He was described by his state Governor as “a big man, who was never too big to serve”. A man of International repute yet dedicated himself to service at the local level, with energy, focus and determination. One of the greatest scientists Nigeria and Africa has produced in recent times; a template for exemplary civil and public service. A combination of an exceptional capacity for hardwork and an ‘outstanding sense of objectivity’; an accomplished academic, a magnificent intellectual, and a persona with a dignifying presence. A man of so much complexities-except the complex of inferiority.
Early life and Education
Andrew Jonathan Nok was born on 11 February 1962 in Kaduna State, Nigeria. The name ‘Nok’ was indicative of his ancestral village, Nok, in Jaba local government area of Kaduna State. He attended the Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary School in Kaduna and then, proceeded to Government Secondary School, Kafanchan where he obtained the West African School Certificate in 1979. In the same year he was admitted into Ahmadu Bello University where he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 1983, master’s degree in 1988 and doctorate degree in 1993.
Andrew Jonathan Nok: Bred at Home, Reknowned Abroad
Professor Nok was a ‘pure breed and purely bred’ son of the soil. Having been educated all his life in Kaduna; from primary schooling to his Doctoral Studies, Nok was however an export from Kaduna and Nigeria of Africa to the world. Through his genius, hardwork and intelligence, Nok became a world renowned Scientist; an international scholar by his ground breaking research/discovery. His research made him the first in the world to discover the gene responsible for Sialidase (SD), an enzyme which causes sleeping sickness (Trypanosomiasis).
Andrew Jonathan Nok: Research for the Ages
Nok’s breakthrough in that research enabled in the formation of the baseline for formulation and development of DNA-based vaccines against the disease, Trypanosomiasis. This disease is said to affect an estimated 60 million people and animals, mainly in rural parts of East, West and Central Africa. It also earned the Researcher the prestigious Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Prize for Science in 2009 and the Alexander Humboldt prize in 2013 (in addition to many other awards).
Beyond being an outstanding academic, he was instrumental to the development of many programmes in the field of Biochemistry in Nigerian Universities. He was also highly influential and instrumental in securing highly competitive and lucrative research grants for Ahmadu Bello University; one of such was the World Bank-funded Africa Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology (of which he was designated the Leader of the Centre).
Awards, Fellowship and Positions Held
Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Science
Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
Lady Davis Fellows
Fellow, Nigerian Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (NSBMB)
Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS)
Member, Science and Technology National Policy
Member, NIPRID, Interview Panel for Director General Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development 2009
Chairman, Science Sub-Complex-Appointment and Promotion Commission, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Death and Legacy
Nok was regarded as “a selfless man of distinction, immense in character, learning and fame… a leader, who personified the possibilities of this country.” This fact was also echoed by the words of one colleague who referred to him as, “the Rose Flower of the Department of Biochemistry (in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria).” According to him, Nok used his hard earned money, to buy rare chemicals, each time he travelled, which he liberally shared with his colleagues for their research; such a magnanimous heart.
Andrew Jonathan Nok was a Member of the Federal Republic (MFR), and was conferred with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award (Science category) in 2012. He was also Visiting Professor/Guest Lecturer and external examiner to many institutions, nationally and internationally; including world-class universities.
He died on the 21st of November 2017 after an illness.
Lawani Mikairu (1 December 2011). “Five professors win 2010/2011 Merit Award”. Vanguard News. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
Patrick Ugeh (23 November 2011). “5 Win National Merit Award”. Thisdaylive. Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
Featured image source: The Nation