Many of Nigeria’s vice-chancellors are unquestionably perfect islands of distinguished academic administrators. So long as their islands remain islands many of their colleagues who constitute the rank-and-file outside their respective islands will forever need bridges and bridges across the channels to be constructed and reconstructed to get to the islands. The meaning of this remark cannot be farfetched. Many of our vice- chancellors, so long as they occupy the offices they occupy, will not see and value themselves as first among equals. When they eventually leave their posts the scales fall from their eyes. Those who remain faithful at all times to their constituencies have nothing to fear or to lose. They know and understand the full meaning of semper fidelis, the Latin term for fidelity, faithfulness, every time. Such vice-chancellors are what I will always refer to as semperparatus (another term) vice-chancellors especially in their post-VC terms, for they are always prepared.
But the terrible ones, the terribly terrible ones, the ruthless ones, the ruthlessly ruthless ones, always think and believe that they occupy sempiternal posts. They think that the office of the vice- chancellor is an everlasting one. They see themselves as eternal vice-chancellors. For whatever reason(s) they believe that their term will never end. They turn logic on its head and proclaim the arrant nonsense of the logic of the sempiternity of the post of the vice- chancellor. Their island is the island of sempiternity of blindness and of ruthless logic that controls and rules the illogical minds of ruthless men and persons in power. We don’t know what to call their greed. This is no exaggeration. This is no hyperbole. This is nothing of the sort.
Why am I entering the chamber of your attention now with this topic?
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A few days ago I was at a social event in a little Urhobo town in Delta State. A tight friend was burying his mother. Our tight friend is an effective university person of note, of high international repute. The event which he coordinated well and well – in fact, more than well and well – was a gathering of assorted personages of high rank from all walks of life. But university persons, professors, from far and near and across the country made their number wonderfully meaningful. Now the chats of the egg-eggs flowed into the nature of our universities and those who head them.
Some persons spoke of vice-chancellors in the then years who were of the bad sort or who were nice ones, or who were sharp ones, and positively so, and those who were unholy terrors who pretended to be holy terrors. But the conversation centred profusely on one vice-chancellor who was particularly an unholy terror. The one in question slaughtered cows on weekly basis as sacrifices to protect his ruthless actions against colleagues, many of whom where top academics he hired, cajoled and begged to come help him to build the new university which he had been appointed to head. As a matter of fact, he slaughtered regularly by his actions the staff he hired the way he slaughtered sacrificial cows and rams regularly. At the time of his appointment to the federal university in one of our central states, he was already the vice-chancellor of a federal university in the South-South.
What did he allegedly not do, this vice-chancellor, this allegedly ruthlessly powerful vice-chancellor, to the staff, especially academic staff, he charmed to the then very new university? Of course, history will record him as the only one who was the vice-chancellor of two federal universities at the same time. How many roofs did he not order to be removed from the houses of colleagues who in principle disagreed with his modus operandi? Some of those he dealt with decisively died shortly thereafter. Some simply left the university for him. And the standard and image of the university, what was his vision in these regards? He did not care a fig about them.
A cited case of as at then a young, up-coming academic member of staff who is today a worthy professor in one of our top federal universities in the Niger Delta is particularly touching. The South-South indigene secured a foreign scholarship to read for his Ph.D. in Great Britain. The almighty vice-chancellor rejected his application for study leave even without pay, and subjected him to conditions I don’t wish to recount here. Suffice it to say that the young man returned from Warwick in good time and returned to “his” university. But the day he entered the vice-chancellor’s office to announce his joyful return was his last day in that university.
What happened? It is better that I don’t lend you the interesting tale that will lend me your applause at its absorbing recital. The clever chap simply left for where he is now and has been since that time he sincerely turned his back on the vice-chancellor that didn’t deserve his “yours sincerely, good bye.” Of course, cronies and frolicking yes people, and liars and tale-bearers, to boot, benefitted immensely from the system – but where have those benefits led them, their island-man and the university – of lies and liars and tales and tale-bearers today?
