By Grace Ego Omoni
Title of the Book: “Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life.”
Author: Ayo, Joan Olatoyosi.
Year of Plubication: 2021.
Place of Publication: Ibadan.
Publisher: Kraft Books Limited.
Cover: Hard Cover.
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.
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.
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.
The Book Cover:
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 Title of the Book
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.
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.
The Theme of the Book:
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:
Theme of Education: 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.
Theme of Religion: 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.
Theme of Moral Values: 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.
Theme of Dignity of Labour: 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.
Theme of Socialization and Integration: 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.
Author’s Style: 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).
- Thesis: 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.
- Tributes: 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.
Language and Diction: 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.
Character and Characterization: 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 Life is 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 not 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.
About the Author:
Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis of Life is written by Joan Olatoyosi Ayo. This is a woman of many sides: a mother, lover of children, a disciplined socialist, Power Broker, teacher, an achiever, an innovator, a prolific writer, a bulldozer a spiritually humble servant of God and a Deaconess of the Baptist denomination. She is a technocrat and was a Career woman, a high ranked administrator for many decades in the Civil Service, attaining the highest position as the Head of the Civil Service Commission before retirement. She was in the Corridors of affair in this country and had worked assiduously with 7 Nigerian Presidents consecutively including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who incidentally wrote the Foreword the book.
From the tributes of all she has come on contact, Joan Ayo a woman of unusual enviable personality with great qualities worthy of emulation by anyone aspiring to be a great achiever.
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Exploring The Multidisciplinary, Multicultural And Cosmopolitan Scope Of The Work Of The Polymathicc Scholar And Writer Toyin Falola
By Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju
2022 Finalists For Isaac Oluwole Delano Prize For Yoruba Studies Announced
Babcock University, the Isaac Delano Foundation, and Pan-African University Press have announced the 2022 Finalists For the Isaac Oluwole Delano Prize For Yoruba Studies .
Two finalists have been chosen in two categories. The winner will be decided in the weeks ahead. The prize includes a citation, a certificate, $1,000, and public acknowledgment at the 2022 Convocation ceremony at Babcock University.
The Supervisory Board of the foundation is chaired by Dr. Bola Dauda. Other members of the board are Chief Akinwande Delano,Professor Bola Sotunsa, Dr. Michael O. Afolayan and Professor Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso.
Professor Toyin Falola is the Chairman of the 2020-2022 Jury. Other members are Professor Tunde Babawale, University of Lagos, Pamela Smith, Emeritus Professor, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and Professor Akin Akinlabi, Rutgers University.
The Secretary is Damilola Osunlakin, Ahmadu Bello University.
Finalist In The Book Category
Akin Ogundiran, The Yoruba: A New History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020)
By their default social nature, humans are always seeking ways to connect with their fellow humans, concepts, or phenomena. This desire to connect is replicated in other aspects of human endeavors, particularly in academic disciplines. The interconnected nature of academic disciplines is well explained by the linkages between history, anthropology, and archaeology. Anthropology and archaeology lend credence to historical portrayals and studies, while history helps bring perspective and solidity to archaeology and anthropology. These three fields of study complement one another and are intertwined so that a skilled historian is also knowledgeable in anthropology and archaeology. In other words, it is difficult to trace the history of a people if we do not have some understanding of archaeology and anthropology.
READ ALSO: Soyinka prize in illiteracy
This outstanding book, The Yoruba: A New History, is about connections at multiple levels. It is an intellectually stimulating book for anyone, particularly for academics and scholars in history, anthropology, and archaeology. The book takes the reader on a journey that begins at the climax of its message, reverts to the genesis of the Yoruba, then maneuvers readers through different historical developments in the existence of the Yoruba people, and then returns to the starting point — the climax — in such an all-around intellectual stimulation. Every chapter of this 562-page commentary on the Yoruba is a matching piece in the academic puzzle that Professor Ogundiran has neatly arranged to form the insightful book on a new Yoruba history with complex and understandable analysis. Readers are immediately drawn into the deep, propelled by Ogundiran’s deft use of language to unravel the wide-cracking gap that has classified the study of African civilization and history. Ogundiran criticizes the disposition towards African study from early on, which sees the advent of Christianity and colonialism as the defining point in the cultural evolution of Africa.
In the book, Ogundiran walks the reader through the need to study Yoruba history from the perspective of a holistic approach, one that includes comparative, theoretical, and empirical methods. This type of holistic study could help advance the research into the existence and evolution of the Yoruba people. It is easy to fall prey to the possible shallowness that mostly results from a study that does not look at history from varied perspectives. Ogundiran’s emphasis on portraying evolution and development during a distant time, not as independent capsules of time but as overlapping periods in continuous existence, is brought to the fore by how the book explores seven-time capsules as they overlap one another in the study of a new Yoruba history.
Furthermore, Ogundiran unearths the four pillars of the Yoruba cultural identity, starting with the “House,” a symbol of the socio-political organization of the Yoruba people; to “Divine Kingship,” which represents governance and its structures in a deeply political society; the complementary existence of the two recognized genders in Yoruba history — the one complementing the other, and vice-versa; to what is perhaps represented across cultures and not only with the Yoruba people, which is fundamental to the reasoning and being of all humans — a search for meaningful living, the thirst after immortality, which in itself births religion. Also, Ogundiran captures the turbulences that characterized Yoruba civilization in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although these upheavals did not destroy the Yoruba population, they displaced certain cities and engulfed other places like Owu.
