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Nigeria, Nationalism, and Writing History

Nigeria, Nationalism, and Writing History

Toyin Falola
Saheed Aderinto
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Nigeria, Nationalism, and Writing History
    Book Description:

    The second half of the twentieth century saw the publication of massive amounts of literature on Nigeria by Nigerian and non-Nigerian historians. This volume reflects on that literature, focusing on those works by Nigerians in the context of the rise and decline of African nationalist historiography. Given the diminishing share in the global output of literature on Africa by African historians, it has become crucial to reintroduce Africans into historical writing about Africa. As the authors attempt here to rescue older voices, they also rehabilitate a stale historiography by revisiting the issues, ideas, and moments that produced it. This revivalism also challenges Nigerian historians of the twenty-first century to study the nation in new ways, to comprehend its modernity, and to frame a new set of questions on Nigeria's future and globalization. In spite of current problems in Nigeria and its universities, that historical scholarship on Nigeria (and by extension, Africa) has come of age is indisputable. From a country that struggled for Western academic recognition in the 1950s to one that by the 1980s had emerged as one of the most studied countries in Africa, Nigeria is not only one of the early birthplaces of modern African history, but has also produced members of the first generation of African historians whose contributions to the development and expansion of modern African history is undeniable. Like their counterparts working on other parts of the world, these scholars have been sensitive to the need to explore virtually all aspects of Nigerian history. The book highlights the careers of some of Nigeria's notable historians of the first and second generation. Toyin Falola is Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. Saheed Aderinto is assistant professor of history at Western Carolina University.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-708-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Toyin Falola and Saheed Aderinto
  5. Part One: The Foundation of Knowledge

    • 1 A Preface to Academic Historiography
      (pp. 3-26)

      Intellectual history does not emerge in a vacuum. First, it has to be created by those who think, talk, and write about events and people and places. Second, what they write, think, and discuss has to be located in the context of the interactions of people in society, and of the interactions of that society with other places and spaces. Third, by turning ideas into some sort of power, those who generate knowledge envisage a future for themselves and their society. The foundation of writing about Nigeria—a component of African historiography and intellectual history—was laid during the nineteenth...

    • 2 K. O. Dike and the National Archives of Nigeria
      (pp. 27-36)

      Without the National Archives (NA), the production of historical scholarship in Nigeria would have taken a different course altogether. Scholars in Nigeria would have had to depend solely on the resources in the Public Office in London, and perhaps on the use of oral sources. The beginning of the NA is tied to the career of the country’s first academic historian, K. O. Dike. In his attempt to decolonize history and address the problems of the paucity of written sources on Nigeria, Dike embarked on a survey of documents of the Nigerian colonial government in 1951 with the purpose of...

  6. Part Two: Varieties of History

    • 3 Political History
      (pp. 39-52)

      The most-studied aspect of Nigerian history is its political past, for the obvious reason that politics occupies a primary position in human experience. Politics determines not only the future of a state but also the nature and level of human organization and development of society. With reference to Africa specifically, however, it is important to note that African historiography, as we have seen in chapter 1, developed as an instrument of the anticolonial nationalist struggle. Pioneering Africanists took keen interest in exploring the political past of states and communities for the purpose of showing the colonialists that Africans not only...

    • 4 Economic History
      (pp. 53-67)

      The appearance in 1973 of A. G. Hopkins’s Economic History of West Africa has been regarded as the beginning of serious academic attention to the history of Africa’s economic past.¹ In the same year, an equally important study, R. O. Ekundare’s Economic History of Nigeria, appeared in print.² Before the close of the 1970s, a more specialized literature focusing on specific aspects of economic history and parts of Nigeria appeared. In this category, Paul Lovejoy’s Caravans of Kola, Jan Hogendorn’s Nigerian Groundnut Export, and A. A. Lawal’s “History of the Financial Administration of Nigeria” stand out clearly.³ The quality and...

    • 5 Social History
      (pp. 68-81)

      Social history as a genre of Nigerian history began only recently (around the late 1980s to be precise), as a result of factors including the very epistemological origin of professional historical scholarship itself. As seen in various sections of this book, the greatest impetus for the development of professional historical studies on Africa was a defensive one: the need to explore aspects of the precolonial histories of the peoples of the continent in order effectively to challenge the unscientific notion that Africans had not possessed the ability to govern themselves before the encroachment of Europeans. The professional discipline of African...

    • 6 Women’s History and the Reconfiguration of Gender
      (pp. 82-96)

      Bolanle Awe has identified the male-oriented nature of the origin of African historiography and its effect on women’s historical realities. She points out that, like the Western historiographical tradition, men were largely responsible for pioneering African history.¹ From the late 1950s, when modern historical scholarship on African history emerged, to the early 1980s, women’s history was sidelined in the mainstream of African historical scholarship according to Awe, to the extent that the eight-volume UNESCO General History of Africa, one of the first major comprehensive readings on African history, says nothing about female contributions to African history. The same applies to...

  7. Part Three: Nationalist Historians and Their Work

    • 7 Adiele Afigbo: Igbo, Nigerian, and African Studies
      (pp. 99-114)

      Adiele Afigbo obtained his undergraduate (BA, history) and graduate (PhD, history) degrees from University College, Ibadan, in 1961 and 1964, respectively. He started his teaching career at the University of Ibadan in 1964 but left in 1966 for the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), in the wake of the Nigerian Civil War (1967–70), becoming a full professor of history there in 1973. He was the head of the Department of History and Archaeology from 1974 to 1978; dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1983 to 1984; and director of the Institute of African Studies from 1989 to 1992....