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The island vice-chancellor has since been abandoned in his island of ruthlessness and cronyism all alone, all, all and all alone, by even those who sickly licked his boots, his boot-lickers, his arse-and-ass-lickers. Today he is badly down – near a vegetable state. Did he eat? I must admit that this topic did not crop up in our conversation. But why would he not eat in a buoyant fashion if he must?
Two of the other vice-chancellors who were conversed about were, I can gladly name them here, Adamu Baikie and Grace Alele-Williams of Uniben – in the years of yore. The first was generally called a nice vice- chancellor. The second named was generally regarded as a positively sharp vice-chancellor, but a holy terror to boot.
More importantly, she might go into the record books as perhaps Nigeria’s poorest vice- chancellor, who did not eat. ASUU might probably give her this title and award her gold medal to this effect some-day – in the present time or post-humously. Some persons there are who when the time comes will or may describe her as Nigeria’s Jose Alberto Mujica Cordono (Uruguay’s president 2010-2015) of our university system.
To those who do not know, Alberto Cordono the leftist president, native of Montevideo, Uruguay never pinched a penny from the coffers of his country throughout his years in office under the ticket and flag of the Movement of Popular Participation (MPP), his left wing party. He drove his Volkswagen beetle car before and after his presidency. He also remained in his farm house where he operated from throughout his presidency. He also even refused the offer of one million US dollars for his Volkswagen beetle 1987 model which he bought for less than one thousand US dollars. There is no leader like him anywhere in the world. But in terms of financial integrity Grace Alele-Williams may be close to him.
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Our Academic Staff Union of (our) Universities (ASUU) must get a goad to goad our modern vice-chancellors to accept financial integrity and financial poverty in their service to help improve our universities. The other day we read in the newspapers of the alleged arrest of a vice-chancellor of a state university in the South-South who allegedly consumed or carted away a princely sum of above four billion naira which he was supposed to use to develop his university. I am not gullible enough to accept the story in-to-to. However, to make our universities’ helmspersons transparent there is really the need to make them now compete for the honour of “Nigeria’s poorest vice-chancellor’’ – NOW, I repeat or restate in capital letters. And they should lead the way for our politicians in this regard. Am I building castles in Spain? Phew!
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059
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NADECO’s Bliss That’s No More
I have been doing some investigation on NADECO – National Democratic Coalition. At this point I do not want to go intoto into what I wish or need to say about this uniquely patriotic body of patriotically patriotic Nigerians (some of whom are dead) who were the original founders and members. But I should like to state urgently that NADECO, the original NADECO, was a movement – yes a movement, of intrepid men, real nationalists, of diverse political, professional and intellectual activities. They were generally public figures who were committed to establishing an imperial state – if I may use the term – of bliss for all our compatriots, an imperial state where no one would be discriminated against and barred from occupying the highest office in the land on account of his/her religious and ethnic background and status. In other words, their commitment was to a scientific welfare state where no form of oppression or any kind of ridiculous schemes for manipulating the people and opinion to serve any selfish interest and class would be allowed and tolerated. The conceived imperial state would discountenance any kind of revenge which would not be allowed to ring anywhere and in all observations and complaints; no malevolence was expected to be seen in any praise or words of praise that should bring bliss to all.
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Were these basic values of NADECO not ones of Utopia? Was the ideology of NADECO not suspect in view of the fact that some property-owners would still like to exercise colonial control over their property and their communities where they commanded considerable influence? And who among the original NADECO members and founders were prepared in the real sense of the word to be linked to a different kind of nascent political power as conceived by them? Were they real? Were they genuine? These were some of the questions I posed recently in a discussion I had with a NADECO insider and originator and which I wanted him to answer as simply and as truthfully as possible. Meanwhile, his towered up thoughts shall be in abeyance.
What inspired our discussion (which was part of my NADECO investigation) was primarily the fresh released report of the Lekki procession of last year’s October which was the subject of this column last Friday. Our discussion dwelt on what would have been if NADECO’s divine strive against inequality and predominance of one group or class had come into being. The tarantulas that went to Lekki to bite the EndSars protesters would not have had any place in the land. And your country my country our country would have since become your country my country our country that we always have beautifully yearned to have. All kinds of tarantism would have since bitten themselves out of here. And all our young chaps would have since seen that NADECO is the clearest parable of a pleasurable political body to legitimate acutely the status also of refined political authority to serve the people.
