Government to investigate Emeagwali

By Musikilu Mojeed, NEXT

The Nigerian government will investigate allegations of fraudulent claims levelled against Nigerian United States-based scientist, Philip Emeagwali, the Minister of Information and Communication, Dora Akunyili, has said.alt

NEXT had in a report on Sunday quoted some leading American scientists as describing Mr. Emeagwali's claim that he was a father of the Internet as misleading.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Mrs. Akunyili said the allegations against Mr Emeagwali were weighty and disturbing and would have to be thoroughly investigated.

Mr. Emeagwali is among Nigerians that Mrs. Akunyili showcased to the world in the government's effort to improve the country's image.

The Nigeria Postal Service, which is directly under the minister's supervision, has also put the embattled scientist on the Nigerian stamp.

"The allegations are unbelievable, but we cannot jump to conclusion," the minister said. "Our government is a responsible one and so, we cannot disregard what has been published. We will pierce information together and if necessary, we will invite him to say his own side of the story. He is our son. When they tell you your child is a thief, you can't just jump up and start celebrating. You will have to find out and establish the truth."

Mrs. Akunyili said the government cannot afford to make mistakes on such a sensitive issue and would therefore take its time to do a thorough investigation.

She said once the investigation is completed, the government will issue a final statement, and then decide whether to remove him from the Nigerian stamp.

She did not say how long the investigation would last, saying it was not a decision she could unilaterally take.

Erroneous celebration

Meanwhile, a graduate student of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Adekunle Yusuf, on Sunday apologized for erroneously celebrating Mr. Emeagwali at an event in his university four days ago.

In a telephone interview with NEXT, Mr. Yusuf said at a "Taste of Nigeria" event, organized by the university to celebrate the culture and people of Nigeria, Nigerian students showcased Mr. Emeagwali alongside the likes of Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe as their country's great human exports dazzling the world.

He said he became sad after reading the report of Mr. Emeagwali's fraudulent claims in NEXT.

"We didn't know he was just deceiving the world. I'm really depressed that he was among those we celebrated," said Mr. Yusuf, a Senior Writer with TELL and Ford Foundation scholar at Wisconsin.

In 1989, Mr. Emeagwali won the $1,000 Gordon Bell Prize, which is awarded each year to recognise outstanding achievement in high-performance computing.

His award was for an application of the CM-2 massively parallel computer for oil reservoir modelling. Following the feat, Mr. Emeagwali proceeded to claim, for several years, that he was a father of the Internet; that he improved upon Isaac Newton's laws of motion; that he owned the world's first personal website; that American computer giant, Apple, uses the microprocessor technology he pioneered in its Power Mac G4 model, among many other claims.

But leading American and Nigerian scientists have faulted the claim, saying Mr. Emeagwali made no contribution to the evolution of the Internet as he had over the years made the world to believe.