By Mahdi Waziri Isa

A world renowned historian and celebrated University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas At Austin, in the United States of America, Professor Toyin Falola, has appointed a Mass Communication Lecturer with the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, a veteran Journalist and Publisher/Group Editor-in-Chief of Education Monitor Group of Newspapers, Waziri Isa Adam (Wazirin Gwantu III), as Senior Special Adviser/Media Consultant in Northern Nigeria.

A letter dated 2nd, December, 2023, and personally signed by the International scholar, sent to Waziri, partly read, “following my interactions and engagements with you, during my recent visit to Nigeria, and during which I understood that you developed serene interest and passion in my contributions to education, scholarship and humanity, I hereby appoint you as my Senior Special Adviser and Media Consultant in Northern Nigeria”.

“The appointment which has no defined monetary incentives or remuneration usually associated with similar appointments by government officials or politicians is simply meant to provide us opportunity to work together towards the development of our country, especially the education sector, ” the letter further read.

Professor Falola stressed in the letter that, “As a Lecturer in the Mass Communication Department of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, and Abuja-based Publisher/Group Editor-in-Chief of Education Monitor Group of Newspapers, I have no doubt on my mind that the appointment will lead to achieving greater things as patriotic Nigerians, and in our career as academics”.

Born on 21st September, 1966, in Gwantu – Headquarters of Sanga local government area of Kaduna state, Waziri attended LEA Primary School Gwantu ‘B’, Government Secondary School Birnin Gwari, University of Maiduguri, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, and University of Lagos, Akoka.

He started his media career in New Nigerian Newspaper, Kaduna, as a reporter in training in 1991, from where he rose to the rank of State Correspondent.

He has worked in different capacities at different times with Daily Times, Third Eye and Daily Trust Newspapers.

Wazirin Gwantu III has also worked and held several positions in different organizations such as National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), where he served as the Personal Assistant to Oyo state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Kaduna state Independent Electoral Commission (SIECOM), where he served as its Pioneer Public Affairs/Information officer.

He was appointed by one time Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha as his Special Adviser on Media. He also held the position of Media Coordinator of Africa International Foundation for Science and Technology. He is currently the Financial Controller of Network of West African Journalists Against Drugs (NEWAJAD), with its Headquarters at Abidjan.

Wazirin Gwantu III is the Publisher and Group Editor-in-chief of Abuja-based Education Monitor Group of Newspapers – Publishers of ABUJA Monitor, Health Monitor, Green Monitor, Diplomacy Monitor, Palace Monitor, Science and Technology Monitor, MADUBI, and ‘The Newspaper’.

Who is Professor Toyin Falola:

Professor Toyin Falola (right) with his SSA/Media Consultant Waziri Isa Adam at the recent 12th/15th Combined Convocation Ceremony of University of Mkar, Mkar

Professor Toyin Falola is Africa’s most distinguished historian, best known in the world as the most celebrated African humanity scholar, one of the most honored men of letters, and a world figure. He already has many citations, including eighteen honorary doctorates from Monmouth University USA, The City University of New York (CUNY, USA), Lead City University, Tai Solarin University of Education, Adekunle Ajasin University, CUNY in Staten Island, Redeemer’s University, Babcock University, McPherson University, Lincoln University, University of Jos and the University of Mkar. He is the first recipient of the academic D. Litt. by the University of Ibadan.

A solid academic accomplishment has now made him the most preeminent historian of Africa, the most prolific, and the most cited. Over the last forty years, he has made a unique and lasting contribution to the field of African history and the study of modern Africa in general, as well as, in recent time, on the African Diaspora. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine African history now without his extraordinary insights. His reach has become the most extensive, with activities in UNESCO, the African Union, ECOWAS, on refugee matters, peace-making, and conflict resolutions. He is an Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town and serves on the International Advisory Board of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at UNISA. He has given lectures in over 63 countries. He is recently appointed as an Extraordinary Professor of the Humanities, Faculty of Law, Free State University, South Africa.

