Friday, 1 December 2017

How Wole Soyinka Emerged as the First Professor Emeritus in Ife

Prof Wole Soyinka... as a young man

“Shortly after his appointment to Ife, Professor Wole Soyinka, who was teaching in the university at the time, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first African to be so honoured in that category.

Prof Wole Soyinka
It was an important international recognition that brought much pride and honour to Nigerians generally, and the academia, in particular. The Council of the university met to examine ways in which it could honour and celebrate Soyinka for the honour he had just brought to the university.

The immediate past vice chancellor, Professor Ojetunji Aboyade, and Wole Soyinka were close friends, and Arthur [Mbanefo] (the Chairman of the Council) knew them well. He had met Aboyade during the administration of General Obasanjo, and had become close to Soyinka through a mutual friend, Femi Johnson. For some reason, both gentlemen [Aboyade and Soyinka] had decided not to accept any honour from the university during the vice-chancellorship of Professor Wande Abimbola.
Chairman of Council - Chief Mbanefo

That notwithstanding, the university proposed honouring Soyinka by naming a street or building in the campus after him. Arthur [Mbanefo] thought differently. He suggested that the Nobel Laureate be offered a position of professor emeritus. That way, he reasoned, Soyinka would still have an academic relationship with the university, which would provide an office and staff for him for his lifetime.

The council agreed with Arthur and approved his suggestion to appoint Soyinka the first professor emeritus of the University of Ife… Soyinka thus became the first professor emeritus at Ife.”

Culled from A Fulfilled Life of Service by Arthur Mbanefo, published by Bookcraft (2015)


  1. Onigegewura I salute you sir. Your indepth research is uncommon. Always visiting your site every 3 to 5 days to satisfy my appetite. Keep it up.

  2. Insightive and educative and concisive

  3. Why is Aunty Wura not involved in this brief write up?😀😀

    1. Yemi, you are right. I have really missed aunty Wura from all the recent servings.

  4. Now I understand why, while at OAU, the office he once occupied remained vacant. Thanks big for the insight, Onigegewura. You've shown in many ways what living library and a walking museum you really are!

  5. It is the "Back story" that makes these accounts interesting ........Thank you.