Arts & Culture
Honouring Professor Akinjide Osuntokun
(A review of Africa and the Challenge of Underdevelopment: A Festschrift in Honour of Akinjide Osuntokun)
By Toyin Falola
On April 25, 2022, I confessed my desire for the personality and achievements of Professor Akinjide Osuntokun on the celebration of his eightieth birthday in a piece published by Tribune: https://tribuneonlineng.com/opinion-professor-akinjide-osuntokun-at-80-the-tour-de-force-life/. I stated that Osuntokun’s life exemplifies the Nigerian dream and desires despite the unfavourable odds. He was able to transcend beyond limitations and challenges and show the world that there is always strong hope for success when hard work meets determination. The trajectories of his life and career are full of lessons and inspiration. However, what strikes many is that he is not just one of the best historians in the country’s history but a patriot and leader.
As a citizen, Osuntokun feels discomfort when things are not right in the country, such as a parent’s discomfort for his or her disturbed child. This best depicts the love for the nation and the continent. He made this appropriate in his several criticisms and channelling his intellectual contributions towards the good of the nation and the continent. As a public commentator and historian, he consistently antagonized those factors that may jeopardize the nation’s and continent’s development, and when assigned some duties in service of the nation, his philosophies of what is expected of the society drove him through those stages. As an African intellectual, Osuntokun is notable for his firm stance on racial liberation and advocacy for Africa’s development.
So, when I saw this book written by fine scholars in honour of Professor Osuntokun, what attracted me the most was how relatable the topic is to the values that Osuntokun stands for. The book evokes a nostalgic feeling about his past achievements and activities, and bringing up issues threatening the continent’s development is certainly a discussion Osuntokun would welcome.
The writers of the different contributions that form this masterpiece have made a clarion call to Africans to pause, reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and think of future expectations. Today, the continent has the highest rate of people living in extreme poverty. We are faced with an unimaginable level of social unrest and security challenges. Numerous deficiencies, including the lack of infrastructural development, have defined the continent. What baffles thinkers like Osuntokun and others concerned about the continent’s state is that despite the available resources that even the West would like to plug into their abundance, the continent still wallows in such grave limitations and challenges.
I will always be a Pan-Africanist, but we also owe ourselves the truth. The nation has not done much for itself in contemporary history, and it is high time we started calling for answers and reeling off questions to those we should hold responsible. So, you will understand why I am glad that a collection of ideas like this will raise that conversation for us, guide us through the vision of our problems, and flash future possibilities in our faces.
The book lays the theoretical and philosophical foundations to understand Africa’s underdevelopment. The writers have done well to reiterate how the continent has squandered the potential that was capable of causing transformation for the people. Africa had its chances, but the cankerworms called politicians and other distractions made the continent lose focus on how to build the future, the consequences of which are evident in the contemporary lifestyles of the people. It also reminds us of Africa’s position in international relations and how the continent is gradually becoming a player in the plot developments in the grand stories of Europe and other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this problem conditions those relationships while the romance continues in different shades. Knowing a problem is the first step to a solution, but being the antagonist of a possible solution is like signing a long-term contract with misfortune. The book has shown how the continent quickly throws caution to the wind and is gradually quenching the light to guide our paths to a favourable future. The educational system in Africa is degenerating, and countries like Nigeria have not woken up to the urgency that is supposed to be attached to it. We know all these, so there is no need to remind the continent of the place of education in the scheme of things, but how do we awaken the continent to action? The book has provided reasonable thoughts and answers to these questions.
The book further explores the effect of how we relate to other parts of the world. It shows the reality of integrated and coordinated efforts towards development and some of the attempts of the continents at that. International interactions and collaborations in trade, security, economy, education, and other fields have shaped intra-continental interactions throughout African history and contemporary development. However, it has also highlighted how African nations have taken dangerous steps against one another and the effects of the same. Most importantly, the book examines foreign interests in the continent’s wealth, the new scramble for Africa disguised as aid but seeking oil and other trading opportunities, and the emerging neo-colonial effects on the continent’s state.
I cannot but agree with this book’s philosophical and contextual foundations. I also agree with the views that help the continent recognize the danger of a cracked wall where any reptile can creep in. What has the political environment got to do with the efforts toward the development of Africa? How have individual states attempted to solve their various problems, including unrest? Are some nations’ federalism policies for integration and peace kept in good faith? These are the evaluative questions this book has raised, and it has done well to lead minds through possible answers.
To understand underdevelopment, especially in the context of this book, one must realize that it touches both people and the environment. How people have been able to transition from one stage to the other, especially to an unfavourable position, denotes underdevelopment. Also, environmental degradation, a lack of sustainable protection of the atmosphere, and issues affecting livability form other parts of the concept of underdevelopment. This book has been able to outline these instances and treat each differently but explicitly.
