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Conversations With Professor Ademola Dasylva: Biography, Spirituality, Activism And Scholarship



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon

By Toyin Falola
I borrowed the title of this piece from the 146-page book edited by a pentad: Sola Olorunyomi, Olutoyin Jegede, Mobolanle Sotunsa, Rotimi Fasan, and Adedoyin Aguoru. A squad of five, not playing basketball, but constituting themselves into a franchise with an unpatented name: DST-Collective. I thought DST stood for the Demolition Squad Team, but it means the Dasylva Supervisee Team. I congratulate the lustrum for an illustrious project. This rich book includes oral interviews on various aspects of Dasylva’s life, tributes from about twenty doctoral supervisees, and miscellaneous. The book presentation will be on October 27, 2022, at the University of Ibadan.

I enjoyed reading the book, and I am offering this reflection in broad strokes, adding to the spirit behind the innovative ideas of the pentagon. One of the most vital questions in metaphysics is whether humans are predestined by an unguided supernatural and supreme force, and try as metaphysicians might explore the depth of questions like “Why are we here?” and “Do we have a purpose?” they have not been able to satisfactorily answer any of them. Perhaps, the acceptable answer to such questions is subjective and highly personal — only able to be manifested through the lived experiences of every person.

If individuals lived experiences define existence and purpose, then this cinquefoil’s undertaking to create a collective of purpose-defining knowledge on the life of one of the most purpose-driven people I have ever known is not a coincidence. Prof. Ademola Dasylva’s life has been defined by stellar academic and professional commitment, an unwavering spiritual stance, and a drive to give back to society; thus, it is only worth it that we all have come together — whether friends, colleagues, students, supervisees, or family members — to appreciate and celebrate him. Since I have known him, Dasylva’s loyalty, trust, commitment, and perspective on issues have only endeared him to me more in a relationship that has transcended the borders of what we often define as friendship. He is a principled man whose beliefs form the basis of his existence and relationship with others, and I cannot begin to count the many instances where we have had such soul-lifting conversations.

READ ALSO: Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard

Friends like Dasylva are valuable and worthy to be celebrated, which is why I find the book curated by the pentagram among his past supervisees, titled, Conversations with Professor Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva: Biography, Spirituality, Activism, Scholarship, a worthy undertaking. In its three parts, the DST quintuplicate explores the biography and spiritual origins of a life saddled with intense social activism and scholarship that lays the intellectual bedrock of the life of Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva, a Professor of African Literature, Oral Poetics, and Performance, —a life that has served as the foundation for the lives and careers of many others.

The first part is the transcription of a thorough oral interview that the quinquennium DST-Collective had with the celebrant, a decision that appreciates the connection this scholar has to orality and oral performances in literature. The second part, which continues to tell the unique story that defines this eminent scholar’s life, purpose, and achievements, alludes to academic scholarship and is an exchange of written questions and answers between the team and the interviewee. In the last part, there is an emotional outpouring from Dasylva’s past doctoral supervisees, self-branded as Dasylvites, and wonderfully so. This could only have been made possible due to the commitment to excellence on the part of the supervisor, who went beyond the boundaries or provisions of the few years that each of those doctoral programs lasted. And decades later, these students are not only in touch with the one who guided them through the dreary academic path, but they are also successful and accomplished people who relate a chunk of their success to this man whom we celebrate on this auspicious occasion. There is love, awe, appreciation, and respect, and on Dasylva’s part, there is bound to be love, pride, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Dasylva, the focus of this festschrift, has been actively involved in the practice of culture and the teaching of literature for many years. It should not come as a complete surprise that he is most recognized for his scholarship and scholarly pursuits, given his lengthy relationship with the organic realm of the mind. He has rightfully ascended the teaching levels from Oyo State College of Arts and Science (OSCAS), through to the Adeyemi College of Education (ACE), to the prestigious position of professor at the University of Ibadan, an institution where he has served in several capacities, including as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

This all-encompassing book, which embodies the most important things to Dasylva — spirituality, activism, family, and scholarship — begins with a first-hand narration of the celebrant’s biography. Born Anthony Michael Sylva to ardent Catholic civil servant parents in Ilesa, Omobewaji attended St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Ifofin, Ilesa, then proceeded to the Lady and St. Kizito Minor Seminary, Ede, for his secondary school education. Incidentally, he lost his Catholic faith in the same institution, but ultimately not his faith in God.

