By Fred Iwejora
Dr. Dikeoha Okwu studied at Corpus Christi College, Achi, Oji River LGA of Enugu State, and he went on to the University of California, Berkeley, Carlifornia, USA, where he majored in mathematics games and methods.
After his years in the United States, Okwu returned to Nigeria and lectured at the University of Jos, Plateau State, for a year before inventing a radical system which he says will make a primary school pupil attempt WAEC mathematics.
Armed with Dikeohamatics, the several methods, games and kits invented by him to make learning mathematics easy and of course many letters of recommendation from notable Nigeria ministries and parastatals, Okwu has been shouting himself hoarse about the importance of understanding mathematics by Nigeria as a nation. He believes lack of such knowledge has caused all the woes of our country. Would the new government in Nigeria look his way this time around? In this interview he attempts to explain further.
Could you throw more light on this new way of understanding mathematics?
I call it Dikeohamatics. It is my radical way of simplifying mathematics so that children, especially Nigerian children, will develop love and interest in and for it. I want to stop the chalk and talk monotony of teaching mathematics to make our children love maths in merrymaking. It is said that monotony kills interest. Nigerian children do not even know what is being done in linear measurement.
Our measurement of feet, yards and miles were practically done. It is the belief of Nigerians that when you place children in class with cane in your hand, they must learn. No way. We have to match practical with theory unless we want to continue being a buyer and a beggar nation. We keep on buying and begging. It is very unfortunate. We can’t produce basic mathematical instruments. I strongly believe that unless Nigeria pays attention to mathematics, nothing shall ever work.
What kind of games are you talking about?
I have over 1,500 games in mathematics to aid teaching and learning of the subject. I have also developed mathematics story books which have so much simplified mathematics for easy learning and appreciation. In it we use the tortoise and the elephant to tell the stories. And that is practical mathematics in a funny way and made easy. Children watch television much more than they will read their books, so we also arranged something that will be on television for them, but they will learn mathematics by so doing.
Could you give more details on this special topic?
We developed the programme topically, the numerals, roman and Arabic. We have games on logarithms, equations, LCM, HCF, and all mathematical topics. If we methodically handle these, Nigerians will be mathematicians unconsciously. Nigeria has more or less created fear in the classrooms.
Once you bring a whip into the mathematics class, you cause problem. You cause brain block and adrenalin is released and everywhere is blocked. But with Dikeohamatics, the child enjoys mathematics because he is at play while learning. Numbers will be played with while studying geometry; shapes will be easier to identify if I get all the 64 of all shapes and set up tables for groups. When I say give me triangle, they will run to get it with all happiness and play. He is being controlled by himself and no one is forcing him to.
You talk as if your games are only for the children?
No, it is for all. I have maths programmes from kindergarten to first degree. I have also a game programme for Ph.D students. I have guided several Ph.D students. But I talk children because they are the foundation. If they develop skills, it would last them a life time. The problem of mathematics is not the final degree type
Your games are all in Igbo. Is there any reason for that?
None is in Igbo, but they have Igbo nomenclature. Should I invent American games or Japanese games? It does not follow. This is the mistake Nigerians always make. What about Igbos and Yorubas who learn English language or Latin? It is not a problem at all. It is whatever you call your dog that it answers. The names show that it is only originating from Igboland and that is all. It has every right to go around the world like other inventions have done.
For instance, my game for simultaneous equation is called Si muta nu Dikeoha. Even if you do not understand Igbo, follow the game. Japanese have Judo or Takweando and the language of such games is Japanese which is strange to the world, but has started to be known by the players. You can see world sportsmen trying to make the Japanese commands. Why should people now say that Dikeohamatics is Igbotic. There are a lot of Greek or Russian names which we can’t even pronounce but no one says it is not good.
But I don’t mind because even if I could teach only Igbo people or only Enugu people mathematics, I will be happy and fulfilled. Let other people teach in Hausa or Yoruba or Urhobo or other languages in Nigeria so Nigeria will be better for it. I have developed a game show called O tu daya ni which is a combination of the three major languages of Nigeria. I have never seen a country that loves what others have more than they love their own like Nigeria.
