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BOOK REVIEW: A Journey Of Guided Discovery: A Review Of James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads



BOOK REVIEW: Anthony Asiwaju's Bridging African Boundaries: A Three-part Blueprint For Every Progress-driven African Leader
Professor Toyin Falola


Toyin Falola

The first time I started to read James Yeku’s poetry collection, I wondered why he chose that title for his book. First off, not many people would know what a Baedeker means. However, the earliest glimmer of revelation hit me, and some tens of pages into the collection, the revelation was fully confirmed. When one considers the author, the content of the poetry collection and the title, one would understand the aptness of the double entendre in the title, or should I call it multiple entendre? To fully understand, we must first know what a Baedeker is. A Baedeker is a guidebook that comes in handy for travelers. Karl Baedeker started the publication of these traveler’s guidebooks, and decades after his death, the Baedeker has become known as the symbol for quality guidebooks.

BOOK REVIEW: A Journey Of Guided Discovery: A Review Of James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads

James Yeku

James Yeku is an assistant professor of African digital humanities at the University of Kansas. He was born and grew up in Nigeria. He lived the better part of his childhood, adolescence and even his young adulthood in Lagos before moving to Canada, and later Kansas, the United States. Where the Baedeker Leads is proof that the human is restless—always in transit, whether mentally, intellectually, spiritually, or physically. Amid the human’s eternal journey, the importance of a helpful guide, the Baedeker, cannot be overemphasized. Family members, friends, a university degree, an appointment—all these have the potential to serve as the Baedeker.

Where the Baedeker Leads is a chronicle of a man’s experiences in two different worlds and the noted similarities between these two worlds, despite their stark differences. It also gives a clue into how people note experiences and formulate perceptions by relating them to other things they have previously encountered. What relationship is there between Lagos and Saskatoon? For how long does a human feel alien in a new environment till they blend in and call and see the new place as home?

James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads is a 95-page collection of 57 poems. I love that this poetry collection touches on every aspect of concern that a contemporary Nigerian in the diaspora could have. From Saskatoon to Móremí, Dr. Yeku speaks to us of the issues that affect a Nigerian in Kansas the most: of police brutality and the #EndSARS agitations; of the Buhari era and its adverse effects on the life, economy, and standard of living of Nigerians; of love; of settling down; of kidnappings.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: Olayinka Oyegbile’s The Dirty Leap: Dramatizing Disillusionment And Dystopia

The collection opens with “Saskatoon,” a poem that, through vivid imageries, aptly narrates the beauties that endear one to Saskatoon. The reader understands that Saskatoon is a good place for people who love comfort and pastoral life through the poem. Yeku acquaints us with the people of Saskatoon and the vital role they play in the bubbly and loving nature of the city. Saskatoon is its people, radiant souls tipsy with dreams. One does not need the words of a magi to know that Saskatoon is a city of welcoming and amiable people.

In “Isolation,” the poet hits us with the reality of what was left of the world at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The imageries are consistent, and they appropriately describe the state we found ourselves in during the enforced lockdowns worldwide. Yeku takes us through the experience of a man in isolation—the dread for the pandemic, the loneliness, and the longing for physical human interactions. He whets readers’ appetites with the hopes of what could yet come by asking them to imagine scenarios where they are back on the streets, in the midst of the hustle and bustle. He ends the poem with a thought-provoking line that reminds us that humans crave things they had earlier detested in moments of deprivation. Typically, people do not like the stress that often comes with hustles and bustles, but at the height of a pandemic and the enforced lockdowns, they craved even the slightest amount of activity.

James Yeku is a poet rich in language and language use. He knows how to pick his words and string them together to spark the sound effects and elicit the correct responses. “Traveler” is a short but thought-evoking and powerful poem. In this poem, Yeku relates different forms of traveling to reinforce the same phenomenon and message. From the people who travel through their thoughts and minds in the form of a daydream to the poet’s words that travel on a mission to achieve his aims, to the poet who travels as he writes to achieve his dreams, every entity travels with a destination in mind; and a journey that the Baedeker guides lead to an arcane of futures, and a world of endless possibilities.