Professor Ademola Dasylva At 70: A Labourer In The Vineyard

Professor Ademola Dasylva

As significant as Dasylva’s scholarship is, so are his affiliative characteristics, which have molded and left their marks on his life. However, in this book, the DST-Collective has made a frantic effort to chronicle the inception of his spirituality, his conception and understanding of God, life, and man’s purpose in the universe, as well as his attitude toward organized or unorganized religion. God’s love for this brilliant academic can be traced to his birth and the circumstances surrounding it. It is, therefore, of little surprise that the Dasylva we know today is a deeply religious man who had meant his life to go in a direction other than the turn it initially took in his early adulthood until fate, again, steered him back to his predestined course. His time as a student in the minor seminary effectively shaped his philosophy, life direction, and enduring belief in God. It is impossible to understand the life’s work of this intellectual giant without finding the enormous space that God occupies, especially as documented in this book.

Dasylva is an exemplary social-conscious activist with evidential and enviable feats and records. Again, the minor seminary is a striking point as it is the original starting point of his activism. From standing up to bullies, leading a revolt against oppressive white priests, rightly demanding improvement in lecturers’ welfare in colleges across Nigeria, to joining the quest for the enthronement of democracy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In scholarship, Dasylva has distinguished himself in the intellectual circle of African oral literature, oral poetry, and performance, with an extensive body of work in both local and international journals.

The DST-Collective meticulously laid out the extensive body of knowledge produced by Dasylva, especially in the postscripts.  His theoretical conceptualization of the Yoruba philosophy of ọmọlúwàbí and “Oral Literature and the Problem of Ambivalence” are some of the few examples of work highlighted in this book. According to him, “throughout my academic career, I have advocated for using homegrown African epistemologies and theories. I believe Africa is rich and African literature is old enough to evolve its own body of theories; in particular, the deployment of African ontologies, cultural concepts, and cultural principles to engage critical textual, verbal, non-verbal, etc., analysis and analysis and interpretations.”

READ ALSO: Stefan Dercon, ‘Elite Bargain’: Can The Nigerian Ruling Class Be Born Again?

Significantly, Dasylva’s works are geared towards finding African solutions to African problems, which is uncommon for academics to embody the core principle that defines their field. The book contains several of Dasylva’s works as they relate to teaching, research, and community services. Nothing symbolizes and captures all three more than a team of his former supervisees who rallied to celebrate a living icon. Needless to say, this is a well-lived life, both personally and professionally. When asked about his core ideology and belief, Dasylva was unequivocal about his belief in God and also stressed the point of his humanist side without contradiction. This is correct because believing in God is trusting His work, the chief of which is human, and humanism, according to Dasylva, is an extension of God.

Ultimately, Conversations with Professor Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva: Biography, Spirituality, Activism, Scholarship succinctly captures a life full of intrigues and miraculous events. Beyond celebrating a scholar, it is a book that will serve the younger generations to form personal convictions on what it means to live for something greater than oneself. In 146 pages, this detailed collective serves the satisfaction of all types of readers, regardless of their relationship with the celebrant — whether they are literature professors who appreciate his academic work, historians who revel in the richness of his biography, or current students who bask in the antiqueness of the old images and tales.

