Prof. Chike Obi was the first Nigerian to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree in Mathematics. While he lived, he acquired international renown as a consummate mathematician, a maverick politician, an international scholar and a passionate patriot. He, along with Adegoke Olubunmo, the late first Professor of Mathematics and Professor James Ezeilo simplified and revolutionised Mathematics research in Nigeria. In particular, Chike Obi became a role model and an inspirational figure for younger persons who developed interest in the study of Mathematics.
Prof. Chike Obi was born in Zaria (now in Kaduna State) on Thursday, April 7, 1921. He attended St. Patrick’s Primary School, Zaria (1933) Christ the King College, Onitsha (1935-39); Yaba Higher College, Lagos (1940-42); University of London, as an external student (1941-46); University College, London (1947); Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, England (1947-50), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA (1950).
Chike Obi gave scientific proof to a 361-year old mathematical puzzle known then as Fermat’s Last Theorem, named after the 17th century French mathematician, Pierre de Fermat: This theorem stated that “xn + yn = zn; where x, y, z and n are positive integers and has no solution if n is greater than two”. A Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, the late Chike Obi won laurels, including the Ecklund Prize from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics for original works in Differential Equations and for pioneering works in Mathematics in Africa, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), and the Sigvard Ecklund Prize of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (1986).
In Onitsha, his native community, he was a highly regarded member of the Agbalanze society He was also a distinguished member of the Mathematical Association of Nigeria, and author of Our Struggle, sub-titled “A Political Analysis of the Problems of Peoples Struggling for True Freedom” Part I (1986) and Our Struggle, Part II (1962).
Chike Obi passed away on March 13, 2008