By Toyin Falola
Welcome to the big feast in honor of Professor Bolanle Awe! We start on January 28 with a social celebration organized by family and friends. Next, Professor Dele Layiwola is presenting a festschrift in the months ahead. And the “queen” of all the events, a major collaborative partnership by the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Lagos, and the University of Ibadan, is the two-day conference on February 13 and 14 at the University of Ibadan on the theme “Oral Traditions and Written Histories.” Length of age is a blessing; she can now enjoy all the accolades.
Being, emerging, or coming first is a heavily romanticized concept among humans. As we are innately wired to be competitive and continually pursuant to goals, it is not surprising that “first” is one of society’s most desirable qualities or outcomes. We all have our personal stories about being on either side of the divide — being the first or not. For some, it was joy and celebration among family members. For others, it was the famous question of whether the one that had emerged first had two heads. And still, some were severely beaten for emerging first — 1, the least among other numbers, only superior to zero.
The concept of first has other sides that do not receive as much thought, attention, and discourse as humans wish to lead, emerge first, and stay ahead of others. However, like the head that wears the crown, uneasy is the first position. In a more generic context, to be first means to be spotlighted. And in being spotlighted, one draws attention to oneself, and every other person’s pursuit and mission is to best the first or leading competitor. Unlike others that have someone they could feel motivated to overtake, the person in the first position can only compete with themselves and seek to be better than their previous records.
In a more specific context, being a pioneer in one’s field is desirable and enjoyable. However, several expectations, struggles, and obstacles come with this same feat. On the one hand, to have been the first or a pioneer in your field means you had little to no material to work with; and there was hardly any guidance for you. There was no one in whose footsteps you could have followed, and while you could have had mentors, their mentorship would not have been fully specific and tailored to a field you’re pioneering.
In the same vein, a pioneer in their field would bear the burden of serving as the guide to the several others that come after them. Even when a field has successfully had other experts, the pioneer will continually be consulted and expected to actively contribute to the field and participate in research and discourses — and there also exists the unspoken but ever-present pressure to remain relevant in the field.
For Professor Awe, the concept of first or pioneer is not new; it has been with her throughout her sojourn in academia. Schooled at some of the best colleges and universities in the United Kingdom and the world, Professor Bolanle Awe’s academic quest started in 1960 as the first female lecturer at the Department of History, University of Ibadan. Incidentally, her appointment marked the milestone for the first female member of academic staff in a Nigerian university, sharing the space and era with Adetoun Ogunsheye, who became the first female professor in the library and information science field. In a male-dominated field in a male-populated university, the then-young Bolanle was committed to making her mark and charting the course for women who would come after her, and in 1976, sixteen years after her first academic appointment, she became a professor of history.
Professor Bolanle Awe was not only the first woman on the academic staff of a Nigerian university but also one of the pioneers of the comprehensive study of women’s history and feminist history; she equally emerged as Nigeria’s first female professor of history. These pioneering roles meant that the professor experienced every aspect of being the first. In her role, and being the first woman to be in such an academic role, she would have had little to no guidance to inform her perspectives that, in turn, shaped her into the intellectual colossus in history that she is today.
Personal experiences and the benefits of being a pioneer in the field would have formed the basis for what, although it could have been exerting, ended up being foundational to the study of Nigerian women’s history, oral history, feminism, and feminist history.
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Professor Awe has spent about sixty years of her fruitful and fulfilling life in commitment to studies, research, contributions to, and the advancement of, history and historical studies in Nigeria, with a special focus on Nigerian women’s history, feminist history, and oral history. Despite the foundational challenges of being the first to chart the course as a female historian, Prof. Awe made large strides and wrote her name alongside the pioneering greats. History and historians cannot forget her immense contributions to the study of pre-colonial Nigeria and Nigerian women across several pockets of historical timelines, many of whom had been maligned and marginalized, having little to no traced history and documentation of the exploits that they did. Prof. Awe’s scholarship saw her produce intellectual assets to enrich and support the academic community at a desirable rate.