In a world where the Yoruba maxim, “eniyàn l’ aṣọ mi” (humans — friends — are the clothes that cover my nakedness and protect my dignity and honor) is true, Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva is, for many of us, a thick fold of woolen blanket, warm, big, and encompassing enough to cover us and reassure us that we have a friend and a true one at that. Congratulations again, my beloved friend, on the occasion of your 70th birthday and retirement, and big ups to our quintette, alias the Dasylva Supervisee Team, for the amazing work done to birth this impressive collective.

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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Moral Values In A Changing World



Prof. Hope Eghagha

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

JUSTICE: This world has degenerated into abysmal filth, immoral ungodly concupiscence, infantile greed, atavistic, primitive acquisition of property, and satanic hopelessness! The judiciary, the political class, the church, our royal fathers, and most other socio-cultural institutions have fallen into the cesspit of indiscipline and lack of respect for ethics! The Labour movement that used to be in the forefront of discipline cannot be trusted anymore!

MARIAM: Hehehehehehe! Okpoyibo! Big grammar is talking. I must invite Hon Patrick Obahiagbon to compete with you on explosive vocabulary.

PROFESSOR: That’s an old song. Our parents said the same thing some forty odd years ago.

UMUKORO: You are right; it is the way of the old to berate the world and say the past was better!

JUSTICE: Kindly don’t reduce the profundity of my introspective submission to the jejune level of the banal as has been the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals in the polity!

MARIAM: I am going to get a new and bigger dictionary. I can’t find Michael West anymore!

JUSTICE: If you still restrict yourself to the archaic confines of Michael West, then you are a victim of historical detention, arrested development, and exploration of the brave new world!

MARIAM: I give up!

UMUKORO: Who still uses a dictionary in the 21st century? Ask Google my dear, ask Google!

JUSTICE: Your infantile and rudimentary knowledge of homonyms limits your capacity to process thoughts of the new century. Away with you, thou physically beautiful body without an intellectual soul. I take exception to people denigrating my exceptionally brilliant exegesis on the state of Homo sapiens!

PASTOR: ‘And in the last days, iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold’, so said the Master. The time is here!

PROFESSOR: A broken record! A broken record waxed hundreds of years ago!

PASTOR: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved!

PROFESSOR: Saved from what? Another holocaust? Another atomic bomb dumped on humanity?

PASTOR: Do you spurn sacred and biblical prophecies?

PROFESSOR: General prophecies mean nothing to me. Look here Mr Pastor. For all the false prophecies which members of your infernal gang of profiteering pastors gave before the last general elections, you should be behind the bars of God!

JUSTICE: It is not late, not too late at all. The hounds of heaven are waiting for all the false pastors, especially those who have commercialized the Lord’s work! A wonderful and abominable thing is happening in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love it so!

PROFESSOR: One preacher I knew used to say that one false prophet was more dangerous than 100 armed robbers. Now I understand why!

UMUKORO: Armed robbery is no longer fashionable. Pen robbery fetches millions of naira with one stroke. Just add two zeros to the figure or transfer public funds to a private account.

PROFESSOR: I spoke metaphorically!

PASTOR: When it is becoming fashionable for persons of the same gender to marry and be recognized by the state, then the world is coming to an end.

UMUKORO: Sodom and Gomorrah incurred God’s wrath with that abomination!


MARIAM: When Supreme Court judges dispense political justice, then the end of the state as we knew it, has come.

UMUKORO: Even in America! Democratic judges give judgment guided by the so-called liberal values of the democrats while republican judges give conservative verdicts like abolishing the right to having an abortion!

JUSTICE: What then is justice?

MARIAM: Self solution! Your name is justice!

PROFESSOR: Aren’t we mixing oranges and apples in the same basket?

PASTOR: Let the tares and the wheat grow. At the harvest the Lord shall do the separation of sheep from goats!

JUSTICE: Eschatological metaphors can be used to rationalize and explain currents and undercurrents of contemporary events. It is very convenient to do so!

PROFESSOR: I am disappointed that our Nobel laureate could make such a one-sided pronouncement on the 2023 general elections. Unlike him, he didn’t speak like a man who comprehends the totality of our traumatic experience in February 2023!

