Anthony Asiwaju and the model of any progress-oriented African leader, by Toyin Falola

Professor Anthony Asiwaju

Africa needs a cohesive and mutually beneficial unification which does not necessarily have to deprive each nation-state of its autonomy but serves to strengthen each member of the unified body. It takes forward-thinking progressives at the helm of business who are also students of history… For these leaders, Professor Anthony Asiwaju’s three-part compendium, product of his intellectual sweat and his sojourn and pursuit academics, is the right plan.

Reading the first pages of Professor Emeritus Anthony Asiwaju’s book Bridging African Borders: Cross-Border Areas and Regional Integration in Comparative History and Policy Advocacy, there was an epiphanic moment – ​​a remarkable discovery that made me knowingly smile. Names are revered in Yorubaland, and several adages and maxims testify to this truth. Oruko omo ni r’omo (the name of a child affects how such a child ultimately turns out) is one such maxim. In the case of Professor Anthony Asiwaju, I couldn’t agree more. Asiwaju is a Yoruba word which could mean vanguard, scout or forerunner and this name really suits the person, work and achievements of Professor Asiwaju. After reading Crossing African Bordersyou will agree that his work in comparative African history, cross-border studies and African politics truly positions him as a pioneer in these fields.

Notably, you will fully appreciate the goodness that the author has presented on the pages of Crossing African Borders by not skipping any part of the book, be it the foreword or the prologue. From the foreword, written by one of the most exposed, refined and traveled presidents in the history of Africa, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Crossing African Borders attracts the average reader. Being a book about Professor Asiwaju’s career through his academic pursuits and passions, the foreword does a good job of introducing us to a personal and little-known side of the distinguished professor. This takes us back in history to how the idiosyncrasies surrounding Asiwaju’s life—his parents hailing from two divisions of the same clan—must have sparked the professor’s interest in cross-border studies and international policy advocacy. History is like a cement in interdisciplinary studies. It is a discipline that crosses all human activities and all fields of study. This fact is not lost on Professor Asiwaju, whose body of work, compiled in Crossing African Bordersshows us the whole story in our daily lives and studies.

Anthony Asiwaju’s concerns about the scientific model of African history are valid, and it is refreshing to see that the emeritus professor not only identified this early in his career, but also worked as a vanguard in charting a new path and has now produced what might be called a model for anyone interested in comparative African historical studies. As the professor rightly said, the study of African history should be such that it makes the research findings of historians relevant to global studies. African history has not benefited much from this, as it has emerged primarily as a reactionary movement or resistance to the colonial discoloration of African history. There is a need for models of comparative study among historians in African historical studies.

Undeniably, Professor Emeritus Asiwaju occupies a place of choice in the comparative history of Africa. It is therefore a blessing to the field of history that he has wisely compiled his three ground-breaking books on the comparative history of Africa into one. The three hard-to-find books — most likely out of print — are now easily accessible and searchable in a complementary way, thanks to the Crossing African Borders compendium.

Asiwaju’s narrative is refreshing, exciting, and explanatory in a way that allows non-academics to enjoy and learn valuable lessons. In truth, this is one of the most profound books I have read on the pre-colonial history of the Yoruba people. Another commendable thing about this masterpiece is its user-friendly structure. Professor Asiwaju’s 962-page compendium is divided into books, parts, chapters, and sub-topics under each chapter…

Crossing African Borders is a business akin to raising a child in a communal African society, a duty that rightly demands everyone’s participation. Thus, to successfully cross African borders, we must consult the historical events made available to us through documents, books and archival materials, study the patterns and develop a plan. This strategy is not lost on Professor Asiwaju, whose first book in his latest body of work begins with a period that has taken center stage in discourses on Africa’s current predicament and the upward movement. seemingly hard to predict – the colonial era. A comparative study of French and English colonialism, with Yorubaland as a case study and first published in 1979, the first book in Asiwaju’s collection was an immediate success around the world. And there’s a reason for that: it was the first attempt at a comparative case study of the two most common colonial administrative systems in Africa.