    • 8 J. F. Ade Ajayi: Missionaries, Warfare, and Nationalism
      (pp. 115-128)

      J. F. Ade Ajayi was one of the pioneering students of Nigeria’s premier university, University College, Ibadan, when it was established in 1948. He graduated in 1952, garnering the bachelor of arts (general) in history, Latin, and English. Between 1952 and 1955, Ajayi attended University College, Leicester, where he earned another bachelor of arts (first-class honors) in history. He proceeded to the University of London for a doctorate degree, which he obtained in 1958. Ajayi started his career from the grade of lecturer at University College, Ibadan, that year, becoming a full professor of history in 1963. He held visiting...

    • 9 J. A. Atanda: Yoruba Ethnicity
      (pp. 129-142)

      J. A. Atanda is a scholar of the Yoruba to the core. Throughout his lifetime, he predominantly wrote on and taught various aspects of Yoruba history and culture.¹ His affection for the history of his people blossomed into various major essays on themes ranging from indirect rule and intergroup relations among the Yoruba to Yoruba intellectual history.² In addition, he also wrote about such debated issues as the origin of the Yoruba people, theories of the fall of the Old Oyo Empire, and the place of secret societies in Yoruba history and culture.³

      Although Bolanle Awe and Atanda both work...

    • 10 Bolanle Awe: Yoruba and Gender Studies
      (pp. 143-156)

      Like other historians of her generation, Bolanle Awe started her academic career with a PhD dissertation.¹ Her thesis examined the emergence of Ibadan as the most militarized state in nineteenth-century Yorubaland.² Besides the history of Ibadan, she produced scholarly works on oral history and traditions among the Yoruba.³ Although the importance of oral history as source material was an article of faith for the leading Nigerian historians of the 1960s and 1970s, Awe and E. J. Alagoa are among the few historians who critically deploy oral tradition in studying specific aspects of Nigerian history.⁴

      Awe is also a pioneering historian...

    • 11 Obaro Ikime: Intergroup Relations and the Search for Nigerians
      (pp. 157-170)

      Obaro Ikime, like A. E. Afigbo, J. A. Atanda, and P. A. Igbafe, started his career as a historian of colonial Nigeria specializing in how colonial policies shaped and reshaped the tempo and dynamics of relations both between the British and Africans on the one hand, and among groups of Africans on the other.¹ While Atanda’s and Ikime’s work deals more with how colonial policies intensified old differences and introduced new ones between the Oyo and Ibadan and the Urhobo and Itsekiri, respectively, Afigbo’s work is essentially about the imposition of the alien political arrangement called the “Warrant Chief System”...

    • 12 G. O. Olusanya: Contemporary Nigeria
      (pp. 171-183)

      If the majority of Nigerian historians seek to relate the past to the present, a few like G. O. Olusanya present contemporary history as their core interest. They analyze the contemporary period in order to make statements about the future. The combination of “present” history and “future” goals turns a historian like Olusanya into a sort of public intellectual, such that history writing by borrowing techniques from journalism creates accessibility to reach a larger audience. As Olusanya attained greater public visibility, he also began to present history as a sort of exercise in public policymaking whereby advocacy for a cause...

    • 13 Tekena N. Tamuno: Pan-Nigeriana
      (pp. 184-199)

      If Gabriel O. Olusanya attained prominence as a historian of contemporary Nigeria, Tekena N. Tamuno has accomplished similar goals and qualifies as perhaps the country‘s most accomplished “public historian.” He started his career as an analyst of the formation of the early provinces of modern Nigeria but moved rather quickly to connect the foundation of Nigeria to the evolution of its institutions of governance. A field of “public history” has not truly emerged in Nigeria, but Tamuno has done some elements of it. He tries to write for the general public, not in the form of textbooks, but by creating...

    • 14 Yusufu Bala Usman: Radicalism and Neocolonialism
      (pp. 200-212)

      The late Yusufu Bala Usman was an activist scholar, a radical, an anticolonial critic, and a public intellectual. His ideas, passion, and drive energized a young generation of students in the 1980s, and even offered a slight possibility that a campus-based social movement could emerge in Nigeria. He can be categorized as a member of the nationalist historiography school to the extent that his vision falls within it; however, he stands apart from the other examples in this book because of his adoption of a Marxist/socialist approach, his public-oriented service in defense of the poor (although sometimes only of the...

  8. Part Four: Reflections on History and the Nation-State

    • 15 Nigeria in the World of African Historiography
      (pp. 215-238)

      It is deliberate that this volume has drawn most of its examples from those historians associated with the University of Ibadan. Their “rise and fall” tend to approximate the growth and decline of academic history in Nigeria. In the first of the two retrospective chapters to close this book, we bring out the core elements of this historiography, locating it within the context of writing about Africa in general and of the encounter with the West that “determines” the content, orientation, and tone of most of the work of historians examined in this volume. Whether in the case of Ajayi,...

    • 16 Fragmented Nation and Fragmented Histories
      (pp. 239-264)

      In the preceding chapters, we have developed ideas around how historical information has served as a foundation for understanding the formation of Nigeria, which emerged under British colonial rule through the amalgamation of various regions, ethnicities, and religions. As the nation entered a series of political crises after independence, the major ethnic groups in Nigeria, including the Muslims of the North, the Yoruba, and the Igbo, as well as various minority groups all used their own versions of history to interpret the present and to justify their claims to power and resources. The divergent, partisan versions of history complicate the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 265-308)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 309-326)
  11. Index
    (pp. 327-334)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. None)