MARIAM: But he spoke his mind. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression!

JUSTICE: He spoke with the finality of a judge. I respect him for that. But he should also like an elder have acknowledged the level of rigging and violence which marred the exercise. The general thinking is that he is silent on that aspect because a friend of his now occupies Aso Rock!

MARIAM: That is a most uncharitable thing to say about a man of such intellectual distinction and moral probity!

JUSTICE: Excuse me! Has he occupied any public office in the country to enable you to arrive at that conclusion? Has he been tested?

MARIAM: His name is a shield. His name travels before him.

JUSTICE: Why did he wait for the PEPT to make a pronouncement before proclaiming his tigritude?

PROFESSOR: Let’s leave that old man alone jor! I’m more interested in the shuffling feet at the CBN. What exactly is going on? Was there no due diligence before Shonubi was asked to act as Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they have suspected that he was part of the rot that ran that institution aground in the dying days of the former president?

PASTOR: Alas, it has given the president the opportunity to appoint his own man as governor. The new man by all account is competent and exposed in the financial world!

PROFESSOR: My only worry is whether he will have the gumption to say no if he receives obnoxious directives from his boss.

JUSTICE: How many appointees in our country have the liver to say no to the indiscretion of their bosses? It is not in our DNA!

MARIAM: In Lagos state, the Speaker of House said no to the governor on the appointment of some commissioners! The heavens did not fall.

PROFESSOR: The heavens almost fell. But that speaker is arrogant. No big man can trust him. Or was he dancing to music being played in higher quarters to spite the governor?

MARIAM: Who knows! It is possible. The ways of politicians are not straightforward. How could he say that he and the governor are colleagues! He has no respect for the office!

UMUKORO: I felt sorry for the governor! This attempt to humiliate him all in the name of politics.

JUSTICE: I hear it is all about 2024. If he is thinking of becoming governor, that statement will return to haunt him in future!

PASTOR: Now! Now! Now! Is the Dubai visa ban still hanging over us or Mr. President got the desert kings to lift the embargo?

JUSTICE: Is there any ‘gbajue’ going on?

PROFESSOR: Hahahahahaha! The more you look, the less you see. Proverbs to bones and silence!

UMUKORO: I don’t think it is ‘gbajue! It is possible that there was an agreement in principle which would require Nigeria to finetune certain details before going public. A federal government cannot tell lies about such public matters!

PASTOR: When the saviour comes, let him that be on the rooftop not come down to be saved. You will run to the mountain and the mountain will be melting!

MARIAM: And the sea will be boiling!

PROFESSOR: Who will save us? Who can take the nation back to factory reset? Shall we invite Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, and Ahmadu Bello to rescue us?

PASTOR: Perish such thoughts please! Those men have not been able to save themselves. How can they save anybody? Jesus Christ is the answer!

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A Response To Toyin Falola’s Obasanjo, Obadide And Obajoko



Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

By Yinka Agbetuyi

Toyin Falola’s “Obasanjo, Obadide and Obajoko” is a timely article that captures the complexities and contradictions of a Yoruba (even Nigerian) in transition. It reframes the questions: ‘transition to where?’ How will this transition be better managed? Until these two questions are adequately resolved Yorubaland (and Nigeria) will always be in constant crises.

    It is very important that the essay brings out the fact of extant kingships alongside modern polities in Europe like the UK and Belgium, (there are still twelve extant monarchies in Europe) where the monarchs are not subordinated to modern politicians and humiliated thereby. So which West are the Yoruba (and Nigerians) copying?  Newfound lands, mainly the US – as well as Australia and Canada- stolen from the aborigines.

