Iku o mo eni’san! “Dying doesn’t know the great ones” is a Yoruba phrase to explain the indiscriminate nature of dying. If character and social values had been thought-about within the roster of who was to die, I’m positive that the Nigerian historian Obaro Ikime would have lived a whole bunch of years.
The grave, they are saying, holds the best mixture of wealth.
Professor Ikime died on 25 April 2023, aged 86.
He belonged to the second technology of Nigerian students educated on the College of Ibadan. His PhD thesis on oblique rule grew to become a part of the cumulative contributions of African historiography, referred to as the Ibadan College of Historical past, well-known for projecting the African perspective of historical past.
Uniquely, Ikime mirrored social consciousness by his scholarship to provide life to historical past and cut back abstractive tendencies.
He understood that scholarship shouldn’t be in a vacuum, and he was in a position to undertake it as an instrument of social communication and constructing of social consciousness of the previous, current, and potential futures.
It will not make sense to think about Nigerian historical past with out Ikime.
As a historian and scholar, I consider that Ikime made vital contributions to the self-discipline and the nation. He had a dedication to the function of historical past in constructing patriotism and citizenship. He known as for the usage of historical past in projecting establishments. His core thought was that the nation couldn’t succeed with out a sense of historical past. He was one of many first to introduce the instructing of inter-group relations to forestall one other civil battle in Nigeria.
Ikime was born in a village known as Anibeze in Arohwa clan within the Isoko South Native Authorities Space of Delta State on 30 December 1936.
Like a lot of his technology, he was born right into a rural household, what we used to name a “peasant background”. His father was a fisherman and his mom a farmer.
With the unfold of western schooling, he was despatched to highschool in an space which is now a part of Delta State. He studied at Authorities School Ughelli between 1950 and 1956 earlier than attending the College of Ibadan. He grew to become one of many first in his space to have a PhD and to change into a professor.
Foresight and instructing
In his guide The Fall of Nigeria, Ikime addressed the British conquest, emphasising the elements that brought on the collapse of precolonial sovereign nations.
The guide was meant to remind society that some questions had been left unanswered after independence and introduced consideration to the necessity to shut marginalised gaps.
What made the message vital was the interval by which the guide was revealed, 1977, when the nation had extra time to restore the margins regularly. Nigeria’s financial system was sturdy then and the fault traces weren’t as deep as they’re now.
Equally, his foresight on dangers to Nigeria’s democracy made him write The Nation State and Democracy: Essays in Political Thought and Follow in 1991.
This message, primarily based in scholarship, was delivered at a time when Nigeria wanted it most. The navy authorities of Ibrahim Babangida was midwifing a transition programme. Sadly the transition culminated within the annulment of the 12 June 1993 presidential elections.
Ikime’s work drew consideration to the complexities of society.
He taught us all – and remains to be instructing us – about the necessity to problem what appear to be typical narratives of society which can be largely knowledgeable by vested pursuits.
Nationwide unity and historical past
Nigeria should respect Obaro Ikime’s battle to rediscover Nigerian and African identification. Except for doing this by his publications, he took motion to assist hold alive the consciousness of nationwide identification. He introduced again the energy and advantage of precolonial Nigeria to individuals’s minds.
Ikime was a promoter of nationwide unity. He understood the discomfort of not with the ability to establish correctly with individuals of different ethnic teams. His legacy for selling insurance policies that recognise variety and embrace ethnic variations can’t be forgotten.
He additionally stood firmly towards the self-destructive insurance policies of Nigerian authorities officers who had tried to expunge historical past from the college curriculum.
Fearing that the instructing of historical past would revive the tales that led to the civil battle of 1967 to 1970, authorities circles led discussions within the late Seventies to ban the instructing of historical past in colleges. The emphasis on the sciences, expertise and drugs undermined the humanities. Jobs grew to become more durable to search out, and oldsters and college students started to lose curiosity in historical past. It was finally eliminated within the 2009/2010 educational season.
Ikime warned towards the marginalisation of historical past as a self-discipline. Along with others, he criticised the federal government coverage. It was not till the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari that authorities introduced again the instructing of historical past in colleges in 2018.
Ikime was a superb particular person whose magnanimity was past peculiar. He was all the time prepared to assist and promote civic duty. His patriotic tendencies and gentlemanly disposition had their roots in his upbringing by his mother and father, who set strict guidelines round advantage and integrity.