative indulgences and ridiculously wild exaggerations I wouldn't have had a problem with him. But he was put on the national postage stamp, was celebrated by the Nigerian state, and gets invited to speak to different groups and organizations in gullible sections of the black diaspora on the strength of claims that are at best speculative and at worst intentionally fraudulent. That puts him in the same intellectual 419 boat as Philip Emeagwali.

Related Articles:

Intellectual 419: Philip Emeagwali and Gabriel Oyibo Compared

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  1. Good piece Farooq.

    As a student of Engineering and lately Physics, I concur that Oyibo had done a good job in the field; however, I find his GUT ridiculous. While a number of theory in Physics may not be easily comprehensible to the uninitiated, GAGUT smacks of a ridicule to intellectual effort and the arguments to back its authenticity so far sounds more ridiculous. Einstein, Navier and Stokes gave us equations that even when unsolvable were comprehensible and agreeable with experimental evidence. P. A. Davidson said, "..experiments..teach the theoretician to be humble and point the way to refining and clarifying our ideas". What has Oyibo done to validate his theory? Nothing except to ascribe its inspiration to God. Apologies, but some arguments sound insane. I wish him luck in proving GAGUT.

    Emeagwali on the other hand has taken the business of falsehood to a dangerously new height. I read his piece "What did Emeagwali Discovered" on his website and all I see is a man who is so ignoble that he will stop at nothing to call black white even in the face of the most visual evidence. When he mentioned his participation at ICIAM 1991, I was enthusiastic to see his effort, but till date no evidence points to his participation or attendance at that conference. Not, even the proceedings which I was forced to check.

    Oyibo's proponents may validly show optimism with his work, but same thing cannot be said of Emeagwali's who are bent on ridiculously throwing ethnic banters and hate comments around. It's unfortunate we have to deal with this kind of situation at this time.

  2. Another great column. I appreciate you taking the time to thoughtfully debunk this myth. You do your country a service -- even if some don't appreciate it yet.

  3. Thank you, Matt. I am pleasantly surprised that you read and enjoyed this considering that it's of such local interest.

  4. Oyibo, I know little about. But based on the evidence it seems his is just a case of a good guy gone bad - or mad (apologies to Rihanna). Emeagwali, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish and I am still trying to com to terms with the magnitude of his nonsense. In all honesty, I believed Emeagwali was genuine stuff - until now; and I wonder how his horde of protagonists have failed to see through their myopia and acknowledge the substantial evidence presented therein. It really is a shame.

  5. Let us take Oyibo's work on (1) and (2) above.

    (i) Please look up item MR1799334 (2001j:76032) in the Mathematical
    Reviews database, MathSciNet, published by the American Mathematical
    Society (AMS). After reading the 50-page, 1997 journal article
    authored by Oyibo, the Reviewer states, "The author presents an exact
    solution of the steady Navier-Stokes equations, for the incompressible
    flow around a cylinder, obtained by means of the transformation group
    technique." The Reviewer concludes with the statement, "Certainly an
    analytical solution of the Navier-Stokes equations for a basic
    geometry represents an important contribution to the knowledge of
    fluid mechanics." By the way, Pozzi the Reviewer is not a Nigerian.
    And AMS only asks experts in the field to do their reviews.

    (ii) Also, look up item MR1455591 (98e:83007) in the same AMS
    MathSciNet database. This was reviewed by Jaume J. Carot, an expert on
    Relativity and Differential Geometry. As allowed under the rules for
    AMS Reviewers, if a Reviewer agrees with the paper, he may simply use
    the author's abstract or summary as the text of his review, instead of
    writing his own review _ab initio_. This is what Carot did.

    Are his equations right or wrong?
    That is the question.

    Let me tell you something, sir. If you are an expert in mathematical
    fluid dynamics, and one day you arrive at the office to meet a request
    from the American Mathematical Society to review, for their world-
    renowned database, a journal article by a "mad" man claiming to have
    found closed-form solutions to the celebrated Navier-Stokes equations,
    that is an assignment you are not going to take lightly. For one
    thing, it is a solution you yourself would have been looking to find.
    And it would be a golden opportunity for you to put this "mad" man in
    his place. You are now about to write the most stinking rebuke to
    teach him and any future upstarts a lesson they would never forget;
    they would never again waste your time or that of the AMS. But that is
    not what happened. Pozzi wrote that Oyibo's paper he was asked to
    review is "an important contribution to the knowledge of fluid
    mechanics." Wow!

    If you don't do Navier-Stokes, or earn your keeps by knowing
    relativity inside out, then the names Pozzi and Carot may not ring a
    bell. Suffice to know that these are scholars of no mean repute.
    People who are not experts in the field can repeat, over and over
    again, that Oyibo's work has not been peer-reviewed, that it is 419,
    etc. Yet, they have obviously not even read the Oyibo papers under
    debate, nor Animalu's reviews of them, nor the reviews of them by
    Carot. As for me, I know what or who to believe: my own eyes, the
    brains of Animalu and Carot, and the AMS review process.


  6. Farooq,is his contribution in field of aircraft design and reckoning at NASA also false?


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