Rejoinder: How Philip Emeagwali Lied His Way to Fame- by Professor Toyin Falola (from Saharareporters.com 18/10/2010)
First and foremost I am neither the spokesman of Philip Emeagwali nor do I intend to hold brief for him. Rather I am only trying here to look at the accusations levelled against him by Toyin Falola and his Yoruba friends, without bias. According to Saharareporters, Mr. Alan Karp the chief judge of the panel of judges for the Gordon Bell Prize recognized Emeagwali´s unique intellectual ability when he said: “Mr. Emeagwali didn`t win by default. As a lone graduate student he solved a harder problem that could have taken a team to solve.” End of quote.
Aside from numerous awards and recognitions both from the low and high places, in 1998, Emeagwali was also awarded the Distinguished Scientist Award by the World Bank. The writer of the article - Toyin Falola - and his friends concluded that unfortunately Emeagwali was filled with a false sense of entitlement and also described him as a lazy student who only wanted to earn a PhD without putting in much work. At the same time, however, they went further to contradict themselves in many areas. For example, they admitted that Emeagwali was a fairly brilliant student. Another example is that they admitted that Emeagwali holds two Masters of Science degrees in Engineering from George Washington University. And yet another Master’s degree in applied Mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1986. So, a pertinent question here is, how can a lazy student, who does not want to work hard to earn a degree earn three Master’s degrees in such difficult fields as science and engineering? Does it mean that because he could not manage to get his acts together to also get the “almighty PhD” that he must be seen as a failure and should be discredited by any means necessary? There are many known inventors who did not have a PhD.
Anyway, if these writers were not biased, why didn’t they bother to conduct an interview with Emeagwali to hear his own account of the whole problem he had with the University of Michigan? I ask this question because they reported that Emeagwali took the university to court because of the PhD issue. I know about two African students who had problems with some white professors who supervised their PhD work and the lecturers failed the students. One of these two students later went to another university and received his PhD. Today, he is a professor and head of department in a university in one of the universities in Ireland. Students could get messed up sometimes by professors supervising their work.
The impression the writers of the article laboriously created on reader’s mind was that Emeagwali was not capable of gaining any sound academic qualification, not to talk of winning any award. They even reduced the Gordon Bell Prize he won in 1989 to the level of your run-in-the-mills-awards. Nevertheless, Mr. Alan Karp informed the world that Emeagwali did not win the prize by default. This is contrary to what Mr. Falola and his friends wanted the whole world to believe. They claimed that Emeagwali actually got a second position and not a first position. But, because the Mobil company team got two first positions and as a company team, they are allowed to hold only one position, therefore, Emeagwali had to be declared winner since he was a lone graduate student. This is cruel seeing the extent Falola and his Yoruba friends have gone to distort official records, all in an attempt to discredit and rubbish Emeagwali`s reputation. The judge did fault some of Emeagwal´s wife’s claims. This is not a surprise since it did not come from Emeagwali but from his wife. I have visited Emeagwali´s internet website. I did not read where he described himself as a doctor or a professor. It is only his wife that has the title of a doctor. You will find this at Emeagwal´s contact information at the top right on his internet homepage, www.emeagwali.com.
NO HUMMAN BEING IS PERFECT
As aforementioned, I am not trying to exonerate Emeagwali from any of his weaknesses. There is no doubt that Emeagwali exaggerated and “over-milked” his achievements. For example, he allows people to call him doctor or professor and has done nothing to correct that. And he had gone haywire since his recognition as a scientist, instead of embarking on new research. But come to think of it, there is no human being without blemish. Hence the question, is Emeagwali the only one in the whole wide world that has a bloated ego and has over exaggerated and over milked his achievements?
