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PROFILE : Prof P. N. Okeke (Space Scientist & Professor of Physics)

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If you ever took a course in high school Physics in Nigeria, then the name P.N. Okeke must sound very familiar. P.N. Okeke has become a household name for every high school kid doing physics, so much that the same way Einstein is often used synonymously for “genius”, P.N. Okeke is used in place of “physics”. Well, the full name is Pius Nwankwo Okeke, and he is the Author of the arguably the most popular Physics Textbook (Senior Secondary Physics) in Nigeria. Of course, the book’s popularity is a consequence of how the author explained the science concepts in it; some folks claim that even a janitor can think of discovering new laws of physics after exhausting its content.

Brief History

P.N. Okeke was born on the 30th of October, 1941. He felt, once upon a time, that his dreams of becoming a scientist would not see the stages of reality—that world-crashing-down kind of feeling common among young dreamers growing into adolescence. He attended a primary school in Oraukwu where he did very well in Mathematics, but poorly in almost every other subject. Do you remember who had a similar story? Yes, Einstein! And like Einstein, he simply was not interested. He moved to Washington memorial Grammar school in 1957- 1962, a private secondary school where he had no opportunity to offer physics and chemistry because of his past record.

Eventually, P.N. Okeke moved to Lagos and attended Emergency Science School Lagos where he did all the science subjects at O’Level GCE and then A’Level GCE; he had a distinction in Pure and Applied Mathematics and Physics. He was offered admission to study Physics in 1965 at the University of Lagos, Nigeria.

He emerged with the most outstanding results in the Faculty of Sciences. He won a scholarship from his faculty as a result that would cover his education to PhD level, anywhere in the world!

You could call it the waves of providence, but P.N. Okeke eventually ended up completing his B.Sc at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Or to be less mysterious, the Civil War necessitated his move to the East to finish his studies, disrupting his gloriously laid career map, creating another one in the process. He graduated with a second class upper degree in 1971, and was appointed a Junior Research Fellow of the University of Nigeria in 1972.

Achievements

He continued his studies at the University of Nigeria, and earned his PhD degree in 1975; he was the first person to do this at the time. Under the supervision of the very distinguished Astronomer Professor M.J. Rees, he carried out his Postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1979. He rose to the rank of a professor and leader of the Space Research Centre University of Nigeria in 1989 and also tackled many problems in Astronomy and collaborated with researchers worldwide to become a distinguished international scholar.

P.N. Okeke has a lot of international awards to his name, and some of them are:

Senior Research Fellow National Astronomical Observatory, Tokyo, Japan 1993
Visiting Scientist, University of Tuebingen, Germany 1995
Visiting Professor South African Astronomical Observatory 1996
Visiting Scientist Harvard Smithsonian Centre USA, 1997
External Board Member, South African National Science Foundation 1994-2000
Fellow of Royal Astronomical Society, London
Fellow of Nigerian Academy of Science
Fellow of Nigerian Institute of Physics
Fellow of Planetary and Radio Science
Fellow of IAA
United Nations Consultant in Space Science in Africa
In the course of his dedicated research, he made the following outstanding discoveries:

Discovery of a new eclipsing cataclysmic variable;
Prediction of observational consequences of a mini black hole;
Proposed a Nuclear Beam Model in Radio Sources.
Contributed immensely in Astrophysical Spectral Research,
Conducted massive postgraduate training for Nigerian Space Science scholars using facilities at home and abroad
Prof. P.N. Okeke is the African recipient of the UN/NASA award in 2007 for his tremendous contributions in the development of Astronomy in Africa.
At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. P.N. Okeke has never failed to prove his soundness in administrative roles.

With over 6 Professors heading Space Research programs in other Universities, 25 PhDs, 30 MSCs, and 75% of Nigerian Astronomers linked to him, P.N Okeke has engraved his name upon the stones of posterity. About 3/4 of Astronomers in Nigeria are the products of Prof. Okeke.

Prof. Okeke directed the NASRDA Centre for Basic Space Science (CBSS), and with the help of the Chinese, set up its permanent site at Nsukka that is now one of the largest Radio Telescope in Africa. The Centre has been recently upgraded to African Regional Centre for Space Weather Research. Through the efforts of P. N. Okeke, CBSS has entered into collaborative research with over 20 universities and several research institutes including the National Meteorological Agency, (NIMET). And today, excellent successes are being recorded in the areas of Atmospheric Science and Astronomy throughout the country.

Prof. Okeke successfully set up a network of twenty automatic weather stations operating through wireless telemetry for monitoring Nigerian Climate, as well as, for studying Radio Propagation in Nigeria. He signed MOUs with several countries for various research programs for which over 50 scientists from Nigeria have received training. Some of these institutions are:

National Astronomical Observatory(NAO), Japan,
South African Astronomical Observatory, Cape Town,
HartRAO Observatory, S. Africa,
Harvard Smithsonian Centre, USA,
University of Delaware, USA,
Altteche Technology, China. And
Urumqi Radio Astronomy Observatory, China.
P.N. Okeke, who is now an Emeritus Professor at the University of Nigeria, has written over a dozen books on Physics and Astronomy, ranging from secondary school to university level. And these books are best sellers in Nigeria and some other African countries. His accomplishments, asides from the fact that they would impress even the most critical of souls, are a compass to guide our generation as we collectively work to changing the world.

