If this were coming from any of the newer universities or from many other intellectual spaces in Nigeria, it would have been taken as conclusive enough evidence that, though there are problems, academia in Nigeria is alive and well. Unfortunately, it is coming from the University of Ibadan, (UI) which, by its age and stature, is broadly rated to be capable of achieving whatever it sets out to achieve. So, it doesn’t easily surprise its observers.
Even then, this is bound to excite many watchers of the global politics of knowledge production, with particular reference to the focus on a Nigerian perspective on global developments rather than the obsession with what global developments are doing to Nigeria and Africa. In that is the potential for interruption of the subsisting geopolitics of knowledge production. That would make it the second time UI would be interrupting, the first through its ‘Ibadan School of History’ which interrogated and amended colonial historiography.
It would be very surprising if any other faculties, departments or intellectual communities in the country have posted anything with such interpretative promise in recent times as what the Faculty of Arts at UI is up to. Its 2021 Biennial Conference is agenda setting in its global vision, scholarly gaze and methodological boldness.
It is isolating two developments that have shaken the grounds of certainty in global affairs – the Covid-19 pandemic and the pressures of apocalyptic magnitude on democracy in the United States – and subjecting them to the critical imaginary.
The framing of the issue and the quality of papers might not go the same way but to bring an elevated frame to an issue is already half way into the journey. Its framing of the two developments and the diversity of gaze the conference is looking at them from is not the staple in recent Nigerian academia. Not with the imaginative verve of the language!