    Yoruba people and fellow Nigerians must constantly be reminded that the success of the anticolonial struggles was about stopping such occurrence in Africa.  Perhaps Yoruba Nation advocacy was geared toward the same goal, but lacked effective strategies. At the last stop before Tinubu’s unexpected victory, the groundswell was for Yoruba Nation advocates to go into partnership with other Nigerian ethnic nationalities and evolve a workable blueprint that takes into consideration each group’s preference and the rate of and speed of integration into the totality – the North’s preference at independence, and Awo’s true federalism- supplanted unfortunately by the adoption of an American presidential federalist model, hook line and sinker!  My reaction over the decades is that Nigeria is not necessarily vying with others for the position of the 51st state of the US.

    In my own summation in diverse forums, as it exists now in Europe, the royal houses should be clearly delimited and given definite CONSTITUTIONAL roles and worthy remuneration. First Class traditional rulers should earn the same salaries as sitting governors (Nigeria can afford this option many times over from a mere fraction of its stolen wealth if recovered). Monarchs will in turn underwrite the integrity of the polity by being constitutionally tasked with the appointment of auditors who will scrutinise State spending (states and federal) and projects in their domains and report directly back to such MONARCHS for onward transmission to state chief executives and the presidency.

    Traditional rulers should be elected and appointed only by traditional councils and their appointment signed into law (but not subject to nor subordinated to) the state governors.  After all the days of crass illiterate caricature of traditional rulers is long gone.  Traditional rulers should therefore be structured as parallel instruments of and facilitators of governance in a check and balance structuration of governance, in a carefully integrated whole to achieve total governance – the transient and the permanent. Lesser traditional rulers should be administered by the First-Class rulers (in council) who will recommend their emoluments, (and functions) subject to rankings to state governments.

    Only First-Class rulers (in council) should be able to recommend the creation and elevation of lower ranked rulers to the states according to the existing norms of such communities, (they did this well enough in the precolonial days) and the state government should only administratively approve or reject such recommendations based on financial contingencies. This formulation should neutralise party politicking in the creation and maintenance of traditional rulership.

    Yes, traditional rulers must be constitutionally barred from seeking and accepting contracts from their states of origin and from the federal government, the same way a governor is not notionally entitled to be awarded a contract by their own government.  In the British system, this is called declaration of interests by parliamentarians (whether in government or not) in the register of interest book.  This is to prevent conflict of interests of the person in government (and their associates) and their official duties.  This provision demonstrates that greed is a universal phenomenon unless and until checked by relevant laws (witness the UK Parliament’s expenses claim scandal in 2010.)

    Now that the Tinubu struggle has been fought and won, the Yoruba Nation advocates, must in continuation of their activities not rest their oars on the ship of State, but intensify such by taking the lead in the quest for this new reality, by reaching out to like minded nationalities across the country to achieve the constitutional change for a better, stable and prosperous tomorrow for Nigerians.

Prince Agbetuyi is a Professor of Comparative Arts & World History at the Edutronix Institute, London.


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Use Your Penis: Hopes, Expectations And Realities Of African Migrants In Europe



The panelists at the event.

By Leo Igwe

The issue of migration to Europe has been in the news. There has been intense discussion on how to tackle the flow of migrants to, not from, Europe. There have been reports of boats carrying migrants capsizing or missing on the Mediterranean Sea. Many Africans have died trying to enter Europe via the Sahara desert. North African and European countries have taken measures to curb illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, the migration flow out of Africa continues and shows no signs of abating. Why has the migration of Africans or migration from Africa become such a huge problem? What are the hopes, experiences and realities of these migrants?

In August I was invited to speak at a seminar on migration. The focus was on the migration of Africans to Europe. The event took place in Bergen, Norway. As a doctoral student, I lived in Germany for six years. I was invited to speak at programs on migration. Governmental and nongovernmental agencies in Denmark and Germany organized the events. I did not find these events interesting because the focus was on human trafficking and the role of African juju and witchcraft. Do not get me wrong. Human trafficking is a huge problem and needs to be addressed. But we have to tackle the problem from the root. These events were by my estimate a complete waste of time and money because organizers and participants were not ready to tell themselves the truth, face the facts and address the real issue. They want to make themselves feel good and privileged while talking about these helpless Africans streaming to their shores. Organizers were more interested in marginal voodoo, and oath-taking issues. They made it seem as if there was something unusual about African migration. But there was not. Migration is as old as human beings. Humans from all races and regions have been migrating from one region to another, from one country or continent to another. Before this recent wave of migration out of Africa, people from Europe, America, and Asia have been migrating to Africa. They are still migrating for business, social, economic, religious, and political reasons.