That is why many women and men go into bleaching their skin to become white. I have once in a while put out releases on thinking Nigeria and buying Nigerian made goods. That is why it made me sad that Prof. Dora Akunyili who felt deeply about this, died. Think about the names you hear around the world. Ford did not name his car a Nigerian name; Aman Peugeot, the French automaker did not call his car a Nigerian name; Mercedes Benz is not Nigerian. Nigerians are very funny.
When I say my name is Dikeoha and my mathematical ideas are Dikeohamatics, they say it is Igbo; what do they want? Just play the maths game which teaches the subject with ease and don’t bother about the name of the inventor. Do you think that Mr. Honda would have called his fine car Dikeoha? I have developed mathematical games of international worth, treating the subject from primary 1-SSS3. I have treated all the topics. I developed far easy ways of solving Pythagoras, simultaneous equation and more. It is a novel idea.
Nigeria sure needs to hear this. What have you done to see that this idea is seen by policy makers?
I had written President Obasanjo to try me. I spent over N16.5m traveling to and from Abuja, flight tickets, hotel accommodations and more but could not succeed. The former president had sent one Tunde Awosika to me and I was invited to Aso Rock. But I arrived Abuja and spent several days at a hotel and he never kept a single appointment until my money exhausted and I ran back to Enugu.
I feel bad that the media in Nigeria has no room for inventions and inventors. Most media houses have gone extra commercial to the detriment of the nation and more edifying issues that grow a country. There is fire on the mountain now; we should all begin to run. Inventions make a nation yet we are not moving any inch. The world is already researching to find alternatives to oil but we are still asleep.
A few years ago, I had mathematically projected in a radio programme that Nigeria Super Eagles won’t do well at a soccer tournament in South Africa in 2010. It happened that way and people called me all sorts of names. Do you win without any preparations?.
There is mathematics in soccer and Nigerians don’t even know it. When Germany or Spain or Italy wins, you may be shocked to note that the players went to do mathematics on the field. My analysis of the Super Eagles players revealed to me that they were quota players from all the states, who could not do calculations properly, but going to play with qualified players and teams. We have to have time to promote and encourage our inventors because that is how to go. It worries me to see that we have several Nigerian educated people yet we import common rules from China. It is shameful. It is horrible.
I recall that I had written to Senator Uche Chukwumerije to explain all I have been through trying to sell these ideas to government. I even showed him all the commendation letters I have received from some of the ministries and government parastatals, including the Federal Ministry of Education and even to the Nigerian Educational Research Development Council (NERDC).
It did not end there as I also had a proposal to the Federal Road Safety Commission on a game show on speed limit which then Corps Marshal Osita Chidoka recommended, but nothing came out of it. Do you know that the speed limit of a taxi within a city is 50km? How many people know this? My game show would have done this teaching with ease for an ignorant populace who do not even understand why they should drive carefully. Our plan was to introduce the road safety game show to schools because research has shown that everyone is a driver and a passenger. Nothing came out of that recommendation till date.
However, I feel good that my mathematical laws and games are now recommended by the Federal Ministry of Education and Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). By this singular act, I cannot just be called a professor but a mathematical law giver, the likes of Newton, Pythagoras etc.
It must have been really frustrating. So what do you now want from Nigeria and Nigerians?
I want an individual with the utmost power like the President or the Education Minister or the Youth and Sport Minister or a state governor or local government chairman to muster the courage or the will to implement my recommended ideas. A very strong policy is required to back it up for mass appeal.
I want the President to authorize the organization of workshops around Nigeria where I will demonstrate what I am talking about. I would demonstrate how a primary one pupil could solve some WAEC maths. I have done that before but we need to do more. We planned to do a nationwide demonstration and suddenly no one says anything about it and it died down. I lost money and got discouraged.
I am still not tired yet because I understand the importance of mathematics in life. Other countries are benefitting from their knowledge of maths and it keeps me wondering where we are headed. Nigeria should be serious with its inventors, a lot of whom have developed local content capable of having world appeal. Note that I showed the Federal Ministry of Education how to make a child in primary one solve some WAEC mathematics in 2007. They acknowledged it in unity. I have the letter.