Professor Asiwaju’s comparative case study of the Yoruba of French-colonized Dahomey and British-colonized Western Nigeria is a rich historical text on the cultural and economic significance of the partition of Yorubaland in 1889 and its effects on the Yoruba people until today. Prior to this period, did the Yoruba people consider themselves to be one nation? Due to the partition, has there been a change in the identity of the Yoruba people on either side of the dividing line? The author guides us through the fundamental origins of the Yoruba people on the two divisions of the colonial partition – Oyo, Benin, Sabe and Ketu – and how these fundamental origins are all linked to Ile-Ife, considered the historical founding center of the Yoruba. culture and civilization.

Asiwaju’s narrative is refreshing, exciting, and explanatory in a way that allows non-academics to enjoy and learn valuable lessons. In truth, this is one of the most profound books I have read on the pre-colonial history of the Yoruba people. Another commendable thing about this masterpiece is its user-friendly structure. Professor Asiwaju’s 962-page compendium is divided into books, parts, chapters, and subtopics under each chapter, making it easy to browse through the book without necessarily reading all the pages — although I strongly recommend that you find the time to read every page, because it is not every time that we come across a text as historically rich as this one.

The second book in the collection, West African Transformations: Comparative Impacts of French and British Colonialism, is a more elaborate comparative historical study of West Africa under European rule, which not only uses Yorubaland as a case study, but also adopts other parts of West Africa, such as Borgu, Mono, Zou and Opara, to mention a bit. Professor Asiwaju’s work highlights the disruptions caused by colonization and its attendant partitioning of African peoples. The colonizers, who carried out no prior research on the cultural and economic relations or affiliations of the African peoples, divided the continent during the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 like a piece of cake shared between schoolchildren, a movement that has permanently affected the inter-geographical and inter-cultural relations of the African people to this day.

Professor Asiwaju guides us brilliantly through the periods of intensification of the Oyo and Benin empires and how the fall or decline of the two empires, coupled with the Fulani and intra-Yoruba jihadist wars, led to a weakening of the strongholds policies in the region. These periods, which coincided with the spark of European interests in the west of the continent, the dehumanizing period of the slave trade and mass migrations…

Professor Asiwaju guides us brilliantly through the periods of intensification of the Oyo and Benin empires and how the fall or decline of the two empires, coupled with the Fulani and intra-Yoruba jihadist wars, led to a weakening of the strongholds policies in the region. These periods, which coincided with the breakup of European interests in the west of the continent, the dehumanizing period of the slave trade and the mass migrations to and from West Africa, led to an increase in cross-border relations and an institutional adaptation of peoples who once prided themselves on the autonomy of their individual city-states.

Borders and African Integration: Essays in Comparative History and Policy Analysis, the third book in the compendium, draws on historical data and evidence to show the possibility of impactful cross-border relations between African states. In retrospect, cultural and ethnic differences abounded among self-governing city-states, even those sharing common fundamental affiliations. These differences led to disagreements, wars and conquests; Still, there were burgeoning mutual economic arrangements and agreements between these city-states. In the same vein, Africa today must catapult itself out of a sad, lamentable, disgusting position, not by forgetting its past or the injustices of the colonial era, but by drawing strength in his suffering and deciding to be better for what he has been through.

The world has witnessed bitter wars – world wars being two – yet we see countries that were once sworn enemies coming together to form pacts, reach agreements that would be mutually beneficial, advance their causes and help them become better and stronger countries. . Africa needs a cohesive and mutually beneficial unification which does not necessarily have to deprive each nation-state of its autonomy but serves to strengthen each member of the unified body. This requires forward-thinking progressives in charge of business who are also students of history – not by earning degrees in history but by reading about cross-border relations in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras. Africa. For such leaders, Professor Anthony Asiwaju’s three-part compendium, the product of his intellectual sweat and his sojourn and research at university, is the right model.

For an intellectual feast, please join us at the public presentation of this book in Abuja on July 7th.

Toyin Falola, Professor of History, University Professor Emeritus, and Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, is the Bobapitan of Ibadanland.


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