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Today, peace is becoming a luxury in Africa, and terror is gaining ground. South Sudan, Somalia, the CAR, Sudan, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, and many other African countries are positioning themselves as the epicentre of social unrest, insurrection, civil wars, coups, interethnic rivalry, political upheaval, terrorism, kidnapping, and other forms of insecurity that interfere with the processes of development. Someone once said it might get to the point where it would be easier to buy guns than clothes and other necessities. There is a sporadic circulation of firearms across the continent, especially among people who are not supposed to own firearms. All these will always make every nation lose sight of its ambitions and responsibilities, as attention is often diverted to other things.
Underdevelopment in African countries goes to the core of our existence and could threaten it. The development could be in the spheres of orientation as well as the well-being of the people. I agree that the African nations have been able to develop their ideas and cultures, which have long served the purposes of their respective societies, and ensured peaceful coexistence and respect. However, many of these convictions have long outlived their applicability as people constantly change. This touches on the position of women in Africa and other cultural issues. This book creates an engagement to evaluate the subjects of gender in African societies and their roles in development. I believe that if anything encourages us to see everyone as equal, regardless of gender, it should be the benefit of collectivity. If everyone made efforts towards development with equal opportunity to do so, maybe the continent would have been able to reach its much-desired goals.
In addition, aside from development as regards orientations, it is also reflective in the well beings of individuals. Unarguably, Africa has a reputable traditional and modern medical system drawn far back into history and responsible for the sustenance of human health and well-being. However, medical conditions have changed, and diseases previously unknown to African medical science and practices have emerged. After contact with other parts of the world, the continent started understanding the medical explanations behind some conditions that were thought to be curses or normal. But, while the advancement in knowledge has put the continent in a good light, has the continent been able to catch up with other medical developments around the world? In some parts of Africa, maybe a bit, we cannot boast that development is needed enough to solve most of the contemporary world’s critical issues. These are issues addressed in this book, and it does justice to the conversation.
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Lastly, the book recognizes the importance of trade and commerce to the continent’s development. In all ramifications, national, intra-continental, and other international trades are pivotal to development. Recognizing this, the book has deemed it fit to explore issues surrounding the free flow of trade and commercial activities on the continent. With some of the recommendations and insights, the continent can explore options to turn around current situations.
I salute the initiative of the three editors—Olufunke Adeboye, Benjamin Anaemene, and Bernard B. Fyanka—in initiating and completing this book. I wish Professor Osuntokun a happy celebration and book launch on Tuesday, December 20, at the University of Lagos.
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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Arts & Culture
Toyin Falola, Memories Of Africa: Home And Abroad In The United States
By Olusegun Olopade
Toyin Falola, Memories of Africa: Home and Abroad in the United States (Atlantic Migrations and the African Diaspora) | © March 2023
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (March 24, 2023)
Paperback: 256 pages
Memories of Africa: Home and Abroad in the United States suggests a new lens for viewing African Diaspora studies: the experiences of African memoirists who live in the United States. The book shows how African Diaspora memoirs beautifully and grippingly depict the experiences of African migrants over time through political, social, and cultural spheres. In reading African Diaspora memoirs from the transatlantic slave trade period to the present, a reader can understand the complexity of the African migrant legacy and evolution.
Author Toyin Falola argues that memoirs are significant not only in their interpretation of events conveyed by the memoirists but also in demonstrating how interpersonal and human the stories told can be. Memoirs are powerful because they are emotionally captivating and because important themes and events circulate around a particular person (in this case, the memoirist).
Undoubtedly, a memoir is significant because it can teach anyone about a part of the human experience, even if the “facts” are not described without bias. Through this sort of narrative, the reader cannot help but enter into the memoirist’s mind and, therefore, feel more empathy for them. In doing so, the reader can “feel” what the memoirist feels and “see” what the memoirist sees as clearly as is humanly possible. In this way, the historical events and life lessons become tangible and poignantly real to the reader.
Memories of Africa makes a significant contribution to the study of the African Diaspora, African intellectual history, to our understanding of African autobiography, and more importantly to life studies. Falola provides fresh insights that will reinvigorate the field. — Olabode Ibironke, author of Remapping African Literature.
Memories of Africa opens a new dimension to the understanding of the experiences of home, space, and place, and their interactions in African and diaspora studies. — Adetayo Alabi, author of Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories.
Toyin Falola is Professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. He has received over thirty lifetime career awards and sixteen honorary doctorates. He has written extensively on the African Diaspora, including The African Diaspora: Slavery, Modernity, and Globalization.
Arts & Culture
12th Toyin Falola Annual International Conference On Africa And The African Diaspora (2023 TOFAC) Set To Hold
Arts & Culture
Kenyatta University Holds Toyin Falola At 70 Conference
The Department of History, Archeology and Political Science of the Kenyatta University is set to hold a Toyin Falola at 70 Conference.
The conference with the theme “Post-Colonial Africa: Historical and Contemporary Realities” is scheduled to take place between May 10 and 12, 2023 at the Kenyatta University.