In the 1970s, when women-focused historical research was still in its embryonic stage, and there were fundamental issues that needed to be addressed to better inform the research into and documentation of Nigerian women’s history, Prof. Awe was one of the leading voices that contributed actively in academic research, seminar participation, and engaging in the diplomatic and external work that was needed to get the right support for seminars, conferences, and comprehensive research and reports. For years, she served as an active member of the Women in Nigeria (WIN) association — Nigeria’s first cohesive feminist movement that directly influenced women-focused research.
In the 1980s, when a group of women banded to work assiduously toward the founding of the Women’s Research and Documentation Centre (WORDOC), domiciled at the University of Ibadan’s Institute of African Studies, Prof. Awe was, as you guessed, one of those women. The founding of this Center catalyzed the intensity of women and gender studies in Nigeria and the expansion of the scope of women’s history and studies that had existed before the establishment of the Center. The significance of the Center to women’s studies in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, as it served as the pioneering means of fostering intercontinental exchanges, collaboration and research among Nigerian scholars and universities and foreign scholars and universities in North America, Europe, and Asia on women’s studies, gender, and women’s history.
Beyond the academic realm, the Center also built a robust relationship with the town — which it still actively builds on to date — and this relationship has positively affected the availability of research assets and resources, opening scholars’ eyes to existing concerns in society through their engagement with women outside the academic environment, and also forming the basis for discourses and providing research areas and perspectives to the scholars.
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Today, the Women’s Research and Documentation Centre remains in existence and continues to do its work in engaging the community and gown, organizing conferences, being the home for women scholars and researchers, and supporting women-focused research. Although the founding members may no longer be the active faces of the organization, their legacy and commitment have birthed the contemporary generation and leaders of the organization. Indeed, another win for the pioneering Professor Bolanle Awe.
Aside from administrative work, Prof. Awe has authored several books. In her collection of written books, one stands out for me, especially as it ties back to the essence of her work and commitment over the years. It is a book titled Nigerian Women and Pioneer Icons. It’s a solid tracing and evaluation of the contributions and achievements of Nigerians in several fields of endeavor. Particularly, this book draws on data from the pre-colonial era and, more importantly, how these women’s contributions, though individually, form part of the collective contributions that could be historically traced vis-à-vis the evolution and development of the Nigerian nation-state.
Beyond academia, Prof. Awe excelled in her service to the Nigerian nation and the world. From 1990 to 1992, she served, yet again, in an inaugural position as the first Chair of the Nigerian Commission for Women, which was set up in 1989 by the Federal Government. She assiduously served to push for women’s welfare and development without the attendant political undertones that were initially the government’s basis for establishing the Commission. Prof. Awe’s service was faithful to the mission statement of the Commission, a bravery that would eventually result in her resignation when the lines became blurry as to the service the Commission was supposed to commit to.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, and weary are the shoulders that bear the weight of responsibilities. To be a pioneer is to be constantly in the spotlight and under the scrutiny of people, many of whom did not have enough bravery to embark on the course that you chose to chart. For Prof. Bolanle Awe, life has been full of its challenges and resplendent with successes and bouts of joy. More importantly for her, life has been fulfilling, satisfying, and laced with legacies printed on the sands of time. It is indeed a historic time to be ushered into the exclusive club of the nonagenarians, Prof. Awe. Happy Birthday and hearty cheers!
Please join us in February at the University of Ibadan for an elaborate intellectual feast. https://bit.ly/3iz80KL
- Falola , Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Lead City University, Ibadan, 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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Abiodun Seeks US Partnership In Developing Critical Sectors
The Ogun State government has solicited for partnership with the United States of America in developing the critical sectors of the State’s economy.
The State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun who stated this when he received the American Consul General to Nigeria, Mr. Will Stevens, who led a 5-man delegation on a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan Abeokuta on Wednesday, noted that the State considers the United States as a progressive partner in the areas of economy, good governance, security, climate change and human capital development around the world.