In “Away in Lagos,” James Yeku yet proves that he is a master of alliterations and metaphors, which are two of the most robust tools of outstanding poets. Through the deft use of these tools, he creates an impressionable image of Lagos in the reader’s mind. You do not need to have visited Lagos to understand the message of the poem entirely. He not only compares Nigeria’s beautiful city to its counterparts in other parts of the world, but he also draws a not-often-talked-about issue of how Lagos residents (known as Lagosians) continually leave the city they call home in search of greener pastures; how they would rather have winter than the harmattan of Lagos; and how in many cases, their moves are often ill-advised and not well thought out. At their arrival in their city of destination, the reality of what they left behind hits them; then, they start to feel uncertain about actualizing the dreams that made them flee in the first place.

“#EndSARS” evokes memories and brings to the fore the realities of the average Nigerian. In this poem, the anger and frustration of the Nigerian are strongly brought forth through the poet’s choice of words. Like every Nigerian, the poet is angry at the country’s political leaders, law enforcement officers, police brutality, and a system that continually fails the citizens. “#EndSARS” shows hopelessness and despair and how people would revolt when they are pushed against the wall.

“Bubu” is yet another poem from the collection that laments the fate of Nigerians. For six years now, Nigerians have witnessed what can be deemed one of the country’s worst governments. The country’s state is more lamentable at the deafening silence the government gives to the people despite justifiably raised concerns and agitations. It is one thing for a government to strive and yet be unable to deliver on the job, but it is outright unacceptable and grossly wrong for a government to not deliver on the job yet see no need to be accountable to the people. And what happens when the Buhari-led government eventually decides to speak out? Citizens are fed speeches reeking of nonchalance and a stark dissonance from the experiences of the people. The government speaks without empathy and from a reality different from that of the populace. These are the issues that are rightly addressed by the poet in “Bubu.”

READ ALS: BOOK REVIEW: Adetanwa Odebiyi’s Twisted Love And The Dangers Of Favoritism In A Nuclear Family

James Yeku has successfully woven together  words that speak volumes. Through them, he has been able to touch on diverse issues that affect the people. Where the Baedeker Leads is a book that provokes you to reason, rethink, and discover. It is a collection that everyone would find at least one poem to relate to. Though it is rare to find a book that suits everyone’s taste, I have read Where the Baedeker Leads, and I must say James Yeku has committed time and intellectual resources to put together poems that are unified in their diverse message and will always find a place to rest, as they journey from the pages of the book, through readers’ minds.

Where the Baedeker Leads by James Yeku is a 2021 publication by Mawenzi House, Toronto, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Book Fund.

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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BOOK REVIEW: Ayo Joan Olatoyosi’s Thesis, Antithesis And Synthesis Of Life



BOOK REVIEW: Ayo Joan Olatoyosi's Thesis, Antithesis And Synthesis Of Life

By Grace Ego Omoni
Reading is meant to educate, inform, entertain, give pleasure and improve the mental health of the individual whether male or female, old or young, of whatever race or colour and has effects on the readers. Unfortunately, in this country, many people have poor reading culture. Books, journals, manuals, magazines and newspapers are meant to showcase the above-listed benefits for man, especially those who are literate and are interested in reading.

Female authors and playwrights are very few in our contemporary times. So this book, Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life caught the reviewer’s interest seeing that it is written by an African woman, I mean, a pragmatic Nigerian woman of timber and calibre. The reviewer is not necessarily gender-biased but the content of this author’s autobiography is interestingly amazing, captivating, exciting, informative, educative, entertaining, pleasurable and intriguing.