WHAT ABOUT WOLE SOYINKA AND LATE GANI FAWEHINMI
I have enormous respect for Wole Soyinka and there is no doubt that he is a world-acclaimed scholar. But, for the past 24 years, there are no nooks and crannies that Soyinka has not set his foot on. He once boasted that he spent most of his life flying and couldn’t even remember where he was a few days before. He is always showing off and wants his audience to know which of the world VIPs he had dinner or a chat with the previous night. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnHV0HG6vM4&feature=related
Today, a good proportion of the world sees and addresses Soyinka as a professor (which he is not, since I fear he may not have a PhD-see, http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20080327105613634) - and as the first African to have won a noble prize for literature. Though he knows that this (even the first) assumption or claim is false, yet he has done absolutely nothing to correct the falsehood. During his life time, Emperor Haile Selasie 1 of Ethiopia went to a radio station in Canada to let all Rastafari religion adherents around the world know that he was not a divine being and the messiah contrary to their belief, and that he could die like any mortal. And, true to his words, he was abducted in 1974 and murdered in 1975 by Ethiopian Marxist Military officers led by Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam.
In fact, contrary to Wole Soyinka´s claim, Albert Camus from Algeria who also held a French passport was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. That was as far back as 1957 before Soyinka in 1986 and Nadine Gordimer from South Africa in 1991. But the way Soyinka is running around the world exploiting his oratorical English speaking skill, implicitly coercing his unsuspecting and his admiring audience to see him as the only African sage by wearing his trade mark of blown-up white hairs and beards leaves much to be desired. Obviously, he has succeeded in misleading so many people to assume that the Nobel Prize for literature is something no other person can win except him. Unlike him, numerous past winners across the world, including his fellow African scholars have maintained philosophical calm and have invested their time in more research work to benefit present and future generations. Soyinka should learn some element of humility from Chinua Achebe. Chinua Achebe´s latest work is The Education of a British Protected Child (2009). He is currently working on another project about the Nigeria-Biafra war due for release next year. Wole Soyinka has also soiled his reputation by venturing into the corrupt, dirty and mucky waters of the Nigerian politics, by forming many quack and corrupt political parties in the past that never saw the light of day. His current Democratic Front for a Peoples Federation (DFPF) political party is well known by many Nigerians to have links to the “Evil-Genius” Babangida,- his old-time friend, who gave him the post of the director of the Road Safety Corpse, during his evil rule. And at that time Soyinka´s Nigeria Road Safety Corpse overtook the Nigeria police in bribing and corrupting Nigeria, particularly road traffic users. As a dramatist, he has never stopped dramatizing his life. Even the novel that won him the Nobel Prize The Man Died he wrote in 1972 and which was influenced by his prison experience and notes is not seen as a masterpiece by the majority of the people. The late Afro-beat king, Fela Anikulakpo Kuti heavily criticized the book. Indeed, when it comes to literature and other academic fields, we all know that the Yoruba people have many great and humble scholars. Hardly anybody hears about them except Soyinka. There are people like Wande Abimbola, Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare and countless others whose names ring bells.
This serves to show that no matter how good or bad you are in whatever you do, bold steps, oratorical skills, and self-promotion are important in our crazy world of today. Maybe this is why people like Soyinka and Emeagwali have gone haywire in drawing attention to themselves. This maybe also the reason why people like our most respected human rights crusader and legal luminary in Nigeria, late Gani Fawehinmi, was able to make it in life. He was bold enough to take on the Nigerian governments of the day squarely. He also vigorously promoted himself through championing the cause of the ordinary people, despite his very weak academic qualification from the United Kingdom. According to the Yoruba-born Alex Akinleye, erstwhile minister for information of Nigeria, Gani Fawehinmi only earned a third class law degree. But, today, Gani Fawehinmi is a household name in Nigeria and beyond, and did win many awards.
