December 23, 2018

Samuel Segun Okoya, an inspirational pedagogue and achiever, at 60

Samuel Segun Okoya, an inspirational pedagogue and achiever, at 60

By Olusola Akinbinu

The soul of every society is the knowledge incubated, grown and utilized, or to be utilized in the organization of men and materials in that society, but just as the soul is not seen, knowledge and those committed to its procreation are many times not song.

The increase in knowledge of characteristic of the forces interplaying in nature, which at first, man found himself completely ignorant, but with unrelenting investigation into the “hidden realities”, as used by Isaac Newton in his book: “The mathematical principles of Natural knowledge” setting a template for the evolution of new knowledge of nature, and these was continued by Pythagoras, Archimedes, Leonardo, Galileo, Descartes etc. and till today this battle against the infinite formlessness have continued even in more critical details increasing man’s capacity to overcome and utilize nature.

In the light of the above, Samuel Segun Okoya, who hails from Lagos State, born in Zaria in the year 1958, admitted in retrospect, that he had, as teachers and mentors, some remarkable mathematicians who made the highest expressions and the abstractness of mathematical thinking visible and simplified ambiguity in the subject, from his primary school through secondary and higher institution.

He Worked as Engineering Assistant at the Nigerian Television Authority Ibadan before securing admission to study mathematics which is the bedrock of engineering, graduated with a B.Sc (First Class honours) in 1983 from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU). He was privileged to handle tutorial classes in the department of mathematics during his NYSC in 1983 at OAU when he  had the opportunity to start interacting with students.

Counting it as nothing else but sheer grace; that he could know at least a little more than some others, and people could feel a need to ask him questions, to increase their knowledge, Okoya became very generous with his time and ideas. He rose through the ranks from Graduate Assistantship to become a professor in same department in 2003.  His impact in education mentorship of young Nigerian mathematicians and science-based undergraduates since then is unquantifiable. Numerous testimonials abound from undergraduate and graduate students who have passed through him, even many years after they had concluded their studies.

Always eager to pass knowledge and inspire young ones, Okoya claims to be constantly motivated by a saying of John C. Maxwell “We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are”. His students mostly remark that Okoya teaches “from his heart”, he puts everything into demonstrating his message, this addiction he claimed to have formed owing to his personal guiding principle; thus “the mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, but the great teacher demonstrates”. He is committed to this as his cross, in the insightful contribution to the anticipated liberation of the Nigerian economy though the germination of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) which scholars in some other climes have called the “knowledge economy”

To encourage students to be knowledge savvy, and inspiring them to make the best possible of their potentials, he instituted a prize called “The Professor Samuel Segun Okoya prize” . For his distinct contribution to research and advancement of the knowledge of mathematics, Prof  Okoya was appointed, and served in the prestigious position of the first occupier of the pastor E.A Adeboye Outstanding Professor of Mathematics, (Endowed Professorial Chair), University of Lagos. In the spirit of giving back to the Mathematics community, Prof. Okoya have instituted a Postgraduate course prize tagged the “First Occupier of Pastor E. A. Adeboye Chair/ Professor Samuel Segun Okoya prize” in the department of Mathematics, University of Lagos (UNILAG).  Professor Okoya reviewed Professorial Chair for National Research Foundation, South African and reviews for many other international and national journals in Springer, Taylor and Francis, Elsevier  publishers and Editor – in – Chief, Journal of the Nigerian Mathematical Society. He has taught Mathematical courses for about 34+ years .

Through research efforts, most of which were initiated by him, he has published many papers in International Journals in the broad field of combustion, Became  the first  fully  bred  alumnus  to  attain the  position  of  Professor  and  Head  of Mathematics Department, OAU, Ile – Ife. Having attended over 69 conferences in many countries U.K, Italy, Switzerland, India, Germany, Austria, Namibia, South Africa, Turkey, Republic of Benin and Nigeria.

As at the last count Okoya is still bordered in searching out undiscovered knowledge the areas of Mathematical modeling of combustion theory, Qualitative  properties,  exact  and (self)  similarity  solutions  of  systems of  reaction  –diffusion equations,  Numerical or/ and analytical solutions of  non  –  Newtonian fluid and heat transfer with or without reactant consumption and Analytical solutions of non – Newtonian fluid flow.

He had been invited for talks on more than 28 occasions across Turkey, USA, Namibia, India, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Nigeria.

Okoya who started his research studies from his personal favourite mathematical problem, which concern the size of the parabolic system, working on equations modelling the behavior of temperature and reactant specie, when diffusion of both properties is allowed but restricted to one-step reaction. His areas of contribution to knowledge and shedding light to where humanity was in darkness has been on three areas of applied mathematics including Flow and heat transfer, Reaction – diffusion equations and Nonlinear ordinary and partial differential equations. Each of the three phases has received its fair share in the author’s publications. The seeker has not stopped his querying into nature, at over 34 year of research and 60 years on this earth.

Professor Okoya has served in numerous administrative capacities in OAU, from the Senate to the Faculty, to the Department, also many other academic responsibilities across different Universities in Nigeria.

Okoya has deliberately created an aura of accessibility around himself to allow young people feel homely at approaching him for counselling in different areas when contending with life or studies may appear knotty.  He gave his life to Christ at the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Nigeria, Ile  –  Ife Main chapter in 1989, he was disciple,  ordained and served as Pastor  –in – Charge (1996  –  2000) at RCCG .  He started a newsletter as the Pastor and this metamorphosis into a Christian book titled “How it should be”.  This book was co-authored with his wife, Dr Mrs Aderonke A. Okoya. Also, they were able to build the house of God through the support of people   without levying.

Professor Samuel Segun Okoya is happily married with three children.

It is important in Nigeria today to bring to the fore the life and quintessential contributions of those Nigerians whose lives can serve as viable inspiration for younger Nigerians to know that there is nothing inherently inferior about being a Nigerian, but by identifying a mentor in visionary people like Samuel Okoya and others who have consciously illuminated or impacted the world beyond where they met it.

60 hearty cheers to the endowed pedagogue, Samuel Segun Okoya, Ph.D