Former Nigerian President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, has inducted Professor Toyin Falola into the “Septuagenarian Circle”.
Speaking at the revered history professor’s 70th birthday celebration, the former president, who was the special guest of honor at the virtual event, delivered his speech in “the tradition of a letter writer.”
One of the presenters of the event, Tunji Olaopa, at the beginning of the event introduced the former president, saying that he (Obasanjo) would perform Professor Falola’s induction into the septuagenarian circle.
Obasanjo, who read his letter of congratulations and tribute to Falola at the event, said he had a hard time choosing the format through which he would deliver his speech before settling for writing letters, adding that the letter was the second he wrote that day. of the event — Sunday, January 1, 2023.
Reading his congratulatory letter, the former president said: “My dear professor, brother, friend, Toyin Falola, many congratulations to you on your 70th birthday today. As someone who has been ahead of you in a chronological span of time, let me welcome you to the circle of septuagenarians.”
Obasanjo, who praised Falola for its contributions to national development and said Nigeria meant a lot to him as a country, told the new septuagenarian that “the 70-year mark is an age of reckoning,” adding that “it’s a moment to take stock of where you come from and what lies ahead”.
He pointed out that the age of 70 gives the septuagenarian the responsibility of becoming the custodian of the cultural value of the nation at a time when “our sociocultural values… are almost becoming a relic in the context of the revaluation of the values they champion the present generations”.
The former Head of State praised the celebrant’s courage in contributing to the national discourse, thanking him for not remaining silent in the face of the country’s challenges, and prayed that the professor (and himself) finish well and strong and “witness the greatness of Nigeria in our life. I will be with you again, by the grace of God, when you are 80 years old.”
The event, which featured tributes from friends, students and trainees of the noted scholar, was attended by eminent personalities including: former Ekiti State Governor and First Lady Kayode and Bisi Fayemi; Dosumu Awolowo; Ricardo Jose; Michael Vickers; Professor Ayo Banjo and various other dignitaries and scholars.
Unveiling the revered scholar’s profile ahead of the event, the organizers wrote: “Toyin Omoyeni Falola was born in Ibadan in 1953, he is a historian and professor of African studies. He obtained his BA and PhD (1981) in history from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria. He is a History Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has taught since 1991.
“Among young researchers, Mr. Falola is widely regarded as an outstanding mentor committed to nurturing young scholars by facilitating their viability and professional growth.
“He has received several awards for his teaching commitment to African studies, including the 2010 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, the Jean Holloway Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Texas Exes Teaching Award.
“Falola is the editor of many book series and is on the editorial boards of more than twenty magazines. She is a member of the Nigerian Historical Society and the Nigerian Academy of Letters.
“In 2011, he received the prestigious African Studies Association Distinguished Africanist Award “to recognize and honor individuals who have contributed a lifetime of outstanding scholarship in African Studies combined with service to the Africanist community.
“A professor at several universities, Mr. Falola is a member of the Nigerian Historical Society and has served as president of the African Studies Association. He also holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
“His research interest is African History since the 19th century, while his geographic areas of interest include Africa, Latin America, and the United States. Her subject fields include Atlantic history, diaspora and migration, empire and globalization, intellectual history, international relations, religion, and culture.”
In response to the various accolades and tributes he received, Professor Falola thanked the event organizers and attendees, which he said only came to his attention on the morning of the event when he read Professor Abimbola Adelakun’s article in The PUNCH.
Falola advised Nigerians that there was nothing wrong with the country except the leadership, saying, “You can be disappointed in the leaders, but you can’t be disappointed in our country,” adding that Nigerians must continue to believe in the country.