There is something about Nigeria that has produced such an amazing troupe of trailblazing humans. Is it something in the air, is it something in the land … these are questions that leave us astonished as we continue to cross paths with exceptional individuals who have been born and raised in the country, nicknamed the ‘Giant of Africa’ or have heritages linked to this unique west-African nation.
Our next human in the series is an enchanting physicist and entrepreneur born and raised in Lagos . A multifaceted personality who serenaded us with his wonderful poems and put us under his magnetic spell.
Red light , blue light
Where does vision lie?
Within the color spectrum,
All can hear our vision cry.
At bleak lights, I sense sights.
Feel vision on my fingers.
Here dreams become reality
And memories do linger…
-Immanuel Adewumi ( excerpt from the poem : Red light, Blue Light)
So here’s introducing our next human in the series, Immanuel Adewumi, an extraordinary physics researcher from London and the founder of the Nigerian Development Hub(NDH) , has shown us how Nigerians across the world have continued to pave the way magnificently in their respective fields. This magnetic young man doesn’t just navigate the scientific or technological world alone. He has varied interests ranging from promoting STEM education in his homeland to creating a platform for implementing sustainable development. He has been advocating zealously in creating a change in the way we perceive the dynamic technological landscape and making it more accessible for people across the world.
His early days in Lagos
This inspiring physicist looks back on how he always had a scientific temperament growing up and wanted to break boundaries in whatever he could do.
Immanuel recalls back an encounter he had with a tailor in his hometown. The young little boy was fascinated with the sewing machines and needlework he saw in the tailor’s shop. He remembers begging his mom to let him try out sewing. His mom had refused on the pretext that playing around with needles was not for children.
But there was no stopping the curious little boy.
He had made up his mind and would sneak out needles and thread. He would learn to sew when his mom wasn’t around. He confesses how he still keeps a sewing kit wherever he is.
Creativity was something ingrained in him from childhood and he narrates how he has never liked being defined in a singular box. He had also dabbled his hands in jewelry-making and would sell beaded necklaces to his aunts and friends. He remembers how his eleven-year-old self was willing to try his hands on anything that remotely involved creating something new and different.
In middle school, he became interested in arts and poetry. His first poem as he recalls back was about his relationship with his brother. His mom encouraged him to write more. But he is not the only poet at home. His father the senior Mr. Adewumi and his mom Mrs.Adewumi have been dabbling in the world of poetry for a long time now. He says he draws his inspiration from their works.
He would say, ‘I like writing about life. But my mom feels my poems are very scientific.‘
The family has now planned to create an anthology of their poetry. Its a project close to his heart, as art is something that has bonded together his family ever since he could remember.
Growing up in a unique household
Sundays in the Adewumi household were always filled with delectable food and hymns. He recalls how his dad would lead the family’s sunday tradition of praise and worship. Prayers and faith were an important part of growing up in a Christian household.
He draws his biggest inspiration from his father the senior Mr. Adewumi, who he claims is a real nerd and the most knowledgeable techie you would meet in town .
Having had his background in computer science, his father experienced the whole 9 to 5 job routine and navigated the world of corporate till he found his passion in mentorship. He recently joined an organization that trains entrepreneurs starting out in the field of tech.
He would lament, ‘My dad doesn’t take compliments too well. But I am really proud of him.’
The amazing bond he shares with his dad is reflected in the song they recorded for his mother’s birthday. The senior Adewumi would play the guitar and serenade the family on such special occasions. And he confesses how seeing his dad sing and play instruments inspire him to get into music.
He recalls how at some point in his life he had wanted to get into the rap scene. He realized that he had a penchant for rhymes.
He would gleefully explain ,’I thought these guys couldn’t even rhyme. I had a good chance to make it.’
It was later that he realized the world of poetry that he inhabited was very different from the rap world.
He laughs and admits, ‘The only consolation was that at least my songs rhymed.‘
There was no niche that this young man didn’t try his hands on. Being innovative and resourceful came naturally to him. He recalls how as a kid he and his playmates would create miniature models out of cardboard. And anything they saw, they would try to replicate it. He remembers seeing a helicopter and making a cardboard model of it.
He would add , ‘All we had was ourselves and creativity.‘
It was simpler times when there were no smartphones and social media apps and he fondly recollects how creativity was all they had to entertain themselves.
