PROFESSOR KENNETH ONWUKA DIKE 1917-1983: FATHER OF MODERN AFRICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY
African historians1, professional training and ingenuity, indeed put them in a position to promote through our writings and teachings, the forces that may stimulate our people towards pressing forward the emergence of a truly Nigerian nation-state as well as nation-building. Professor Dike has contended that writing:
Is a great labour of love… the process of writing is like giving birth to a child because you are creating, so to speak; you are bringing something new to the world in terms of ideal2.
Thus, one of the major threats before the current crop of Nigerian historians, particularly at this point in time, is the inability of a sizeable proportion to intensify researches, and publications, unlike the ‘old order’ historians such as K. O. Dike, AdieleAfigbo, Jacob F. Ade-Ajayi, E. A. Ayandele, ChiekaIfemesia, J. C. Anene, ObaroIkime, Saburi Biobaku, Ebiegberi J. Alagoa, Walter Ofonagoro and Gabriel O. Olusanya- just to mention but a few, with a view towards promoting a better inter-group harmony, peace, general understanding as well as appreciation of one another’s culture among our people for nation-building. Where researches and publications abound, historians would have succeeded in galvanising both the government and our people towards forging a better Nigerian nation-state given the fact that it is a multi-ethnic society or heterogenous in character. The person of Professor Kenneth OnwukaDike, as a matter of fact needs no introduction to historians in Nigeria nor those abroad because he was more of a primus inter pare. He has been variously described by historians, although his significance lies in the fact of being the: “Pioneer of scientific African historiography, ambassador of African history and father of the modern historiography of Nigeria”3.
However, for the avoidance of doubt and for the benefit of those who do not know him, we shall pay attention to his biography, put forward hereunder;
Kenneth Onwuka Dike was born on December 17, 1917, to Nzekwe Dike, a prosperous intinerant traditional doctor and trader in Awka in Southeastern Nigeria. Dike became orphaned at a young age; however, as a result of his unprecedented academic promise which he showed, he was assisted with scholarship from the Anglican Church during his formative years. He attended Dennis Memorial Grammar School (D.M.G.S) Onitsha; Achimota College in Ghana; Fourah Bay College, Sierre-Leone; University of Aberdenin Scotland where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and finally Kings College, London, where he was awarded a Ph.D in African History in 1950. Infact, he was the first Nigerian to be professionally trained as a historian in the Western tradition.
Upon his completing his university education, he joined the staff of the then University College London, Ibadan, rising from a university professor, to become first Nigerian Vice-Chancellor, of what has since become the University of Ibadan. Between 1966 and 1970, Dike was roving ambassador for Biafra and was based in Paris. From 1970 to 1980, Dike took up professorship at Harvard University where he was the first Andrew Mellon Professor of African History, and Chairman of the Committee on African Studies. K. O. Dike, later returned to Nigeria to set up the Anambra State University of Technology (ASUTECH) which he head as its first president until his death on October 26, 1983.
The term “African Historians” is used throughout to connote professional historians who are Africans or of African descent.
A. O. E. Animalu, “Life and thoughts of Kenneth O. Dike”, Enugu, 1997, pp.661-662.Citation for an honorary degree, Unversity of Ghana, 1979.
Sa’ad Abubakar, The “Challenges” of Nation-Building: Nigeria, Which Way Forward? In C.B.N Ogbogbo and O. O. Okpeh ed., Interrogating Contemporary Africa: Dike Memorial Lectures 1999-2007, (Ibadan: Book Wright Publishers (Nig), 2008) p.27.
The prominent ones include Prof. Jacob Ade Ajayi, Isaac Okonjo, Professors C. C. IfemesiaTekenaTamuno, ObaraIkime, AdieleAfigbo, Cookey, Adewoye and Dr. Adeleye among many others. See also, A. O. E. Animalu, “Life and Thoughts of Kenneth O. Dike”, p.86.
J. F. Ade Ajayi, “Towards a More Enduring Sense of History” Bulletin of the Historical Society of Nigeria. Special Number, Announcing the death of Professor KennethOnwuka Dike (1984).
T. N. Tamuno, “To the Late Kenneth O. Dike: A Personal Tribute” Bullletin of the Historical Society of Nigeria Issue, 1984, 24-25.
A. E. Afigbo, “African Historical Consciousness and Development”, Sixth Dike Memorial Lecture, 1995 in E. J. Alagoa, ed. Dike Remembered, (Portharcourt University Press, 1998), 135.
See K.O. Dike “African History and self-government,” West African magazines,in three parts, 1953.
The Guardian, November 6, 1983.
The prominent ones are Prof. Jacob Ade Ajayi, Isaac Okonjo, E. J. Alagboa, T. N. Tamuno, C. C. Ifemesia, A. E. Afigbo, Cookey, Adewoye and Adeleye just to mention a few. See also A. O. E. “Animalu, Life and Thoughts of Kenneth O. Dike”, Enugu, 1997, 661-662.
K. O. Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885: An Introduction to the Economic and Political History of Nigeria, 1956, 20.
Paul Love Joy, “The Ibadan School of History and Its Critics”, in ToyinFalola, ed., African Historiography, Longman, 1993.
A. E. Afigbo, “African Historical Consciousness and Development”. Sixth Dike Memorial Lecture, 1995, in E. J. Alagboa, ed., Dike Remembered, (Portharcourt: University of Portharcourt Press, 1998, 135.
K. O. Dike, “African History and Self-Government”West African Magazine in 3 parts, 1953, 251.
K. O. Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830-1885: An Introduction to the Economic and Political History of Nigeria, 1956.
G. I. Jones, The Trading States of the Oil Rivers, London, 1963.
E. J.Alagoa, “Ijo Origins and Migration” in Nigeria Magazine, Nos. 91 and 92; 1968.
R. Horton, “From Fishing Village to City States: A Social History of New Calabar” in M. Douglas and P. M. Kaberry ed., Man in Africa, London, 1969.
Nkporom C. Ejituwu, “The Political Economy of the Andoni-Bonny Treaty to 1846”, in Yakubu A. Ochefu, ed. Oral Traditions, Totems and Nigerian Cultural History, (Makurdi: Aboki, Publishers, 2003).
A. E. Afigbo, History as Statecraft: Nigerian National Merit Award Winner’s Lecture (Okigwe: Whytem Publishers, 1999), 3-5.
K. O. Dike, African History…177.
E. J. Alagoa, “Dike Remembered: African Reflections on History Dike Memorial Lecture, 1985-1995”, University of Port Harcourt, for Historical Society of Nigeria, 1998; See Awe Bolande, “E. J. Alagoa: A Cultural Nationalist”, in Nkporom C. Ejituwu, et al, eds., History Concourse, Onyoma Research Publications, 2005, 67-78.
J. F. Ade Ajayi, “Towards a More Enduring Sense of History” Bulletin of the Historical Society of Nigeria.Special Number Announcing the Death of Professor K. Onwuka Dike, 1984, 17.
See Bulletin, Historical Society of Nigeria Special Issue Announcing the Death of Professor K. Onwuka Dike, 1984.
C. C. Ifemesia, “Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike, 1917-1983: A Funeral Oration”, in Bulletin of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Special Issue, 1985, 5.
J. F. Ade Ajayi, “Towards a more Enduring Sense of History”, 20.
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