“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a popular maxim used for describing the resultant effect of a difficult situation. Nigerian situation has been difficult for quite some years now and the positive outcomes of this rather unpalatable condition are the creativity, ingenuity and invention brought out by Nigerians to survive the condition. Ordinarily, Nigerians are gifted with above average level of ingenuity, hard work and perseverance, when added to the prevailing difficult situation the result is multitude of inventors. Thus, in the last 10 years, Nigeria has produced more than 100 inventors of all kind of devices or innovations to address identifiable problems in the society. Some of these inventors were accorded recognition from local to international levels while others are yet to be so recognized, few others are frustrated and forced to abandon their inventions.
Invention is a creative process. It is certainly a vocation of first class minds; a product of imagination that allows one to see beyond what is known and norms. Seeing a new possibility, identifying a new horizon, meeting a new situation, making a new connection, or building a relationship can often spark up the process of invention. As written in Wikipedia “Inventive thinking frequently involves combining concepts or elements from different realms that would not normally be put together”. Sometimes inventors disregard the boundaries between distinctly separate territories or fields. Several concepts may be considered when thinking about invention; re-envision, insight, exploration and improvement are few of such concepts bogging down the mind of inventor for successful invention. Inventors often think of the unthinkable, imagine the unimaginable perceive the unperceivable. The world is becoming a better place by the day as a result of the relentless efforts of inventors in our society.
Generally, from the earliest stone tools of the Paleolithic era to the 21st century with its latest digital advances, human inventions have shaped civilizations and transformed life on earth. The world of invention is dynamic; expectations and capabilities evolve with every step forward, and each new generation brings its own set of innovative thinkers. Nigeria, with an estimated population of over 200 million people is blessed with innovative brains and creative minds between both the educated and non – formal educated people across the nation. Who are these inventors and what have they invented for us to recognize them? What are their challenges and opportunities to the nation?
Four years ago, precisely between the month of June and July 2016, this column serialized five articles titled “Recognizing Nigerian Inventors: Challenges and Opportunities”. The articles presented various technological inventions made by some prominent Nigerians in the country and in diaspora. Nigerian inventors have made impacts on all spheres of human endeavors. Some of the inventions received global recognition and accolades, elevated the image of the nation to most glorious level that made many of us proud as Nigerians and making other nationals green with jealous. The articles couldn’t list all the inventors and x-ray their inventions. However, few of the celebrated ones were catalogued as source of inspiration to the young ones while analyzing the opportunities presented by each invention.
In the article, names of renowned Nigerian inventors were mentioned. One of such names was that of Emmanuel Okekunle from Jos who was then a 24-year-old senior secondary school graduate. Okekunle invented through improvisation a rechargeable lamp, fan, emergency alarm, electric waste bin that converts waste to ashes, and an aquarium, among other things. Another name was that of Saheed Adepoju, the Co-founder of Encipher Limited, a Nigerian-based technology company who unveiled the first android-powered tablet into Nigeria in April 2010. Adepoju named his android tablet “INYE-1”, a 7-inch resistive screen tablet. It runs on android 2.1 and allows users to connect to the Internet using its inbuilt Wi-Fi card and use an external 3G modem from GSM networks. A year after, he unveiled INYE-2 is an 8-inch capacitive screen Tablet that offers over eight hours battery life. ANYE-2 allows users to connect to other USB devices.
Another name was that of Seyi Oyesola, a trained medical doctor who invented CompactOR, popularly known as “Hospital in a Box”, a solar-powered life-saving operating room, which can be transported to remote areas of Africa and set up within minutes. It is a portable medical system that contains anesthetic and surgical equipment. Similar to Oyesola’s invention was the invention of “Emergency Auto Transfusion System (EAT-SET)” invented by Col. Oviemo Ovadje (Rtd), he is a Nigerian medical Doctor. EAT-SET is an effective, low-cost and affordable blood auto-transfusion mechanism that saves patients especially in developing countries. By 2013, the EAT-SET was patented in 13 countries where they were deployed for medical services. The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and the government of Nigeria funded the EAT-SET Project, with the World Health Organization (WHO) acting as the executing agency and providing assistance in the coordination of the project.
“Pot-in-pot refrigerator” or “zeer” was another prominent invention, which was reported. Mohammed Bah Abbah was the inventor of this indigenous technology “zeer”, which is a refrigerating device that does not use electricity. This technology is most suitable for people in rural areas, who want have cold water during hot season. Mohammed Bah Abbah won a $75,000 “Rolex Award of Enterprise” for the invention. He used the award prize and massively produced and distributed his invention in 11 northern states in Nigeria.
One globally acknowledged inventor mentioned was Ume Ifeanyi Charles. He is American based Nigerian, credited with five famous inventions patented in America among others. There are:
- Method and Apparatus for Measuring Thermally Induced Warpage in Printed Wiring Boards Using Shadow Moir, which was patented in USA with United States Patent No. 5601364, Feb. 11,1997;
- Method and Apparatus for Measuring Thermal Warpage Using Projection Moir, patented in USA with United States Patent No. 6564166 B1, May 13, 2003;
- Object Inspection Method and System, equally patented in USA with United States Patent No. 6747268, June 8, 2004;
- Inspection System and Methods, United States Patent No. 7492449,February 17, 2009;
- Ultrasound Systems and Method for Measuring Weld Penetration Depth in Real Time and Off Line, United States Patent No. 7762136, July 27, 2010.
Thus, all the five inventions were patented at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Charles is a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia. He is a recipient of the Donald P. Eckman Education Award in recognition of his contributions towards education of mechatronics throughout the world. In 2010, he was also awarded the Electronics and Photonic Packaging Division (EPPD) Excellence in Mechanics Award.
Few other Nigerian inventors whose works are internationally acknowledged were similarly mentioned. In this category, we have Cyprian Emeka Uzoh. He holds more than 126 United States issued patents and over 160 patents worldwide in semiconductor technology, including U.S. Patent No. 6709562, “method of making electroplated interconnection structures on integrated circuit chips”. This spectacular feat earned him the inventor of the year award in 2006 from the New York Intellectual Property Association. Yet another Nigerian born inventor is Brino Gilbert. He is acknowledged to be the inventor of the “Counter Collision Gadget (CCG)”. CCG is device with the capacity to prevent accidents on the road, air, sea and rail. The invention earned him many awards including a bronze medal in the Aerospace/Aeronautics category at the May 2003 edition of the Invention and New Product Exposition (INPEX) in the United States. He also received a silver medal in the manufacturing category and a trophy for being the best invention from Africa in the continental category. His vision is to make CCG exportable to many countries of the world.
These eight Nigerian born inventors were among the multitude presented in my five articles published in 2016 and can all be accessed via my blog (www.breakthroughwithmkothman.blogspot.com). Now what are the updates on the Nigerian born inventors within the country and in diaspora? What are the challenges preventing Nigeria benefiting from the toils of these special Nigerians? To be continued next week.