Navigating a quantum world
His parents had met in the University of Ibadan where his father was studying computer science engineering and his mom studied applied computer science. He narrates how back in those days computers were mainframes and codes were written in assembly languages. He remembers how for the most part of his childhood he tried to steer away from that domain.
He would say , ‘ I was always like I am not going into anything related to IT.’
He explains how he was tired of hearing about RAMs and ROMs. He wanted to instead understand the universe and how the phenomenon around us exists the way they do. For a huge part of his initial years, he was running off from the field of computer science.
He smirks and says, ‘ I couldn’t run off for long though.‘
In Uni, he had chosen to major in Physics. He always had a keen interest in the field and its abstract nature.
He admits, ‘I thought nuclear was the answer.’
But the universe had to push him back to what he feels is his destiny now. Nuclear wasn’t the answer he was searching for. He realized how it was ‘quantum‘ that would really change the future ahead. It was at Imperial college , London that he discovered his interest in ‘Quantum Computing‘. He had found his way back to tech.
‘It’s like destiny and faith pulling me back to where I belong.‘ , he confesses.
Python was the first programming language that he learned and he was intrigued by how closely it resembled the natural human language. He now wants to dive deeper into the world of quantum machine learning. He feels the world is heading in a new direction and there is only more research required in this field. His paper on the subject really inspired him to create an ecosystem to bring change to the technological infrastructure of his homeland.
Tech has become such an indispensable part of our lives and it was only natural that something had to be done to bring the African continent on par with the rest of the world in technological developments.
Finding a passion for development
He recalls how his grandparents were educationists in their own rights and the household was always filled with people who had appreciation for the arts. He grew up in a big family with lots of cousins and holidays as he remembers was always a bustling event.
And that’s where he drew his inspiration for creating the Nigerian Development Hub / NDH. Education has always been a passion and he wants to extend opportunities for the youth in his country.
From an African perspective, he feels there is much work that can be done. His current research is closely related to ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) analysis and how there is a requirement for a standardized metric system to measure sustainability.
He would say , ‘ Africa can play a big role in leading the way for sustainability in the future.’
All the experts and stakeholders that join the Nigerian Development Hub do see the potential and importance that the African continent holds in the immediate future. He recalls spending a year and a half cherry-picking professionals with exceptional credentials to fill up the organisation’s top positions. It has become a chamber of sustainable business and commerce that is trying to digitalised and localised the Nigerian ecosystem to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution.
He explains, ‘We are trying to cross-pollinate ideas and see how businesses develop exponentially in the most sustainable way possible in the future‘ .
The synergy in NDH is really what makes this organization tick. Experts in their respective fields bounce ideas off each other and find solutions to issues that can help a lot of people out. The community they are building seeks to empower the economic development in their country and to transform it into a digitalised economy.
The future of the African diaspora
He feels the future is really bright for young Africans starting out in the world of tech.
The emergence of a quantum computer is only going to make processing faster and more efficient. The sheer amount of computing power we will have at hand will help to solve a lot of issues in the field of biology, healthcare, research, businesses and more.
He would exclaim, ‘If we learn to navigate through this tech revolution, the world is simply ours.’
He reminds us of a famous phrase that most Nigerian parents tell their children when the grades on their mark sheet meet their disapproval.
‘The person who got first in the class does he or she have two heads?‘
This competitive edge is what drives most of them to thrive to excel in their fields. There was no situation or problem that couldn’t be solved. Nigerian parents didn’t bring up their children to be quitters. Far from it, they strive for their children to succeed. Nothing was truly impossible.
Growing up in a Christian household , he quotes me his favorite verse from the Holy Bible.
‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’
Philippians 4:13, New King James Version
Faith has been an important part of his journey. He firmly believes that with the right mindset there really is nothing one can’t do. There will always be hard times but having faith is something that pulls people through. This inspirational scientist admits how he has found marvelous mentors and guidance in the most unexpected of places. And this is where he draws his optimism about the times ahead. That there will always be wonderful humans who will choose to work for the greater good amidst all the noise and the haste.
This amazing human has only convinced us further that there is something about Nigeria that keeps pulling us back to it’s alluring citizens and it really excites us of the probable future.
A wave of change.
Only the way Nigerians can.