The Nigerian Guardian


I was in Onitsha the night it was captured by the Nigerian army. It was a night that bullets and rockets rained in the streets of Onitsha and armed Nigerian soldiers were shooting at unarmed women and children.


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Philip Emeagwali
interviewed by Reuben Abati for The Nigerian Guardian.



Distinction could well be Philip Emeagwali's middle name. A high school drop-out and former war refugee, this US based Nigerian is today the wonder boy of supercomputing. He has been called the "Bill Gates of Africa." His earlier schoolmates at Christ the King College, Onitsha, remember him as "Calculus." Emeagwali holds several records: the world's fastest computation of 3.1 billion calculations per second; world record for solving the largest partial differential equations with 8 million grid points; world record for solving the largest weather forecasting equations with 128 million grid points; world record for an unprecedented parallel computer speedup; discovered the counter-intuitive hypercube paradox; formulated the theory of tessellated models for parallel computing; discovered chirality, duality, helicity, etc. The remaining achievements run into eight more pages. Emeagwali has been honored with all the top awards in his field, but he says the world hasn't seen anything yet. Over a period of seven months, The Guardian's Reuben Abati, currently in the United States, interviewed Emeagwali, one topic at a time, on a variety of issues. Excerpts:


What is your background in Nigeria?
I was born in Akure and raised in mid-western Nigeria. My parents were born and raised in Onitsha. My father, James, was a nurse and my mother, Agatha, was a homemaker. I am the oldest of nine children.

The Nigeria that I grew up in was a lot different from the Nigeria of today. When I was young, my mother could feed the entire family on one pound (two Naira) a month. You could walk at night without worrying about armed robbers. The Governor of mid-western Nigeria, Samuel Mariere, lived in a modest house with no electricity in our neighborhood in Agbor which makes me believe that politicians of that era were not very corrupt.

Dick Tiger's fight for the world boxing championship in Ibadan and Nigeria-Ghana soccer matches were the most talked about sports event of my childhood.

Highlife music was very popular then and I still have my collections of the music of Rex Lawson, Victor Uwaifo and Victor Olaiya.

We fled to eastern Nigeria in May 1967 because of the massacre of thousands of Igbos in northern Nigeria.

Living in Biafra was like living in hell. We lived in bombed-out buildings, abandoned school class rooms or refugee camps.

We stood in long lines to receive relief foods --- powdered milk and eggs, cornmeal and dried stock fish called okporoko --- flown into Biafra by charity organizations.

I was in Onitsha the night it was captured by the Nigerian army. It was a night that bullets and rockets rained in the streets of Onitsha and armed Nigerian soldiers were shooting at unarmed women and children.




Family photo taken with Cousin Charles (third from right) with me standing on the right (December 1962 at Uromi, Nigeria).


Related articles/websites

Emeagwali's Website

Making Strides in a Parallel Universe

Inspirations from Hard History

Letters to Emeagwali


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