Professor Falola (left) exchanging pleasantries with Wazirin Gwantu III

He is well-known all over Nigeria. He has facilitated the publications of some of us, as he manages over seven monograph series, including those by the University of Rochester Press, Cambridge University Press on identity, and by Carolina Academic Press. He has brought together over twenty African university presses, and he serves as the President of the consortium of Pan-African University Press. He has contributed to the promotion of many of us. We have attended his conferences. He has given the University two major University-wide public lectures, in addition to seminars and workshops.

In addition to his outstanding scholarship, he has given us a lifetime of dedication to the furthering of African Studies and has nurtured generations of graduate students, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers. His generosity, as a scholar and as a colleague, is legendary. He has made a phenomenal contribution to the academy by way of numerous services to academic organizations, as board member, holder of executive positions in various academic associations, conference planner, manuscript evaluator, etc.  He has been described in the Journal of African History as an unusual scholar who combines productivity with enthusiastic collegial kindness.

His Royal Majesty Tor Tiv (Right), discussing with Prof Falola

He is by far the most productive, the most prolific African intellectual of our time. He holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has been teaching since 1991. His research and publications have covered a vast intellectual terrain relating to Africa and the diaspora. These include the ongoing dynamic and dialectic between the power of culture and the culture of power in African states; the Middle Passage; the human cost of African migrations; HIV and AIDS in modern Africa; slavery and colonialism in Africa; entrepreneurial development and economic power in Africa and the African Diaspora; the impacts of globalization and urbanization on African societies; Yoruba market women and economic power; and numerous other themes and topics. Falola’s research and publications have advanced knowledge about Africa’s economic, political and social development; topics which are inextricably linked with ideas for sustainable solutions to Africa’s longstanding and complex challenges.

While Falola’s unmatched publication record is testament to his drive to further understanding about the peoples, cultures, and histories of Africa, an equally powerful contribution has been his service to the academy, his commitment to serving as a public intellectual, and his nurturing of younger scholars by facilitating their professional viability and growth.

His Royal Majesty – The Tor Tiv (right), Professor Toyin Falola (middle) and Ex-ABU VC, Professor (Senator) Daniel Saror (left)

Falola is Series Editor for seven series and serves on the editorial boards of more than twenty journals, all of which have yielded numerous innovative books and articles from new scholars. He serves on all the three major best book awards committee on Africa, while a book award has been named after him. He is committed to creating vistas for scholarly interactions that extend insights generated beyond academia. He provides graduate students the opportunity to flourish in the enormously popular and influential annual International Africa Conference at the University of Texas at Austin, now in its 13th year.  The Toyin Falola International Annual Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora is an initiative by the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He moderates the USA Africa Dialogue Series, an international listserve with more than 6,000 members that discuss current events and issues of importance to Africa and its diaspora. He is continually invited to present lectures around the world, as well as to offer policy-oriented opinions to governments and NGOs. He is currently Vice President of UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee, Slave Route Project, and a key policy member of the African Union.  His influence is global.

Falola has over thirty lifetime achievement awards by highly esteemed universities and organizations in the United States, Nigeria, and Brazil. He also holds chieftaincy titles. Numerous other awards have celebrated his scholarly contributions, teaching, and service. His most recent is the prestigious 2011 African Studies Association Distinguished Africanist Award. He has received an unprecedented five festschriften from his colleagues and former students, and a massive fourth volume, Toyin Falola: The Man, The Mask, The Muse, is an edited collection of 52 original essays that seek to explore the significance and meaning of his contributions to the humanities. His books have also garnered many awards, including the Cecil Currey Award. His award-winning memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt, and two collections of poetry bespeak a remarkable set of gifts that have combined to produce an extraordinary scholar who has had a far-reaching impact and will leave an enduring legacy.