Have you ever thought about mass production of these games?
I have mass-produced and many of them are being beaten by the rain where they are packed. I also have a letter urging principals to cooperate with me.
I worry that Nigeria is still toying with its destiny by the total disregard for mathematics. Maths is a science of decision making. No nation thrives without decisions. Imagine that Nigeria can’t still take decision about producing common rules let alone motor cars and bicycles and aeroplanes. I recall my father had a car before Nigeria’s independence. He used to call able bodied men in the village to come and whine it to start.
Today it is not the same as inventions have helped the world. Cars are now even remote controlled. Our leaders should start to look inwards to discover these talented people scattered around Nigeria. I know of one man who imported the sand used to build his house in Nigeria. Aba boys who make good shoes have to put a foreign label to satisfy the Nigerian psyche for foreign goods to sell them. Shame!
Does it mean that no private family has heard these hues and cries of yours and benefitted from your invention? And must you wait for the government, since they also wish to see private sector participation?
I must confess, several families have had their children benefitting from these mathematics games. I remember the Ofoegbus, the Onwudiwes, the Jooks etc., who are all in Enugu. But I feel Nigerians as a whole will benefit more from it. That is the reason I am calling out to the federal and state governments. I will not begin to call names of the families whose children hitherto knew nothing about maths but ended up scoring A’s in WAEC exams. I just go into the market to buy mangoes and tomatoes. I place 10 tomatoes and minus 5 tomatoes that is 10T minus 5T to teach algebra and other topics in mathematics.
Many have said that Nigerians do not know the importance of the subject. Could you teach us some lessons here on the important of mathematics to life?
You are correct, because if we knew the importance of maths, we won’t be where we are today as a nation. Mathematics is as important to life as the air we breathe. For the farmer, it helps him take decision on what to plant and what to keep, what to sell and what to store. It helps us keep statistics of all things and it is only with statistics that you can have a mean, a mode and a median to give you probability. Nigeria has no analytical sense because of low knowledge about mathematics and it is affecting the nation. I do not know where we belong. We are not super power; we are neither semi-super power nor even third world. Without maths, our country has no tool for decision making.
Are you not discouraged that for over 35 years you have been pushing on for Nigeria to promote their inventors like you and no one seems to be listening?
At first I was discouraged but when I recalled that someone must be the sacrificial lamb, I bowed. I have been the guinea pig and will never stop talking about Nigeria’s impending doom because of lack of interest in scientists and local inventors. I remember Abraham Lincoln who tried several times to win a political position but failed in all until he attempted the presidency and won. I regard myself as the winner because when I get bored and want to enjoy myself, I bring out one of the games and play with neighbours. I feel happy that my game is making people relax and entertained and also to learn maths.
What is the way out for Nigeria in this seeming quagmire?
Nigeria should challenge our universities enough to produce basic implements and instruments for farming. We cannot be farming the same way our forefathers did. They see their mates plying the streets with Keke NAPEP and you want him to go farming which has not been made easier.
We have to challenge our institutions and school system to be more practical enough to support all these ideas because not doing so is like building a house without foundation. Again, when they are challenged, Nigeria should also do its bit to support inventors. Could you ever imagine what would happen to Nigeria if oil dries up or sells for $10 a barrel? I cry when I realize that the simple implements and instruments we use in Nigeria are still being imported from China.
Look at trees here and there, but we can’t still produce common measuring rules. These were my pains which caused me to realize that we have failed because we have not followed mathematics and taken it seriously and that we do not know mathematics because we were not taught to love it. That was why I decided to develop Dikeohamatics. It is all encompassing. We have also spread out into other areas other than mathematics. If Nigeria takes note of mathematics and makes it imperative to be learnt, then the country will be better for it.
The banking system should stop playing a parasitic role in Nigeria economy. A situation where a bank cannot lend a helping hand to a risk-free business venture unless the proprietor has some millions of collateral to show for it is a sad story to tell.