Today we would not have been talking of restructuring as latter-day NADECOists are basically doing. As I understood (and I still understand it) the original NADECO’s capital was that of the political and professional intellectual: oratorical skill as a politician of beauty and rhetorical proficiency as a writer on the ideological sphere of combat to bring to bay that which must be significantly brought to bay to avoid past errors of our politics. NADECO’s politics as originally conceived and planned was the politics of the Superhero, the politics of the Superman. Each original NADECO personage was expected to possess some doses of Obafemi Awolowo’s extraordinarily significant organic intellectual capability and political acumen. To all intents and purposes therefore every original NADECO member knew and understood the meaning and “closeness to real political power” to be employed as Awolowo intellectually did as an important humanist who was very conscious of the main current of our clime. His distinguished reputation was expectedly expected to flow invariably in the consciousness of each one’s own private and public mind.
Clearly, today’s NADECO – if it still exists – possesses a mind which has since changed from the conscious past of progressive politics and governance to the conscious present of political and administrative restructuring that is remote from the awareness of the past that the current NADECOists’ consciousness is not at all prone to develop.
Who are or were the original NADECO members and founders? Comrade Jonathan Ihonde, an original member and founder – a foremost one – who was highly instrumental to the coming into being of the organized organization committed to wiping out of our land the poison spiders of our politics, is writing a book on the subject. The book is detailing what I don’t want to detail here. For now it is suffice to say that on account of the late MKO Abiola’s plea to him when he purposely came to visit him in Benin City, Comrade Ihonde, the creator of the then very popular NTA Benin “Hotel de Jordan,” a high drama of politico socio-cultural dimension, went to the late Chief Anthony Enahoro to plead for MKO Abiola after contacting various interest groups from every region of our country. This was after IBB killed Abiola’s presidential electoral victory in 1992. Of course his SDP – Social Democratic Party – top guns and fellows had bitten him badly. He meant and vowed to survive the poison of his party’s tarantulas.
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NADECO was thus born in Benin City. The Soviet-trained Comrade Jonathan Ihonde became the organization’s revolutionary Vice-Chairman after Chief Anthony Enahoro was equally elected/appointed its chairman. Other patriots who were visible members/originators of NADECO were Mr. Mike Ehimah (Secretary), the late Senator Olu Akpata, Mrs. Nadena Emovon, Mr. Alex Ayatola (Enahoro’s PA of Igbo stock) and others I cannot immediately recall. Of course, the late Alfred Rewane was aware of the formation and was part of it from inception even though he was abroad at auspicious times of its meetings. But he was NADECO’s indisputable tower of financial strength. Eventually, it was agreed that Abiola’s Western Nigeria should champion the divine battle against the injustice which the northern juntos led by IBB master minded.
Chief Anthony Enahoro and Mr. Alex Ayatola were mandated to visit the late Chief Michael Ajasin at Owo to persuade him to take over the leadership and to gaze into the far field in the endeavour to give Abiola joyful splendour and to usher bliss post-Awolowo to our fatherland. Chief Ajasin had the full mandate to reach out to fellow like minds from his region and elsewhere to give daylight happiness to everyone in the land. The rest from my end is history. But how many of us now cannot but be giddy with pain – how many of us? Are the tarantulas still not poisoning our bliss and happiness? “There must be punishment and justice” (not revenge) to cleanse your country my country our country when our Superman appears. The consciousness of the original NADECO must be re-awakened in us. The real progressive leftists have been silent for too long. We must wrench our true daylight from the darkness and dark hands and dark grips of the current poison spiders that are worse and more than worse than pythons. And let me share this gem with you: the Supreme Spiritual Masters of Merit (SSMM) are seriously turning well in their deathless states.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059
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Covid-19, Managing in Crisis Times And Public Administration
The year 2020 would be remembered in the annals of world history as the year that the coronavirus visited the world and transformed every dimension of human endeavors, from eating and greeting habits to administrative frameworks and the way we see the human world. With millions already dead and many more infected, especially through many variants deadlier than the original virus, the pandemic has already defined a new normal in human relations and activities. It does not take any serious reflection to see that public administration becomes the most significant human endeavor to be challenged not only in dealing with the pandemic, but also in responding to the ordering of the human world in a post-COVID-19 world. All across the world, public administration has often been called upon to deal with wars, pestilences, development efforts, and state projects of all kinds. In Nigeria, for example, public administration had to contend with the task of prosecuting the Nigerian civil war as well as outlining an administrative framework for a post-war social rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The implication of this assessment of public administration and its confrontation with existing realities of each period in history is that public managers must always operate efficiently within what has been called a VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — administrative environment. In such an environment, public managers and the public service are tasked beyond what the traditional administrative machinery is able to take charge of. This is the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. It has created a volatile situation determined by the unpredictable behavior of the virus. This makes the administration of human activities even more complex than it usually is. For instance, the lockdown procedures come with stringent economic realities that affect human freedom and well-being.