His Royal Majesty, The Tor Tiv (right), VC UniMkar, Prof Gundu, (middle) and Prof Falola


His Contributions

1. The greatest focus of Falola’s inspired energies, sustained with a remarkable intensity over the last thirty years, remains African and African Diaspora Studies. Many of his books represent major interventions within their specific topic areas, whether relating to political economy, culture, historiography, development, and urbanization, among others.

2. Through research and publications, he has expanded the frontier of knowledge on Nigeria during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In many works of a pioneer nature, he has produced a large body of new empirical data, which have been used to fill major gaps in the literature such as the understanding of power relations, status, gender, class and ideology among the Yoruba, the development of the indigenous economies in the context of global expansion, the creation of new cultures in light of the penetration of Christianity, Islam and Western influences, and the possibility of drawing on African ideas to formulate important framework and model not just to understand Africa, but the discipline of history itself. He has analyzed the history of modern Nigeria during the twentieth century, covering the entire spectrum of the society. On one hand, important issues in national history have been discussed in various publications on politics and economy. On the other hand, the interactions between grassroots and national history have equally been examined.

3. He has pushed historical frontiers to the highest level. By editing journals and serving as the editors of three series for different publishers, he has identified fresh talents and ideas on the cutting edge. This is a leadership position, which enables other scholars to revise and publish their works. In addition, he serves on the boards of over a dozen journals, and put in a position to positively influence the agenda of scholarship. From time to time, he organizes workshops, symposia and conferences to bring many historians together to discuss various issues. He has also contributed to professional associations.

4. He has facilitated the circulation of new knowledge in the classrooms through the publication of textbooks, the formulation of new courses, and participation in the revision of curricular. In a number of edited works, he has facilitated the knowledge about Africa, successfully creating a link between the academy and the ivory tower. He has trained a large number of students at undergraduate and graduate levels, many of whom have become distinguished in various walks of life.

5. Falola’s creative works his memoir and the two collections of poetries have astonished the scholarly world. Given his towering stature and his consistent and brilliant achievements as an academician, no one could have imagined the scale of creative diversification and versatility embodied in those projects.  A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt is stunning in the access it gives us to a world in transition from the colonial period to the early years of independence in Nigeria. With moving details borne out of a solid rootedness as a Yoruba and his formidable powers of observation, reflection and synthesis, Falola allows us to glean the still-present native knowledge and compelling energies of the Yoruba. Whether they are concentrated or dispersed, they are the basis for the construction of the self, for everyday life and work, family and social relations, nation building, diasporic connections, and pan-African resurgence.  The poetry collections, Scoundrels of Deferral and Etches on Fresh Waters, also elucidate these and other creative energies. The sheer volume of poems, numbering in the hundreds, suggest that any moment can be turned into poetry, that any moment can become the open interface between the quotidian and the inspired, the mundane and the divine, the whimsical and the historical, with the future intruding into our present to be born. Such a poetic sensibility requires a perpetual openness, the capacity to be fully present and authentic, and the ability to distill and display a wealth of resources, which are obviously gargantuan in the case of Falola, on behalf of any moment or encounter.

6. Falola is also known for his philanthropy and humanitarianism. Through the years, he has generously donated large sums of money and scholarships to alleviate the condition of the poor and has also established an annual endowment fund to provide resources to pay for the education of poor and underprivileged citizenry in Africa. He has headed donation drives to help alleviate the suffering of communities. He also provides significant resources from his own private funds to support young scholars in their professional development.

Certainly, Falola is a scholar, teacher, storyteller, poet, and so much more. Falola serves as a large enough umbrella for African Studies and Global Liberal Arts more broadly. He acknowledges the rights and the hopes of all the world’s denizens, and he explores what is possible in any circumstance. His is indeed the long arm of Africa, laboring on behalf of Africa, the Diaspora, and global peace and justice.


