UNILAG Convocation: Falola encourages the study of Ifa and witchcraft in Nigerian institutions

Toyin Fola, a renowned African intellectual and history professor, has promoted the study of Ifa and witchcraft as courses that are coupled with science and economics to award degree certifications in Nigerian universities.

In addition, he suggested that lecturers and students communicate with each other in native tongues, regardless of the subjects they are studying in college.

These suggestions were stated by Prof. Falola, who holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair at the University of Texas at Austin, during his 54th Convocation address on Monday at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka. “Decolonizing African Higher Education for Transformational Development” was the theme of his speech.

He contends that the African educational system as established by the colonial authority was designed to fulfil the goals and objectives of the colonial masters in terms of governance and economic progress, not for the sake of enlightenment or the advancement and benefits of the colonies. He pointed out that African education is still intended to support and forward the political and economic goals of European nations, even in the wake of political independence, and that this is made possible by the elites.

He claimed that because Western academic norms and practices play a major role in the creation of curricula and administrative frameworks in African education, it would be difficult to use the knowledge and information gained from such a system to significantly advance the continent.

According to him, before a process of people-focused development that significantly transforms life could be accomplished, information, knowledge, and concepts obtained from the educational system that are based in colonial ideology would need to be decolonized.

The don noted that while there have been several conversations and initiatives in Africa aimed at decolonizing African education—such as the idea of Afrikology, which questions Western epistemologies and methods—they have not yet elevated the continent to a position of prominence on a global scale.

While making reference to both minimum academic benchmarks, BMAS and CCMAS, for Nigerian universities as designed by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in 2004 and 2023 respectively, the guest lecturer said it was not as if both minimum benchmarks are not relevant, but they advance neoliberal standards in Nigerian education. He urged NUC as a regulatory body to give more freedom to universities to design their curricula based on their peculiarities.

He also urged relevant governments to pay university workers salaries that will enable them to live decent lives. He said it is not compulsory that university workers who are on the same grade level should earn the same salaries nationwide, arguing that their salaries could vary based on the cost of living in their locations.

The don also asked UNILAG specifically to run courses that will lead to the award of degrees in Lagoon and Sea Economies and also create a center of creative economies and African vocabulary development and enlightenment bank. He emphasized that the decolonization of African education would certainly bring about meaningful transformation in Nigeria and other African countries. “And the time to scale up the process is now,” he concluded.

Earlier, in her welcome address, the vice-chancellor of UNILAG, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, said the aim of the convocation lecture was to bring into focus how achievable Nigerian universities can move away from colonial orientation and perception to bring about desired socio-political and economic transformation, particularly for Nigeria and its people.

According to her, it is high time Nigeria started to think right to reach its full potential across spheres of life. Ogunsola pointed out that it is who Nigerians think they are that will determine their choices and guide their actions collectively to make Nigeria what we all desire.

She said the present narrative about Nigeria is all about negatives, even among Nigerians. She said this narrative and mindsets called for serious concern if any meaningful development would ever take place in the country. She thanked the convocation lecturer, Prof Falola, for accepting the role, saying he is truly an African that loves to see Africa genuinely attaining its greater heights globally.

She said UNILAG is a brand that is producing fit-for-purpose graduates, conducting cutting-edge research, and engaging in relevant community services. The former Chairman of the Governing Council, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, chaired the event that had the former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, and others in attendance.