BOOK REVIEW: Ayo Joan Olatoyosi's Thesis, Antithesis And Synthesis Of Life

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is the autobiography of Joan Olatoyosi Ayo. The book is a narrative of her early childhood experiences and exposures through adolescence and its bundles of tasks, mentorship and expectations, to middle and late adulthood with so much hard work, many exciting events, choices, acquiring abundance of features through experiences about family life, spiritual occurrences, courtship, marriage, motherhood, mentorship, friendship, work life, relationships, moral values, leadership skills in her career and various aspects of life. In this stage of life, she acquired and had a better understanding that people could be manipulative, hypocritical, sycophants, evil, loving and that in administration/ management, leaders must be firm, wise, disciplined, observant, honest and sincere enough to understand situations and perhaps, unpalatable challenges in an organization with a view to reforming or changing situations for maximum productivity and the achievement of set goals.

It is a book for all classes of people : students, teachers, public and civil servants, administrators, policy makers, leaders, politicians, Christians, atheists, traditionalists, Muslims, the high, the low, historians, writers, traditional rulers, entertainers, retirees and a host of other people of different ethnic groups and races.

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life starts from the author’s origin and childhood and meanders through adolescence to adulthood. Her unique interesting and challenging academic experiences from the primary, secondary university levels show that habits are derived through exposures to the social norms, ethical and moral values of the society. For instance, she narrated how she was given a beautifully packed tin box with assorted sweets for attending Carol Night during a particular Christmas season. She narrated how she took some to share with her friends, breaking the sweets with her teeth which was quite unhygienic but quite acceptable to some of the beneficiaries of this display of sharing. Another example is the incident at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka during a particular students’ protest and how she narrowly escaped being arrested by the police by dodging, running, hiding and smartly explaining herself.

Her journey of a small girl brought up by godly disciplined parents from a typical agrarian traditional village called Saki to a cosmopolitan city life took her to the corridors of power and eventually to the apex of her career in the Nigeria Civil Service and the Presidency for she became the first female to be made the Chairman of the Civil Service. Commission.

READ ALSO: Anthony Asiwaju’s Bridging African Boundaries: A Three-part Blueprint For Every Progress-driven African Leader

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is a narrative full of experiences and scenarios about relationships with the high and the downtrodden in the society where there is the good, the bad and the ugly including love, honesty, hardwork and the maintenance of work ethics in the midst of pockets of hypocrites, sycophants, blackmailers, traitors, sorcerers, witch doctors, manipulators, the corrupt, and those who run down and set up colleagues in work places to usurp positions not deserved are elaborately documented. Take for instance the story of how she was set up and accused of writing a particular official letter when indeed she was out of the country. It took the eagle’s eyes of her immediate boss to discover that the character of the prints of that letter was from a different typewriter not used in the author office but from another department because as at then, particular types of typewriters were carefully attached to different offices.

The author vividly tells of some characters she had relationships with during her journey of life and how these people helped to shape her life and influenced choices made as a Christian, mother, an administrator and as a career woman. For instance, she narrated her work experiences with high-ranked administrators and seven of our Nigerian presidents three of who were democratically elected at different times!

Lastly, the story ends with tributes and appreciation to an Amazon, Joan Ayo by her children, friends, church members, students, colleagues and personalities of the highest ranks in the Civil Service and the Presidency! The above exposition is of great interest and this prompted the reviewer to give this all -encompassing well-articulated book, the widest publicity by reviewing it.

As earlier indicated, Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life has a hardcover, with a colourful cover folder. The narrative is written on thick durable quality paper with bold prints making it very legible for readers. The cover has lilac and purple colours with a beautiful graphic picture of a lady’s head in a hat. This hat is decorated with roses of different colours. They are shades of red, lilac, green and purple. To the reviewer, colour is symbolic. Green depicts youthfulness, abundance, growth and freshness, purple stands for royalty, bravery, spirituality and imagination. Red represents anger, challenges, passion, danger and love. Lastly, lilac symbolizes, confidence, tranquility, innocence and youthfulness. It is amazing to discover that these features equally describe the character of the author in her narrative. Show me the colours on the hat and I will tell you who Joan Olatoyosi Ayo is!