From time, superstitious beliefs, myths, and assumptions, which give rise to spurious claims, have been part of human nature. The world has been told that Christopher Columbus discovered American. But you and I know that before he arrived in “the new world,” as America was known at that time, there were natives living there. Also he is credited to have discovered Jamaica, whereas there were already Awrak-Indians and a few people of African descent inhabiting the land. And those people swam to his ship and offered him food and tobacco, because he was too afraid to swim ashore. See, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHxw088qQms
There is no other place in the world this deceit has become the order of the day than in Nigeria and the self-styled “God’s own country” - America. In “God’s Own Country”, dangerous lies are perfectly covered. For example, when a husband is caught in an extra martial affair, because such disclosure could cause both political damage and undermining of the country ´s authority at home and abroad, the wife would go on the mainstream media to cover up the lies. No wonder, Dr. Donita Brown-Emeagwali, the wife of Emeagwali is doing her best to shield Emeagwali from allegations levelled against him by Toyin Falola and his friends. What is unique about America is that the lies are promoted and nurtured to earn liars millions and billions of dollars. This is why Americans like to live bombastic life and their economy by and large a credit-based economy, built on lies upon lies. For example, while I respect many of their Hollywood stars, yet the fact remains that some of the Indian-Bollywood, Nigerian-Nollywood and even recently Ghanaian-Gollywood stars are better actors than them. But, because they have the big media, big plots, big budgets, big markets, everything about America will continue to dominate in the world. In America, everything has to be big, otherwise it will not be perceived to be good enough. I was amazed at the size of the Georgia International Congress Centre when I visited there in 2004. I was also amazed at the size of a non-denominational World Changers Church International (WCCI) in College Park Atlanta, owned by African-American “Man of God” - Creflo Dollar. One wonders how America got this whole land, I have heard many times that they intimidated and stole lands from Mexico.
The world loves our only living boxing legend Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. aka Muhammad Ali. But as the American he is, the rest of the territories he could not conquer through boxing he did with his humorous and oratorical skills, and self-promotion, by making many spurious claims upon claims. For example, he claimed that he has the type of knowledge that Jesus Christ had or the type of knowledge the biblical Moses and Abraham had, and posited that as a religious leader you must display your wealth otherwise people would not believe in you or become members of your church. Aside being a one-time boxing heavy weighty champion of the world, this other side of his life made him to become one of the “most beautiful brides” that were courted by the mainstream world media. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnYCTh_DSLM&feature=related. Therefore, there is little wonder that Philip Emeagwali imbibed this typical American mentality and bombastic lifestyle having lived there for over three decades.
PERTINENT QUESTIONS AND ACCUSATIONS
A pertinent question here is, was it a happenstance or by design that the writer of this most disparaging article about Emeagwali on Saharareporters.com and his friends are all Yorubas? Once again, let us take a look at their names: Professor Toyin Falola, the author, with contributions from his friends, Dr. Ms. Okelola, Dr. Ola Kassim, and Professor Mobolaji Aluko. They tried to be smart by half by including a Benin man - Professor Pablo Idahosa, to make it have some kind of national outlook. Even though I do not have any problem that many Benin guys force themselves to appear Yoruba. Bolaji Aluko, in his envy is, still with the help of Saharareporters.com, battling one Igbo lawyer in the USA called Emeka Ugwuonye. Aluko, whose family lived at Nsukka before the Biafra War, has been an Internet Tiger, writing all sorts of nonsense about Igbos. He is so filled with envy against Igbos and their achievements. He has ganged up against Igbo lecturers in American universities and elsewhere. Even the Emeagwali he had vowed to destroy was the same man about eight years ago, who once came to his defence against some Igbos whom Aluko had wrongly offended. This is how Aluko and his father pay back the Igbos for harboring them during the Nigeria-Biafra war, and ensured their easy passage to Western Nigerian. It is unfortunate that because Aluko apparently has no more readership in the underground, he has now come out with his anti-Igbo crusades. And unfortunately the saharareporters.com has stoop too low by becoming a willing accomplice. Otherwise, how come that not only they have published more than 5 sponsored disparaging articles in less than one week on the Emeagwali, but has wickedly published a picture of Emeagwali posing in handshake in an event in New York with the discredited Governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, conspicuously the same day he was sacked as the governor of Delta State, by the Court of Appeal in Benin City. Unlike the good work they were doing when they started, the saharareporters.com has been lately losing readers every day because they have derailed by engaging in “junk journalism” every now and then.
