Home Opinion Column Prof Wale Adebanwi’s Guggenheim By Dr Festus Adedayo

Prof Wale Adebanwi’s Guggenheim By Dr Festus Adedayo

Professor Wale Adebanwi
Professor Wale Adebanwi

In a world where virtually every news item that emanates from Nigeria is of depressing cases of bloodshed, banditry, government’s sleazy insensitivity and all-what-ought-nots, when news about Nigerians who go outside the perceptional loop flow in, they do the reverse.

One that hit the airwave last weekend was that of Nigerian professor, political scientist, and anthropologist, Wale Adebanwi, who bagged the 2024 edition of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.

The fellowship is usually awarded on the awardee’s trajectory of prior career achievement and exceptional promise. Adebanwi is the Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies and Director of Centre for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.

In a pool of thousands of academics, Adebanwi was chosen as one of the 188 winners of the 2024 awards. The news of that laurel came very pleasing in our ears.

Anyone who knew Adebanwi as he burnt the midnight candle would not be surprised about what he has made of his life. I first got to know him around 1989 as he sneaked into Prof Alaba Ogunsanwo’s crowded class at the University of Lagos. I later learnt he was combining stringing jobs in Ibadan with the Nigerian Tribune with some other tabloids, even as he schooled in the Mass Communication Department of the university. We were to later meet in 1994 at the University of Ibadan as graduate students in the Political Science department. He finished tops in our Master’s class. He was to later hold two Ph.D degrees in Political Science from the University of Ibadan and another in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar.

Wale was instrumental to my eventual career path as a journalist with the Tribune and has since been a lifelong advisor. If you use Wale’s life as a guiding path in any endeavour, you seldom would come to grief. But for him, a life of academy would have been for me a mirage. The Guggenheim Fellowship was spot on in the choice of Adebanwi as a scholar who is generating new possibilities and pathways across the broader culture.

Once on a visit to his Oxford University office where he served as the first African ever to be appointed as the Rhodes Professor of Race Relations and Director of the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, I was proud of my Nigerianness.

All these, however, pale into insignificance when compared to his humanity and humaneness. Perhaps borne out of his upbringing as son of a clergyman, Wale’s life personifies piety and goodliness. This is to say congratulations to the Iresi, Osun State-born scholar-prince who makes my generation very proud.

  • Popular columnist, Dr Festus Adedayo sent this in from Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State
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