Governor Abiodun posited that the State apart from the sophistication of its people and their cognitive political culture, is unanimously and popularly adjudged as the New Jersey of Nigeria and the leading industrial hub in the West Africa Sub-region, hence the need to tap from the American experience to further its developmental stride.
The governor said his administration at inception in 2019, assembled a team made up of highly resourceful technocrats and cerebral policy architects and conceptualized a transformational philosophy coined ISEYA, which is an acronym for Infrastructural Development, Social Welfare and Well-being, Education and Human Capital Development, Youth Empowerment and lastly, Agriculture and Food Security.
He said: “Through this concept, we have strategically transformed the state with modern infrastructure, deliberate policy steps to attract businesses and moving the economy from being federal allocation-focused to becoming the state with the third largest Internally Generated Revenue in the country.
“The State’s strategic location as the primary gateway to Lagos State – the largest market with the busiest ports in Nigeria has contributed to its status as the Industrial Hub of Nigeria.
“Our State is home to one of the largest industrial zones in Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the 8,000 hectares OPIC-owned Agbara Industrial Estate, which accommodates the Federal Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone (OGFTZ), with forty-four (44) operational companies, factory tenants from across the world, with over 6,000 Nigerian employees and an estimated 100,000 metric tons of freight moving in and out daily.”
Prince Abiodun noted that in its quest to make Ogun State the first destination for investors in Nigeria, his administration is currently constructing an Agro Cargo International Airport at Iperu-Ilishan road in Ikenne Local Government Area of the State, adding that the project is strategically designed to create the needed infrastructure to boost the exportation of agricultural and non-agricultural goods.
“By its structure and business plan, the Cargo Airport remains a game-changer in our import and export promotion efforts, as it was specifically constructed to be an aerotropolis (Airport City) equipped with components such as a special agro-processing zone to process raw agricultural materials for exports, an international testing centre to certify that agro-produce complies with international standards before it is exported, and facility for passenger operations as well as facilities to receive parcels coming into Nigeria that are to be redistributed to other parts of the country.
“In addition to that, it is an important component of Ogun State’s transportation master plan expected not only to connect rail, road and water transportation but also to decongest the Lagos Airport,” the governor added.
Governor Abiodun appreciated the American government for her firm stance on democratic governance, specifically on the sanctity of the electoral process as well as supporting different reforms in the electoral process and taking an uncompromising position on electoral offenders.
In an interview after a closed-door meeting with the governor, the Consul General said their discussions centred on security and health.
He noted that health remains the number one investment in Nigeria as the US government is in the health sector to help Nigeria to reach the 95 95 95 goals of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.
“It is my job to promote US trade and investment here in certain parts of Nigeria. I had a great conversation with the governor about the incredible investment the US companies are already making in the state as well as opportunities for more increased US trade and investment.
“We also talked about the tax sector, I think there are incredible opportunities right now to find jobs and opportunities for Nigerian youths to participate in the tax sector.
“We’ve seen the explosion of growth and investment in that sector throughout Nigeria, particularly in the South West,” the Consul General added.
Toyin Falola And The October Harvest
By Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti
In the annals of academic and societal change, few luminaries shine as brightly as Professor Toyin Falola. As autumn leaves drifted in October, the literary world was astir from the changing seasons and the relentless enthusiasm of a septuagenarian scholar making waves across lecture halls and public platforms. In many cultures and traditions, October is a month of harvest – a time to reap the fruits of labour sown in prior months. Fittingly, for Professor Falola, this October truly lived up to that essence, bearing witness to an intellectual harvest that few could parallel.
Prof. Toyin Falola at the second Distinguished Lecture Series of the Department of History & International Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria on August 10, 2022. Photo by “Gbile Oshadipe (2022) ©
In many ways, the achievements of this month were a microcosm of Falola’s broader career: a testament to the confluence of hard work, passion, and a deep-seated commitment to societal advancement.
