The story of the establishment, and development, of the History Department at ABU provides important insights into how some of the above mentioned achievements were recorded as well as pointing out some of the major problems encountered and the prospects for future development.

After independence, Ibadan became a full fledged national university in December 1962, whereas the three former Regions, East, North and West also established their own universities at Nsukka (1960), Zaria, Ife and Lagos respectively.

These are usually referred to as Nigeria’s premier and 1st generation universities. Ahmadu Bello University was established in September 1962 and the same year the Department of History was established by Prof. H.F.C, later Abdullahi, Smith.

The Department of History, University of Ibadan was the initial center for the training of Nigeria’s historians. These include leading historians like Dike, Ayandele, Ajayi, Alagoa etc. The primary focus of the Department was to refute the imperial denial of the existence of African history by unearthing, and reconstructing, varied aspects of such a history. Its key historiographical preoccupations therefore included the identification of topics, and themes, considered appropriate towards demonstrating not only the existence but also the richness, variety, antiquity and relevance of African history. The reconstruction and interpretation of the historical achievements of Africans in the past were appropriately supplemented with efforts aimed at indicating the relevance of such experiences to the new task of nation-building for the newly emerging African countries. The establishment of institutions that could aid in the recovery, documentation and analysis of historical source material therefore received significant attention. A center for African studies was established in Ibadan while centres for Nigerian Cultural Studies were established in Lagos, Nsukka and Zaria. Similarly efforts were mounted towards establishing units for archaeological studies as well as centres for the recovery, documentation and translation of Arabic documents in addition to the colonial archives earlier established at Kaduna, Ibadan and Nsukka. When the late Prof. Abdullahi Smith set about establishing the History Department in Zaria he, in addition to the main academic department, also founded an archaeology unit in 1977. Associated with the Department was the establishment of Centre For Nigerian Cultural Studies (CNCS). Right from inception a Northern History Research Scheme (NHRS), earlier established at Ibadan, was transferred to the Department in 1962. It developed into a major archives for the recovery, documentation and translation of Arabic manuscripts in addition to serving as a post graduate library. Furthermore Arewa House, created at the residence of the late premier of Northern Nigeria, in Kaduna, also functioned as a major Northern History Project housing a major library, an archives and some museum facilities relevant to post graduate training programmes and historical research. The Department, and its various units, as well as its facilities and activities, were designed to support the general thrust of its sister Departments in other parts of the country in addition to complementing them by focusing on the Northern Region, in which it was located, and was also a pioneer. The post graduate programme of the Department became centred around the active supervisory role of late Prof. Abdullahi Smith and many other accomplished scholars either `trained from within the Department or recruited from various parts of the country, Africa and the rest of the world.

Posted on: October 13, 2019Site Admin
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