One of the greatest challenges of the public service, especially in a postcolonial administrative context like Nigeria, is the determination of what bureaucratic model could best enable a public service that is effective and efficient sufficiently to deal with the challenges of the VUCA environment while also smartly delivering democratic services. Max Weber, the German philosopher who did a lot to influence the emergence of the traditional administrative model, was also confronted with this kind of VUCA-situation in the early twentieth century. The crisis situation came as a result of the hostility between the German Emperor, Wilhelm II and his Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, over the content of foreign and social policies. The emperor’s erratic foreign policy has been considered to be one of the root causes of World War I. Max Weber was a very keen philosophical observer of the defeat of Germany in the first world war, as well as the bureaucratic implications of the power tussle between Wilhelm II and Chancellor Bismarck. For instance, he noticed how administrative dominance of the state consolidated in the absence of a strong political leader. This led him to reflect deeply on how to juxtapose political leadership with a bureaucracy that assists the state in terms of modernisation and development.
Weber’s understanding of the crisis led to a need to model politician-bureaucrat relationship in ways that determine the boundaries of power and authority around policymaking. For Weber, the way out was to generate a bureaucratic tradition that centralized legal-rational authority founded on hierarchical structure and a one-size-fits-all service-wide standardization of governance and operations. The command-and-control structure constructed the public servant as apolitical, loyal, neutral and anonymous. With the bureaucratic model, Weber achieved a crisis management dynamic in the aftermath of the first world war. The question, however, is whether that Weberian model is sufficient to handle the crisis occasioned by the COVID-19 and the myriad challenges of the new normal. This question resonates even more so in a postcolonial context like Nigeria considered one of the worst administrative settings in Africa. An even more fundamental question is how can public services become efficient in a time of crisis like the pandemic and its future variants?
Putting the questions like this speaks to the need for organizations like the public service to recognize the necessity of change as the most constant factor that demands of organizations a reform template made up of continuous learning, change management and iterative incremental improvements. In organizational development theory, organizations usually fall prey to three development traps that define what has been called the “first cycle” of the bureaucratic culture. First, organizational success leads to self-satisfaction and an unreflective defense of the status quo. Second, size brings the fragmentation of organizational procedures that takes the public managers far away from customers’ feedback which serves as the mechanism for innovative growth. Third, the age factor implies that the older an organization gets, the more it breeds tradition which over time tends to supersede innovative and creative handling of challenges.
The question of high-performing public service in a time of crisis also demands the emergence of astute public managers who see decision-making as the nerve of organizational efficiency. In other words, the smart public managers need to transform the public service into a bold, preemptive and high-performing organizations with the capacity to make fast and effective decisions in the time of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, decision-making must not be allowed to degenerate into groupthink that hinders individual and organizational creativity, information overload, analysis paralysis that leads to indecision, or overconfidence in the crisis management competence in ways that create tension at both the operational and strategic levels.
The efficiency of any CEO or public manager depends on three critical competences. The first is the capacity to effectively delegate authority in a way that prioritizes the discretion of a crisis manager to independently work in the organizational frontline within a framework of exceptions to the rules that do not however erode the normal regulations in ways that break down the organization. The second competence the public manager needs requires creating a balance between the command-and-control dynamic on the one hand, and participatory team-based decision-making approach on the other.