Within 31 days, Falola graced the podium for 3 public lectures, imparted wisdom in 2 university lectures, and was the beacon of 3 convocation lectures. Each of these engagements wasn’t just about sharing knowledge; they were conduits for sparking change, challenging established norms, and inspiring the next generation. However, to truly grasp the magnitude of Falola’s October endeavours, one must delve deeper into the essence of the man himself. At an age when many of his peers are retreating into the tranquillity of retirement, Falola’s spirit remains undiminished, if not encouraged. It’s not just the number of lectures or the honorary doctorates he received – which, in and of itself, is a remarkable feat – but the zeal with which he approaches each endeavour. His lectures, for instance, are not mere recitations of historical facts or academic theories. They are vibrant tapestries woven with threads of history, contemporary societal issues, and a vision for a brighter future. They challenge, they provoke, and most importantly, they inspire. But what drives a man of over 70 years to such relentless pursuit? To find the answer, one need not look further than his past works and the themes that permeate them. For Falola, academia isn’t a secluded ivory tower but a platform to engage with the real world. His research, extensive and varied as it is, always circles back to the core of societal problems. From the intricacies of Yoruba history to the broader strokes of African colonial and post-colonial narratives, Falola’s work sheds light on the issues that matter. These are issues that, in many ways, continue to shape societies today.
In this context, October wasn’t just another month in the calendar but a manifestation of Falola’s lifelong commitment to societal change. A promise that has seen him transcend the traditional confines of academia to engage with the broader public. His public lectures resonate with many audiences, often interspersed with anecdotes, real-life examples, and a touch of humour. From the eager university student to the curious layman, Falola’s words strike a chord, reminding everyone of the transformative power of knowledge and its role in sculpting a better future. In delving deeper into the man behind the October Harvest, one quickly realizes that Professor Falola’s achievements are not a product of overnight success but the culmination of decades of unwavering dedication. It’s a journey that’s seen him navigate the tumultuous waters of academia, societal challenges, and personal hurdles, emerging each time with a renewed sense of purpose. More than anything, this tenacity has been the cornerstone of his October endeavours and his broader career. One might wonder, what is the essence of these lectures and engagements? Why do they matter? The answer lies in the content and context of each meeting. Take, for instance, one of his public lectures from October. While the topic might have revolved around historical narratives, Falola deftly intertwined it with contemporary issues, drawing parallels and highlighting lessons. His ability to bridge the past with the present, to draw lessons from history and apply them to current challenges, is what sets him apart. In doing so, he educates and empowers his audience to view issues through a multifaceted lens, promoting critical thinking and proactive engagement.
Moreover, the venues of these lectures—from universities to public platforms—underscore his commitment to inclusive education. Universities, the traditional bastions of knowledge, are just one part of the equation for Falola. By stepping out and engaging with the broader public, he’s democratizing knowledge, making it accessible to all, irrespective of their academic or socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a move that challenges the status quo, emphasizing that learning shouldn’t be confined to ivory towers but should permeate every stratum of society. However, it’s not just the lectures that stood out in October. The two honorary doctorates he received are symbolic of his contributions to academia and society at large. Such accolades, while celebratory, are also reflective. They compel us to examine the body of work that merits such recognition. For Falola, it’s a vast tapestry of research, publications, mentorship, and public engagement. Each strand, be it a book, an article, or a lecture, is imbued with a purpose: to enlighten, challenge, and change. Yet, amidst all the accolades and achievements, what’s truly remarkable is Falola’s humility. Interact with him, and you’re not met with the airs of a celebrated academician but the warmth of a mentor, the curiosity of a lifelong learner, and the passion of a societal changemaker. This unique blend of excellence and humility makes his October Harvest not just an academic feat but a life lesson for many. It serves as a poignant reminder that success isn’t just about personal milestones but about the impact one leaves on society and the legacy one creates for future generations.
