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As University of Ibadan honours Falola – The Nation Newspaper

  • November 18, 2021
  • 8 min read
As University of Ibadan honours Falola – The Nation Newspaper

Nigeria news – Nigeria's breaking news website
Professor Oluwatoyin Falola is being conferred this week the Doctorate of Literature degree, (D. Litt.) the highest academic laurel one can win in the Humanities by the University of Ibadan. I don’t know of any Nigerian or foreigner who has been conferred this highest academic degree of the University of Ibadan by consideration and assessment of his select publications as Falola. He therefore deserves our congratulations and celebration.
Falola had his undergraduate and graduate education in history at the University of Ile- Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University. To have gone this far is a testament to how excellent the University of Ife was in its golden years.  Falola previously held the Frances Higginbotham Nelle Centennial chair in History at the prestigious University of Texas at Austin. Professor Toyin Falola is currently a world celebrated professor of History and African Studies at the same university. He is Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker chair in the Humanities and University Teaching Professor at the same university. He has held visiting professorships in some American, Japanese, British and South African universities. He has attracted generous research funds from several academic foundations including the US library of Congress. His scholarship has received recognition all over the world and the breadth and profundity of his publications are simply amazing.
I do not know any historian anywhere in the world who can beat Toyin Falola’s written fecundity. As a budding historian during my youth, I used to marvel at the scholarship of British historians like A. J. P. Taylor and Allan Bullock who were respectively Regius professors of modern history at Cambridge and Oxford universities in the 1960s. The importance of being a Regius professor is that one derives one’s emoluments by a special endowment of the Crown and it is the highest academic recognition in the UK. It was generally known that the two of them did not like each other and sometimes belittled each other’s scholarship through savage reviews of each other’s publications.
Allan Bullock was known and appreciated for his biography of Adolf Hitler. His book Hitler: “A Study in Tyranny “ attracted worldwide attention while Professor A. J. P. Taylor’s book “The Origins of the Second World War “ was a masterpiece which tended to blame the rise of  Hitler on the unfairness of the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919.  These two had other publications in their sterling careers which included as public intellectuals through their writings in the Sunday Times and London Observer. Other historians that I admired were Fritz Fischer, the professor of history at the University of Hamburg whose book “Germany’s War Aims in the First World War” which is my field was a classic. S. T Bindoff’s “Tudor England” was a must read. The American historian, William Langer’s books on Imperialism were compulsory reading for any student of imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Now in my old age, Toyin Falola has made the achievements of my academic heroes almost pedestrian not to talk about those of my teachers and myself. It is not easy for me to say the like of Toyin Falola is not likely to bestride this land again. I have read many of Falola’s publications; I cannot put a number on his books but they are not less than 40 and some read like literature, after all there is an old fashion school of history which believed that good historical writing is literature. If it were not so, Winston Churchill would not have won the Nobel Prize in 1953 for his history of the English-speaking people. Professor Falola is not just an historian, he represents the best traditions of social science. In many parts of the world including some parts of the United States’ history belongs to the social sciences. If there is any argument about the place of History in the Social Sciences, Falola’s scholarship provides a bridge between the Humanities and the Social Sciences. History is to the Social Sciences what Mathematics is to the Physical Sciences and Engineering.
Professor Toyin Falola is presenting his latest work “Understanding Modern Nigeria: Democracy and Development” published by Cambridge University Press on November 17 to apparently celebrate his conferment of the D.Litt. (not Honoris Causa), this time but by academic assessment. He already has loads of honorary doctorates, 12 at the last count, from foreign and African universities including state and private universities and recently by the Federal University of Lokoja. In his latest work which covers 690 pages, Professor Falola takes his readers on a promenade on post-colonial Nigerian politics and society covering such themes as ethnicity, democracy and development. This book although likely to overawe if not overwhelm its readers by its voluminous length of 690 pages, will definitely mark a turning point in the study of Nigerian modern history and politics for the foreseeable future.
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Professor Falola is not just an historian, he has sometimes participated in events of epochal importance and significance such as the “Agbekoya” peasants rebellion in Western Nigeria in the 1960s. His recall and research into this episode of Nigerian social and economic history is captured in his book  ”Counting the Tigers Teeth: An African Teenagers Story” in which  he narrates his recollection  and research of the peasant revolts and his witness to history  and “A Mouth Sweeter than Salt”  is a biography of Ibadan and his own autobiography woven together in a beautiful fashion in which the historian grows with his subject and is an observer of the growth of one of the most authentic African cities. These two books were published some years ago and attracted many prizes and world-wide acclamation.
He has published so many books and edited many more that I will be doing injustice to his efforts if I begin to single out a few. But permit me my readers to mention a few I have enjoyed reading and from which I have gained knowledge and wisdom. These books about 20 or more  include such titles as “Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria”, Ibadan: Foundation, Growth and Change 1830 – 1966″, “ Violence in Nigeria: The crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies “, “ The Power of African Cultures”, “Nationalism and African Intellectuals”, “ The African Diaspora: Slavery, Modernity and Globalization”, “Economic Reforms and Modernization in Nigeria 1945 to 1965”,
“Development Planning and Decolonization in Nigeria”, “Praise of Greatness: The Poetics of African Adulation”, Cultural Modernity in a colonized world: The writings of Chief Isaac Oluwole Delano”, “ Understanding Ogbu Kalu”  with Aribidesi Usman, “The Yoruba from prehistory to the present”, “ Yoruba Gurus: Indigenous production of knowledge in Africa” with Ann Genova, “ The politics of the Global oil industry “, and “The Humanities in Africa, knowledge production, Universities and Knowledge transformation of society”. Perhaps because of his lack of Arabic knowledge he has not made more than cursory look at Northern Nigerian history in his historical curiosity.
What Falola has achieved in academic scholarship is just beyond human understanding. Falola in his youth dabbled with socialism. I remember reading his first books before he left for the United States. He used to employ Marxist analysis to interpret Nigerian history. I was not surprised because I also and other colleagues began our academic lives mouthing socialist slogans. My older brothers actually refused me accepting Russian scholarship in 1966 after leaving the University of Ibadan for fear of socialist radicalization. Of course Falola has gone beyond socialist fascination to his present realism of taking the world as it is.
Among those of my teachers who have gotten the national merit award for historical scholarship included the late professors J.F. Ade. Ajayi, Emmanuel Adiele Afigbo and the Izon historian, E. Alagoa  who is very much alive. I do not know why Professor Emmanuel Ayankanmi Ayandele who blazed the trail for prodigiousity in research, scholarship and publications which Falola is following was not given the national merit award which those of us his students and colleagues believed he deserved before he passed on into eternity.  I am also not sure why up till now, Falola has not received the National Merit award but I can guess. I think the volume of his work is usually found to be so overwhelming that decision makers, not the assessors, are intimidated. But whatever the reasons may be, Toyin Falola on all counts deserves consideration for an award. Apart from his scholarship, Falola has mentored several young academics and students through his Toyin Falola conferences held periodically in several African universities. Toyin Falola’s recorded interviews of contemporary leaders in academia, culture, traditional and modern politics provide rich oral history for the present and the future. I hope he can use his considerable resources to interrogate why Africa despite the thousands of professors in the sciences and engineering has not made any headway in adaptation of science for Africa’s development.
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