For those who may not be familiar with core mathematics, especially further maths and its engineering terminologies, the rendezvous gave a clear definition of cryogenics.

“Cryogenics is derived from the Greek words “kruos” for frost, and “genos” for origin or creation. Simplified, it is the study of the phenomena, techniques and concepts occurring at temperatures below 120k (-153 degrees C). Cryogenic engineering therefore is the scientific applications of those concepts, phenomena and techniques that occur at very low temperatures.” He may have easily been another Prof. Chike Obi of his generation, but preferred to be unsung, working behind the scenes in the oil and gas fields, building mathematics laboratories and creating models to demystify and simplify the teaching of mathematics. But let us know something about his background.

His personae Born on March 18, 1953 at Abigi, Ogun Waterside Local Government Area of Ogun State, Obinaike, received his school education at the Methodist High School, Ifo, Ogun State from 1969 to 1972. He attended the Federal School of Science, Victoria Island (now defunct) for A-levels from 1974 to 1976 and subsequently gained admission to the University of Lagos to study Chemical Engineering in 1976.

He graduated in Chemical Engineering with second class upper division in 1980.

Still thirsty for deeper insight into technical education, Obinaike took up employment with BOC Gases Nig. Plc, a subsidiary of one of the world’s industrial gases giants, the BOC Group in 1981, as Operations Engineer. Two years later, he proceeded for Masters Degree course in cryogenics and applications at the Institute of Cryogenics, University of Southampton, United Kingdom and graduated in 1984.

**What inclined you to study cryogenics?**

From childhood, I’ve always had a pull towards the unusual, and cryogenics sounded strange and very unusual in this clime in the eighties. Secondly, I was already working in the gas industry, and cryogenic temperatures could only be achieved when certain gases are liquefied. It is indeed unusual and exciting when you talk of temperatures in the neighborhood of absolute zero (e.g. liquid Helium temperature).

**Do you have family history of technocrats?**

My father was a blacksmith and a bicycle technician. Although somehow introverted, he had a knack for knowing how appliances work. My elder brother is a professional electrician, I am a chemical engineer and I have also a child who is a computer engineer. So it is probably safe to say it runs in the family.

Career history Obinaike climbed the corporate ladder to become General Manager (operations) at BOC Gases Nig. Plc, a subsidiary of one of the world’s Industrial Gases giants, the BOC Group in 1981 and became member of the directorate in 2001 when he was promoted Technical Director, and voluntarily retired in 2005 at the age of 52, after 24 years of meritorious services in the gases and allied industry. In between, Obinaike attended several management courses locally and internationally. Daily Times asked why a technocrat should ‘voluntarily retire’ at 52; even now he just stepped into the 60s pathway.

“A lot of people wondered why I should be asked to go; the company called for a voluntary retirement and I obliged, but I think they were trying to reduce their overhead. But to me, I just believe time was up. If you wanted somebody, you’re not likely to ask him to go.

**How have you been spreading the message of mathematics?**

In 2010,I was invited to come on board as the MD/CEO of a new Independent Power Producing (IPP) company, which had acquired 80 percent of the assets (inclusive of liabilities) of an existing IPP company. This was in the wake of the economic meltdown and it was extremely difficult for us to raise the necessary funds.

Within two and half years, with lot of personal sacrifices from the senior management team, we were able to build a 3 km, 11KV mini-grid, being fed by two generating stations, serving more than 10 off-takers, besides liquidating a substantial part of the liabilities acquired. I left voluntarily after three and half years to pursue a divine call.”

**That would be one voluntary retirement too many; but how are you defining your academia, given the Nigerian educational situation?**

I think that was what drew me into my vision, because I noticed that mathematics is a subject most students find very difficult to cope with naturally. But this is compounded by lack of relative infrastructure in the educational system, input by government and in private schools, so I tried to put something together which I call mathematics laboratory. In what you might call a test case, I adopted a public school to start with.”

A resident of Igando, under Alimosho Local Government Area, Obinaike’s adopted; Egan Senior Grammar School is just behind his house. “I started with the 2011/2012 session, teaching them mathematics at the foundation level; I later added further-mathematics to strengthen their intellectual buildup, and the first year, the school scored 98 percent in mathematics; in the second year, they made 96 percent, but this always depends on the students; the enthusiasm of the students of those years was much more than what we have now.”

