Osoba Conference: The Rationale

Several years after his retirement from formal academic life, Dr. Segun Osoba, the avowed Marxist scholar, and teacher has remained a great mentor and exemplary personality for his former students, admirers, the global community of scholars, and the civil society. This is because many of those who have had the good fortune of coming in contact with his intellectual prowess and ideology of unrelenting struggles against injustice, tyranny, poverty, and conservatism—though each in their specific contexts—have now come to a more mature understanding of the life, scholarship and philosophy of this committed scholar who spent his most productive life as teacher, scholar, and mentor at the University of Ife, Nigeria. In Nigeria and beyond, scholars have examined and critiqued Dr. Osoba’s work. Several attempts were made to question his views or subvert his ideological vision that had provided a complicated context for inspiring generations of Africans with his lifelong examples of struggle for a better society. Born on 9 January 1935, Dr. Osoba taught and researched at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) from 1967-1991. There is the need to examine and assess his accomplishments and contributions in broad new lights. This is because there is now a more subtle appreciation of his position than has been previously recognized.

This conference pays special attention to the discourses surrounding Dr. Osoba’s intellectual engagements, most especially his ideas surrounding the Political Economy of nation-building, constitutionalism, human freedom, and the ways they are energized by intellectual and historical imaginations. These have become more profoundly embedded in contemporary discourses in political thought. After teaching social and intellectual history, and the much-dreaded Advanced Philosophy of History, to undergraduate and postgraduate students at Ife, several important historical prisms can be distilled from his scholarship and pedagogy which also informed his works on post-independence Africa. These are: What kind of leadership? What kind of scholarship? What manner of struggle? What kind of state? He wrote one of the earliest, if not the first, monograph on the history of foreign policy in Nigeria; he was a pioneer of what we now call social and economic history in Nigeria; his forte in the philosophy of history which was never popular among his colleagues back then and continues to be absent in contemporary African scholarship; his participation in the Constitution.

Drafting Committee in 1976 in the aftermath of which he and the late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman issued a much-celebrated Minority Report in 1977; his belief that scholarship must be tied to something that stands to benefits the majority of the people, especially the poor and the downtrodden; his pathbreaking discussion of the role of corruption in our public life; and his original contribution on neocolonialism that present generation of students of decolonization might do well to revisit. Many people have also come to reconcile themselves to how the processes of nation-building have been subverted by the bourgeoisie and its collaborators—something that Dr. Osoba had seen and interrogated over time.