His extraordinary beginning is now known, thanks to his award-winning memoir, A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt: An African Memoir, which captures his childhood life. As enchantingly documented, he was born on January 1, 1953 at Ibadan, Nigeria. His father died five months later, and a period of uncertainty followed, lasting ten years. He did exceptionally well in school, but dropped out of High School to be part of a grassroots movement for social change in Western Nigeria. With only two years of High School education, he passed his General Certificate London Exam with outstanding grades. With savings from a job as an elementary school teacher, he went to Molusi College in Ijebu-Igbo (Nigeria) to prepare for the London Advanced Certificate, which he passed with distinction. That talented educator, Tai Solarin, who instilled a life of discipline, honesty and rigor in the school’s products, inspired the idea behind Molusi College.

Falola entered the University of Ife in 1973 and came out with the best degree in History in 1976. After teaching in a high school for a year, he registered for a Ph.D. at Ife in 1977, which he completed in record time in 1981. In the 1980s, he rose to become a full professor and a distinguished scholar. Indeed, within four years of completing his Ph.D., he had produced major essays and two award-winning books. His rise was meteoric; his impact on the discipline and the academy was described in 1988 by West Africa, a leading international journal, as nothing short of a revolution. He combined a life of scholarship with that of innovative academic endeavor, reviving dead journals, re-energizing academic societies, and actually founding new inter-disciplinary societies such as the Ife Humanities Societies and the Frontiers Academy.

Toyin Falola began to teach at the University of Ife (later renamed as Obafemi Awolowo University) even before he obtained his Ph.D.  His books also began to appear in the 1980s, precisely at a very difficult time in the country. How he was able to surmount those difficulties represent a secret that many want to know. At a time when the economy of Nigeria experienced a major downturn and the academy was in trouble, Falola kept a serious commitment to scholarship and teaching. In spite of the obstacles, he was able to publish major essays and books, and he contributed to the training of hundreds of undergraduates and graduate students. He designed clusters of projects with manageable fieldworks; he made extensive use of the resources at the Nigerian National Archives; and he spent most of his income on research. Working twelve hours a day (now increased to eighteen!), seven days a week, he became a workaholic, famous for keeping all deadlines. Between 1982 and 1985, he directed the General Studies Program at Ife for all its undergraduates, a major task that he accomplished with an unusual dedication. At the same time, he was appointed the editor of the influential academic journal, ODU: A Journal of West African Studies, which he revived and turned into West Africa’s best academic journal of the 1980s.

A foremost scholar, his scholarship puts Africa at the center of historical scholarship. He joined others to decolonize the syllabus, to present an African perspective of writing, to choose subjects that are at the core of economic and political problems, and to seek the means to empower the continent. While retaining many of these important goals, Falola incorporated ideas and theories from various disciplines and places into his large body of work. The importance of an African-centered point of view and the ways it has been elaborated are presented in his magisterial long book, Nationalism and African Intellectuals. Falola is also the only scholar to document the legacy of the post-Second World War writings in the series that he edits, Classic Authors and Texts on Africa, which makes the leading essays and writings of the twentieth century available to all.

Falola’s contributions to African history are solid, enduring, impressive and monumental. Among the highlights are his contributions to the understanding of West African history during the nineteenth century; the best analysis of economic and political reforms in Nigeria during the late colonialism, along with its modern politics; a series of books that examine Nigeria as a nationality from early history to the present; the analysis of traditions and modernity in Africa; and the linking of the past to the present in an attempt to understand nationalism and nation-building. His empirical studies on the Yoruba city state of Ibadan, in two books covering the period 1830 to 1939, remain the most important, and they pay careful attention to political economy, while applying various concepts and theories to the analyses of economy and politics.