The wordings of the title are philosophically and intricately chosen. At a glance, the intending reader might be tempted to conclude that it is a research work and not a story book. It is composed in such a manner that only the determined and inquisitive readers are likely to take up the book to read with a view to finding out what Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is really all about.

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However, because of the poor reading culture in our Nigerian society, many may lose sight of this powerful interesting, pleasurable, entertaining, educative informative and expressive treatise of the life of Joan Ayo.

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is the autobiography of an enigmatic, energetic, incredible role model of our time, Joan Olatoyosi Ayo. The book, a super narrative contains a lot of themes ranging from home life, education, politics, innovation, career ethics to religion, national policies, relationship , moral values, socialization and administration. Nevertheless, the reviewer will briefly dwell on four:

The narrative depicts the importance of education and its impact on man, society and national development. Education is seen in this book as the key to capacity’s building and human development. These are articulated in the life experiences of the author in her journey from primary, secondary to university levels with the determination and willingness to work hard and to achieve without polluting or losing her integrity. This theme exposes the reader to the necessity for the Nigerian educational system to have quality trained teachers with effective teaching skills and techniques, a well planned school curriculum in content and focus for change, reform and innovation to maximally achieve the goals and objectives of education. This thought is manifest in the life of Joan during her early days as a class and subject teacher, principal of both public and public schools and her transition to the Lagos State Schools Service Board and as the Secretary and later to the highest cadre of the Civil Service Commission. According to the narrative, one uphill task she had to face was to re-establish ethical working practices, control and discipline workers, challenges of teachers’ posting, promotion and appointments and their de-stagnation to beef up teachers interest and productivity. Education is meant to motivate, mould, build and train learners to become disciplined and useful individuals in the society.

The author gives detailed accounts of her Christian upbringing and commitments to God’s work which shaped her character and successes in life. Her work in the Nigerian Baptist Convention is also narrated in this book such as planting of churches, teaching in Sunday School classes and organizations and settling disputes between and among members, churches and the highest policy making body of the Baptist Convention. Her meeting with adherents of other religions, their beliefs and practices are extensively discussed. An example was her father’s stance and resistance to having a second wife as a prerequisite to ascending the throne being from a royal family in the traditional Saki kingdom. Her story of working with colleagues who were Muslims also shows that different religions ought to complement one another and to commend good things in their faith. Her implicit belief that God has a hand in the affairs of man, her account of situations where God intervened in seemingly difficult challenges are amazing. Through dreams, visions, prophecies and intuitions she expressly shows that spirituality with the mundane do help one to fulfill destiny.

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life presents packages of experiences in relation to norms, core and moral values of our society which should be cherished and maintained and sustained by all. Her narrative shows that obedience, honesty, diligence, tolerance, friendliness, faithfulness, integrity and goodness by individuals lead to a sane and progressive society.

As a technocrat, the author based on her work life and one who has held high ranked positions in the educational, public, the Civil Service sectors and the Presidency to name a few, tells the reader in the narrative how management and administration could be run to bring about maximum achievement and productivity in any society, institution or organization. The sycophancy, hypocrisy, conspiracy, manipulation, fraudulent practices, laxity and dishonesty found in the offices are articulately detailed in the book. Her inputs and reforms as a member of the policy making body and implementation in the Civil Service during her service years as an administrator make this work a handbook for administrators. Joan a one- time Chairman of the Civil Service Commission worked with seven of our Nigerian presidents , three of who were democratically elected, directors and permanent secretaries in different ministries as well as International bodies.Thus, this theme teaches the readers practical lessons pertaining to management, work ethics, dignity of labour, relationships among colleagues and foreign nations with a bid to promoting development and productivity.