Obviously this composition on the Emeagwali write-up has made the writers vulnerable to all kinds of accusations. For example, they have been accused by the majority of Igbos of blackmailing of an Igbo illustrious son who had achieved world fame. While Falola and his Yoruba friends might quickly scurry to a cheap defence by accusing those Igbos of being tribal jingoists. But then, how about the majority of Africans, and people of African descent and patriotic Nigerians who viewed their article as rubbishing the reputation and outstanding work of a fellow Nigerian and African. Another accusation is that since all of them are PhD holders, did they not act out of jealousy, considering the fact that Emeagwali without a PhD has achieved world fame in both academic and scientific fields and collects appearance fees and lecture fees or speaker fees that is many times the annual remuneration of a senior university professor? Perhaps, this could be one single reason why one of them, Dr. Kassim the head of a department of one of the Canadian universities, turned down his students’ request of inviting Emeagwali to come to their university to deliver a lecture and to interact with them. He claims that Emeagwali´s asking fee of $10.000 and a driver during his stay in Canada was too much, coupled with the fact that Emeagwali did not have a PhD. But, maybe, if Emeagwali were a Caucasian academic or better still one of his fellow Yoruba friends in the academic field maybe Dr. Kassim would not have denied those poor Canadian university students that rare opportunity to come face to face with their role model. Also, another one of Falola`s female Yoruba friends Ms. Okelola bragged about how she refused to publish Emeagwali on her Africanacafe website when Emeagwali requested her to do so.
The gist of Toyin Falola and his Yoruba friends’ article about Emeagwali centered on these key points: Emeagwali does not have a PhD, but claims to have one and allows people to address him as a “doctor or professor.” Emeagawli claims or allowed people to call him “father of the internet.” They claimed that they wrote the article to expose these lies and to inform the world who the real Emeagwali is. But the irony of it all is that it is the same world that gave him those accolades, titles and prefixes that Falola and his friends are complaining about. So what is actually their problem? I have seen the interview where Emeagwali had clearly told a beautiful Jamaican TV moderator that he is not the father of the internet or the inventor of the internet. Continuing, he explained on the same TV Programme to another male host that many people contributed to the development and invention of the internet, and that it is not a one-man thing. He also said that the Gordon Bell Prize he won was viewed at that time (1989) as a Nobel Prize in computing. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMFy9sBLFQQ&feature=related. And also http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa111097a.htm#cm2.jpg
Judging from the above claims allegedly made by Emeagwali, one would like to know if they are serious enough to warrant that onslaught. Hence, real facts simply put across without bias will be understood by the whole world. But, since this is not the case, many people therefore believed that Toyin Falola and his Yoruba friends must have some kind of ulterior motive behind this attack. Otherwise, they would not have spent such amount of time writing pages upon pages of comments demonizing and describing Emeagwali in a most despicable way. And, also, they would not have been so bitter in their writing, which manifested in the many denigrating and unprintable names they called him such as fraud star, most sophisticated con man, 419 kingpin, biggest liar of all time, etc. There are yet other people who believe that Toyin Falola and his Yoruba friends were unjust to the world-acclaimed computer scientist and Mathematician, a harmless man, who never duped anybody but just working hard to promote himself, the African race and his work to the benefit of the world. And many people are wondering and do want to see Toyin falola and his Yoruba colleague’s article about the white American Bernard L Madoff, who perpetrated the world’s biggest financial scam by swindling his depositors of over $50 billion. They also want to see Toyin Falola´s article about the biggest financial scam of $6.7 billion in France, perpetrated by debonair white French man Jerome Kerviel, an employee of Societe Generale SA. The whole world is waiting to see if Toyin Falola and his Yoruba friends would use the same despicable words and venom they have poured on harmless Emeagwali also on these two world’s biggest white swindlers. Up till now, the world has assumed that it is only Nigerians, people of African descent and indeed people from so-called third world countries that are scammers.
Superstitions, self-promotion and wild assumptions, which give rise to claims upon claims, have always been there from time immemorial. Although, this mentality has been part of human nature, but there is no country where this mentality has pervaded all facets of life than in America, in which Emeagwali has lived for three decades and therefore has become assimilated. Finally, majority of the people that read Toyin Falola and his Yoruba colleague’s disparaging article on Emeagwali viewed it as a disingenuous act and, therefore, concluded that it is a typical crass case of (PhD) “Pull Him Down” syndrome. And, since Toyin Falola and Yoruba friends are Africans and also Nigerians as Emeagwali, the people had also viewed it as a good example of the African adage that says “it is only the frog’s kith and kin that can mercilessly kick on his delicate water filled-belly.”
By Sakhos Silas Ejiofor, Wiesbaden-Germany