re-printed from a Nigerian news article:

Chike Obi solves 361-year-old maths puzzle.

By Akin Jimoh

BY plain brainwork and without the use of modern technological aid such as computers, world acclaimed Nigerian mathematician, Prof. Chike Obi, has given scientific proof to a 361-year old mathematical puzzle known as Fermat's Last Theorem.

The theorem, well known among mathematicians and other allied professions, was enunciated by one of the two leading mathematicians of the first half of the 17th Century, Pierre de Fermat, a French. By far, the best known of Fermat's many theorems, it states that the equation xn+yn=zn; where x,y,z, and n are positive integers, has no solution if n is greater than two. Fermat had, on this particular theorem, which appeared in the margin of Diophantus Arithmetic, stated: "I have discovered a truly wonderful proof of this proposition, but the margin is too small to contain it."

Two Western researchers had in 1994 solved the problem using modern technological aid. But Nigeria's Obi, in a summary of his seminal paper, used a method which "looks very much like the way Fermat must have proved his theorem in the 17th Century." Obi's research, conducted at his Nanna Institute for Scientific Studies based in Onitsha, Anambra State, has just been published in the international journal {Algebras Groups and Geometries} Volume 15, Pages 289 to 299 (1998). In this work, Obi presented an elementary proof of the theorem. The science community, especially in Nigeria and other developing countries, is agog with celebration that such scholarship is coming from Africa. Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) President, Professor Anya O. Anya described {Fermat's Last Theorem} as one of the most famous problems in Numbers Theory. Indeed, the academy is planning to celebrate Obi's feat and many others of its fellows, NAS Secretary, Prof. Sulaiman Adekola said.

Besides, measures will shortly be put in place by the academy to popularise Obi's works and other breakthroughs in science in Nigeria.

Another professor of mathematics, Jerome Ajayi Adepoju who described Obi as "my senior colleague for many years," said the simplicity of the method employed by the University of Lagos emeritus professor stands it out from what other mathematicians have done. This, according to him, proved that Fermat, in his simplistic way and using the technology of the 17th Century, was indeed right.

The theorem has been described as a general diophantine equation which, in Adepoju's words, is "a special case." It was indeed not until November 1994 that two mathematicians, Andrew Wiles and Richard Taylor, gave a complete and acceptable proof.

Adepoju said: "Wiles and Taylor in their proof made use of the work of Taniyama - Shimura - Weil conjecture for semi-stable elliptic curves, as well as the results of Frey, Serve and Ribbat. In view of the complexity and the amount of mathematics involved in the proof, some of which were not known or developed at the time of Fermat, one wonders if indeed Fermat actually had a valid proof or what his proof looked like.

"If indeed he had a proof, it is unlikely to be along the same lines of argument as Wiles' and Taylor's proof."

According to the scholar, that Obi's method used the principle adopted by Fermat in the 17th Century makes it more acceptable and a true reflection of Fermat's thinking at that time.

Obi, 78, is an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Lagos since 1985. Born on April 7, 1921 and married with four children, he retired from academia to found the Nanna Institute for Scientific Studies, Onitsha.

A Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, the world renowned mathematics scholar won the Ecklund Prize from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics for original work in Differential Equations, and pioneering works in mathematics in Africa. He had earned his doctoral degree in 1950, specialising in Non-linear Differential Equations at the Pembrooke College, University of Cambridge, England.

Besides his scholarly enterprise, Obi used to be a political activist - with many publications on mathematics and the Nigerian political system.

Praising the eminent scholar, Adepoju said at the weekend that the proof by other mathematicians, used a high measure of sophistication which "was not known during Fermat's time." He added: "What we have in this (Obi's) paper is what Fermat's proof looked like."

According to him, humanity has much to gain from mathematics. "It has a lot of relevance. Everything you do is mathematics, it depends on the area. People have gone to space using principles and theories of mathematics. Finance - calculation of simple or compound interest, buying and selling and other day to day activities like walking the road even employ mathematics."

Obi was lecturer, and later Senior Lecturer at the University of Ibadan 1959 till 1962; Associate Professor of Mathematics (1970), and Professor of Mathematics from 1971 to 1985 at the University of Lagos.

In the course of his career, he was Dean, School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Lagos (1971-73); Chairman, Department of Mathematics (1971-77); acting dean, Faculty of Science (1981-82). He was made emeritus professor following his retirement from the University of Lagos. He is also a 1987 Gold Medalist of the University of Lagos. Shortly after retirement, he founded the Onitsha-based scientific institute.

Obi's excellence in mathematics is matched only by a "fanatical" patriotism. He maintains that "a national leader or servant must not be a religious fanatic, must not be a tribal fanatic,but must be a fanatic in only one thing: {Fanatic Patriot.}"

Such passion and devotion to fatherland and humanity led him on the war path with the government which accused him in 1961 of distributing a seditious pamphlet titled The people: Facts that you must know. For this he was convicted. Justice Clement De Lestang gave the verdict that "in all the circumstances of the case therefore, and having regard in particular to the position of the accused in the community and the fact that he enjoys an unblemished character, I have come to the conclusion that a fine will be the appropriate punishment in this case. I sentence the accused to pay a fine of £100 (pounds) or to go to prison for three months IHL (in hard labour) in default of payment".

Perhaps in reference to this experience and belief in his innocence, one of Obi's favourite quotations is: "The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all that is evil in the world."

In the course of his political odyssey, the great mathematician said one of his major goals is "to bring about a scientific technological revolution in Nigeria". He once added: "If I can do this only by becoming Head of State or Head of Government, I will do so.

"Being Head of State or of Government, if I must be one, is just a necessary tool to achieve my sole aim of bringing about a scientific technological revolution in the fatherland". Obi was Secretary General of the Dynamic Party of Nigeria (1951-56), member for Onitsha Urban in the Federal Parliament (1960-61), and member for Onitsha Urban East, Eastern House of Assembly (1961-66). He documented his political activities in Our Struggle, Part I (John Okwesa and Company 1953) and Our Struggle Part II, (Pacific Printers International 1962).

He has numerous scientific publications on non-linear differential equations in national and international journals.