**You consider students should be mathematically formed before entering the university?**

“Yes! Some of them are better at that level. By the time they get into the university, if the foundation has been well laid in maths and further maths, they are supposed to have sorted themselves out.

“Besides, there are so many lecturers and mathematics professors that will teach them. What I develop is at the foundation level, to fill the gap that exists at that level. So if a child has A1, when he gets into the university, he will be able to cope. Many of them had B, some C, and so on. When the foundation is fixed the child is made. What I discovered is that many schools don’t even offer further mathematics again; they tell the students they don’t need it; what they require is mathematics; then when the students get into the university level, they are confronted with the need for calculations they never learnt.

So, for a science or engineering student, or for someone who is aspiring to become an engineer, you certainly need to study further mathematics at the ordinary level, so that you have a good foundation”.

**As a scientist, how do you see government’s action in shutting down the Federal School of Science?**

“You’ve asked a multimillion naira question. Federal School of Science was established, principally, to encourage and boost science education. Two others were established in Ogoja and one other state. Government came, first, with a dilution by turning them to schools of arts and science, and then scrapped them altogether for no justifiable reasons. I suspect the action could have been a result of the North-South politics.”

I was lucky during secondary school years; I had a teacher who eventually became my lecturer at the university; he grounded those of us that were serious in mathematics;

he is Dr. Victor Funsho Adeniyi and he is still in the Chemical Engineering Department of the University of Lagos. He was the one that thoroughly grounded me in mathematics.

**Why are you holding your knowledge from the tertiary institutions?**

“If I get there, I won’t do much more than the lecturers are doing, but nobody is doing what I am doing now; I prefer to fill that gap because that is the core foundation for the future of the serious student. My advice is that every school should have a mathematics laboratory which I can put together”.

The specialised mathematics laboratory “When I developed that package, it was a revelation I had that drove me to this. I left my room for the bathroom; I wasn’t praying, then I heard very clearly the word: mathematics.

At first I didn’t know what to do. After, I joined someone to do a small business, but it didn’t work. I later heard in my spirit, that is not what I asked you to do. So I went back to prayers; then I visited a friend who is an architect. As I was sharing the revelation with him, a lot of ideas rushed through me and right on his table, I produced about 20 sheets; then he said he knows one IT fellow who can anchor it for me, so we developed some templates on those lines; that was in 2007, 2008.”

Satisfied he has a package that will revolutionise and simplify the teaching and learning of mathematics, Obinaike went to some private schools to market it, but he got a shocker.

”They loved it, but didn’t want to pay; and someone had told me that private schools don’t like paying fees; in fact one of the school proprietors looked at my face, maybe he thought I am a very rich man, and he said, give it to us so that your children will enjoy it. That dampened my spirit, so I settled with what I am doing with these children; but I think it is a good idea if every school will have a mathematics laboratory.”

**Comment on the educational structure in Nigeria today?**

“Mathematics infrastructure is the missing link. If Nigeria is to raise a generation of thoroughly grounded technocrats who will lay a lasting structure, then we need mathematics infrastructure in our educational system.

“I have mentioned that mathematics is a subject most students find difficult to cope with, but this is compounded in Nigeria by lack of relative infrastructures in our education system.”

On the way out “Mathematics is taught all over the world, but you need a very good teacher for it. Now, Nigeria will be fit to take on the world if every school, private or public, can have a mathematics laboratory, which is the foundation infrastructure for the student in secondary schools.”

**What is the purpose of the models you make?**

“Some of the models, I use to teach students on how to reduce the level of abstraction, and drudgery associated with mathematics. After setting it up, teachers would be trained on how to use these laboratory equipments so they can effectively impart the knowledge to the children. To understand mathematics, you need to reduce the level of abstraction that makes it uninteresting;

though it is not everything you can take abstraction away from. But when you start with those things they can see, touch and feel as they are hearing; there is a way it gingers them up. So for areas where there are lots of abstractions, they will be able to follow because the interest is there.”

**How do you reduce the level of abstraction?**

“By teaching them with the models and in a laboratory setting where they can carry out some related activities, your cognitive ability will drive home what the teacher is teaching; that’s the whole essence of the mathematics laboratory.” Gender equation in mathematics The class I adopted to teach is mixed as the school. There are girls, but the boys are on the higher scale in number. Also, I must state that we have had girls scoring much higher marks in mathematics, but the higher block is occupied by the boys.

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