Through painstaking research and publications, he has expanded the frontier of knowledge on Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in many pioneering works, he has produced a large body of new empirical data which has been used to fill major gaps in the literature, such as the understanding of power relations, status, gender, class and ideology, the development of the indigenous economies in the context of global expansion, the creation of new cultures in the light of the penetration of Christianity, Islam and Western influences, and the possibility of drawing on African ideas to formulate important frameworks and models not just to understand Africa, but the discipline of history itself. He has analyzed the history of Nigeria during the twentieth century, covering the entire spectrum of the society. On the one hand, important issues in national history have been discussed in his various publications on politics and economy. On the other hand, he has equally examined the interactions between grassroots and national history. His publications have redefined various themes and created profound historiographical shifts in our understanding of Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A master of varied approaches to subject matters, he has deepened our understanding of African institutions and modernity far more than anyone else in the last fifty years. Many of his books are required reading for those interested in a broad sweep of African history, as well as the history of modernization and reforms during the twentieth century. He knows how to craft beautiful essays, presenting very complex ideas and relationships among concepts of place, the political choices that individuals and nations make, and the construction of identity.

Falola’s life has been that of service to the university, the larger community, the academic world, and the continent. The second volume of his memoir, at the writing stage, deals with his attempts to improve social and political institutions. Some aspects stand out clearly, as in the introduction of innovative courses in different universities. He has facilitated the circulation of new knowledge in the classroom through the publication of textbooks, the formulation of new courses, and participation in the revision of curriculum.

His edited books have given numerous graduate students and younger scholars unprecedented publishing opportunities. He was one of those who worked tirelessly to revise the history curricular in Nigerian schools. He was active in his role with the West African Examination Council. When the teaching of history in Africa was under challenge, he played a prominent role in mobilizing public opinion to sustain the teaching of history in schools. With a distinguished teaching career, noted for the training of thousands of undergraduates and hundreds of graduate students, he has received major teaching awards and he is today a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the biggest universities in the world.

Both within and beyond the University setting, Falola has always been the most generous of scholars. His presence has ensured that any university that he is associated with has been a center of excellence for research and teaching. Generations of undergraduates have emerged from his classes with a deep knowledge of Africa. Generations of graduate students working on all regions of Africa have benefited from his warmth and encouragement, but also from his insistence on extremely high standards. He has worked tirelessly to facilitate research for many people, and he has been actively involved in initiatives aimed to secure funding for higher education on the continent of Africa. He has given generously of his time to many students’ organizations, and he continues to serve as a mentor to scores of lecturers.

His leadership position has also been manifested through the editing of scholarly journals. He has revived at least seven journals, including ODU, and the Journal of African Economic History. He has been on the Board of many journals, perhaps more than any other historian in the world.  This is a leadership position that encourages and enables other scholars to revise and publish their works. His attention to the publication of monographs is also legendary.  This puts him in a position to positively influence the agenda of scholarship. From time to time, he organizes workshops, symposia and conferences to bring many historians together to discuss various issues.  He is an institution builder. He founded the Ife Humanity Society, which seeks the promotion of indigenous knowledge to promote modern changes. He has served as the General Secretary of the Historical Association of Nigeria, which he was able to use at the time to revive journals and pressured Nigerian government to give more resources to national archives.   He is a Past President of the African Studies Association, USA.

Professor Falola is a critical and compassionate force in the promotion of Africa, with involvement in the activities of many international bodies and organizations. He is actively engaged in public service in Africa, as a prominent trans-nationalist who is always thinking about Africa. He has created a pan-African dialogue, covering all parts of the world where ideas are exchanged; he has contributed to peace and conflict resolution. He has put a major stamp on packages of solutions to issues of underdevelopment, political instability, refugees, food crises, He has made available to various schools in developing countries access to knowledge: through the donation of journals, books, computers; free lectures; and free seminars. A generous scholar, he has sponsored scholarships for the poor, and he has established an annual endowment to fund the education of poor people.

Professor Falola is a thinker, an intellectual, a great teacher, an institution builder, a front-line scholar who has put Africa in the classrooms all over the world, an advocate of change and empowerment of youth, a man of boundless energies, ideas, and a world figure. He is a leader who has created spaces for dialogue to improve human relations and global understanding.

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