Credit: Clare Modupe Odia

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Freedom At Last, as Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame are Release

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Two former governors Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye have been released by the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).

They were serving jail terms for corruption allegations until they were granted a presidential pardon by President Muhammadu Buhari a few months ago.

The Council of State had approved the pardon alongside 157 other convicts in April this year.

The former governors were convicted by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal High Court, Abuja in 2018.

Dariye was convicted of stealing N1.16 billion while serving as Plateau governor from 1999 to 2007 and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. But his term was eventually reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, while his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Nyame, who was Taraba governor from 1999 to 2007, was convicted of stealing N1.6 billion from the state’s treasury and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The judgment was also upheld by the Supreme Court.

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Former NARSDA Boss, Prof Seidu Mohammed Passes On

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Former Director-General of the National Space Research and Development Agency, NARSDA, and one-time governorship aspirant,  Professor Seidu Muhammed Ogah has been confirmed dead. It was gathered that he died in Abuja.

A statement by Agency disclosed that the former NARSDA boss died at Nisa Premier Hospital in the early hours of Monday. .

”It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of Prof Seidu Mohammed Onailo, our former Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency, NARSDA which occurred on August 8, 2022, at Nisa Premier Hospital in Abuja,” the statement read.

The 62-year old former NARSDA boss,  a Professor of Space Science,  hailed from Abejukolo in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State and is survived by his wife, children and other relatives.

He was a visiting Professor of Remote Sensing and GIS, Kaduna State University. He obtained his Ph.D. in Environmental Remote Sensing from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria in 2004, and received his M.Sc. degree in Soil Survey /Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System from International Institute for Geo-information and Earth Observation (ITC) Twente University, Enschede, The Netherlands in 1993, where he studied as a European Economic Commission Scholar.

He also served as a senior lecturer in the department of Geology, University of Jos from 2007-2009. Over the years, he made significant contributions to the development of models for desertification assessment and predictions in the North West region of Nigeria. This model has been applied by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) as well as other Nigerian institutions in studying the menace of desertification in the country. The model is currently being used to study the green belt region in West Africa.

An erudite scholar prolific writer,  he had over 40 publications in applied space science. He has made tremendous contributions to the implementation of the space programme in Nigeria.

Under his leadership at NARSDA, Nigeria launched three satellites. He was the Chairman, Governing Board, African Regional Centre for Space Technology Education, Ile-Ife as well as the Chairman, Board of Directors, GeoApps + Limited.

He was also a Fellow of the Nigerian Association of Radio and Planetary Sciences, the Astronomical Society of Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Physics, the Cartographic Association of Nigeria as well as a fellow and board member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

Meanwhile, reactions and condolence messages have been coming in, as the people mourn the demise the thoroughbred intellectual.

Reacting to the death of the foremost academic and researcher, prominent indigene of Abejukolo and Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation, Dr James Odaudu said the death was a great loss to the people of Omala Local government, Igala Kingdom, the Nigerian nation and the academic world.

Late Prof S. O Mohammed

“Professor Seidu Mohammed was not only a leader of the people of Omala Local government, Kogi State and the entire nation, but an intellectual colossus whose academic works have been of immense benefit to scientific research, especially in the area of remote sensing”.

Director-General of the National Productivity Centre, Dr Kashim Akor in a message of condolence to the family and people of Kogi State described the death of the space and remote sensing expert who developed and advanced space technology across the continent, as a colossal loss to Nigeria.

He further described the space Professor as a rare gem who had distinguished himself both in the academic, administrative and space management across the world.

He said during his tenure he resolved alot of thorny issues in the country with the aid of space technology, as he was still rendering professional advises to the current handlers.

Also reacting, former Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris commiserated with the people of Kogi State, particularly Omala local government over the sudden death of Professor Seidu Onailo Mohammed who also served as Director General, Directorate of Rural Development DRD during his first term between 2003-2007.

Idris who expressed shock over the sad development, described his death as a great loss to Kogi State and Nigeria at large.

He recalled how he contributed greatly to the rural electrification efforts of his administration,  having served as Director General at that point in time, during his administration in Kogi State.

The former Governor stated that his death came at a time when his services were needed both at the state and national level, praying to Almighty God to forgive him his shortcomings while on earth.

His burial is expected to be held at Abejukolo in Omala Local Government Area of Kogi State Tuesday according to Islamic rites.

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Hanifa : Court Sentences School Proprietor to Death

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Remember Hanifa the little girl who was abducted on December 4, 2021 on her way home from Islamiyya and subsequently discovered to have been killed by  her teacher and school proprietor, after demanding N6m ransom, at Dakata, Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State?

Well, Justice has been served as Kano State High Court on Thursday sentenced the Proprietor of Nobel Kids Academy and North West Preparatory School, Abdulmalik Tanko, the principal suspect who masterminded the kidnap and killing of the 5-year old school girl, Hanifa Abubakar, to death.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Usman Na’abba, sentenced him to death by hanging while delivering his judgment on Thursday.

Details later….

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