Chemical is a substance with a distinct molecular composition that is produced by or used in a chemical process; its importance in life cannot be overemphasized. The food we eat, the drinks we use, the dress we wear, the drugs we consume, the air we breath, in fact nothing on earth that does not contain one or more chemical constituents.
In the tradition of FUTO’s inaugural lectures, the 23rd lecture was held on 27th March, 2013 and the title of the lecture is ‘Chemical Pathway: Small changes that Made a Difference’. It was delivered by a distinguish Chartered Chemist and immediate Director General, Projects Development Agency, [PRODA], Professor Goody Nkem Onuoha of department of Chemistry, Federal University of Technology, Owerri [FUTO].
The Vice Chancellor, Prof CC Asiabaka describe the inaugural lecture as part of the university mandate, that is to teach, do research and do community service, and hence the choosing of the theme is in line with the current trend of development in chemical technology and how it affect not only the living organism, but the earth so that scientist, students, the general public can appreciate the importance chemical[s] in our daily life activities.
“During the breath” said Prof Onuoha “you took in oxygen and that oxygen got reduced to water by electrons and protons. This is the equation of life. It has remained one of the world’s most important reactions and we must appreciate that in giving man life, God balanced this chemical equation and has ever since, sustained it”
“What on earth is not chemistry?” asks Prof Onuoha. Let me quote him extensively. “From the point of exit from the Garden of Eden, man need for food, shelter, good health, among others, has continued to drive him to innovate, create value and take advantage of natural resources. It goes without saying that mother-nature, with divine wisdom, makes the practice of chemistry an importance.
“The first humans that got hold of cassava tubers and ate them just like any other tuber died in their numbers as a result of cyanide poisoning of the Cytochrome systems. One option was to abandon cassava as food. But hunger will not go away un-attended. It was man’s relentless sense of methods that led him through various process technologies, until chemical hydrolysis of cassava was achieved through intuitive science.
“Cooking is essentially a series of chemical reactions. It is helpful therefore to know some basics. As an example, putting vegetables into boiling soup causes the cells of the vegetables to pop, resulting to a brighter and appetizing green. However, longer cooking causes the plants cell wall to shrink and release an acid turns the vegetable an unappetizing shade of grey”.
So, How does small changes of chemical made a difference? “What nature offers is petroleum crude” said Prof Onuoha “But your automobile runs on PMS [petroleum motor spirit], the prime movers run mostly on AGO [automotive gas oil], the jets run on aviation kerosine, DPK [dual purpose kerosene], your domestic cooking is dependent on methane gas, etc. The petroleum crude must therefore undergo value addition processes and that is why the refineries have come to stay”.
Lead pencil contains graphite, but “Different types of pencil are achieved” added Onuoha ” by blending varying proportions of the graphite powder and clay to create different degrees of hardness or blackness. The ‘H’ stands for hardness, while ‘B’ stands for blackness”.
Chemical compounds provides the foundations for medicine, biochemistry and biotechnology and is in the main, the subject in industries like rubber, plastics, food, pharmaceuticals, detergent, coatings, dyestuffs and agrochemicals, etc.
As a whole the lecture centred on the relevance of chemical[s] in both industrial, residential, commercial, agricultural and other uses, which aids our life in many more ways, and that our life is impossible without chemical. The chemistry that is within our bodies, earth’s crust, etc., is a food for thought.
In his conclusion remark, Prof Onuoha quoted a Chinese proverb, ‘when planning for a year, plant corn, when planning for a decade, plant trees, but when planning for a lifetime, train and educate the citizenry. Therefore, he added “The Nigerian nation will out-live the oil deposits and our economy, like the rest of the world, will be knowledge driven. Human capital development is no longer an option. It is an imperative and the time to address it is now.
He recommends among others that government all levels. Federal, state and local government-should develop the political will and create the enabling environment for the sustenance of research and development activities; that since technology is the application of basic science in solving the day to day problems that arise, government must provide the necessary support to ensure that basic sciences are adequately taught in our primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions; and the financial institutions must be prepared to support entrepreneurs with proven capabilities to translate results of research and development into ventures that will create employment and alleviate poverty.
Prof Onuoha belongs to many professional bodies as read by the University orator and Chairman Lecture series committee, Prof Moses Iwuala like Fellow, Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria, FICCON, Fellow, Chemical Society of Nigeria, FCSN, Member, Royal Society of Chemists, RSC, Member, Corrosion Association of Nigeria, CAN.
Some of his honour includes Award for Excellent Economic Development by the TimeNews Magazine editorial board, 2011, Award of Excellence for contribution to the development of Science and Technology in Nigeria by the Nigerian Institute of Physics, 2010, and many more.
Vincent Chimezie, attended the lecture and had this to say “I learnt a lot and appreciate the importance of chemical in our life and how research and development can unearth more beneficial chemical compounds to support our ever growing needs”.
But Victor Uchenna, who said he is FUTO aspirant, said “I like Chemistry and hope to get admission and read more about it, add more innovation and impact positively to the society. Today’s lecture is an inspiring for me to read more about nature of chemistry in our life”.