A Short History of Philosophy at the Obafemi Awolowo University
In the early seventies at the then University of Ife, the Philosophy programme was run in a joint Philosophy/Religious Studies Department until the 1975/76 academic session, when Philosophy and Religious Studies were established as separate Departments. As was the case with many other academic Departments, the Department of Philosophy was staffed largely by expatriate Professors and lecturers, mainly from British and American Universities.The founding Head of Department, Professor J. Olubi Sodipo, was at that time the first and only Nigerian full Professor of Philosophy. Professor Sodipo’s legacy of visionary leadership was particularly evident in two areas. The first is the clear Anglo-Saxon analytic orientation of the Department (with due attention to other philosophical traditions, e.g. continental, oriental). The second is the determined effort, right from the beginning, to Africanize the content of philosophical knowledge. The same determined efforts informed the introduction of courses in African Philosophy. Professor Sodipo’s far-sighted programme of recruiting and training philosophically gifted young Nigerian graduates of philosophy as Lecturers, Assistant Lecturers, and Graduate Assistants, has a positive long term effect on the quality of teaching and the development of scholarship in the Department. Through this measure, the products are equipped with all necessary skills of philosophizing which in turn enable them to compete with any graduate of philosophy from any part of the world. Over the years the Department has produced many first rate graduates at both the undergraduate and post graduate levels; some are now leading Professors and Lecturers in Nigeria and in various institutions in Europe and America. Yet others occupy eminent positions of responsibility in the Nigerian economy and all over the world.
Aims and Objectives of the Department
In any human society, the challenges posed to human being by their need to understand their nature, that of the multifarious groups and structures within which they live and of their social relations, individual and group identities pose enormous challenges. By developing the verbal, analytical and critical skills of its practitioners, Philosophy contributes to the exploration and understanding of the nature of reality, the meaning of life, social structure and developments, knowledge and values, and the governing principles of the universe, human evolution and history.
It is the objective of the Department to develop, through the subject matter and methods of philosophy, the students’ critical and analytical skills, cultivate their ability to isolate and examine the principles and issues involved both in complex theoretical situations and in concrete, actual problems, and widen their intellectual perspectives within the context of a humanistic educational experience.
While paying due and proper attention to the significant philosophical insights of the past, the Department encourages students’ actual involvement with problems and issues peculiar to the field of Philosophy rather than the more traditional historical approach of presenting to students a plethora of names and unconnected, conflicting ideas and theories. Also, while subscribing to the “Universality” of Philosophy, the Department will pay special attention to the fostering of the general African, and the specifically Nigerian, cultural roots and dimensions of the discipline.
The expectation is that this special attention will enhance the rapid growth of Philosophy and particularly of African Philosophy both in Nigeria and on the African continent.