Reflecting on the October Harvest and the man at its epicentre, we must contextualize Professor Falola’s achievements within a broader societal framework. At a time when the world grapples with myriad challenges – from socio-political upheavals to environmental crises – the role of intellectuals and academicians becomes ever more crucial. And Falola, with his October engagements and lifelong commitment, epitomizes the potential of scholarly intervention in driving societal change. But why is this important? In an era dominated by bite-sized information and fleeting trends, the depth and breadth of academic research provide a counterbalance. Falola’s lectures, rich in historical context and analytical depth, offer a respite from the cacophony of superficial narratives. They remind us of the importance of understanding the past to navigate the present and shape the future. Every lecture and engagement is a clarion call for introspection, urging society to delve deeper, question more, and strive for a holistic understanding. This is not to say that academia is the sole bastion of truth or the only path to societal change. But scholars like Falola, who bridge the gap between the academic and public spheres, play a pivotal role in grounding discussions in research, evidence, and historical context. They serve as beacons, illuminating the path forward with the torch of knowledge.
Furthermore, Falola’s October engagements underscore the timeless essence of commitment and passion. His journey is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and lifelong learning in a world that often prioritizes instant gratification. It’s a narrative that resonates beyond the confines of academia, inspiring professionals, creatives, and changemakers across various fields. The underlying message? Age is but a number; passion and commitment are timeless. As we draw the curtains on the October Harvest, carrying forward the lessons it offers is essential. It’s a month that celebrates Professor Falola’s achievements, the ethos of scholarly engagement, and its potential impact on society. It’s a call to action for scholars, students, and the general public to engage, question, learn, and drive change.
In conclusion, Professor Toyin Falola’s October Harvest is more than a chronicle of a month’s achievements. It’s a celebration of a lifetime of dedication, a tribute to the transformative power of knowledge, and a reminder of the potential each one of us holds. As the leaves of October give way to the chill of November, the echoes of Falola’s lectures, the wisdom of his words, and the passion of his commitment continue to inspire, urging us all to sow the seeds of change, knowledge, and progress. For in every seed lies the promise of a harvest, and in every effort, the potential for impact.
Prof. Adeoti wrote from the Department of History & International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria.
Keep Witchcraft Accusations Out Of Politics In Sychelles
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches urges the government of Sychelles to keep charges linked to witchcraft beliefs out of politics in the country because they make no legal and political sense. This call became necessary following a report that the country’s main opposition leader, Peter Herminie has been charged with witchcraft. Charged with witchcraft in this 21st century? He was accused along with seven other persons including a Tanzanian. According to the report, Herminie and other persons have been charged with “possessing items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft”. It was stated that the name of this key politician was allegedly mentioned in a whatsapp message between a local and the person from Tanzania, who was arrested at the main international airport on September 21, 2023. The report says that “Items related to witchcraft, including stones, black wooden artefacts, small bottles of brownish liquid, a collection of powders, and documents with strange language and “demonic and satanic” symbols” were found in the possession of this Tanzanian.
State prosecutors are of the notion that the documents might be some vandalised materials from the local churches. Mr. Herminie has denied the charges, and dismissed the allegation that items linked to witchcraft including bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity” were found in his office or in his possession.
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches is asking the government of Sychelles to drop these charges, because they are absurd and constitute a show of shame and embarrassment. The prosecution of Herminie and other co-accused is witch hunting in both literal and political sense. And witch hunting should has no place in 21st century politics in Sychelles.
Otherwise, how does the government define witchcraft or witchcraft items? How does the government distinguish witchcraft items, whatever that means, from traditional religious objects? How did the prosecutors know that the said items were intended for use in witchcraft? Are stones, black wooden artefacts, and small bottles of brownish liquid witchcraft materials? I mean how will state prosecutors establish that some symbols are demonic and satanic?
Has the government the facility or expertise to prove beyond reasonable doubt what is witchcraft and what is not witchcraft, what is demonic or satanic and what is not? How will the government prosecute this case without flagrantly violating the right of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief? At a time of growing cases of witch persecution in many parts of Africa, the government of Sychelles should discontinue this unfortunate and unwarranted instance of witch hunting.
Dr.Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
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