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COINCIDENCES: Of Physics and Nigeria’s economic growth

By Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth on 21/08/2013

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If we have an Economist, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinator of the Economy, then perhaps we should experiment with a Physicist as Minister of a related Ministry and also give him the job of Chief Creator of Economic Growth.

I recall that in his Inaugural Lecture in 1973 (40 years ago), Professor Muyiwa Awe, first President of the Nigerian Institute of Physics, affirmed that Physics is the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. Interestingly, Professor Awe was “Best Man” to the Economist, now late, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, who had served all Nigerian Heads of Government from Balewa to Babangida.

Bearing in mind this relationship, may be we should have to appeal to Professor Awe to write a book on what happened to Physics in Nigeria and consequently what happened to the Nigerian economy.

It’s a fact that there have been vultures sucking up the Nigerian commonwealth but there are instances of glaring omissions by well meaning Nigerians in and out of government.

Professor Ojetunji Aboyade referred to economics as the life blood of the nation. But which comes first? Physics or economics?

The answer to this question might be gleaned from the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Economic History, which cites studies that “attribute 90 per cent of income growth in England and the United States after 1780 to technological innovation, not mere capital accumulation.”

On the technological chess board, Mathematics is King, Physics the Queen and the diverse branches of Engineering, the Knights in Shiny Armour.

Physics has given rise to a whole new range of technologies that have contributed trillions of dollars to the global economy. One of these is Nanotechnology. World sales of Nanotechnology-enabled products by 2008 were estimated at $234 billion. This figure is expected by the US’ National Science Foundation to climb to $3000 billion by 2020. Increasing the number of jobs in Nanotechnology-derived industries from 400,000 in 2008 to 6 million in 2020. Last year I read in the papers, Professor Segun Adewoye, Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Science, lamenting the fact that Nigeria is yet to have a policy on Nanotechnology.

If there are no golden eggs there might be little of an economy to co-ordinate.

Most Nigerians do not know that it is the sub discipline known as Exploration Geo Physics that enables us to extract oil and gas from under the sea bed; same with much of solid minerals and underground water resources. This is something for the Senators calling for oil exploration outside the Niger Delta.

We all love Physics when you come to think of our prized possessions or most pleasurable experiences. Physicists has given rise to hydroelectricity, nuclear power, radio, television, mobile phone, micro wave oven,  Laser CD , digital computer and satellite; and in the  area of health care as it concerns the imaging, screening, diagnosis and treatment which many of our politicians and the rest of the elite go to “enjoy”  outside the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan is a Biological Scientist and so he would have done some basic Physics as it is required by all undergraduates in the Faculty of Science at the University of Port Harcourt where he studied. This could be a convenient starting point for him, for better days for Physics in Nigeria – that if President Jonathan still keeps his Physics lecture notes from his undergraduate days.

Lastly, we must reinforce the notion in Nigerians, particularly our elected representatives, that Physics is not only “the Queen” but also the foundation of modern society.

COINCIDENCES appears fortnightly on Wednesdays. The columnist, Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth, is based in England, Britain, but can be reached via e-mail through or

Source News Express

Posted 21/08/2013 11:51:35 PM


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