Even with the crisis of “The Universe in the University”, the University of Ibadan, (UI), has managed to maintain the tradition of Inaugural Lecture. The university’s 442nd Inaugural Lecture would, however, appear to have got the community stirring. It was not just the quality of the lecture itself which a keen observer has described as excellent but the takeover of the university by Nigerian historians who descended on the campus from the North, South, East and West. The president of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Prof CBN Ogbogbo was on the podium and members of the society, for whatever reasons, decided they must be there physically to listen to him September 6th, 2018.
The members of the Executive Council of the society were not only there from across the universities – Abuja, Zaria, Portharcourt, Benue State and s on, they were decked out. Someone in the audience claimed they were no less than 30 in number.
Beyond attendance at the lecture, attendance at the reception was also massive. It is trite to say people were eating and drinking, at whichever of the two main receptions – the reception at the Faculty of Arts and the professor’s residence on the campus.
History at UI evokes memories of its confrontation with received methodology. That confrontation and the victory of those who led the rebellion remains definitive of the discipline at the University of Ibadan. Additionally, Prof Ogbogbo is generally regarded as one of the best hands on the ground.
The jury is still out there whether the attendance at the Inaugural Lecture along with some recent similar activities speaks to revivalism in the study of History in Nigeria. In October 23rd and 24th, 2017, all roads led to the Department of History, Benue State University in Makurdi, the Benue State capital where the Historical Society of Nigeria put a conference together in honour of Yakubu Ochefu, a professor of African Economic History, a former President of the society and the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the Kwararafa University in Wukari, Taraba State on the theme “African Economic History: From Hunters and Gatherers to the Industrial and Information Age”
Earlier in the year too, Nigeria itself was upbeat that History has been restored as a school subject in the country. Although some people said it is not History itself but the dominant paradigms circumscribing its study that matter, the drummers celebrating that restoration were certainly not persuaded. Is it possible that the historians are cooking an intellectual coup de grace for Nigeria?
The congregation of the nation’s top Historians at Nigeria’s premier university could, indeed, trigger restoration of the tradition of Inaugural Lecture in many of the campuses where local politics or specific conditions have made it impossible. Some universities, such as Ibadan have taken it for granted. Last month, it was Professor Tajudeen Akanji, the Director of the university’s Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, (IPSS) who treated the university to “When Labour is the Beginning of Insecurity”. A voice from Peace Studies, specifically industrial conflict management rather than History, his was the 441st, showing a long way from 1948.