Contemporary African migration is mainly economic. It is driven by poverty, miserable living conditions, and the devastation of African economies by European, Asian, and American companies. To tackle the problem of migration, African economies must be fixed. The continent must realize an economic leap. Now instead of focusing on the economic roots of the problem and how to address them, many Europeans and Americans expend energy discussing trivialities, such as the role of voodoo and so-called powerful witch doctors in Nigeria. Well, at these events, I told the organizers the bitter truth. I told them to forget this juju or voodoo talk and face the reality: the destruction and revival of African economies. I told the organizers what they did not want to hear. And they never invited me back.

But this time around it was different. The organizers were not Europeans or Americans. A Nigerian student at the University of Bergen staged the event. He contacted me some months ago, drawing my attention to the plight of African migrants in Norway. He explained how many who travel to Norway and other European countries had their hopes and expectations dashed. Many who migrate to this country or other European countries end up entrapped. They are compelled to go into things they did not plan to do. Many migrants end up in a new form of slavery, in a marriage to a European citizen. Left with the option of going back to Africa at the end of their study or marrying to get the documents to stay, many end up contracting a marriage, in many cases a paper or document marriage. These marriages entrap them, they turn these migrants into errand boys and girls. Many of them are mistreated. They suffer silently. If they misbehaved, their partners would threaten to report them to the authorities and get them deported. I was told that many in the African migrant communities were not helping matters. Someone told me that he approached some migrants seeking and wanting to know how he could navigate migration issues. But the person told him: “Use your penis”. I guess for a female it would have been a case of: Use your vagina. While studying in Germany, some African migrants told me how they were sexually exploited, and dehumanized before they could get legal documents to stay in the country. One woman told me that everyman who wanted to help her wanted to sleep with her.

So, the program was cathartic. It provided a space to let out these pains, sufferings, disappointments, and frustrations.

The event brought together ‘free-will’ migrants and Norwegians. The panelists were from Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Belarus. I was the only international guest on the panel. Other panelists discussed the hurdles that they have faced, and the challenges that they confronted trying to live and integrate in Norway. As one panelist noted, many who come to study were unable to find a job at the end of their program. In many cases, they graduated and found out that there was no job for them, or they were unable to speak the local language, which was a requirement for many jobs. Another panelist from Ghana, married to a Norwegian, discussed her challenges as a migrant parent in Norway. She recounted how her child had suffered racism in the school. She narrated an experience where the child did a group assignment with four other white Norwegian children. And the teacher gave her child four marks for the assignment and other group members five marks.

There was some discussion on illegal migration and the risks involved. Some Norwegians in the audience noted that many African migrants knew about the risks they could face migrating to Europe. And still, they decided to embark on the risky journey. There was a lot of focus on migrants and their experiences traveling from Africa. However, little or no attention was paid to the European connection with the problem, the fact that western foreign economic policies have devastating effects on African economies. Africa is a market for Western goods including Norwegian stockfish. Apparently Europe needs African markets not African migrants. Western multinationals are relentlessly plowing and plundering the resources of Africa in ways that have displaced the local populations. African professionals are leaving in droves. They are migrating to work in the West and the Middle East. So, Western economies profit from the migration flow and the cheap labor it provides. Western countries benefit from the economic status quo that has turned Africans into migrants and refugees in Europe and America. To contain the flow of migrants to Europe, the situation in Africa must change. African economies must begin to grow and improve. Western governments must end the economic exploitation of Africa.

Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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