POLITICAL Science at the University of Ibadan in the latter half of the 1970s was the place to be. It had a collection of some of the best academics on offer in the whole of Africa. Bayo Adekson, as he then was known (Adekson became Adekanye in the early 1980s), was one of the reference points of the exalted assemblage of teachers that was well positioned to affect, mould and (re)produce academic lives. Fully bearded, handsome, competent, sound and radical, he made an immediate and electrifying impact as a lecturer of a different genre. This was not only on account of the obvious fact that he was a master of what he taught, it was more because he had a unique style of teaching. He stammered a bit, but boy, the deliberateness which attended the paced delivery that erupted from slow and normal to theatrical explosions for emphasis captivated the initiates. It was L…u-c-i…a-n Pye! As we grew with him and moved from drinking milk to eating hard food, the affection increased because we came to know what great authority Adekanye was in comparative politics in general and civil-military relations in particular. With hindsight, only a few could have known that we were not just recipients of his adorable intellect, but part of his academic development and metamorphosis. For, by 1976, Adekanye was fresh PhD from the famous Brandeis University, where he had earlier earned the MA degree in 1971 after graduating from Ibadan - where else - at the top of his Political Science class in 1967.
So, in a manner of speaking, although he had cut his academic teeth as Assistant Lecturer at the then University of Ife and Graduate Assistant at Brandeis and Harvard Universities, all pre-PhD, we were some of the very first students on whom the full weight of a fresh PhD, fully fired to show the world the stuff that gave him the degree, was unleashed! And what great blessing of knowledge transfer, toughening, mentoring and role-modeling that turned out to be. To tell the story in summary, the apprentice Political Scientists that trained under the tutelage of Bayo Adekanye together with Billy Dudley, Peter Ekeh, Oye Oyediran, John Ayoade, William Ajibola, Alex Gboyega, Okon Udokang, Richard Joseph, Sam Nolutshungu, Femi Otubanjo, Tunde Adeniran, and Augustus Adebayo, were well brought up. Which was just as well, because these great men – unfortunately for a long time Political Science at Ibadan was a male affair – were an integral part of the effort by the University of Ibadan to build local capacity which entailed preparing good students for graduate work in the university.
The Political Science segment of this effort proved to be very successful as graduates of the 1970s and 1980s who went further to earn higher degrees from the department joined their teachers to continue the business of building local capacity of very high quality. Adekanye made distinguished additional contributions in this regard. In 1984-86, he founded the Master’s in Strategic Studies programme that resulted in the link programme with the National War College, now National Defence College. The top brass of the armed forces, police and other security agencies of Nigeria and several African countries are alumni of this programme. In January 2001, he initiated the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies where he served as foundation Director and founder of the Master’s in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies. The long and short of the point is that Adekson is an academic father, grandfather and great grandfather who has directly and indirectly produced generations of political scientists as well as military, security and civil society professionals. I have a personal testimony of this: he taught and mentored me to graduation at Ibadan in 1979, and in 2011, taught and mentored my son with the same mastery and passion to graduation in Political Science at Babcock! The difference, however, is that he taught me as Adekson, but taught my son as Adekanye, having ‘liberated’ his surname from the Anglicization that was most probably necessitated by his sojourn in Ghana in his early years, in the early 1980s.
The rest of Adekanye’s metamorphosis is taken up by his ascension to and consolidation at the height of a Political Science Colossus. Through hard work and excellence in research and publications, he rose to become one of Africa’s leading social scientists and a globally acclaimed scholar of civil-military relations as well as peace and conflict studies. It was in recognition of this that served he as member of the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, member of the expert working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances of the UNCHR, and as vice chairman of the group’s mission to Colombia in 2005. In addition, he was a member of the advisory group of experts of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, and was fellow and programme leader at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), Norway. He also served as visiting researcher, fellow or professor at various times at the University of Lancaster, Dalhousie University, and Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and was inducted Fellow of the Social Science Academy of Nigeria in 2008. Professor Adekanye served meritoriously at the University of Ibadan for 30 years (1976- 2006), 21 of these as full Professor. After retirement in 2006, he joined Professor Francis Idachaba to build Kogi State University to the paths of excellence and later moved on to Babcock University where he continues to build and mentor – people like Adekanye do not get tired!
Three more points about Adekanye’s persona, and this piece will be concluded. First, he is a deeply religious man, a devout Christian. This might seem like a contradiction for someone who is a social scientist in the true scientific tradition that thrives on facts, evidence, rationality and logic, but not so for Adekanye whose strong Christ Apostolic Church foundation (his father was one of the earliest adherents of that faith) ensured that everything else was built upon and did not take the place of service to God. Second, Adekanye is critical and radical, but yet apolitical in the sense of insisting on keeping political science apart from participation in the political process and more specifically government. Only recently, one of those he mentored at Ibadan reminded me, citing Adekanye, that a true Political Scientist has no business being part of government. Another contradiction you might say, but he has resolved it quite easily by availing the state, government and society of his ‘pontifications’ in landmark publications in books and journals of the highest standards (if only those who govern would read!), by building intellectual and manpower capacity through initiatives like the peace and conflict and strategic studies programmes at Ibadan, and by producing graduates who have held high and responsible positions in the public and private sectors at home and abroad. These include Governors, Legislators, military and security chiefs, diplomats and Vice Chancellors. The distancing rule has however not prevented Adekanye from supporting his friends who have held political appointments, including his beloved wife, Professor Tomilayo Adekanye, Africa’s first female professor of Agricultural Economics, who once served the old Oyo state as Commissioner and Professor Adele Jinadu, who once served in the electoral commission. Third and finally, Adekanye is thorough, strict and disciplined, but he is a true friend, compassionate and humble.
If I were to offer an explanation for his remarkable life and distinguished accomplishments, it would be, to borrow lines from Shakespeare, that the elements are so well mixed in him that nature will rise up and say this is the man! Happy birthday to Professor J ‘Bayo Adekanye, consummate scholar, mentor, teacher, father and good family man at 70.
• Osaghae is Professor of Comparative Politics, and Vice Chancellor, Igbinedion University Okada