Renowned professor of Statistics and erudite scholar, Professor James Nwoye Adichie, recently passed on. Aged 88, the great Nigerian, who died on June 10, 2020, left many worthy legacies that young Nigerians should emulate. Born on March 1, 1932 at Abba in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, Professor Adichie came from a poor background but his parents were able to pay his primary school fees.
After obtaining his General Certificate of Education (A level), he proceeded to the University College, Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan), to read Mathematics in 1957. He was among the top three students in his class then. Soon after graduating in 1960 from the UCI, Adichie got a job at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He worked at the research section of the bank then.
He later left the CBN and moved to the Office of Federal Statistics from where he moved to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Enugu where he taught Mathematics. Later, he moved to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) as an assistant lecturer. One year after, precisely in September 1963, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley, United States for his postgraduate studies.
He returned to the UNN in 1966 as the second person to obtain a PhD degree in Statistics from the University of California and the first Nigerian to do so. In 1976, he became a professor of Statistics at UNN, the first Nigerian to achieve the feat. He also became the Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and the Deputy Vice Chancellor of UNN between 1980 and 1984. He later retired from the university in 1997.
At various times in his career, Adichie delivered many academic papers both locally and internationally. He also authored many scholarly papers in reputable journals. He was a visiting fellow and visiting professor at the University of Sheffield, England, and the San Diego State University, California, United States respectively. Among others, he was a member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Mathematical Association of Nigeria.
Adichie came first in many endeavours he found himself. He was the first editor of the Journal of Statistical Association of Nigeria; the supervisor of the first postgraduate student to obtain a master’s degree of UNN in 1971; the first Head of the Department of Statistics in UNN; and the first Nigerian professor of Statistics. He also organised the first Foundation Postgraduate Course on Exact and Asymptotic Statistical Inference as well as the first Foundation Postgraduate Course on Mathematical Statistics at the International Centre for Excellence.
Being the father of the award-winning Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, brought additional fame to Prof. Adichie. In May 2015, he was kidnapped on his way to his home town, Abba, from Nsukka. In an article she penned for the New York Times then, Chimamanda said her father was kidnapped because of her. However, he was freed some days later.
Adichie, who held the traditional title of Odelora Abba, made his mark in other spheres. As an external examiner in Mathematics and Statistics in many Nigerian universities, he helped tremendously to develop Statistics in the Nigerian university system. A member of the National Advisory Council on Statistics, Adichie was also instrumental to the reorganisation of the Federal Office of Statistics which gave birth to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Besides, he not only helped in the setting up of the National Mathematics Centre (NMC), he also contributed to the upgrading of the NMC to an International Centre for Excellence. His love for education and discipline was indisputable.
In an interview with a national newspaper last year, Prof. Adichie regretted that schools no longer graduated students in character and learning. According to him, Nigerian children become angry with the system and lose interest in education when they see what legislators earn and how they live.
He reminisced: “During our time, there was nothing like teachers going on strike. Today, teachers go on strike because they feel something is wrong in the system. You don’t go on strike and remain serious about education pursuit. The zeal for the younger ones to study is no longer there. The competition in the university is no longer there. Teachers and students are not happy about the system. There is no reward system in the country. People who excel are not rewarded, but those who are fraudulent are being honoured.”
We believe that the best way to immortalise Adichie is for the government to revamp the education system, which he was passionate about. We commiserate with his family, the UNN and the entire nation. May God grant his soul eternal repose.