The third competence that a crisis period demands, is the need for intelligent public managers to be open to alternative scenario planning that anticipates both uncertainties and possibilities. This enables the public servants to bring multiple perspectives to policy challenges and public service delivery using foresight techniques to test different scenarios, and building resilience into policy design from potential shocks and unforeseen events.
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Fashioning new professional skills set involves several other requirements. First, it demands a human resources management architecture around which a new professionalism will be built. Second, this affects the way we reflect on the workplace, work structure and work dynamics that will affect the performance and productivity Nigeria needs. And thirdly, the professionalism must be undergirded by new culture and value changes that enable the public servants to focus on the new enabling values and ethos as well as helping them to think outside of the administrative box.
The idea of scenario planning speaks to the familiar four stages of “forming-storming-norming and performing” model of organization formation that enables any institution and organization to become efficiently formidable not only in dealing with a present challenge but also in anticipating future situations. A public service that wants to be efficient in the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic must, within the imperative of scenario planning, adopt a framework of strategic thinking that becomes strategic by challenging the status quo, challenging assumptions and framing strategic choices that allow the public service to not only wade through the difficult times, but also make the best of the situation for the benefit of the citizens.
Furthermore, such a public service must reorder its institutional and structural dynamics and frameworks through several processes, in organisational development trajectory, that must continually refresh the organisational dynamics and prevent it from going into institutional stagnation. These include: (a) Learning organization: An all-out effort is required on the part of managers to keep its employees educated on the latest technology, systems, knowhow and processes; (b) Total quality management: TQM involves employee involvement, teamwork, decision-making, problem-solving, high-level involvement, adopting a work culture aimed at growth and quality of product and services. TQM requires total commitment, removing fear psychosis due to failure at lower levels, development of successful work culture and continuous improvement; (c) Visioning: Visioning envisages as to what the organization would look like in the future. It is related to the shape in terms of which HR facilities, the growth and the needs of people it is likely to fulfill. Based on the vision, database is required to be built, leading to interpretation of information, arriving at suitable decisions and setting a course of action leading to growth. Visioning refers to looking at the organization in ‘totality’; and (d) Virtual organizations: Getting whole system in one room, evolving action plan and implementation.
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In the new normal, public administration is now doubly tasked to achieve an efficient service delivery to the citizens. This means that it cannot not be business as usual for public managers, not in terms of the traditional bureaucratic culture and definitely not in terms of the skills and competency sets. The new normal requires a new public service that is smart and decisive with regard to a decision that transforms the well-being of citizens who are struggling to make sense of their environment.
Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration, the National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos
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Ibadan: My City of Fame
I have searched; I have attempted, and I conclude that there are not enough words to quantify how much Ibadan the city of the brave and fierce means to me. Yes, I did attempt to describe my love for and affinity to the city in my memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt, but I have since acquiesced that Ibadan is that indescribable lover. It is valid to say this love and affinity can be likened to what everyone feels towards their city of birth and origin. However, for me, it is beyond that.
Ibadan is my place of birth; the city of my forebears; and the place where I was raised. What I am today has its roots in where I was born and the receptivity of the environment in which I grew up. It is what psychologists call the nature-nurture continuum. A wise man reminisces, and in reminiscing, he is able to tell how circumstances interwove to produce a unique turn of events. For decades, I have researched and produced papers and studies in history, and at the heart of my scholarly works is African history. I am deeply interested in African history, and that interest can be traced back to Ibadan. As breastmilk to a neonate, Ibadan was my first taste of Africa. Thus, at the mention of Ibadan, or whenever memories of Ibadan surface, a fountain of happiness and contentment surges in my heart, so much so that joy flows through my veins and touches a smile upon my lips.