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life also recognizes that man is a social animal. Her relationships with her parents, siblings, spouse, children/grandchildren, religious people, colleagues in schools and work places, national and International bodies especially at the higher strata and loyalty to them teaches the reader that success depends on care, love, open-mindednes , obedience, sincerity, honesty, hard work, tolerance, humility, focus and firmness in what you believe in in order to foster peace, joy, tranquility and development in the environment one belongs.

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The title of the book easily gives away how it is written. Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life has four parts, an Index and an addendum ( tributes).

The book consists of 26 chapters of 504 pages with captivating headings narrating the author’s origin, childhood, growing up, education, work life and relationships with the good, the bad and the ugly.

Interestingly, the thesis according to the author connotes the strong positions in early childhood education of an individual, of the habits derivable from the exposure to the social norms and moral values and the inculcation of these, moral consequences vis-a-vis right or wrong.

Antithesis according to the author is a thesis of opposition, clash of interest between old ways of doing things and the new based on the reality at hand.

Synthesis is making a whole out of parts and making sense out of distorted antitheses. The author believes that every individual goes through several cycles of life to arrive at his or her theses based on personal convictions.

The tributes in the book are from the author’s relationships to amplify what they know about her. The author for easy identification divided the Index into name and subject Index.

The work has many pictures of the author herself, her siblings, parents, children, husband and group photographs with, colleagues, superiors of national and international strata, letters of appreciation from various sectors and reports from the printed media about her. All these authenticate the genuineness of this all-encompassing narration about her life and the kind of person she is.

The author has a strong literally background exhibited through her extraordinary bank of vocabularies that are stylishly coordinated and collocated. She uses a lot of various degrees of adjectives in the description of people, locations and events. The language is both simple and complex for the average reader which is the mark of an astute and intelligent writer. The author also makes use of linguistic variations and transliteration. This is a technique whereby English is embellished with the Author’s local language and is usually for focus and emphasis. A lot of Yoruba proverbs, dictions and adages are seen in this narrative such as alakowe( an educated man), opele( a tool used by traditional doctors for divination ), ewe oye (a sacred leaf for the installation of a king); o to gee, onibode apomu( enough is enough), ta ba sunkun aman riran bastardized as Sunkumus Riranmus( funnily Latinized) meaning (one can see, through ones tears) a slang used to mock their Matron’s English and a host of other Yoruba expressions.

Literary devices are equally used in the work such as figures of speech like oxymoron, idioms, simile to name a few, all helping the narrative to be expressivity interesting and attractive to read.

There are vivid descriptions of major and minor characters influencing and prompting the reader to easily like or dislike people. The moral lessons on how to live with people in diverse environments are thus manifested. Thus, this work of art , a non- fiction with names of people and places we know in the society, institutions, organizations are realities. Actual accounts of events and occurrences in our Nigeria and in foreign countries at different periods are also evidences of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of a typical autobiography.

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is an autobiography of Joan Olatoyosi Ayo based on her life experiences from childhood through adolescence to adulthood, education work life, relationships, political, social, religious exploits well written with accurate events and chronologically arranged. It is undoubtedly a master piece!

However, though the author cautioned that the reader should not search for a “Deux ex Machina, the reviewer who is not also perfect will humbly not fail to point out a major error in her work. She injected a lot of history of the past about Saki which she must have retrieved from somewhere or from some people. This history is not her personal experience. This description of her origin in chapter 2 from pages 9 to 14 is long and too cumbersome for the average reader. The account of the historical extracts of the Baptist Women Missionary Union Work in Nigeria on pages 389 to 391 is another . These made the narrative to be a bit voluminous. It is an autobiography in the real sense and not history inclined. The inclusion of these long thesis could by implications discourage many readers from reading and finishing this beautiful narrative of an icon in our generation! Again, since the title of the book is from literary works, a reader might assume that Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is an ordinary research text book instead of a well planned personal account of the Author and might not painstakingly take time to find out what the content entails.

As a former teacher of English teaching learners correct spellings of commonly misspelled words is very important. It is observed that the word “privilege” is misspelt as “priviledged” occurring severally in the work. This obvious error might have been from the typist. Although very minute mistake, it is a good example to learners of English.

Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is a must read for everyone in this period of our nation where things are falling apart due to various challenges occasioned by bad rulers and bad subjects and future generations for it is an endearing work of art. Almost flawless, it is a treatise , an administrative document and a handbook to teachers, civil and public servants aspiring individuals in all its ramifications. Joan Ayo’s narrative of her life is intriguing, educational, interesting and informative and touches all areas of life, people and places.


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BOOK REVIEW: Anthony Asiwaju’s Bridging African Boundaries: A Three-part Blueprint For Every Progress-driven African Leader



BOOK REVIEW: Anthony Asiwaju's Bridging African Boundaries: A Three-part Blueprint For Every Progress-driven African Leader

By Toyin Falola
As I read through the first few pages of Emeritus Professor Anthony Asiwaju’s Bridging African Boundaries: Cross-Border Areas and Regional Integration in Comparative History and Policy Advocacy, there was an epiphanic moment—a remarkable discovery that brought a knowing smile to my lips. Names are revered in Yorubaland, and several adages and maxims speak to this truth. Oruko omo ni r’omo (a child’s name has a bearing on how such a child eventually turns out) is one of such maxims. In the case of Professor Anthony Asiwaju, I could not but agree more. Asiwaju is a Yoruba word that could mean vanguard, pathfinder, or forerunner, and this name truly befits the person, work, and achievements of Prof. Asiwaju. After reading Bridging African Boundaries, you will agree that his work in comparative African history, cross-border studies, and African policies truly positions him as a vanguard in these fields.

Notably, you will fully enjoy the goodness the author has poured out on the pages of Bridging African Boundaries by not skipping any part of the book, be it the Foreword or the Prologue. Starting from the Foreword, written by one of the most exposed, refined, and travelled presidents in the history of Africa, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Bridging African Boundaries draws the average reader in. Being a book on the career of Professor Asiwaju through his academic pursuits and passions, the Foreword does a good job of introducing us to a personal, hardly-known side of Prof. Asiwaju. It takes us back in history to how the peculiarities surrounding Asiwaju’s life—his parents are from two divides of the same clan—must have ignited the Professor’s lifelong interest in cross-border studies and international policy advocacy. History is like glue in interdisciplinary studies. It is a discipline that cuts across every human endeavour and field of study. This fact is not lost on Prof. Asiwaju, whose body of work, compiled in Bridging African Boundaries, shows us the integrality of history in our everyday life and studies.BOOK REVIEW: Anthony Asiwaju's Bridging African Boundaries: A Three-part Blueprint For Every Progress-driven African Leader Anthony Asiwaju’s concerns about the scholarly model of African history are valid, and it is refreshing to see that the Emeritus Professor not only identified this early in his career but also worked as a vanguard in charting a new path and has now produced what could be termed as a blueprint for anyone interested in comparative African historical studies. As the Emeritus Professor rightly put it, the study of African history should be such that it makes research findings by historians relevant in world studies. African history has not enjoyed much of that, as it emerged mostly as a reactionary move or a resistance to the colonial discolouration of African history. There is a need for comparative study models among historians in African historical studies.

Undeniably, Emeritus Professor Asiwaju occupies a prime position in comparative African history. It is, therefore, a blessing to the field of history that he has wisely compiled his three ground-breaking works on comparative African history into one. The three books, which are hard to come by — most likely out of print — can now be easily accessed and consulted complementarily, thanks to the Bridging African Boundaries compendium.

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Bridging African Boundaries is an endeavour akin to raising a child in a communal African society, a duty that rightfully requires the participation of all. Thus, to successfully bridge African boundaries, we must consult historical happenstances made available to us through historical records, books, and archival materials, study the patterns, and map out a plan. This strategy is not lost on Prof. Asiwaju, whose first book in his latest body of work begins with a period that has taken centre-stage in discourses about Africa’s present predicament and seemingly hard-to-foresee upward movement — the colonial era. A comparative study of French and English colonialism, with Yorubaland as the case study and first published in 1979, the first book in Asiwaju’s compendium was an immediate hit all over the world. And there is a reason for that: it was the first attempt at a comparative case study of Africa’s two most common colonial administrative systems.

