Of Einstein, April and Nigeria: Morrison, Soyinka, Obasanjo and Adichie

by Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth
Olusegun Obasanjo

The Theoretical Physicist, Albert Einstein, described as the greatest Scientist of the 20th century, passed away on April 18, 1955. 63 years ago. Certain events and persons in Nigeria remind one of Einstein. A case in point is April 18. Firstly, let’s  take Wole Soyinka who has some interesting things in common with Einstein like winning the Nobel prize, being prompted to vie for the Presidency, confronting dictators, being a trouble shooter on campus, associated with the unconventional, similarly attracted to sea life, playing a stringed instrument and going on exile.

Soyinka was invited to Princeton to give the Toni Morrison Lectures from April 18 to April 20. Einstein passed away in Princeton.

Toni Morrison, a former Professor at Princeton, was awarded the  U.S. presidential medal  of freedom by Barack Obama on May 29, 2012, the anniversary of the confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity as advanced by Einstein, said to be the greatest discovery of the 20th century.

On May 29, 2019, the 100th anniversary of the confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity, a  Nigerian President will be sworn in and Chief Olusegun  Obasanjo wants to have a hand in who that person will be. Chief Olusegun  Obasanjo was sworn in as Nigerian President on May 29, 1999 and re-elected on April 19, 2003. He was to become the Patron of The Next Einstein Initiative of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). On April 18, 2018, he led a delegation of the NEXT Einstein Initiative to the African Development Bank.

On the year that marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Albert Einstein, Obasanjo handed over to Alhaji Shehu Shagari precisely on  October 1, 1979, the anniversary of Albert Einstein starting elementary school and Shagari,  like Einstein, at elementary school was literary learning on the job. Obafemi Awolowo to be described as the best President Nigeria never had was said to have lost the Presidential Election to Shagari in 1979. Interestingly, the spouse to Obafemi Awolowo was born  November 25, 1915, the exact  day that Einstein presented his equations on the General Theory of Relativity in Berlin, Germany. And Oby Okwesili, named by the Einstein foundation as top 100 visionaries of our time gave the first H.I.D. Awolowo lecture.

On April 19, 2018, the Novelist Chimamanda Adichie was featured in the Harvard Gazette as class day Speaker. What is interesting about this is that the Einstein foundation has also named Adichie as one of the top 100 visionaries of our time. Adichie was born September 15, 1977, whereas the Einstein gravitational waves were first observed on September 14, 2015, the eve of the 38th birthday anniversary of Adichie. Some of my write ups on coincidences have been registered at the statistical laboratory, Cambridge University, under the headship of  Professor David Spiegelhalter, once described as the worlds 34th best Mathematician. In the African world view when lightning strikes the same place three times, ”There  must be something” but in the western world view it is just coincidence. Professor Steven Pinker, one of the worlds top 100 thinkers opined in his recent book,  Enlightenment now: The case for reason, Science, Humanism and progress that we underestimate the prevalence of coincidence. It would be interesting to know where Professor Aderemi Kuku stands. He has been president of the  African Academy of Science and  President of the African union  of Mathematics.

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