We Welcome Our Distinguished Fellows

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As part of our tradition of recognizing and celebrating excellence, we received today our three Distinguished Fellows, whose appointment to that position has been ratified by the Senate of the University of Ibadan.

Professors Dan Izevbaye, David Okpako and Biodun Jeyifo do not require any introduction, being scholars of global renown. Their appointment to the position of Distinguished Fellows of our Institute further demonstrates our interest in grounding our endeavours on solid intellectual foundations established by luminaries in the different fields that have a bearing on knowledge production and consumption in Africa.

 Over the decades, Prof David Okpako has blazed a trail in scientific circles in Nigeria. Trained both at home and abroad, with degrees obtained from Bradford University, he helped to place the study of pharmacy on a strong footing both at the University of Ibadan and Delta State University, Abraka, as well as at the University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, where he was instrumental to the development of the postgraduate curriculum in pharmacology, his area of specialization. Apart from his contributions to pharmacy, Prof Okpako has made immense strides in Nigerian folkloristics, especially as regards documenting the orature of his Urhobo people of Delta State, Nigeria. His abiding interest in indigenous knowledge has yielded laudable research outcomes in the study of traditional African medicine.

 Prof Izevbaye, seminal in the scholarship and criticism of African literature, is a first-class graduate of the Department of English, University of Ibadan, where he studied, taught and rose to the highest echelons of academia, serving as Head of Department, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and Provost of the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Law. A teacher of teachers, after retirement from the University of Ibadan, Prof Izevbaye became Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Bowen University.

 Prof Biodun Jeyifo, literary theorist and social activist, also took a first class degree in English from the University of Ibadan, where he was a student of Prof Izevbaye. His teaching career has a transatlantic breadth matched by the depth of insight and the intensity of engagement he brings to his scholarship in comparative literature. Prof Jeyifo has established himself as one of the finest elucidators of what literature means and can do in the context of a people’s confrontation with exigent societal imbalances.

 We are, indeed, grateful to have these distinguished fellows who have all along been part of the larger IAS family one way or another. Prof Okpako, who said he was gratified at being appointed a Distinguished Fellow ‘as an honour to the Babalawo’, had a colloquium in our Institute on September 3, 2015 to launch his book on traditional African medicine titled Science Interrogating Belief: Bridging the Old and New Traditions of Medicine in Africa. Prof Izevbaye, in his remarks, recalled how, as an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan in the early 1960s, the Institute of African Studies, was one of the places that liberated him from his ‘narrow focus on English literature’ to the ‘wider vistas of possibilities available in other bodies of literatures’. He reminisced on how IAS made it possible for him to cultivate a friendship with the artist Prof Bruce Onobrakpeya and develop an interest in his works. For his own part, Prof Jeyifo took a trip down memory lane to the first drama review he ever wrote as an undergraduate on a performance of Ola Rotimi’s Holding Talks which held in the courtyard of our Institute in the 1960s.

 Apart from IAS staff, in attendance at the ceremony was Prof Emeritus Femi Osofisan of the Department of Theatre Arts UI, a friend of our Institute. Prof Osofisan lauded the initiative of having these eminent scholars as part of the IAS team.

With the appointment of our Distinguished Fellows, Room No. 1, the Fellows’ Room at IAS-UI, promises to be the mecca of intergenerational exchange and consolidation of fundamental scholarship in diverse aspects of the intellectual enterprise in Africa.