Prof. Asiwaju’s comparative case study of the Yoruba in France-colonized Dahomey and Britain-colonized Western Nigeria is a rich historical text of the cultural and economic significance of the partitioning of Yorubaland in 1889 and its effects on the Yoruba people till today. Before this period, did the Yoruba people see themselves as one nation? Due to the partitioning, has there been any shift in the identity of the Yoruba people on either side of the divide? The author walks us through the foundational origins of the Yoruba people on both divides of the colonial partition — Oyo, Benin, Sabe, and Ketu — and how these foundational origins are all tied to Ile-Ife, deemed the historical founding centre of the Yoruba culture and civilization.

Asiwaju’s narrative is refreshing, exciting, and expository in a way that makes it easy for non-academics to enjoy and tap valuable lessons from it. Of truth, it is one of the most profound books I have read on the pre-colonial history of the Yoruba people. Another commendable thing about this masterpiece is its reader-friendly structure. Prof. Asiwaju’s 962-page compendium is divided into books, parts, chapters, and sub-topics under each chapter, which makes it easier to consult the book without necessarily reading all the pages — although I strongly recommend that you find time to read all the pages, as it is not every time we encounter such a historically rich text as this.

READ ALSO: Falola’s New Book, Decolonizing African Knowledge, Explores Innovative Ways Of Knowing Africa

The second book in the compendium, West African Transformations: Comparative Impacts of French and British Colonialism, is a more elaborate comparative historical study of West Africa under European rule, which uses not only the Yorubaland as a case study, but also adopts some other parts of West Africa, such as Borgu, Mono, Zou, and Opara, to mention a few. Professor Asiwaju’s work highlights the disruption caused by colonization and its attendant partitioning of the African peoples. The colonizers, who did not conduct any preliminary research into the relationships or cultural and economic affiliations of the African people, divided the continent at the Berlin Conference of 1884 -1885 like a piece of cake shared among schoolchildren, a move that permanently affected the inter-geographical and inter-cultural relationships of the African people to date.

Professor Asiwaju brilliantly walks us through the heightened periods of the Oyo and Benin empires and how the fall or decline of both empires, coupled with Fulani Jihadist and intra-Yoruba wars, led to a weakening of political strongholds across the region. These periods, which coincided with the spark of European interests in the western side of the continent, the dehumanizing period of the slave trade and mass migration to and from West Africa, resulted in an increase in cross-border relations and institutional adaptation among peoples who once prided themselves in the autonomy of their individual city-states.

Boundaries and African Integration: Essays in Comparative History and Policy Analysis, the compendium’s third book, taps into historical data and proofs to show the possibility of impactful cross-border relationships among African states. Looking back, cultural and ethnic differences abounded among autonomous city-states, even those with shared foundational affiliations. These differences led to disagreements, wars, and conquests; still, there were blossoming mutual economic arrangements and agreements between these city-states. In the same vein, the Africa of today must catapult itself out of a sad, lamentable, self-loathing position, not by forgetting its past or the injustices of the colonial era but by drawing strength from its sufferings and resolving to be the better for what it has gone through.

The world has witnessed bitter wars—the World Wars being two—yet, we see countries that were erstwhile sworn enemies coming together to form pacts, making agreements that would be of mutual benefit, advancing their causes, and helping them become better and stronger countries. Africa needs a cohesive, mutually beneficial unification that does not necessarily have to deprive each nation-state of its autonomy but serves to strengthen each member of the unified body. For this, there is the need for forward-thinking progressivists at the helm of affairs who are also students of history—not by obtaining degrees in history but by reading about cross-border relations in pre-colonial, colonial, and early post-colonial Africa. For such leaders, Prof. Anthony Asiwaju’s three-part compendium, a product of his intellectual sweat and academic sojourn and pursuit, is the right blueprint.