Culturally rich, historically blessed, full of resplendent human resources—Ibadan—the city of the brave! To be born of Ibadan parents is to be doubly smart in human dealings. To be born of Ibadan parents, in Ibadan, is to be triply knowledgeable on how to navigate this world of humans. Fortified with thrice as much knowledge and smartness, I ventured into the world. But not until I had learned at the feet of my people. But to love Ibadan goes beyond having natal affiliations to the historical city. Spread like a terrestrial mat across seven hills, Ibadan is famous for its bravery and the intelligence and dexterity of its warriors. Military strength and prowess were at the heart of the dealings of Ibadan people in the past. From the very beginning, the rulers of old Ibadan were warriors who had to prove their superiority by the number of wars they had successfully led their charges to win.
The evolution of Ibadan is worthy of aesthetic praises in itself. Ibadan, at inception, was just scattered war camps on an unmarked forested territory. Lagelu, touted as the founding father of the now extensive city, only wanted a common ground for warriors from Ijebu, Ife, and Oyo. What started as a haven of defense rose to become one of pre-colonial Oyo Empire’s most respected and famous cities. Ibadan went to wars, and Ibadan won wars. Ibadan military gurus were known to specialize in the art of going to wars and winning them.
Miniature industrialization sprang up in some focal cities in Nigeria Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, among others. With this miniature industrialization came amenities such as the railway, which strengthened the commercial and political importance of a city that was strictly a growing expanse of war camp settlements. Ibadan has greatly developed, and it is still developing. Three things are enviable about Ibadan: its large expanse of land that spreads so far; the boldness of Ibadan citizens to speak their minds, even at gunpoint; and the beauty of Ibadan’s historical aesthetics, better viewed from Layipo, which now houses Bower’s Tower.
The history of Oyo as a region and then as a state cannot be complete without the mention of Ibadan. Decades after the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, there was the compartmentalization of the new Nigeria, resulting in the regional system of administration, which ran till the independence of the state. And, which other city in Western Nigeria would have become the regional capital, if not Ibadan? Ibadan was the regional capital of the Western region, from where the administration and development of the various extensions of the Western region took place. Today, we have Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, Kwara, Delta, Edo, Lagos, and Ondo states whose development started from the days of the Old Oyo region, when Ibadan was the center of administration and developmental policy-making. Ibadan is, today, the capital of Oyo State.
Self-actualization comes for different people in different ways. For many scholars, self-actualization comes from the continual recognition of their works and a commitment to lifelong learning. I am among such academics and scholars who see these two phenomena as a means of self-actualization. Thus, this should help you have an inkling of how thrilled I am to be receiving the Doctor of Letters degree from Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, domiciled in the city of history. I have received several Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) degrees, but this one, from Ibadan, my City of Fame, is a degree for which I went into an academic sojourn. My life and times have been principally about histories through studies, analyses, and extrapolations. And yet, another history is made as I am the University of Ibadan’s first graduate of the Doctor of Letters degree in the humanities. For this, I am grateful, and I am delighted to identify with one of the most prestigious universities in Africa and a citadel of learning for excellent and world-class education.
It feels amazing to be back home, to my City of Fame, and to receive this honor with the deepest gratitude to everyone who made this remarkable journey worth the while. I appreciate the support I received from the Provost and Deputy-Provost of the School of Postgraduate Studies, as well as my examiners and evaluators at various levels, and the Director of the Institute of African Studies. To those who facilitated the paperwork, payment of school fees, the assemblage of diplomas and essays, the heavy running around, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Professor Adeshina Afolayan and Mr. Wale Ghazal. Professor Ademola Dasylva, in his relentless promotion of the University of Ibadan and what it stands for, paid for the elegant academic gown. I am grateful for the invaluable guidance and encouragement I received; all these spurred me on and made this day possible.
There is the affection, joy and fulfillment that come with us as humans and the humanities. This degree and other awards are testaments to the richness and importance of the work I have done and continue to do as an historian. My affinity with the Ibadan School of History is equally significant. All these culminate in a climax of deeply-seated emotions that I will embalm and keep with me for as long as I breathe.
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Again, I sincerely want to thank everyone who made this history-making occasion possible. Thank you all.
The above was Prof. Falola’s gratitude statement on the conferment of the D.Litt. degree at the University of Ibadan on November 17, 2021.
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