Remarkably, the narration is rich and powerful, aided by archaeological, linguistic, anthropological, and historical evidence that one can almost feel as being present at the locations mentioned and connected with the individuals whose stories the book narrates to show the evolutionary development of the Yoruba people across timeframes. The Yoruba: A New History is a well-rounded book that has registered its place among the invaluable scholarly outputs of our time.
Finalist In The Creative And Performance Category
Mainframe: Ayinla by Tunde Kelani
Making a blockbuster movie is no mean feat. The arduous production process, the continuous refining of creative representations to ensure they project the finest of details, and the place of good storytelling, continuity, and the ability to connect with and sustain the audience’s attention cannot be overstated. Thus, when we consider Ayinla, the latest of Tunde Kelani’s movies, as a blockbuster, we should not only consider it as one of the top five highest-grossing movies in the Nollywood industry but also as a masterpiece that has registered its place as the defining point for biographical adaptations in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
Another factor that lends awe to Ayinla’s widespread success is that it is dominantly presented in the Yoruba language. Despite this, the movie found widespread acceptance among viewers. It was a hit in cinemas and has been among the top 10 trending movies on Netflix for weeks, further testifying to the strength of the movie’s broad appeal and how quickly it gained popularity among Africans and other lovers of good productions. The things that make Ayinla deserving of praise pale compared to the movie’s awesomeness as a work of art. The movie demonstrates the artistic and creative ingenuity of the cast and crew, especially the producer and the writer, for an apt summation of the life of Ayinla, the musician, in such a eulogizing way, and the director, for the intricate selection of the cast. This has to be lauded because Ayinla is a beautifully arranged masterpiece. Since the movie premiere, not only has the director and the producer been receiving laurels, but the actors and actresses have also received their own warm and large share of the accolades, particularly Lateef Adedimeji, who did not just take on the role of Ayinla but rebirthed himself as the protagonist of the movie. Àyìnlá is the winner of the 2022 Programmer’s Best African Narrative Award in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Literature is the mirror of life, and the Ayinla movie is another wonderful product of literature that mirrors different aspects of society during Ayinla’s existence and several circumstances that could have contributed to his untimely death. The portrayal of Ayinla in the movie is such that one cannot but love the protagonist’s character, regardless of his whimsical nature. Great commendation must be given to the director and producers for the attention paid to the movie’s setting. When one considers the financial resources pumped into creating a setting that suits the story, the intellectual capabilities forged together to birth the masterpiece, and the human resources pooled together to make the movie a success, one would realize that they must be priceless and invaluable.
Research must have been conducted to learn about Ayinla’s hometown and his life. We see Ayinla, a musician and band leader subject to the whims and caprices popular among musicians — reneging on promises, devising dubious means to slip out of performing engagements, womanizing unashamedly, downtown brawls, one of which eventually led to his death, and general controversies. Watching Ayinla, the average person, no matter how old, can easily relate the struggles of Ayinla as a thespian to the struggles of artists across all ages, from the new-generation artists to the much older ones, and across genres of music, from hip-hop to Apala, to afrobeat, to highlife, and the likes. During Ayinla’s time, the indigenous religion was still widely accepted. Thus, self-protection, war-enhancing charms, prophecies, and destiny-unearthing ritual prayers were popular and not frowned upon. The viewers are made to see that Ayinla’s life starts to take a turn for the better when he consults the gods of his ancestors and accelerates the manifestation of his glorious destiny.
Ayinla, the short-tempered, lovable, room-sparking musician, had at his fingertips the deft and rare skills of eulogizing to win people’s hearts and money. If viewers across countries and continents easily love the Ayinla character in the movie — so much so that the love has extended to Lateef Adedimeji for the excellent way he portrayed the character — one can only imagine how much people loved Ayinla during his lifetime. He was the typical Yoruba man who never shied away from saying what was on his mind — whether it was a profession of love, flirtatious words, abusive jabs for his enemies and sparse spenders, or huge words of praise for the big spenders. Ayinla was loved for this same reason. People did not just love Ayinla, the musician; they loved the full embodiment of Ayinla, the talented yet troubled virtuoso many easily misunderstood and the whimsical trouper whose fame was equally his downfall.
Being only human, Ayinla was prone to infallibility. He surrounded himself with people he could not fully trust, resulting in an abrupt and painful end to his life at a time when he was supposed to grow in popularity astronomically. He was not all saint — but then, is anyone? He snatched his manager’s girlfriend and stepped on some other toes.
Perhaps, what is most beautiful about the movie is how it is not only a representation of Ayinla’s life but also the way it reflects the lives of several other characters, which can be reviewed independently or seen as fragmented pieces of Ayinla’s life. In the Nigerian movie industry, Ayinla has set new standards in quality, details, directing, casting, and production for historical and biographical adaptations.
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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. 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.
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.
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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