For an intellectual feast, please join us at the public presentation of this book in Abuja on July 7, 2022.

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Africa No Filter Launches Tony Elumelu Storytellers Fund To Empower Emerging African Creative Talent



Africa No Filter Launches Tony Elumelu Storytellers Fund To Empower Emerging African Creative Talent

Africa No Filter, a donor collaborative working to transform stereotypical narratives of Africa, has launched the Tony Elumelu Storytellers Fund. Named after African business leader and philanthropist Tony O. Elumelu, the Fund will award grants to emerging artists and storytellers, whose work shines a light on entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Africa.

The $30,000 fund is sponsored by Heirs Insurance and Heirs Life Assurance, the insurance subsidiaries of the pan-African investment group, Heirs Holdings.

Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, has led the championing of entrepreneurship in Africa and has empowered over 15,000 young African entrepreneurs across the continent through a $100 million commitment made by his Foundation.

The Tony Elumelu Storytellers Fund is a standalone initiative and an extension of his commitment to catalysing a redefined African success story, powered by Africa’s youth and their creative ideas. The Fund calls on journalists, filmmakers, content producers, and visual and performing artists to submit multimedia creative ideas, that tell the stories of inspiring entrepreneurs and showcase the true and positive spirit of entrepreneurship in Africa. Applicants must be aged between 18 and 35 years, living on the continent or in the Diaspora. They must have a platform or portfolio of work that shines the light on entrepreneurship in Africa.

Speaking on the Fund, Tony Elumelu said: “I have always believed in the potential of young African entrepreneurs to transform Africa. This initiative aligns with our belief and extends the work that we do at the Tony Elumelu Foundation. Empowering young creative entrepreneurs and the creative sector provides a channel for us to project Africa’s positives globally. We need their voices to tell our often less-told stories of triumph, resilience, hard work and innovation.”

Moky Makura, Executive Director at Africa No Filter, said: “Our partnership is significant because this is the first African funding we have received towards the fight for narrative change. We are also excited to be partnering with one of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs to celebrate entrepreneurship on the continent through storytelling. We need more success stories, more awareness and more celebrations around entrepreneurial ideas and the dynamic young people driving change here.”

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Ifesinachi Okpagu, Chief Marketing Officer, Heirs Insurance and Heirs Life, said: “We are pleased to support this initiative that directly impacts the lives of young African creatives. As frontrunners of digital innovation in the insurance space, Heirs Insurance and Heirs Life both recognise the important role the creative sector plays in transforming Africa’s narrative. We are on the same transformative path, and this initiative clearly demonstrates that the ideas that we need to boost Africa are right here on the continent.”

The Fund is open for applications on the Africa No Filter website with a closing date of 29 July 2022.


About Africa No Filter

We are a donor-collaborative shifting stereotypical and harmful narratives within and about Africa through research, grant-making, community building and advocacy by supporting storytellers, investing in media platforms, and driving disruption campaigns. Our funders are Ford Foundation, Bloomberg, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Luminate, Open Society Foundations, Comic Relief, the Hilton Foundation, the British Council and Hewlett Foundation.

You can follow Africa No Filter on:


Twitter: @africanofilter



About Heirs Insurance & Heirs Life

Heirs Insurance and Heirs Life are the insurance subsidiaries of Heirs Holdings, a pan-African investment group, with a portfolio spread across 20 African countries and three continents. Both companies are leading the digital insurance play in Nigeria and are on a mission to democratise access to insurance. Heirs Insurance and Heirs Life are committed to providing simple, quick, reliable, and accessible service while offering life and general insurance plans that address the needs of individuals and organisations.

You can follow Heirs Insurance on:





Twitter: @HeirsInsurance_

You can follow Heirs Life on:





Twitter: @HeirsLife_


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