State Of The Nation: Of Nigeria and Mathematics -by Ayokunle Ayk Adeleye

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State Of The Nation: Of Nigeria and Mathematics -by Ayokunle Ayk Adeleye
There is no doubt that Nigeria has had a longstanding romance with Mathematics, the mother of all sciences. Since 1914 when Lugard merged the protectorates, unequally, as though equal, calling that which was not as though it were, Nigeria and Nigerians have been solving, rather inconsistently, the two-thirds of simple numbers. For instance, if the North is about twice as large as the South, and consequently makes about two-thirds of the entire landmass, should they still be merged as equals?

Of course, by now we realise that that unequal merger was the beginning of our woes, with some people believing in utero and afterwards that they are born to rule. Hence the first coup and the ones thereafter. Hence the attempt by some to secede either with Maitatsine bow and arrows, or with Biafran war guns, or more recently with Boko Haram bombs. Hence the belief that no measure, however extreme, even insurgency, is too farfetched. We must be equal to be heard, after all…

So that by the time Obasanjo came in ’76, it was glaring that we needed a lesson in Arithmetic, we needed to know how different two-thirds is from half; how significant a two-third majority is, especially since we have a constitution of two-thirds; and more importantly, how to derive the two-third of such numbers as 19, 35, 26– numbers not easily divisible by three; to be sure, a number is only divisible by three IF the sum of its digits is itself divisible by three.

This, Obasanjo sought to inculcate by establishing the Universal Primary Education, launching it in Lagos in September ’76. But it was a case of too little, too late, for three years later, on the 26th of September, ’79, the justices of the Supreme Court in the legendary Awolowo vs Shagari suit effectively ruled that two-thirds of 19 states was 12! But, just to be certain, ⅔ of 18 = 12, and since 18 ≠ 19, ⅔ of 19 can veritably not be 12!

The constitution dictated that to win a presidential election, the candidate needed to have at least a quarter of the votes in at least each of two-thirds of the states, 19 at the time. Shagari had had that prerequisite in 12 states, and had believed himself fulfilling of the law, especially since he had more than a quarter of the votes of two-thirds of Kano, the thirteenth state; how a state was to be divided into thirds however became the isu-ata-yán-an-yàn-an, yam-pepper-scatter-scatter. Awolowo had tried to make Shagari see that his Arithmetic was flawed. Of course, the Supreme Court agreed with Shagari!

In retrospect, if Obasanjo had launched his UPE in Sokoto, the home state of the Turakin Sakkwato, just maybe Shagari would have saved us future generations that ugly precedent. Just maybe Turakin would have known how two-thirds of 19 could not have been 12. Even the Mathematical Segun Odegbami knows that a shot one foot short of the goal post is no goal, however much it might be eight inches, two-thirds of a foot, close…

Anyway, come ’99, Obasanjo expectedly inaugurates his Universal Basic Education scheme in Sokoto, apparently to forestall another episode of arithmetic deficiency. It was a good attempt, notwithstanding, but history cannot be rewritten… It is another case of wrong place, wrong time…

This time, he probably should have gone to Otuoke, wherever that is. Had he done that, just maybe that man born in ’57 and who recently clocked 57 would know that 16 is never greater than 19, until inverted, and members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum were humans, and not ballot boxes; that two-thirds of Ekiti’s 26 is never 7, neither is that of River’s 33, and our courts are better at Arithmetic these days, thanks to UPE; that stealing ≠ corruption, not in Mathematics at least; and that not every money in $ is America’s, America does not have to know that our money is missing, or that our subsidies are yet unaccounted for, even as there are plans to take more…

Of course, Mr Speaker too must know that the Speaker is chosen from the majority party in the House, and is not a familial title, even if he is born to rule. That when he defected, he left the majority party in the House. That the height of that fence his supporters scaled gave them enough potential energy to lose their balance, become immensely attractive to the earth, and meet the floor in rapture-like shock… Just saying; in case they plan to do more of (such) jungle gymnastics…

But then, what happened when the Chlorophora excelsa of Ondo defected beneath the umbrella, did he lose it all?

 

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