Modern African economic, socio-cultural, and political realities have been considerably influenced and defined by colonialism. Colonialism created the foundation of the post-colonial. Since the start of the post-colonial and (especially) the post-cold war era, there has been increased academic interest in colonialism– both in the classic and the neo-colonial forms. There have also been considerable academic and non-academic efforts at decoloniality and decolonizing Africa. These efforts have led to studying and documenting African pre-colonial history, literature, and cultural intricacies to achieve self-determination and re-establish the African identity. It is, therefore, necessary and logically consistent with the above to study Africa’s past in relation to its present. Essentially, it is important that aside from examining the print of colonial pedagogy, methods, and philosophies, Africa is studied in the light of its actions, attempts at self-governance, and realities defined by its stakeholders.
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A considerable effort has been directed at researching, documenting, and analyzing Post-colonial Africa across different fields of the Arts and the Humanities. Through such efforts concepts such as neo-colonialism, political hegemony, economic instability, societal disillusionment, administrative lapses among others that touch on the African post-colonial condition have been explored by several researchers and academicians. However, the very basis of the evolution of knowledge and the foundation of the academic world is the consistent evaluation of knowledge, theories, and philosophies. As much as there has been enhanced scholarship around the aforementioned issues, there are still thematically important aspects of Post-Colonial Africa that are relatively unexplored or under-explored. New concepts, skepticism, and relatively new subject matters have developed with the continent’s evolution – particularly concerning socio-culture, administration, globalization, conflicts, diplomacy, and ideological paradigms. For instance, it may be important to define the extent to which pre-colonial Africa influences the post-colonial realities of its nation-states, regions, and Sub-regions, as it applies across respective fields.
Other relevant aspects of the post-colonial African reality like identity dynamics and minority politics, institutions and sub-institutions in Africa, diaspora dynamic, administrative evolution in Africa, Post-colonial gender dynamics in Africa, intercultural realities of distinct nation-states in Africa, cultural awareness, and preservation in Africa, decolonial legal education and practice, ideological politics in post-colonial African, among others. The COVID-19 pandemic presented new dynamics to interpret and understand the place of post-colonial Africa in the world in light of global power politics and diplomatic spate over the causes of COVID-19, vaccine politics, and international travel restrictions. COVID-19 highlighted the need to rethink post-colonial Africa’s readiness to respond to global challenges independently.
The Department of History, Archeology and Political Studies through the Research and Innovation Committee (DRIC) plans to host a conference that is directed at answering the conceptual questions that underline some key aspects of post-colonial Africa – as defined by the necessary contextual factors and underlining theories. The conference is expected to feature different themes and introduce concepts, arguments, and theories that are well-adjusted to current African realities.
The department also wishes to use the occasion to celebrate the 70-year life journey of Professor Toyin Falola, a world renowned Distinguished Professor of History and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, at the University of Texas at Austin. Professor Falola has dedicated his entire academic life, with over 150 titles under his name, reflecting on the African condition both in historical and contemporary terms. In March 2022, the Department hosted Professor Falola, who gave thought provoking lectures on “Decolonization of Africa Studies”. As a department, we are keen to use the conference to continue enriching our conversations around this and related themes, enhance our scholarly connections and collaborations, establish new research and publication partnerships as well as strengthen existing ones.
The conference sub-themes will include but are not limited to the following:
- Decoloniality, and decolonization, as it intertwines with post-colonial studies
- Internationalization in the African region – key factors for consideration should include Pan-Africanism as examined through the lens of its basis, the status quo, and possible ways forward.
- Post-colonial economy and the role of the nation-state in establishing independent regional control
- Resource control as it affects neo-colonialistic affiliations and European hegemonic influence in Post-colonial Africa
- Liberal ideological predispositions and the socio-philosophical future of the African Nation states – with considerations to the influence of the youth demography
- Developmental politics in Post-colonial Africa
- Gender dynamics and politics in Post-colonial Africa
- Post-colonial Literature and the future of the arts in Africa
- Migration, conflicts, and peace actions in post-colonial Africa
- Regional collaboration and diplomatic politics in Post-Colonial Africa
The conference is expected to attract participation from academicians, researchers, experts and practitioners in the area of African history and other related humanities and social science disciplines. These shall be drawn from mainly Kenyan and other African institutions as well as from outside the Africa continent. The conference will allow for a blended mode where some participants will be present on-site at Kenyatta university while others will present online.
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Prospective participants are encouraged to send abstracts of between 250 and 500 words, including their full contact details (title, name, address, email address and telephone number) as well as their institutional affiliation by 30th February, 2023 to: email@example.com
Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified by 5th March 2023 and asked to prepare full papers to be presented during the conference. The official language of the conference will be English. Papers presented at the conference will be peer reviewed and published in an edited volume.
27th January, 2023: Call for Papers/Abstracts
30th February, 2023: Deadline for Receipt of Abstracts
5th March 2023: Notification of Acceptance of Abstracts/Papers
15th April 2023: Deadline for receipt of Full papers
20th April, 2023: Registration begins
1st May, 2023: End of Registration
10th to 12 May 2023: Conference Dates
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