For Falola, more laurel for an overflowing chest

by Araayo Akande

On Wednesday, February 17, professor of History and African Studies and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, US, Oloruntoyin Omoyeni Falola, added another feather to his already impressive cap. He emerged as the University of Ibadan’s first-ever academic awardee of the D.Litt. in the Humanities.

For a 68-year-old, it was no mean achievement, especially as the D. Litt degree effective from December 31, 2020, was earned and not honourary. 

There are two types: D. Litt Academic and D Litt Honourary. The D. Litt is awarded by universities and learned bodies to recognize an individual’s superior accomplishment in the humanities, contributions to the creative or cultural arts, or scholarship and other merits.

It may be conferred as an honorary degree or as an earned degree upon completing a regular doctoral course of study, which comes with the usual academic ritual of development and defence of an original dissertation. It may be conferred as an earned higher doctorate after a high profile and sustained scholarship is considered.

Falola, a prolific author and public intellectual who is also a contributor to TCN, enrolled for the degree like any other student. He went through all the processes and requirements, including rigorous internal and external examinations of his works.

What further makes this latest accomplishment impressive is that the academic based in the US and anchor of the Toyin Falola Interviews where eminences from the academics, politics and business discuss the state of post-colonial Africa, already holds 13 honorary D. Litt degrees.

The most recent honourary D. Litt was from Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, in 2019.

Commenting on his latest achievement, Prof Falola said: “It has been over 40 years since I was a student. But learning never ends. The commitment to acquire more knowledge makes me restless. I can’t help it. This is why I enrolled for it. It was not difficult because, as a writer of many books, I get reviewed all the time. It felt normal, and it was over before I knew it. Having had over a dozen honorary degrees in the same humanities, I guess you could say that those who conferred these honours on me were indirectly passing a message to me that I still have a field they want me to explore.”

He added: “It thrills me every time I receive an honorary doctorate because it means that my work is being recognized. It is also exciting to work for one. So, it is more about the knowledge than any pecuniary gains to come from it. My people call me the restless one because that is who I am. And to them, to every school that deemed me worthy of the honorary title, to my ever-supportive wife and children, family, and close associates, I say a big thank you. They have helped me come this far. You know that maxim about if you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go with people? I opted for the latter, and my journey with these people has been more than awesome. They all have been supportive, effortlessly.”

Born in 1953, the prolific author had his first degree (1976) and his PhD (1981) in History from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). 

Falola’s teaching interest includes African history, African methodologies, diasporic, and decolonial studies. 

Also, fondly referred to as Mwalimu Falola, the academic is known for pursuing his intellectual curiosity and interests in many ways possible and communicable. All of us at TCN wish our esteemed contributor more years of fruitfulness and excellence.

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